Local Search

Video: A Tactical Response to the New, Google Local 3-Pack & Yahoo’s Role in Local

By September 1, 2015 8 Comments

Every week Mary Bowling, David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal share their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video is posted in the Local U forums. In the second half of that weekly video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week. These segments will typically be about seven minutes in length and be posted one to two weeks after their posting in the forum.

In this episode, recorded August 13th, David, Mary & Mike take a look at how agencies and businesses should think about the new Local Pack, its reductions from 7 to 3 local listings and how it should affect their tactics in local. Viewing time is eight minutes.


Mike: Let’s switch into just a tactical view of the big news from the week before, which was the change of the Google 7-pack into the local pack with only three.

What has a week of looking at it left you thinking? How do you think businesses should respond to it? Do you think it’s as big of an issue, or are we playing a bit of “chicken little” here? How do you think it impacts local?

David: I think it’s a little bit of . . . I wouldn’t say “chicken little,” because I don’t think people are necessarily freaking out, but I think people are trying to understand what it means. We’ve seen two click-through studies from Casey Meraz and Mike Ramsey come out this week. I thought both were relatively inconclusive as to the real effect of this. They were both looking at the legal vertical as well, so pretty limited scope.

But I basically think that from a tactical perspective, it seems to me that — well Mike, I’ll let you talk about Phil Rozek’s post — but it seems to me that organic optimization within local is an area where I would maybe tweak my resources slightly in that direction, given that the number of pack results has decreased by a couple and that organic listings still seem to be getting at least a healthy share of clicks, if not the majority of them. So I think that would probably be my take-away as, okay there’s fewer pack results, organic listings are still getting clicks. That’s probably where I would put more of energy, post this release.

Mary: Yes and I … you know to me, the big question is, “Are all of these new local packs going to turn into some form of those home service ads we’re seeing the test on in San Francisco?” And I don’t think that that’s out of the question.

With Pigeon, Google got so much better at being able to interpret local intent, the searcher’s location, putting it all together and giving us localized, organic results and maybe Google feels like it can do a good enough job of inserting localized organic results right into … localized results right into that organic, that they can take away the local packs and make them paid in some way.

Mike: Yes. The other view that might be, which is what we talked about just before we started, was that by decreasing the radius and increasing the display of the local packs on non-geo-modified [searches] which effectively becomes unmeasurable in any ranking tool, it could be that there is zero net effect on people’s local traffic.

You [your listings] are just showing more on either longer tail terms or in more geographically restricted areas that are actually more relevant for you, and there is no net effect on your overall traffic. [If this theory is correct] you’re still benefiting just as much from the local packs as you were before. That’s a way for Google to distribute the benefit over a broader number of locations and not impact traffic significantly.

So I’m wondering if that’s happening, as we move to mobile. We don’t really know. The metrics aren’t there to really measure it, other than after the fact we can go in and look to see what you’re traffic was, right?

Mary: Yeah, and we did see that with Pigeon. Everybody panicked that the pack shrunk, packs went away. And then as time went on, we realized people were gaining on one end of the spectrum and losing on the other, and it was all kind of evening out.

Mike: Right. So from a tactical viewpoint, I just want to bring up Phil’s article. He did a nice job of summarizing the logic behind going for less competitive terms, where you have a better chance of competing over a broader area, so you might be able to get state terms that are gonna generate more broader targeted traffic.

I think Phil’s article is a good read on that, and it also revisits the idea of barnacle marketing because the directories are still doing well, right? So…

David: Well, not sure Yahoo is doing all that well.

Mary: Yeah.

David: Yelp, definitely.

Mike: Yelp is doing well. Yeah. Right.

David: I haven’t seen Yahoo rank in a local result in five years, so…

Mike: If I said Yahoo, then that was a brain fart. Excuse me. Although that does bring up Yahoo, that I actually discovered a way to get Yahoo support.

You know, we talked about this last week, and it actually worked. I actually got a human to call me and help me fix my listings.

Mary: But what do you think about Yahoo? I mean, how much of a search share do they have? Is it worth paying any attention at all to Yahoo at this point?

