Articles Tagged with SEO

My Experience Using the New Google My Business Redressal Complaint Form

* UPDATE – 24th March: it looks as thought 2 of the 3 listings have now come back online, and with their spammy business names (boooo…) *

Delete button (Prismafied)Google Maps has a spam problem. From seemingly randomly-left reviews to businesses spamming their Google My Business (GMB) listings so heavily that there’s even a dedicated hashtag for it (#stopcraponthemap), the situation becomes further frustrating when you realise that Google doesn’t (or can’t) do much about the situation. Sure, you can ‘suggest edits’ on Google Maps, but in my experience the process is largely pointless, and if you really need to contact Google to do something, you have to (ironically) contact them via Twitter or Facebook. Huh…

It’s starting to feel like it’s getting to boiling point, with the ne’er-do-well spammy types getting away with their efforts and reaping the benefits.

So when Google announced its Business Redressal Complaint Form a few weeks ago, I did a little eye-roll, said “yeah, ok” and reluctantly gave it a go on a couple of a client’s competitors who are notorious GMB listing spammers, expecting the usual to happen: something between ‘very little’ and ‘nothing’.

Boy was I in for a shock.

What’s in a (spammy) name?

I’ll keep the example anonymous but let’s say my client is a family-run, independent widget seller with two shops in South Wales. Their main competitors are UK-wide chains with dozens of locations across the country. One of them has two locations in Cardiff, while another has just the one. While my client uses their business name properly in the Name field (e.g. “Bonafide Widgets”), the competitors have gone with a “Business Name Keyword Location” approach, with the competitor with two Cardiff locations going as far as listing the sub-location as well (e.g. “Widgets-R-Us Cheap Widgets Cardiff”, “SuperWidgets Cheap Widgets Cardiff Central” and “SuperWidgets Cheap Widgets Cardiff North”). Ugh. Tacky. And frustratingly, they’d often rank higher in Google Maps for keywords – suggesting that this dodgy practice was working well for them, too. No fair.

Despite this behaviour being against Google My Business’ guidelines (see Name > Learn more > Service or product / Location information on that link), and despite me regularly using the ‘suggest an edit’ feature on the three listings to ‘correct’ the business names to be more guidelines-compliant, very little would happen. Either nothing would happen (and I’d simply have to try again), or the changes would only last for a day or two, with the original spammy versions returning shortly afterwards. I was about to try the contact-via-Twitter/Facebook method with them when the Redressal Form was introduced.

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Caught Out by Canonicals – A Quick Tip When Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS

Cannonical! Get it? Canonical, cannonical?! Ahahahahahaaa...It’s been a while since my last post on here (over 4 months – yikes!) but I thought I’d quickly put this out there based on a recent private Facebook group interaction. A few people said it was a good tip, so I thought it’d be a good idea to blog about it just in case anyone else encounters the issue as well…

A friend of mine added me to a private SEO group on Facebook and subsequently posted asking the group for advice. His client had just migrated their website from HTTP to HTTPS (something I’ve written about before by the way, if you’re looking for a guide) but unusually the Google Search Console (GSC) profile for the HTTP version (e.g. “http://www.example.com/”) was still showing data in its Search Analytics section and he couldn’t figure out how or why.

Funnily enough, I’d just had this exact issue with a client of mine so I chipped in with my experience. The culprit? That cheeky canonical! *shakes fist*

Short version: if you’re migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, making sure your canonical URLs follow suit, i.e. they all reference HTTPS versions of the URLs, not HTTP versions!

Seems obvious, right? And it might be. But it’s worth double-triple-checking just in case they don’t behave as expected, especially if you have some that have been manually configured in the past (in which case they may not simply auto-update in conjunction with your migration efforts).

For more detailed info, read on…

That pesky canonical tho

First things first, my friend didn’t reveal his client, and I’m under an NDA with my client, so this is going to be an entirely anonymous anecdote. Sorry!

A canonical URL tells search engines that the page you’re serving is the ‘primary’ version of the URL, which is a good way to side-step potential duplicate content issues. There’s a good guide on canonicals over on Moz if you’re new to the concept and want to learn more about it.

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Become Cardiff SEO Meet’s Site Review Sponsor and Have Your Software Demoed to a Room of Digital Marketers…

Cardiff SEO Meet has some fantastic sponsors, including food sponsors and – as of the next event (our 8th one) – a website sponsor (website coming soon!) and a photo/video sponsor.

Recently however I realised that there’d be a great opportunity for someone to be a site review sponsor too, who’d get all the usual perks (listed below) and – if they’re an SEO software/tool provider – a really good added extra…

What is a site review? How do they work?

Our site reviews are essentially live SEO audits, where we quickly audit a volunteered website in 20-30 minutes, running it through a few different SEO tools and trying to give the website volunteer as much ‘quick win’ info as possible – whether that be related to keyword research, technical SEO, inbound link building, Google Maps optimisation, ecommerce SEO or whatever else is applicable to them/their business/their site. The volunteered site is announced privately to the Meetup group a few days before the event, giving them time to do some homework (if they want to) and come to the event prepared. We take suggestions from the audience on what might be wrong with the site and what they could be doing to get the most out of SEO.

Wanna learn more? I wrote about site reviews in more detail over on State of Digital.

We’ve run site reviews since the 2nd event, so we’ve done 6 in total so far. Only one has been filmed, which I’ve embedded below if you want to get an idea of how they go…

Notes on the video: a) you’ll have to forgive the filmed-on-an-iPhone quality; b) the first one we did was a bit clunky and we ended up veering away from SEO-specific topics in parts – they’ve run a lot more smoothly since then; c) it starts about 3 minutes and 25 seconds in

What do you mean “demoed to a room”…?

