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Local Search Is Hot… And a Hot Mess

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm

In my last post I whined thoughtfully pointed out that Google Local makes it possible to get ranked in search results without even having a site. Those of you who read between the lines understood that I wasn’t just talking about how jacked up the Local Search results were but that I was actually revealing a little SEO trick. The implicit tip was to go register your website with Google Local so you too can rank well for location-specific searches.

After all, if a site with zero content, a site that doesn’t even exist for jeebus’ sake, can rank well, then no matter how ridiculously bad your site is, you know it’s been done with worse.

But besides ranking well, there’s another reason to go claim your listing in Google Local: if you don’t, an unscrupulous competitor can claim your listing, alter it (by replacing your URL with theirs, deleting your listing, etc.) and siphon off your customers. An oversight like that can lose you sales, or worse.

Edit Local Search Listing

Read up on some real life examples of this Google Local/Google Maps hijacking problem:

The hole that allows for these hijacks is not a new bug — it’s been happening for a while, so chances are your competitors already know about it. Go go claim your listing before some unethical and/or desperate jackass gets around to grabbing it out from under you.

Those are two pretty obvious loopholes in G’s Local Search and I hope that Google fixes them pretty fast.

But despite all the problems in local search (or maybe because of it), this vertical is hot and it’s only going to get hotter. For one thing, small businesses are starting to really pay attention to this whole “Google thing.” It’s low-cost, targeted exposure and during these tougher economic times businesses are starting to realize SEO is more accessible than they might have thought previously. And I’m seeing lots of larger companies starting to pursue the small-biz market, with SEO offerings specifically targeted to the small mom-and-pop sites, which helps raise awareness even more.

If last year was the time to roll out reputation management services, then this year is the time to get into local search. But as with the former, expectation management with these types of clients is key; plus, as the Google Maps hijacks make clear, there’s more to optimizing for local search than just stuffing city names into site copy.

So… who needs an SEO to help them optimize their Washington, DC, business listing?! 🙂

Comments (3)

Category: Local Search

Being Outranked by a Site That Doesn’t Even Exist

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 4:05 pm

When I did a search on [DC SEO] this week, I was annoyed to find the site show up on the first page higher than my domain. Not because I have anything against the guy, but because I had written previously about this site in a post called Getting Ranked via Google Local… With No Content At All. Shortly after I posted that entry about the site being listed at the top of the page (despite the link only going to a directory folder), the local listing went away.

Apparently the site was now ranking for [Washington DC SEO] and [DC SEO] queries again… this time with no site at all.

When I clicked on the result, I got a 404 error.

Washington DC SEO Google Results

The Local Results Box was showing up alternating between the top of the page and below the #3 organic results, as in the above screenshot. I tried accessing the site all sorts of ways, but they all led to the same conclusion: the site doesn’t exist.

I guess it’s theoretically possible that the site is down temporarily, but a search using the site: command also brings up squat. In other words, Google says the site doesn’t exist in its index.

A search of the WayBack Machine shows that the only time any sort of site was ever on that domain was sometime between July 17, 2007 and August 14, 2007. The other WayBack entries show the same thing I screengrabbed in my previous post: a look at the directory folder w/ nothing in it. Now there’s not even that.


Clearly when Google is displaying Universal Search results, it’s pulling that info from other indexes; it just takes data from Local, Maps, Images, Shopping, etc and injects it into the regular organic results. Those indexes obviously have different rules and algos surrounding how your site (or product) gets listed. But can’t we agree that a universal rule for all of Google’s various search results should be that the URL being returned actually exists?

Finding a well-ranked “result” in the SERPs that 404s is bad enough, but having that result be a non-existent site, one that hasn’t existed in over a year, outranking me for Washington DC SEO … well, that’s just unacceptable. 😉

Comments (4)

Category: Local Search