The Price is Right for Yahoo! local

The recent changes to Yahoo! local were accompanied by a change to their rate sheet. The previous pricing was fixed fee based on cities and a graduating scale of fees from high traffic to low traffic areas. The lowest price city was, if memory serves, $15/mo. This sounds cheap until you figure that most service businesses serve counties not cities.

So let’s do the math on the old plan for Bergen County NJ. This county has about 70 towns, so under the old pricing plan this would have required me to plunk down over $1000/mo to play. For obvious reasons I did not advertise on Yahoo! local and am sure many other would- be-advertisers opted out for this reason..

Under the new plan, however, all that is changed… coverage in all of Bergen County is now $30/mo. plus the $9.95 monthly fee for the enhanced profile in my category. IMHO this takes Yahoo! Local from a no-buy to a must-buy for any service business. Joining superpages.com* as a great local search vehicle with a very low entrance fee. Cities like Manhattan can still be purchased and at $100/mo. (may vary by category) should represent a very good value.

Expect the set-up for your advertising on Yahoo! local to be frustrating. Remember it’s new and I would expect them to work on the usability of this soon. For instance I couldn’t figure out how to select the right category… admittedly a big issue. But I went ahead with the registration figuring it would allow me to change categories following an approval period of 5 days, which it did. All-in-all it took about a week to set up and get right but now it’s done and maybe the difficulty will dissuade your competition from signing up, which is even better for you.

*superpages.com does very well in the NY/NJ area, you may need to consider the IYP affiliated with your local telephone company before jumping right into superpages.com.

Posted in Yahoo! Local | Comments Off

The Next Revolution in Local Has Begun

Yahoo! Local recently made some changes that other local portals are sure to follow:

The first is the ability to comment on reviews. Any local site that has reviews will certainly have to adopt this innovation. Yahoo is promoting it as a way to encourage more reviews:

Commenting on User Reviews – No longer will it feel like shouting into the wind when you write a review. Now the people who benefit from your tips can reply back. You’ll also be able to track comments on your reviews from your My Local page.

But I think is this more for the business owner. It offers the opportunity to discredit bad reviews – small business owners hate paying for advertising on sites where there are negative reviews. And answering good reviews gives prospective new customers the opportunity to “hear” the business owner interact with existing customers. And Yahoo! local gives gives plenty of incentive for SMBs to get the conversation started:

through a new, updated algorithm, we’re making sure that search results take your ratings and reviews into account. We want to make sure that people’s contributions to Yahoo! Local count in more ways than one.

I believe that G Maps has had reviews as part of the algo for awhile but it appears Yahoo! local has really turned up the juice. Check out this search for Pizza in Paramus NJ:

yahoopizza.png

Yahoo will probably have to modify this because this isn’t a good result for users. The river is wide and made wider by traffic and a $6 toll to get into New York. So, nobody is going to make this trip for pizza even though in miles it’s not that far. But it is a good demonstration of just how big a role reviews are now playing in the local results.

The second cool innovation is a most popular feature:

Most Popular – Highlights the best of a city in the key categories of Restaurants, Health & Beauty, and Home & Garden.

This is a trick borrowed from local magazines that offer a “Best of” feature that works well in 2 ways. First, this will build up good will for Yahoo with the most popular businesses everywhere and encourage these businesses to advertise. Second, these same businesses will likely promote Yahoo! local on their site. I can see it out now on home pages across the country; “Voted Best Burgers in Timbuktu by Yahoo! local.

The third important change is taking local full speed into Web 2.0, with a ‘My Local’ feature.

My Local Improvements – A new “save for later” feature so you can quickly archive those hidden gems you uncover along with your recent reviews, tags, and collections.
So, make sure to update your profile with a picture or avatar, look up some local favorites, write a few reviews, and comment back on some helpful reviews you discovered along the way.

In some ways this is the coolest part of the new Yahoo! local, but I think that it will have the least impact. While insider pages and others have been able to build a community around local I have my doubts that Yahoo will be able to get it done.  People may feel like Yahoo is just too big to really be a part of.

Will Yahoo! Local Emerge as the Market Leader?


Eric Lander
has a good post on on this and he believes Yahoo has a real opportunity. I’m not so sure. The last study I saw on this had Google and Yahoo in a dead heat, each with about 30% of the market. That was in September of 2006 and Google has increased it’s share of search since then; so it’s likely they have gained a bit in local as well. Which is probably a contributing factor to Yahoo doing this overhaul in the first place. And as much as I love the changes they made, I also believe they are easily too easily imitated by the other local portals.

