Local Domain Names… Still An Opportunity?

Checking out a domain auction recently, I noticed anyonebuthillary.com is on the block. Asking price? $25,000. So, far no takers, but it got me thinking about local domains. Have these started to take off in price too? You bet… check it out:


Local Domain Auction For New York Keyphases

If you click on the link above it will take you to the auction (new window). Then you can enter a town or city in the box next to ‘begins with’ to check out the prices of local domains near you. With newyorkrealtors.com going for a cool $10grand, who knows?, maybe you’ll get lucky.

Some other interesting domain names I found on the auctioneer’s block:

  • bergencountypsychologists.com – $1,850
  • westchesterflorist.com – $4,088
  • nyfurniture.com – $48,000

I went in and snagged a couple hotties, despite seeing no actual bids beside any of the above terms.

Other Local Notes


  • I corrected the local internet advertising matrix. Local.com gets their first 3 ads from the Yahoo content match… not Google, as I had written. I apologize for any inconvenience that may have caused.

  • Both of the local sites I wrote about last week have returned to their original position on Yahoo!. From #1 to gone… back to #1… strange, but I’m happy they’re back.
  • Posted in Local Domaining | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

    Phone Numbers In PPC Ads Show Promise

    With the upcoming change to Google’s display URL policy on redirects, I have been rewriting my PPC ads. I have had a difficult time defeating the click-through rates of the display url: www.geocategory.com, that is re-directing to the website. I got a number of good ideas from a question I asked on Gooruze, including:

  • geography.domain.com
  • domain.com/geography
  • Both of these suggestion helped maintain a good quality score and .04 cent minimum bids, but in limited testing I was not able to beat the CTR of the redirected URL. I will continue to experiment with them.

    But if at first you don’t succeed… try, try, again. I finally found an ad that has showed some promise and early in the test is defeating the www.geocategory.com set up… and it uses the original domain, which is even better. What I did was add the geography and the telephone number to the 3rd line of the ad. I tried to make it look like an in-column yellow page ad. The 3rd line reads: Fillintheblank County… (123)456-7890. I was surprised that Google allowed telephone numbers in their ads but I now understand why they do… they are good for click-thru rates! Google will allow 3 consecutive periods but not 4… between the geography and the number.

    Posted in Local Search, PPC | Tagged , , | Comments Off

    Yahoo! Shoved A Red Hot Poker Up The Backside Of My Linkless Local Sites

    Yahoo! recently said, we’re rolling out some changes to our crawling, indexing, and ranking algorithms.” Is this to the detriment of the linkless local site?

    2 Sites I manage that ranked well in Yahoo! for their industry+county disappeared. Both ranked consistently #1 or #2 for those terms in Yahoo! and now neither of them is in the top 100. On Google they are on the first page, though one of them floats in and out of supplemental as it is the company’s secondary site and is not even listed in any of the IYPs.

    Some of the local sites I was competing with for those terms are still there but they are older and have link support. So, I am wondering if this represents a shift in Yahoo’s thinking about local sites in the main search results. Has the move to show more results from 3rd parties in local queries been accompanied by a more fundamental algo shift that places more emphasis on authority? Aaron Wall wrote about this nearly 2 years ago. Maybe that represents the lag time in local.

    Anybody else noticing any changes to their ranking in Yahoo! over the past week or so?

    Posted in Local Search, SEO | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

    Choose Your SEM Wisely… Power To The People!

    Gold Fish Choosing A New SEM FirmI was talking to Will Scott on the phone last week; I found talking to a busy local seo on the phone a little like riding a NYC subway at rush hour… we later resumed the conversation by email; but before the rushing by of the proverbial trains, a very important topic came up: Will shared with me his practice of client exclusivity. He defined exclusivity as only one client per business type in each geographic area. I admired him for that practice and was interested that it was one of the first things he shared with me about his firm. I took that as an indication of how important he considered it to be.

