Local Troubleshooting Best Practices

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Jul 23, 2012
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I don't believe I've seen a thread like this here before (if I'm wrong, please tell me).

A new client comes to you and states that he has experienced a drop in rankings, or is failing to rank well locally for his core terms. What are your best practices? What are the steps you take to begin troubleshooting/diagnosing his issues? I would be really interested to read about the process of what you do if you can take some time to share your methods! Thanks for considering responding.
 

Linda Buquet

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Hey Miriam, hope you are doing well.

Great topic!

Since I specialize in ranking troubleshooting when I do consulting, I have a whole section about how I do analyze rank drops in my new On-site Local SEO video course I just finished. And after I explain all the steps, then I do a screen share and actually take you through my process on a Dentist listing that dropped out of the pack but still ranks high in organic. (Common problem.)

It's easier to verbally explain and show, too much for me to type out right now. So here is just one small part of it I copied from my On-site Local SEO training docs.

This particular part just has to do with diagnosing what I call a disconnected listing. When it ranks high in organic but drops out of the pack.

This is also just bullets, not all the verbal explanation I do, but I think it should help to some degree.

DISCONNECTED PLACE PAGE?

A business has a high organic ranking but is disconnected in blended, so the website and Place page are not connected and listing is locked out of the pack.. Here are the main reasons that this can happen. Basically it’s usually due to one of these problems on the Places side of the house.

.:. The location is way far from industry centroid

.:. Duplicate confusion! Dupes often knock you out, even Dr and atty dupes. Google will no longer delete practitioner dupes so you need to understand how to MINIMIZE them so they won't impact ranking. Let me know in a reply if you have not read my posts on this and I'll explain all the details.

.:. NAP confusion (800# or diff# on the site, mismatched name, mixed NAP on site for multi-locations)

.:. Penalized for GP guideline violations. Check for KW/city stuffing in business name. Another common violation is city in categories. Or other unwritten rule violations. One unwritten rule that I see that often causes a 10 point or more ranking penalty is repeating city or keywords too much in description. I’ve worked on a few cases where city was repeated 3+ times and once fixed, they jump right back up. (Except in 2 cases where the penalty lasted for several months, but once lifted they both jumped to the A spot since they had taken all my other consulting advice.)

USE AOL SEARCH or STARTPAGE for 3 reasons (I explain the pros and cons of each as a research tool in training and think I have a post here, let me know if you need the info and I'll add it below.)

1 - Shows PURE Google organic with NO local. Helps for competitive analysis & troubleshooting. (Do some comparisons.) MOST importantly shows if there is an organic penalty. If they don't rank in the 1st 10 pages then the problem might be organic. OR they could have problems on both sides of the fence.

2 - Shows title tags and description which G no longer shows in blended. (Helps size up competition.)

3 – Really helpful for reverse engineering algo to see which algo is in control for the market you are working.


EDITED TO ADD 3/1/15

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/google-duplicates-merges/28490-advanced-tip-google-local-duplicate-discovery-troubleshooting.html">Advanced Tip for Google Local Duplicate Discovery & Troubleshooting</a>

<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/google-duplicates-merges/21431-best-ways-find-duplicate-google-places-plus-listings-post-pigeon.html">Best Ways to Find Duplicate Google Places/Plus Listings (Post Pigeon)</a>


Hope that helps.

What other tips do you guys have?
 

Linda Buquet

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FYI "disconnected listing" troubleshooting part above pertains more so to the "blended algo" where the top listings were primarily based on organic ranking factors. The algo has been changing though. Now often or maybe always it's pure maps algo - not blended. (Sometimes the A spot is blended.)

I attempt to explain all the recent algo changes in the new video training too, but it varies based on query so I am having a bit of a hard time pinning it down.

RELATED - See: <a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/15881-troubleshoot-rank-high-organic-but-drop-out.html">Troubleshoot: Rank High in Organic but Drop out of the Pack?</a>
 
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Hi Linda!
Thank you so much for replying. Your new training video sounds wonderful. Neat to read your notes on disconnects. I'd love it if others would chime in regarding best practices for drops in local rankings in which a business previously ranked well locally, but no longer does.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Hi Miriam,

Great topic!

We have a checklist type document that we have developed/adapted over the years that covers about 40 different things that we can look into when there is a ranking drop.

We always use the technique that Linda covered. In addition, here are a couple other things on our list:

  • Check for live duplicates
  • Check for hidden merged duplicates
  • Check for NAP issues (Especially on the Data Providers)
  • Run a Bright Local Competitor Analysis
  • Take a screenshot of the SERP, including the little map, to see if the zoom level keeps changing
  • Check for mapping issues(marker in correct spot? Does Google recognize the address format?)
 

Linda Buquet

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Those are all great one Colan and ones I do as well.

Unfortunately I know where you learned this one: "Take a screenshot of the SERP, including the little map, to see if the zoom level keeps changing."