So speed will be a factor and this is a hard thing to get done in local because the users are not often hard-core internet users and will discover these features slowly and by the time they do, if they ever do, they will already be a part of most local portals and Yahoo will lose it’s advantage.

With that said Yahoo’s overhaul will improve local search for business owners and end- users as well as being copied by the competition. So, in a sector that generally moves slower than the rest of the internet, this qualifies as a revolution.

It was also enough to convince me to advertise. I will take you through that experience in my next post.

Posted in Yahoo! Local | 1 Comment

Top 10 Excuses for Not Sphinning a Good Article

10. I heard it was a popularity contest and I don’t know whose popular.

9. I thought they might sphinn mine and I heard Google frowns on reciprocal sphinning

8. I was too busy reading Jill Whalen’s highly acclaimed post (20 sphinns) on how much she appreciated receiving sphinns

7. I just got started in this industry and I’m not sure how to do that yet.

6. I just couldn’t find the post, it was lost among all of Single Grain’s spa..er..uh..posts.

5. I only sphinn posts from SEO rock stars, so there is no chance of my own credibility being called into question.

4. I was up all night working on my article and nobody sphunn mine.

3. I am not sure how to pronounce it, so I feel stupid.

2. I just couldn’t stand the thought of sphinning another top 10 list.

1. I only sphinn articles by people who sphinn me. (I just heard Google can’t detect reciprocal sphinns or was that paid links?).

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Securing A Top 3 Spot in Google Maps

Allpages is the key to ranking in Google Maps. I haven’t tested this or anything but it seem logical. Allpages is the only Internet Yellow Pages I’ve found that does not allow business owners to add their listing to the directory. The only way to get in is with a business line through the local phone company. The data is provided from the phone company to Acxiom to Allpages; where Google picks it up.

When you think about it this is brilliant on the part of Google. It allows them to have the telephone company’s operators hand edit Google Maps.

Sure anyone can go in and add their own business through the Local Business Center but ranking begins with Allpages. It seems to me that Google will only begin giving credit for Links once it sees this listing. To test this I checked out a few sites from the SEO Industry.

I started with a search in Google Maps for SEO in State College PA. I’m a big fan of Aaron Wall’s SeoBook.com so I decided to see how this PR 6 site ranked in Maps. Only 2 SEO’s in State College so it came right up; but after clicking on the more info link something interesting… no links pointing to the site. So, I checked to see if SEOBOOK.com had a listing in Allpages and I wasn’t able to find one. So, it may indeed be that one does need to be in Allpages before links begin to count. And that starts with adding a business line from your local telephone company. I was able to find other SEO sites with plenty of links pointing at their listing, and they did indeed have a business listing.

Oh, how things have changed… there was a time when you needed a business line to be in the yellow pages… now that is no longer true but you need one to rank in Google. That’s funny.

I also suspect the age of the listing is a factor. I took a peek in some categories that weren’t that competitive and found the listings that made the top 3 were consistently in my copy of the Yellow Pages from 1999. I wonder if this will lead to folks trying to buy old numbers the way they buy old domains.

But the listing and it’s age will only take you so far in competitive categories where adding links is the name of the game again.

Top 3 Spots in Google Maps

A good way to search for links is to do a search in G Maps for your category without adding a location. Here’s one for Pizza:

Search For Pizza in Google Maps

Now if I own a pizzeria I have 522 web pages to research for link opportunities and a bunch of ideas for sites that I can try to send my customers to for reviews.

As you play around with this for different categories you begin to get an idea for just how strong the name algorithm is when the category is not typed in exactly. For instance, I did a search for Landscape Architects and found a company in Connecticut with only one web page pointing to it and yet it ranked second in the nation.

Google maps search for Landscape architects

A series of coincidences led to this result that are quite revealing. Clearly it is the name of this company that brought them up so high on this list. So, did this company really name themselves ‘Landscape Architects’? No, they didn’t, the company is listed in Allpages as: Lent Wesley E Asla. So why does Google list it differently.

As near as I can tell there are 2 reasons; the first is ‘Asla’ is not his last name it is a designation, it stands for the American Society for Landscape Architects and there are a bazillion links pointing to it on the internet, so Google discounted this name and looked elsewhere. In this case it found another site, partypop.com, with a listing for “Landscape Architects’ that included this company’s address and phone number. So Google used this name and Mr Lent picked up the top spot in Google Maps for his most important keyphrase.

Another interesting example is Attorny in Manhattan. No doubt a common mispelling for this uber competitive phrase. I wonder if these attorneys have any idea why they are getting so many new clients from Google when they don’t even have websites.