    David Ogilvy wrote in Ogilvy On Advertising, “There is a convention that agencies should not serve more than one client in any category. Some clients are fiercely jealous when when their agencies violate this convention to the point of firing them.”

    Have times changed? Search Engine Watch published an article about iCrossing aligning their teams into verticals. It would seem to me this would turn the old notion on its head, rather than going to great lengths to protect a client’s information… great length’s have been gone to… to share it…and leverage it.

    The world changes everyday… the complexity of advertising changes everyday… and heck, even us humans change everyday. However, human nature doesn’t change everyday… it doesn’t change at all.

    Let’s say a certain SEO has had a client for years… and they now rank 3 for a hugely competitive phrase… all is good. They, then take on a client in the same industry and 6 months later that client ranks number 2 for the coveted phrase. Is that Ok with everyone… are both clients excited about client #2′s success? Hmmm…

    How about paid search? Would it be any different, should they expect client exclusivity? This is a question that small business owners need to ask, for perhaps, the first time in history.

    I recently found 7 advertisers listed in the same category in the same city in a popular IYP… who were all put there by the same SEM firm (copying the url and pasting it into an HTML editor reveals the name of the firm. I didn’t actually click on any of the PPC listings). Obviously, there is nothing going on that could be characterized as unethical… as I would expect they made no promise of exclusivity. But can this set-up really benefit all 7 advertisers?

    First, a brief examination of the listings: 3 are on the first page and 4 on the second, all are paying additional money to have the listing in color (the same color) and a graphic to the right of the listing that reads “Click Here.”

    Was there some test conducted in this heading that revealed this color/text combination revealed some benefit… and that that benefit was not reduced by having 7 such listings set up that same way. Has the knowledge gleaned by having so many advertisers in the same heading been leveraged to benefit them all? I have a hard time believing “click here” could provide that kind of inspiration to shoppers and that kind of insulation to its repeated use.

    How about bid advice? Is this something you want as a small business from your SEM firm?

    How should the SEM go about handling that? If little advice is given… well… maybe things could end up as they are… 3 on the first page and 4 on the second… I don’t know. But I would think in an IYP, where ad position is going to be a huge factor in the number of clicks received… a small business would want to work closely with their SEM.

    However, if this firm felt like it is important to get near the top of the search results on the first page of an IYP (like I do), they could create a huge bidding war among their own advertisers. That’s a tough spot to be in… which of course would only be compounded if they charged their advertisers on a percentage of spend.

    At a quick glance… I cannot see any benefit to being this firm’s client in this category.

    Small business owners, you should insist on more. The internet empowers… no longer should you expect less… if GM would fire their ad agency for taking Ford as a client… so, I think, should you.

    Posted in Local Search | 10 Comments

    Top 10 Responses To Debra Mastaler’s Link For Sex Proposition From Those You Know And Love

    Yesterday, The Link Spiel wrote one of those headlines that takes just a minute to pen but is difficult to resist: Links For Sex, so click-through I did. And of course she had to know that some knucklehead would come along and write a post like this.

    That knucklehead? Yes, yours truly…

    So, here they are; the top 10 responses from those you know and love.

    Response from the Nerd:

    Oh, I don’t know… this isn’t covered by Google’s Webmaster Guidlelines… uhh… umm.. Matt Cutts… help… oh… my head is going to explode.

    2 Responses from the White-Hat SEO:

    If you don’t mind… I’m going to run a backlink check first… and then we’ll talk.

    Is this just going to be one of those no-index after things… ?

    Answer from the Black-hat SEO:

    I will need to redirect that off of a clean proxy… (hmmmm…. the link or the sex?)

    Answer from the Hard-Hat SEO:

    OK

    2 Responses from the Cheapskate:

    How much did you say it was to attend one of those conferences?

    Who gets the Marriot points?

    Response from the Safe Sex Council:

    Insist on protection; use Skype.

    Response from the techie:

    Could you please describe the media type that will be used in the http:/ header request field.