Miriam, Colan and I worked on a client who was on the outskirts of town. They kept dropping out of the pack. In and out, in and out. For a long time I could not figure it out because they were very well optimized and very prominent in their city. Then one day I noticed that when they dropped out, the map radius had tightened and they were too far south of the radius, so their location did not even show on the map. (The small map right in the main SERPs.) Same thing with a business that was far north. Then a couple weeks later the radius would expand way out and they'd be back in the pack. So I started taking screenshots to prove to myself and to client, that was the reason for drop - in other words nothing I could control. :eek:
 
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Super reply, Colan. Thank you! And that sounds like a nightmare with the client you and Linda had.

Colan, the first 2 points on your list seem really important to me:


  • Check for live duplicates
  • Check for hidden merged duplicates

How are you currently checking for these 2 items? I'd love to know what works for you and I think it would make this thread incredibly instructive for forum members.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Super reply, Colan. Thank you! And that sounds like a nightmare with the client you and Linda had.

Colan, the first 2 points on your list seem really important to me:


  • Check for live duplicates
  • Check for hidden merged duplicates

How are you currently checking for these 2 items? I'd love to know what works for you and I think it would make this thread incredibly instructive for forum members.
We search Google Maps for the business phone number, main line, plus any others including fax#. We also search for the business name and address, individually and together, to reveal any old address listings or previous owners at their address.

Linda also shared this out-o-the-box technique for finding dupes - http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-duplicates-merges/9727-advanced-troubleshooting-tip-duplicate-discovery-nap-issues.html


For Hidden Merged Duplicate detection check out this crazy good post that Linda did - http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/2807-warning-dual-claimed-ranking-penalty-drop-like.html

Top ways to tell:

  • No "Respond" link for reviews when logged-in
  • You notice that there are categories associated with your G+ Local page that aren't in your dashboard (click edit details to see them)
  • Any info on live page doesn't match the dashboard

The hidden merged duplicate issue is slowly becoming a thing of the past however, due to Google not allowing multiple owners with the new Google Places dashboard.
 

Linda Buquet

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Great info Colan!

We search Google Maps for the business phone number, main line, plus any others including fax#. We also search for the business name and address, individually and together, to reveal any old address listings or previous owners at their address.
The other dupe check I do is main KW + street address and city (omitting suite). For 2 reasons.

1) They could have another site with a totally different keyword stuffed name and different phone. For instance when an atty tries to rank for different specialties with different sites, names, phone #s.

2) And even more important for ranking troubleshooting...

Granted if it's a big city they may not rank for KW + City, due to competition and it can be hard to figure out where the problem/penalty is.

But if they don't even rank for "Main Keyword" at their exact address, then that pretty much tells you they have dropped out of the local index or are heavily penalized.
 
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Colan & Linda,
Please forgive me for dropping the ball on thanking you for your great replies. I caught a bug and this thread went out of my head. Hate to think I seemed ungrateful for your fantastic answers. I appreciate them!
 
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Thanks, Linda! I'm doing much better. So many bugs going around, though. Hope you are doing well, too!
 

Linda Buquet

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Yes, tis the season!

I'm doing great, no bugs for me yet.

But David has been in hospital since Friday and I can't get word on what happened. He went to Dr for routine procedure Friday and then somehow ended up in the hospital. Have not been able to find out what happened or if he's OK. But I just got through to someone he works with and he said David's finance will email me to give me an update. It worries me that he's in too bad a shape to even email me and she has to. :(
 

Linda Buquet

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Linda Buquet

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HOT! Check this!

<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-local-important/14378-hack-check-google-local-penalties.html">Hack to Check for Google Local Penalties</a>

I also just expanded my top post, post #2 quite a bit so may want to re-read if you've read it before.
 

Linda Buquet

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I just thought of a couple more things to check that often cause ranking problems and sometimes, but not always cause disconnected listings.

1) Wrong URL or redirected domain. The site is Welcome to Home.com but the URL in the Place page is home.com with no www - which redirects.

OR the site in Places is bestcosmeticdentist.com but redirects to johnsmithdds.com

2) Keyword stuffed links to home in the footer or other nav of the site. Links to home should only have the anchor "home" not "Best Damn Dentist in Dallas". (This one can cause organic penalty, not really a disconnected listing BUT if organic drops to #50 you'll usually drop out of the pack too.)

And here's a brand new post that's relevant to dropping out of the pack.

Checklist for Finding Duplicate Place Pages
 

Deckard64

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Linda,

This is slightly off topic from local troubleshooting best practices.

I had a similar problem. A client was far away from the city centroid and on the outskirts of town. I had the same problem mentioned- changing map radius affecting our local ranking. I believe reviews really helped.

The company built 8 reviews which outpaced the rest of the industry. I think those reviews had a major contribution to stabilizing the map radius to always include them.

It is only one client, so by no means an authoritative study but felt it was interesting enough to share.

Alex
 

Linda Buquet

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No that's a great point to share Alex!

The map radius and centroid Google picks for an industry is based on a wide variety of factors including prominence and popularity. So the more active and noticed you can make your client, with reviews and I think even G+ posts can help.
 

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