Service Areas and Physical Address

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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144
Have you put back the service areas yet? Or still testing with them removed?
I have not put back the service areas... we are not even a full 30 days into this test!

I would be interested / curious to know if you have any feedback, thoughts, or opinions (one way or another) on the many updates I have made along the way during our test?
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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@Mindquest -- let me give you a quick update (I have a meeting I have to get to...) on my perspective so far.

If you look at the screenshots from 9/13 - 9/21, this is the period of time with 67 service areas present in the GMB.

The screenshot from 9/22 - 10/8, this is the period of time with only 1 service area... the business location itself.

Just a quick bullet point list of my thoughts so far:

  • It may be true that adding service areas does NOT increase the rankings and productivity for a business in those designated service areas
  • I am starting to believe, based on the data, that perhaps by removing all of the service areas, this has allowed the location authority (power / ability to rank) to flourish unencumbered
In other words, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, adding service areas actually may restrict the potency / contain somehow the location authority of a GMB.

There is one main data point I see that makes me start to develop this theory... and that is, the total number of keyword phrases "Ranking".

  • 82 keyword phrases ranking 1 - 3 before removal of service areas
  • 94 keyword phrases ranking 1 - 3 now (
  • Total ranking before test (with 67 service areas defined): 319 keywords (83% of total)
  • Total ranking now (with only 1 service area defined): 386 (95% of total)
What caused 12 more keyword phrases (approx. 14% increase) to shoot up to 1 - 3 in search?

What caused 67 keyword phrases to suddenly emerge as a ranking keyword?

What caused the total number of keywords ranking to increase from 83% to 95%?

What caused the "Total" to increase from 383 to 406?

All of these behaviors emerged after I removed the 67 service areas from the GMB.

So in essence, after removing the service areas and based on the data:
  • more keyword phrases are now ranking 1 - 3
  • more keyword phrases are now being tracked to rank (don't really understand this one)
  • there is a net total increase of total keyword phrases that are ranking
And all of these keyword phrases, remember... are keyword phrases that are relevant to a very wide array of surrounding markets for this business.

I don't think there's a definitive conclusion yet and I think the test should continue on...

Also interesting... and perhaps more toward my original argument that service areas DOES have an impact -- you can see that since removing the 67 service areas, there's been a dramatic decrease in "Progress".

Now, Darren from @whitespark would have to jump in and elaborate more on what exactly "Progress" means and perhaps he could interpret the results here for us...

But 59.4% drop vs. 4.3% drop since removing the service areas.... that sounds dramatic to me.

But as I said earlier, it seems that removing the service areas actually unleashed the full potential of the location authority of the GMB.

And if this ends up being a definitive finding in this test... then my focus will be shifting to a strategy of building location authority while adding only one service area - the service area of the verified location.

This would also imply that service areas somehow become a restrictive variable in allowing location authority to influence rankings at wider radiuses.

Here's the screenshots I used in this update:

Before removing 67 service areas:



After removing service areas -- only 1 service area:

 

Mindquest

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Jul 10, 2013
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48
@BipperMedia Thanks for the update!

I don't have much to comment on only because I feel that you will have to close the loop (add back all the service areas) and then track what happens next over the next week or two to truly understand what is happening with this one factor as a potential catalyst for change.

IMHO there is probably not much to gain by extending the time you have the service areas removed. And more to gain by adding them back and recording what happens next.
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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144
@JoyHawkins @Mindquest --- I agree, to a degree anyway. I agree that GMB is constantly updating and that the longer we linger with this, the more "other" variables can be skewing our results. On the other hand, I'm a believer in long term data trends....

So I'll go ahead and get the service areas added back in -- except now it's a matter of me focusing enough to add all of those back in :)

Thank you again for your dialogue and interest in the outcome on this test.

Very exciting...!

Bobby
 
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Aug 9, 2012
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393
Hey Bobby,

Reading your thoughts above on the increases you're seeing, I worry you might be putting too much stock in data coming back from the rank tracker. Sure, more keywords are ranking, but give it a few days and you might see them dip back down again. To me, all the data I've seen in this test so far looks like normal fluctuation. If the service areas had an impact, I would have expected to see a more significant drop (or increase). Add them back in, and I think we'll see again that nothing really changes too much.