    Response from the Country Bumpkin:

    Could you errr… tell me more about them thar link farms…

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Internet Advertising Matrix

    With Local.com recently changing it’s advertising format, and Microsoft adding a link to make it easy for a small business to add their business info, I decided I needed a place to keep track of it all. So, I set up this internet advertising matrix. I did so with the search marketer in mind, but I hope anybody that is looking to generate business by advertising on the internet will find it helpful.

    I included:

    • Prices and Set-Up Fees
    • Ad formats; i.e PPC, Fixed Fee Pay for Call
    • Ad features
    • Links to add free business profiles or listings on all the sites that offer that feature.
    • A graphic of how advertising will appear on each of the sites with a rather large thumbnail
    • And how it will appear if placed through a network

    It is my hope to keep this page current, accurate and helpful. Any help you can provide to that end will be appreciated. I am also concerned about load time; if that is a problem, you would be conferring a favor to let me know.

    My goal is that this document can serve as a checklist for busy search marketers when they begin a new campaign.

    AOL

    AOL Search Results

    • Advertising on AOL is distributed from the
      Google Search Network
    • 3 local listings presented on Search
      Result Pages From AOL Local Organic
    • Organic Results are from Google





    AOL Local

    AOL Local Search Results

    • Ads on AOL Local are blended results
      from AOL Media Network and the Google
      Search Network
    • Pay for Call Ads are Distributed from
      the Ingineo Network
    • Organic Results are from AOL Local (Mapquest)




    AOL Yellow Pages

    AOL YP Search Results

    • The Advertising on top of the results is from AOL Media Network
      and the Google Search Network
    • The Pay for Call Ads are Distributed by
      the Ingineo Network
    • The search results are from Yellowpages.com.
      Tiered Advertisers followed by listings.





    Ask

    ASK.com Search

    • Ask Sponsored Listings
    • Ask sponsored listings are PPC.
      Minimum Bid: 5 ⊄
    • Initial Deposit (refill amount): 3x daily budget for
      all campaigns
    • Automatically opted into Ask Content Network. But
      you may disable it.



    Ask City

    ASK City Search

    • Ask Sponsored Listings
    • Ask sponsored listings are PPC.
      Minimum Bid: 5 ⊄
    • Initial Deposit (refill amount): 3x daily budget for
      all campaigns
    • Sponsored Listings are placed at the bottom of
      the results on Ask City
    • Reviews from Citysearch are displayed with stars
      at the listing level


    Google

    Google Search

    • Google Adwords
    • Adwords are PPC.
      Minimum Bid: set for each keyword by Google
    • Initial Deposit: $5.00
    • Automatically opted into Google Search Network and
      Google Content Network. May disable both.
    • Placement-Targeted Ads (formerly site-targeted) allow you to choose from a list
      of websites across the internet to place your ads

    Google Maps

    Google Maps

    • Add your listing to Google Local Business Center
    • Up to 1 ad is placed on top of the search results. More ads displayed
      after Map’s organic results
    • Must have an Adwords Account
    • Must be opted into Google Search Network and
      create a Local Business Ad




    Local.com

    Local.com

    • Up to 7 ads are placed above Local.com’s results
    • Top 3 Sponsor Links are from the Yahoo! Content Network
    • 3 Feature Sponsors are PPC ads from Superpages.com
    • Next Sponsored Link is either a PPC from Superpages.com or
      a Pay-for-Call ad distributed by Ingenio
    • Advertising on Local.com is $49.95/mo.. it includes
      “top placement” on Local.com with your listing in red and link to your website
    • Add your Business Profile to Local.com for free.


    MSN

    MSN Search Advertising

    • Up to 8 PPC ads are placed on the first page of results with
      up to 3 appearing above the organic listings
    • Microsoft adCenter
    • Initial sign-up fee: $5.00
    • Automatically opted in to the adCenter content network but
      you may disable it.