David: My feeling is it’s honestly not worth the headache, like how many hours have you spent trying to clean this up, relative to the two people who might see that listing?

I have advised people not to worry about Yahoo Local, ever since Yelp listings started overriding, and then at that point, okay let’s put a little more energy into a Yelp listing which is gonna be seen by a lot more people.

Mike: Right. I don’t know if it’s two, David. It might be one.

But actually, I have now figured out, it took me … because I wasn’t familiar with the process, it took me about two hours to solve a triplicate listing issue at Yahoo, right? Which, agreeably, is totally irrelevant. You know, who cares? But I think now that I have it figured out, I could get the same thing done in about 20 minutes, and there is for whatever reason, persistent client demand for it, so the other SEOs want to know the tactics. I wrote about it yesterday in the forum. You can read it there.

But it’s just this issue that people want to do it, so if you want to do it, I guess the SEOs can respond that way. I agree with you, it should be ignored.

David: I think it’s a classic case of SEOs wanting to sell a defined deliverable to a client, no matter how relevant or irrelevant it is. So if you can sell, Okay, well, we are going to fix your Yahoo listings for the one person that can see them, that’s something that they want to sell to a client, and I would just advise agencies and consultants that you’re not really doing a client a service if your spending the kind of time on Yahoo that it sounds like people are.

Mike: So you’re saying that my Yahoo blog post is not going to be evergreen?

David: Might not be.

Mary: You know, we keep seeing this data from comScore about search share, that I think is really deceptive. And Google goes along with it because they don’t want to be perceived as any more of a monopoly than they already are perceived at.

But if you look in your analytics, and look across a bunch of different types of businesses, you will very rarely see that Google only has 65 to 70% of the traffic. You know, I’m seeing probably an average of 80 to 85%, and some of them spiking up to around 95%.

David: Most of my former clients . . . honestly, I have not looked at analytics in a couple years, but most of them were in the 87 to 93% range for Google, so . . .

Mary: And this was several years ago.

Mike: It puts the Yext’s total market share at one percent or something, other than Yelp. So when I go and look, I’ll see a couple percent from Yelp, a couple percent from Bing, not very much, and then most of it is Google, and then the rest is split up against you know, who knows what. I would agree. I mean, Google is probably, with mobile, probably approaching 95% local, when you count local apps in.

All right with that, I guess it’s a wrap. Thank you very much.

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  • Dave says:

    Good start guys. Thanks. Lots of questions and mysteries moving forward. These are going to be tough times for some.

    I measured traffic in many ways for a couple of smb’s covering 3 weeks. Not a lot of changes for our smb’s but its anecdotal data.

    But I do see that of certain areas wherein we lost visibility in the pack’s we lost traffic and hard leads Small numbers…but not encouraging. Conversely, as Mike suggested is there a different net benefit or possibly a wash? ie did competitors lose traffic in areas where they lost visibility and we retained it, or got better. Hard for us to tell. Its easier to see losses than try and measure gains.

    On Mary’s point on SE share. Good point. Lets face it, that Comscore data is terrible. Why does a group like SearchEngineLand keep putting it out? Why don’t they put that out with a measure that more closely approximates what WebMasters see? Google just crushes the other SE’s for search traffic.

    …and its that monopoly situation that is difficult to deal with.

    Just a point on Phil’s good idea: It is a sharp idea. Here is a potential downside, though. Each business within each vertical is going to have to strive to figure this out.

    An example: Suppose you have a dental site that was 4th or 5th in the Pack. Now your out. You have a general practice and you practice cosmetic dentistry (an example of a specialty as Phil suggested).

    I’ve always found Adwords data to be an incredible guide on this: Suppose search IMPRESSIONS for dentists are 10 or 15 times greater than the specialty of cosmetic dentistry?? Suppose the head term and its variations Dentist is searched on 5-10-15 times more than any of the specialties????

    I’d bet anything the smb in question was getting a LOT of leads for the head term, if its visibility was in the Pack before.

    So if you veer HARD to the specialty….you could lose a LOT on what were once voluminous and lucrative HEAD TERMS.

    So many issues and questions and above all challenges.