Cardiff SEO Meet Bierkeller stage photoWell usually we jump into a variety of tools: so I might run Screaming Frog, take a look at the site’s links using Majestic, etc. etc… and even get some random suggestions from the audience (the best one we’ve had to date is Keyword Shitter – LOL). There’s no particular reason why I choose these tools – I just go with what I already use and know.

But then it hit me: with the site review sponsor, we could showcase an SEO software tool for 5-10 minutes of the site review, giving it extra attention and focus during the audit. So if a technical SEO tool takes the slot then we spend longer looking at technical SEO; if a link analysis tool takes the slot then we spend longer looking at link analysis; you get the picture. And if someone takes the slot, I’ll make sure that we don’t use any of the sponsor’s direct competitors – so if it’s a link analysis tool, we won’t use any other link analysis tools – just the sponsor’s.

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Don’t Panic, SEOs! The Whisky-related Zero Result SERPs are a Bug

Update: Google have since put this experiment on hold (source).

Zero-result SERPs have caused a bit of a stir in the SEO industry this past fortnight. For time-related searches, instead of showing a variety of results, Google shows you the answer and… that’s it. Unless you click the ‘Show all results >’ box at the bottom, all you see is Google’s answer. Here’s an example for "time in cardiff":

"time in cardiff" search screenshot
The situation went into panicky overdrive when I checked Twitter this morning and saw tweets from overnight suggesting that whisky-related SERPs had been affected. Rightly so, if you searched for "lagavulin 16" – as in Lagavulin’s 16-year-old single malt bottle – it would show the time box, Google Shopping results, Google AdWords ads (if applicable) and that’s it:

"lagavulin 16" search screenshot
The time box was a particularly bizarre inclusion – what’s the time got to do with a search for a bottle of whisky anyway? There was also chatter that other bottles of whisky with numbers after them (as in their age) were producing similar results.

And that’s when it hit me: what if Google was thinking that people were searching for Lagavulin the place and that the number was the time, as in: “what time is it where I am if it’s 16:00 (i.e. 4pm) in Lagavulin, the Scottish village?”

I tagged Danny Sullivan (who now works for Google) in a tweet and he’s confirmed that it’s an “edge case” (interesting choice of phrase, Danny – not “bug”?) 😉

So there you have it, folks. No need to panic (yet). They’re not after our whisky SERPs – phew! Breatheinbreatheout breatheinbreatheout. Why not pour yourself a glass of Lagavulin?

…Too soon?

Google Reviews are Broken (and Google Local Guides Aren’t Helping)

Basketball points illustrationGoogle has a review problem.

When I help clients with SEO, if they already have – or could benefit from having – a Google Map listing (a.k.a. a Google My Business listing), I help them with the presentation and optimisation of that, too. One element of that is the ability for customers to be able to leave reviews. For a business that works hard to give its customers a good service, it can be a fantastic way to stand out from the competition. I often encourage clients to try and get Google reviews from their happy customers – in a way that abides by Google’s guidelines.

However something that I’m finding is becoming more and more prominent is the phenomenon of fake – maybe even ‘incorrectly-given’ – reviews. This blog’s most popular ever post is about how I managed to remove a fake and libellous review from my parents’ business’ Google listing. We (mostly) got lucky because the review’s text said some very nasty things that were very obviously against Google’s review guidelines, but where the whole Google review removal process gets messy is when the text is ambiguous (i.e. it could be a customer or it could not be, and it doesn’t conflict with Google’s review policy either way) or if no text is left against the review at all.

‘Cold’ reviews

One of my clients (and also my business’ home) – Welsh ICE – gets fantastic reviews. They consistently get 4- and 5-star reviews from people who we know are members and have used their facilities.

…But then, all of a sudden, a few months back, they got a 3-star review with no text against it.

And then another one – 3 stars, no text.

And then a 1-star review with no text.

Two things were weird about these reviews:

  1. When I asked Jamie & Rachel – who are involved with running ICE and looking after its community – if they knew who these people were, they said no. The reviewers (to the best of their knowledge) had never used ICE.
  2. They all had the ‘Local Guide’ tag next to them.

Google Local Guide review examples screenshot

Introducing Google’s Local Guides

I’ve been in SEO (and Local SEO) for a while, and while I’d come across Local Guides before, I hadn’t really paid much attention to it – so I did some research. It’s a way to contribute to Google Maps – most likely rising from the ashes of the death of Google Map Maker, which I’d used previously (with limited success – but that’s an aside). What’s more is that it’s gamified: contributors can earn points and badges, and can ‘level-up’.

Google Local Guides points screenshot
At first I thought it was just a prestige thing, but then I came across something quite interesting: at one point (fairly recently), they offered a Google Play perk, whereby “Local Guides who reach[ed] Level 4 and beyond by 31 August 2017 [had] a chance to receive 3 months of Google Play Music and 75% off a movie rental on Google Play.”

Google Local Guides perk screenshot
…Which I’ve screenshot, just in case the page gets taken offline in the future.

Of course, Google’s Maps User Contributed Content Policy states that “contributions must be based on real experiences and information” – but here’s the thing: how can anyone prove or disprove that a review was based on a real experience? Given that Google are incentivising Local Guides by offering them a Google Play discount, what’s stopping Local Guides from randomly leaving random reviews/ratings in order to get points, including businesses they’ve never even dealt with and/or places they’ve never even visited?!

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