    MSN Local

    MSN Local listing







    Superpages

    Superpages Advertising

    • A blend of up to 8 PPC/Pay-for-Call ads are displayed first; followed by fixed-fee placement priced by tier and geographic reach
    • Initial deposit for PPC/PFC ads: $50 (applied to clicks/calls)
    • $15.00 monthly minimum spend
    • Automatically distributed out to Superpages Network. Cannot opt out.
    • Add your free Business Profile

  • Minimum Click: 20 Cents. Minimum Call: $2.00.


  • Yahoo!

    Yahoo Sponsored Search

    • Up to 12 PPC ads are placed on the first page of results with
      up to 4 appearing above the organic listings
    • Yahoo! Sponsored Search
    • Initial deposit: $30.00
    • Automatically opted in to the Yahoo! Publishing Network content network but you may disable it.
    • You may pay $49 annually to
      be indexed by Yahoo!
      ; includes up to 5 urls


    Yahoo! Local

    Yahoo Local Advertising

    • Add your listing to Yahoo! Local
    • Up to 3 ads are placed on top of the search results. More ads displayed
      after local organic results
    • Pricing is Fixed Fee and Priced by Reach & Category.
      Example: Power Washing Bergen County NJ =$30/mo.
    • Must have an enhanced business listing in order to purchase
      advertising: $9.95/mo.



    YELLOWPAGES.COM

    Yellowpages Advertising

    • Advertising results are tiered and pricing is fixed fee, based on geographic reach and placement.
    • Add your free listing. You must
      sign up to add your free listing to yellowpages.com










    Posted in Internet Advertising | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

    It’s No Secret… Link Building In Local Search Is Different

    LinksHaving spent so much time over the past year reading about SEO, in an effort to figure out the best-practices of great SEOs; I have found one principle that comes up time and again: Symmetry. I think great SEOs look for single tactics that provide a turn-on for the site’s visitors and the search engines.

    The simplest example of this would be… to state what the site is about in clear writing and then highlight it in some fashion, the h tags are mentioned quite a bit. This will help search engines to know what the site is about, while preventing folks from hitting the back button because they weren’t sure they were in the right place. However simple that is… I think that is an SEO best-practice.

    But what about link building…? Can I find symmetry for a local service business?

    In an article, co-authored by Eric Ward, Robin Nobles and John Alexander titled Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies, written over 5 years ago (I think), it states:

    “Our position is pretty straight forward…it’s not the technique that we are concerned about, it’s the intention.”

    What this quote means to me is that I should not try to get links to the site with the sole “intention” of ranking the site. That, I should instead, find some legitimate business reason for that site to link to mine and then my site will naturally move up in the serps. In other words: find symmetry.

    The symmetry that I find most referred to in link-building is to find links from topically related authority domains that will provide high quality traffic. It is difficult to argue with this tried and true method from the traditional-link-building-vault: except that it really won’t work for a local service business.

    Why? Because the best traffic producing links for a local service business are from Internet Yellow Pages, but they won’t help a website to move up naturally in the serps. (I recently made the mistake of trying to explain to someone that links are an important part of ranking on Google, but IYP links don’t count; I thought their head was going to explode).

    Of course, the local service business should still get links from IYPs, paid or otherwise, depending on ROI, traffic needs etc., but where does that leave us with respect to the symmetry we seek.

    Are there other sites in such a geographically narrow space that I could rely on for quality traffic? I’m sure there are, but I might need to begin measuring conversion rates in years and decades instead of weeks and months.

    What is the very best link building strategy for a local service business?


    Here is what I believe to be the answer to that question:

    In the same way that the best links for traditional websites are those that help with traffic, the best links for a local service business are those that provide help with conversions.

    I have seen empirical evidence that the mention of associations to which the business belongs in print ads can lead to more phone calls from that ad. The Better Business Bureau is the most obvious example of this type of association, others are chambers of commerce etc.. But I think there are even better ones. Most preferably, they would come from organizations that have huge barriers to entry and are topically related to the service provided by the business.