Seach for attorny Google Maps

Essentially, Google Maps is providing a list of Attorneys whose listings were handled by telephone operators who did not know how to spell attorney. And if my theory is correct, they are in chronological order.

Posted in Google Maps | 37 Comments

Forget Keyword Stuffing on Local Websites

I guess stuffing the names of towns into local business websites has been around for as long as the internet, but every time I see it I get annoyed. I don’t know why… wait… yes I do… because it’s a stupid thing to do!

And here’s the reason why. Putting the areas served on the page will help you with conversions. No one knows more about the content that will make local searchers convert in yellow pages than CRM Associates and I was fortunate enough to train a lot of their material, it’s copyrighted so I can’t publish it. But I can tell you that defining your target audience and listing the towns you serve is a very good idea in a yellow page ad. So, if you believe that translates to local search and I do (I actually think it’s more important on the web). Than you have to agree that displaying these words is to your benefit.

So, instead of stuffing a bunch of towns into a box and using CSS to make it unreadable to humans – display the names of the towns you serve and do it with pride.

How about something Like this:

We proudly serve these areas: list the towns, cities, counties, states, etc that you service here.

Now I can the hear the webmasters that serve 3 or 4 counties each with 70 towns moaning. Don’t worry, just go ahead and list them proudly on your site. Display them nicely on your home page like this:

We are proud to serve these communities in Orange County: list all the town names in alphabetical order and make them bulleted items so it’s easy for your visitors to find their own town.

Then go on to the next county and do the same thing. Repeat as necessary.

If the area you serve gets much bigger than optimizing your site will be more about your keyword + the 2-letter abbreviation of the State you serve, than listing town names.

Adapting this simple idea will make your site more useful to your target audience, convert more and you can stop worrying about getting penalized by the search engines.

More Ways to Display Towns Names on Your Website

I often see small business websites with photographs showing off their work, then in the caption it says something like ‘Smith Residence’. This is a waste of a great opportunity. Use the name of the town instead, this actually proves to your visitors that you serve their area!

You can use this same technique with testimonials. Joe says your great, perfect, now go ahead and tell your visitors where Joe is from.

Additional telephone numbers are another tried and true yellow pages way to make you look more local and drive calls through the roof. Pick some of the bigger towns or cities in your area and purchase an additional number with that exchange from the telephone company or a company like Ring Central. Then list the additional telephone numbers with the town that corresponds with the exchange.  This conveys the appearance of a well established company and your visitor knows you service their area if you are willing to pick up the charges for the call.  These types of numbers are also excellent tracking tools. And most importantly it’s all useful for your site’s visitors.  Stay from 800 #’s, local searchers are looking for local numbers.

Now, after all that, if you are still tempted to do stupid things with the content of your website, learn more about writing for search engines. This site is run by SEO professional Jill Whalen and she keeps it nice and simple.

Posted in SEO | Comments Off

3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Local Website

Most of the web sites I see local businesses use are 5 page sites set-up something like:

  • Home Page
  • About Us
  • Services
  • Page Under Construction
  • Contact Us

Now let’s take 3 simple steps to improve this site’s visibility and conversions.

Clean up the Website

Obviously, you’ll want to get rid of the page under construction. Next, check for broken links and fix those. Then read your website again… make sure it reads well and clean up any grammar and spelling issues. Now we can get to the fun stuff.

Break Out Your Services Page

The typical website layout described above with tongue in cheek is actually a good start for local businesses, that’s why it’s so popular. Home Page, About Us and Contact Us pages are essential for a local business. I would add to that list a Privacy Policy but that’s a post for another day.

But the services page needs to be changed and here’s how to do it. For each service you have as a bulleted item on that page, create a seperate page and remove the services page.

For Example, a house painter with a services page listing Exteriors, Interiors and Power Washing should create a new page titled Exterior Painting, another for Interior Painting and a third for Power Washing. The bulleted items on these pages should list the benefits of doing business with you. Explain why a local searcher should choose you over the competition.

This will give your site a much better chance of showing up in the search engines for these keywords but more importantly it will help you convert searchers to customers.

Focus on Usability

Now despite all that hard work a lot of your visitors are still going to arrive at your site via the home page. They want to find the one thing they’re looking for quickly, so help them out. Make the navigation to these newly created pages prominent. It should be very easy for your customers to find the things they want to buy. Don’t make it hard it and frustrate them into using the back button. Put focus on these links… you can use a different color or the best way might be to highlight the link with a graphic that depicts that service. Also put the links in a prominent section of the home page.

Adapting these steps to your website should increase it’s visibility and conversion. Please let me know.

Posted in Website Design | 2 Comments