Overheard at 51 Blocks

At 51 Blocks we know one of the biggest challenges our company faces is educating our clients and partners about the strategies involved in a well executed Search Engine Marketing Campaign and the value being created by our work. This gets even trickier when you recognize that some people's learning curve begins with "website architecture techniques for mobile devices" while others' begins with "what exactly is website architecture?"

Creating a Resource Anyone Can Use

Our first attempt to address this issue took the form of a Welcome Packet that we sent out to all new partners and clients. Unfortunately, the gains we hoped to make in overall understanding were minimal since a "one-size-fits-all" approach, well, doesn't really fit...

If only there were a way we could let new clients  choose the topics they needed to learn more about while avoiding subject matter on which they were already well versed...

Welcome to "Overheard at 51Blocks"

To: You (and anyone else you want to include)Eavesdrop on SEO Strategy Meetings

Event: 51Blocks Strategy Meetings

When: Every Week

Where: In Our Blog

That's right, the entire staff at 51Blocks invites you to listen in on our weekly strategy meetings via our new audio series "Overheard at 51Blocks." Each week we'll be posting an audio segment that's a direct recording from our internal strategy meetings covering topics from website design to advanced SEO techniques and everything in between. Now you can hear incisive exchanges between our team of experts in everything from Local
Optimization to Social Media Integration, share insights about what's working, and what's not working in SEM today.

Why: To give you a direct connection to the latest news in the industry.

We realize that addressing every point in SEM today requires more than just a generalization on key plays, factors, and updates. It incorporates a whole scheme of trial & error, and we'll happily be the test-dummies as more updates roll out. Our company strategy is to continue to expand upon SEM concepts in a way that clients and partners can easily access topics according to their interest and/or needs. So, read on friends, as there's plenty to come, including a whole segment on content, blogging, and where that's headed.

Today's Topic: Local Search Upheaval in Google Results

Our new audio series is meant to engage you in the ongoing discussion of the latest trends, algorithms, and where we think these items are headed in regard to your business online, and our partnerships. Our highest priority is staying transparent with all that we encounter daily, so if there's ever any particular topics you're interested in reading on, or hearing about, let us know! We'd be happy to take your feedback as a lead into next week's segment.

Our first installment is one everyone should be interested in and that's: What's going on with the local results in Google search and Google Maps. You'll learn what happened to extended map packs in November, the disconnect of Google Plus social entity from Google Business pages, how regional search has changed again, and what we expect this to mean for websites going into 2016. In addition, you'll find that even among our team of experts, we have regular debates on what the future industry looks like, and rightfully so; we never know what to expect next, but we fully intend to keep you well within our loop of expertise.

 

Transcript for "Overheard at 51Blocks - December 8, 2015"

Anna: In a lot of respects, morphing together.

Chad: Right.

Anna: The pack listing is either disappearing or drastically shrinking for the keywords that are pulling local results.

John: So pack listing?

Anna: Google Maps those things that are associated with local search. That's only three results now, whereas it used to be five to seven.

John: So, seven pack and five pack results are gone?

Chad: Yeah. Totally agree.

Anna: It's just three. Then there are a lot of keywords, any mortgage related keywords for instance, hardly pull pack listings. There are three to five sound keywords that pull Local results right now.

John: So instead of getting more prolific or expanding/getting deeper it's constricted to very particular keyword permutations?

Anna: Right.

John: And minimal packs?

Anna: The work that we do, even locally, affects organic results more than...

John: Okay, so, I'm curious from the Local team's point of view. That seemed like a pretty successful roll out. Local seemed like an innovative addition to the Google hardware then why is it constricting? Too many people spamming it?

Anna: I think they're still working out what they want to display. As of last few days Google Plus is not linked with Google My Business anymore. So things like photos, I forget what else was removed, but the two are not associated with each other anymore. There's just stuff on their end that they seem to be figuring out.

Justine: It seems like they're either pushing more for organic listings, or they're pushing for apps. And that's where their trying to take it, and they're minimizing the local aspect of it.

Reggie: I don’t think that's necessarily true. I think they're trying to make the experience a little bit better. When you have seven choices, it's a little hard to choose if you have three choices, like it does on the phone, which most people do for local searches either on desktop or mobile, it pins it down.

Sonya: You probably notice you can't tap the location anymore on your searches and to me that's just saying...

John: Yeah. But that's new this week, right?

Sonya: Yeah.

Chad: Wait, hold on, you can't do location searches anymore?

John: Chad doesn't even know yet.

Sonya: You can't click the location in search.

Chad: When the hell did that happen?

Anna: This weekend.

Reggie: You can still filter it

Reggie: I saw it too.

Chad: I swear I did it yesterday.

Sonya: Yeah, you might have it still on your browser. It might not have rolled out yet.

Chad: Why was I not notified about this? Where's my memo?

Anna: I think the big thing with the Google My Business changes is they're separating it from local data and the social platform. They don't want those two being integrated.

Reggie: Yeah, that's what I think is happening.

Anna: Because it's two different services, really.

Sonya: I think their team is just probably on the Plus side, decided to do something different. Google My Business is not really focusing on the mobile results and the...

John: So help me out since I'm not a Local expert like you guys. The Google Plus and the Google Local My Business have always been independent?