    They are the ultimate spamguard for search engines because no spammer is going to study Landscape Architecture for 4 years just so that they could get a link from the American Society of Landscape Architects. So, they should provide an advantage over other types of links in ranking, while at the same time make a visitor more likely to hire such a business when that membership is displayed prominently on the website.

    That feels like the link building symmetry for a local service business that I’ve been seeking.

    Any membership or association that would help a visitor decide to do business with that business qualifies.

    Multiple associations and memberships displayed prominently on the site raises the credibility of the business owner. And this could create a predisposition to hiring the business with less sensitivity to price. Which is the basic symmetry of all advertising.

    Posted in Link Building, SEO | 17 Comments

    Selling Local Search

    Miriam Ellis is in the midst of creating an excellent series of interviews with local seo’s over at the SEO Igloo. I was humbled to be part of the group she is interviewing and I really enjoyed doing it. Thanks again for the invite Miriam.

    In the introduction to the local seo interview series, Miriam listed a number of things that she felt a good local SEO should be able to do. Among them was to explain the value of the service without first having to turn the client into a local SEO. I thought this was very well put and made me realize that I haven’t really sat down and thought about my presentation as I contemplate opening my own shop.

    So, I set down and penned it out. As someone who has done an awful lot of this kind of sales training, I often advise doing this as I believe more can be learned than can be taught.

    Thought you might enjoy it… And if you find any pitfalls, I would love the feedback…

    Set The Agenda

    I would like to begin by giving you an overview of my philosophy on internet advertising, we’ll talk about that for a bit and then I’ll review some of the challenges and limitations that we are likely to face. After that, if it sounds like something you might be interested in… then we can start to talk about price and your budget for the project. Would that be ok?

    My Philosphy

    When people use the internet they are typically looking at websites… and they are using search engines to find those websites. In fact, people do 90% of their searching on 3 search engines: Google, Yahoo & MSN. (Reminder to self: Let the client hold the stats; they are engaging and can help build rapport).

    When they search for a local business like yours that behavior changes just a little bit. According to this study from Comscore there are 6 engines that will bring 90% of the traffic. So, I think our time is best spent targeting these 6 sites, with a majority of that time devoted to Google and Yahoo. Does that make sense?

    From there I want to focus on two things:

    First, continually increase your visibility on these engines in your target area; this will bring you the most traffic.

    And second, monitor and continually improve the cost-effectiveness of acquiring each customer; that will maximize your ROI.

    Let’s talk about visibility first. Visibility to me means coming up on the first page of results when someone is searching for your type of business or your business name. And then trying to get closer to the top of the first page. There are 3 areas, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that we will focus on to bring traffic: (Show a page of search results… )Here – PPC, Here – Maps/Local, Here – Organic. Do you agree that if we focus on these 3 areas we can maximize the traffic you will receive?

    googlelocalsearch.gif

    I’ll talk about the challenges and limitations of these in just a bit… but before I do want to speak for just a minute about how to make this most effective for you in terms of cost.

    The way to continually get the most bang for each dollar you spend in advertising is to focus on your conversion rate. The more of your visitors that actually contact you and spend money with you, the more cost effective your program is going to be. There are 3 ways to get an awesome conversion rate:

    1. Get really lucky.
    2. Understand the most important copy elements of a local ad and get really lucky.
    3. Understand the most important copy elements of a local ad and test.

    To test the website, we will simply borrow a trick from the direct mail industry. In direct mail, what they do is to create two mailers, shuffle the deck, and mail them out. When you track the results, one will get a better return than the other. So, they kill the loser and try to create a new ad that will beat the previous winner. Then repeat.

    With this approach you have the opportunity to continually increase the number of customers who contact you, while at the same time, reduce your cost of acquiring each one. Does that make sense?

    The Next Step

    Hopefully, I have now earned the right to ask them questions about their business to better understand what they need to accomplish. And then can review the differences in the way organic, ppc and local/maps/iyps can help meet them meet those business objectives given their most important keywords and target geography. And finally to make sure they understand the risk/reward/no guarantee aspects of internet marketing.