    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      @Dave one area that you and I have talked about that is probably worth pursuing is the Local One box on a phrase that is at the beginning of your client funnel.

      • Dave says:

        Yes, Mike: That is an alternative. Your description above is somewhat “nebulous” relative to the discussions we’ve had. If you push it out there you are going to have to describe it with more background and specifics.

        Its a good idea. There are also caveats….as there are with any effort and strategy. For instance:

        1. Is the phrase a 1% of all the traffic for your smb or in the 30% range? Is it long tail or close to the head? Is it niche/specialization as Phil suggested or is it broad?
        2. When you suggest it is at the beginning of the client funnel…is it? Do you know that? A different way to describe it is it one of those phrases that is very specific and converts well? I think specific and converting well are synonymous with “at the beginning of the your client funnel”. Would you agree?

        On very general sense I was looking more closely at our data for some smb’s in one vertical. Its one that is highly contingent on search and “intent”.

        In the last 6 months our google traffic has been almost 90% of search traffic. Bing, Yahoo, aol, ask and all others about 10%. Same period last year; google traffic was about 85%. Its the big monopoly on the search side.

        Those smb’s work hard to get potentially convertible traffic outside of search. Lots of hours and staff power goes into that. All the outside efforts from search turn up small percentages ….but dang we work them. In all smb’s we want to be less and less dependent on search….well because google is simply too big and powerful and will operate in ways that seem less and less friendly and more and more in their monetary interests.

        In any case I agree with the above suggestion…I think it is one of many possible ways to expand visibility….albeit one dependent on google.

  • Jack Jostes says:

    Mike, great post! I really enjoyed the video format.

    Mike Ramsey did a nice click study that reached a similar conclusion of focusing on organic with the shrinking local pack. http://niftymarketing.com/5-new-local-pack-click-through-studies/

    I have had great results building out geo-targeted pages specific to individual cities.

    What are your thoughts about building out city- and state-optimized pages with consideration for Google’s Doorway pages update.


    • Mike Blumenthal says:

      @Jack I think they are great as long as they are useful, unique pages that offer significant value to the reader. You will find states pages, depending on the state and industry, much more difficult to succeed at.

  • Dave says:

    I have to add something: When you look at Mary’s comments about Google Market Share: 80-85% sometimes spiking to 95%; David’s comments: Google market share ranging from 87-93% of market share of search, and Mike chiming in suggesting that google has up to 95% of local mobile….that isn’t just a “monopoly”

    That is total control. Its way beyond what historically would be seen as dangerously monopolistic. Its already at total control.

    So Google switched to a minimalist 3 pack, eliminating visibility for up to 7 smb’s per category per city; The existing 3 pack is CRAP….the CRAP Pack. No ADDRESS…no link to the website. No phone # though a phone button on mobile. (Hey WHO AMONG YOU DOESN’T BELIEVE THAT IS GOING TO PAY FOR CALLS controlled by Google.

    Google quite simply is eliminating the most basic information that consumers want!!!!

    NOW A BRUTISH pay for play visibility through a Google submit bids program for HOME SERVICES.

    By the way, locals….there is NO LOCAL 3 Pack…and there are NO REVIEWS.

    Its pretty clear. Reroute your money through Google. They are in control.

  • Cathie says:

    Great post. I don’t know what you mean by Yahoo. Do you mean how many people are referred by Yahoo in Analytics? I’m not sure it is even one person a month in most cases. As for Yelp here in Canada, there are only a handful of clicks from them, if that, only three or four referrals, I’d say, compared to thousands from Google, not worth the $350 a month.

    I thought you pretty much do the same sort of SEO for local as you do for organic, what’s good for one is good for the other, isn’t it?

  • Mike Blumenthal says:

    In the US we do see some small amount of Yahoo traffic. I just checked Barbara Oliver and Co Jewelry to see. Here are the % coming from search/social from within her market (New York only):

    .4% Yellowpages
    1% Yelp
    2% Facebook
    5% Bing
    6% Yahoo
    83% Google

    There are a range of local specific tactics; reviews, citations, news articles, branded links which are distinct from pure organic signals.

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