Sonya: No. When...

Sonya: No, when I first started, they were separate. They were Google Places and there was a Plus platform. Then slowly they started to integrate it together and then they transitioned all Business Places to a Plus platform, meaning they integrated the social feature. Now they've disconnected it again. So now you're back to where you have your business profile where you can store website links, store hours, categories anything that was driving the business. And now the Plus is only focusing on your communities and people that are in your circle. I suppose is what you could call it.

John: That's what you're indicating as the social side of this?

Sonya: Yeah.

John: Okay.

Sonya: It's arguable that people say that Google Plus no longer has value, essentially, but I think SEOs would argue the opposite that it's still helping you to curate some of the content that's coming through on your website or helping you update people who might be following you.

Anna: if you have a strong following its valuable. If you don't it may not be worth putting your time...

Chad: ..and resources into it. Also with local that I want to chime in, maybe I'm interjecting here too soon, but there's less information being displayed in the SERPs on local. So not only is there less listings, it went from seven and five to three exclusively. But there's not as much information there on that page like an exact address isn't there anymore, right?

Sonya: Sometimes, it just varies and you can't navigate to a specific page for that business anymore. It just curates on that local finder. You've seen it on the...when you click to Maps it just on the panel and it used to be 1 through 10 results now I think it's 1 to 20 or something.

Anna: It's like a reverse carousel.

Sonya: Like Reggie's saying, it's enhancing the usability of Google Maps. It's making sure you can see everything that's within your area and make a decision based on the results that are popping up and the reviews that you can see. Because those really are what are driving conversions.

Chad: But then because of the less information being there don't you agree that reviews are way, way more important these days?

Sonya/Anna: Yeah.

Chad: Especially since if you don't have any reviews you don't get those nice gold stars making your listing pop.

Anna: I thought I read that the stars had disappeared.

Sonya: I think they're just bugging it. They always do this where they don't release a beta version. I hate Google for this because I'm like...

Chad: Yeah. They test it out.

Sonya: ...you should test it, and you should see what the feedback is. People are...you can leave feedback.

John: Sure. Rather than rolling something out and considering it the beta until we all complain less.

Anna: It's like they fix it along the way. So really you don't know what's a solidified change and what is not until months down the road.

Sonya: Yeah. Then you kind of say "Okay, well it looks like..."

Anna: You drop into the new normal. It does happen slowly that's just more of keeping an eye on trends and what consistent information you do keep seeing.

John: So if this service which has been core to our successes in 2015 is in major flux, what's the recommendation? To just hold back and see what happens next or to use both of these, the Business listings and the Plus side where you're developed and continue the momentum? What are you guys recommending to people?

Sonya: With Rouser, they have a following. They have something that they feel is beneficial to them to keep posting regularly on Google Plus.

Anna: Hopefully people have been keeping data. Month over month what has been bringing you conversions or new traffic. I'd stick with that until we see what's really going to happen with what Google is doing with the Local side of things.

John: Does this make Facebook, Twitter or any of those other platforms more valuable again? Or are they just...

Reggie: I don't know. I think even though the bells and whistles have changed the game is still the same. David and Sons have retained their visibility. Pride of Maui, even though they're not a client, have retained their visibility. I just think it's getting more simple as...you don’t have to have hundreds of citations anymore. You just crush the onsite stuff, don't do anything stupid, don't build conscious citations, don't change your business name, just stick to the basics. I think you'll stick around. You don't have to use so much of the off site stuff anymore to point your local signal. It's more becoming on site stuff that's hitting the horn.

Chad: And John, I just want to comment real quick on...you mentioned that there's a big flux of change going on right now, and I think we all know that that's a constant. That's something that's always going to happen. So we're never going to be like, "No you shouldn't do SEO because there's a big change rolling out." It's going to be like, "Hey, let's continue doing the things that we know work and with an eye looking to the future. We can try to respond to those changes as they roll out as well as predict what's going to happen and execute deliverables accordingly."

John: Well stated. I would say, though, in this company when things are in upheaval, and the algorithm does this regularly, we tend to not push resources just to push them. If there's a pause necessary we explain to clients why and sit back and allow the algorithm to adjust before we waste resources.

Anna: You mean in terms of what's the biggest thing in their book?

Sonya: Testing, or...?

John: Essentially. Just making sure that we continue trying to spend our clients' money as wisely as possible at all times.

Anna: Yeah

Chad: Right

Reggie: I think something that's interesting that completely fell off my radar until seconds ago, is the constant refresh update that they are have promised before the end of the year. That'll be interesting to see if people pop out of penalties or pop into penalties or...

John: Are we talking Penguin here?

Reggie: Yes.

John: Yes?

Anna: Yeah.

John: Agreed. Penguin could change it all.

Anna: Can you refresh on the refresh for me? Can you refresh me on the refresh?

Reggie: Basically how algorithms work is, it's like getting a new pair of shoes for Christmas. Every year, boom, have a new algorithm and then that's the style or that's the trend or that's the rules. But now the rules are going to change, and you're going to be graded on the rules as the year goes on. It's not going to be a flash bang kind of thing.

Anna: Definitely. Right. Okay. Interesting.

John: Well, thanks for your time everybody.

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