    Posted in Local Search | 6 Comments

    Top 10 In Google Maps – Part 2

    google maps reslult


    Why does this listing Rank #1 for House Painting in Paramus NJ?

    • The listing is credited with 69 web pages pointing at the name of the business but these are all essentially scraper sights that have picked up the listings of the competition as well. And there is no website, so no links.
    • The business has no reviews.
    • No relevant keyword in the name or business description
    • No alphabetical advantage.
    • No proximity to city centroid advantage, in fact, the business is not located in the town searched.
    • None of the categories on Superpages.com have anything to do with Painting, nor in the business profile, which was filled out with care…
    • Because the business does not do House Painting… just Power Washing.

    This is exactly the type of thing that Local Seo’s complain about… Results like these that are seemingly unexplainable. Well, I might have an explanation.

    When I wrote Top 3 in Google Maps, back in August, I asserted that allpages.com was the key to ranking in Google Maps. Thanks to the wonderful work of Mike Blumenthal here and here, I now believe that Allpages is a key not the key. But I also believe it has special powers (wow, that’s a little over the top).

    Let me explain:

    As I wrote before, I think Google uses Allpages because this site does not allow a business owner to modify the listing at all. All the information comes from the local telco. This allows Google access to local information that is hand-edited by telephone operators. Brilliant if you ask me.

    I also know that part of every phone record is a service date. That is the date that the business line becomes effective. In effect, knowing that service date, gives an accurate account of the age of the business.

    Now, the theory part: If you were Google, would YOU consider the age of the business when displaying results? I would. It would produce so much of a better result for consumers than the alphabet or the city centroid or anything else. The age of the business is something we all consider when making a purchase. Why wouldn’t they do this?

    Now, back to the special powers part and more theory. I am suggesting that if the category you are listed in on Google Maps comes from Allpages.com, it comes with additional information… the age of the business line, and that information provides extra Google Maps Juice. Similar to domain age in regular SEO, but perhaps more powerful.

    Now for this theory to have a chance of being right, I would be able to find the listing for this business in the yellow pages under the heading Painting Contractors, remember the information would originate from the telco, and this would be quite a coincidence because this business does not provide that service. And I would be able to find this business listed under Painting Contractors in Allpages; again quite a coincidence.

    Off to the library I go…

    I find the yellow pages that is local to Hawthorne and eagerly look through the Painting Contractors heading for the listing. It is not there. If you saw my face at that moment you might have thought I lost my first born. I began checking other directories, each time without success. I found only his advertising under the heading of Power Washing. Until… one last thought…

    I picked up the Business to Business Yellow Pages and lo and behold… BINGO. Whooommp, there it is. I could hear the conversation in my head between the telephone operator and the business owner that must have taken place years before. “I’m sorry Power Washing is not available in the Business Directory, would you like to choose another heading?” Sorry… Sorry… “Alright, just throw the listing in the Painting heading, it doesn’t matter anyway.”

    Now, to check Allpages.com:

    capture.JPG

    There it is… 2 for 2… that is enough for me to think this idea is worth testing. Here is what I think we need to do test:

    Check your local yellow pages… only the ones put out by the telephone company for the listing. Check any and all books put out by the Telco… there may be up to 3 depending on where you live: the regular phone book, the B to B and the companion. You are looking for the free listing… the one that comes with the business line. It will be in upper and lower case, light type.

    Check those listings against Allpages.com to test the first part of the theory and then if you want to add or change your categories in Google Maps, call the telephone company or your yp rep and have your free listings moved. If you are in an area with multiple local books, like the B to B or companion, put the listings in different headings to spread the love. And then wait.

    Here is what Allpages has to say about waiting… which could also account for the slow response time of Google Maps updates.

    allpagesupdates.JPG

    Posted in Local Search | 7 Comments