Here's the definition of the progress metric: Progress is calculated by taking your number of keywords increased, minus your number of keywords decreased, and then dividing that by the total number of keywords you're tracking: Progress = (Increased - Decreased) / Total Keywords

It's kind of a stupid metric, really. Because it doesn't account for where those keywords are. For example, if you had 10 keywords in positions 70 to 80 move down 1 spot each, then you had 2 of your most valueble keywords move from positions 20 to #1, your progress would be:
(2 - 10) / 12 = down 66% !!!
So progress can make it look like something bad happened, but really, overall, this was excellent for your SEO because who cares about the keywords in positions 70 to 80? The 2 keywords that moved into #1 position are super valuable.

This is why the visibility score is a more useful metric because it does factor in the positions of those movements: Visibility Score is calculated by assigning scores to your rankings based on the estimated click through rate of the ranking position. Higher rankings provide more visibility, and are scored higher. Your visibility score is the combined scores across all keywords in your campaign.
 

Tim#

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May 24, 2019
Messages
20
Awesome test guys! It was a real pleasure to read these 6 pages.

Here is my 2 cents:

I'd rather tend to wait a few more weeks before adding the service areas back again. That ensures that the test was not affected by short-term fluctuations (or the core update) which increases the chance to get accurate results. I'm saying this because if we now think the increase was caused by short-term fluctuations we obviously have to assume (something like) the same effect within the next few weeks again.

Let´s say you add them back and notice a sudden decrease (which falls under the category "fluctuations"), this would necessarily lead to another test as then we need to figure out how short-term fluctuations occur frequently and how they affect our test. The problem is, if you add them back right now and you get a decrease it's not really a proof for anything.

Btw, just because previous core updates haven't caused anything doesn't mean it hasn't affected anything this time.
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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144
I'd rather tend to wait a few more weeks before adding the service areas back again. That ensures that the test was not affected by short-term fluctuations (or the core update) which increases the chance to get accurate results.
I'm with you @Tim# -- in my experience, unless we are talking about PPC, then less than 30 days a way too short of a time frame to accurate analyze anything organic... it's just way to short of a time period.

I say we wait until November 1st, at least, as this would be 5 - 6 weeks with the service areas removed (still in my opinion a very short period of time for organic).

But I also appreciate everyone wanting to see the impact after adding them back in... so perhaps Nov. 1st is a fair balance?

FYI -- I talk with the client today and they have not felt any abrupt changes in call volume since we started the test on September 22nd.
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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144
@Tim# @JoyHawkins @whitespark @Mindquest (I apologize if I left others out who are interested...)

Just an FYI -- my client (the one who has the 2 GMB's that are part of our experiment) called me this morning and said their phone calls have all but dried up over the last several weeks...

As such, we are adding back all of the service areas to both of their GMB's.

I don't have time right now to provide screenshots, etc... but here's a quick summary since we removed over 60+ service areas from our client's well established GMB's:
  • we lost 138 total ranking positions
  • we lost 61% of position 1 - 3 ranking positions
  • our visibility score has been cut in half
I respectively recognize the general consensus here my attribute this to something like "the local algorithm updates are having an impact..." or something like that.

But please keep in mind... these GMB's have been highly optimized and established for several years and have weathered the storm of all of the algo updates during that time.

And we've been building location authority in these GMB's for several years...

So the combination of defined services areas + large scale location authority = rankings and productivity in the outer geographic areas defined with the GMB.

And not just "sort of" rankings and productivity... according to our client (who I just got off the phone with...)_, having defined service areas creates a "direct and exponential" impact on the growth of their local business.

Removing them = phones drying up.

Having them = record sales and growth

Not my words... but my clients.

P.S. My client also said that if anyone would like to speak with him directly on the phone, he'd be more than happy to talk about his experience... but please DM me that request because I am not sharing their phone # here on the public forum.

So just to quickly recap... we had 67 service areas defined in just one of the GMB's.

We removed 66 of them so only their main location was left.

Their rankings and productivity have been dropping, from moderately to sharply, what I believe has been pretty much since the start of this experiment when I removed the 66 services back on September 21st.

AND... more importantly to me than anything else... my client is now telling me their phones have dried up across the board -- and that's enough feedback for me to put all the service areas back.

Again, I'll come back and continue this conversation with screenshots, etc...

But for now I have to run -- I have client calls coming up.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be part of this experiment, and I do hope this is helpful to others who get a chance to read through this discussion.

Thanks again

Bobby
 

JoyHawkins

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Jul 18, 2012
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Bobby,

So in your post above you mentioned that you were going to add them back on October 9th. But you're actually adding them back today?

In the post from October 10, you said "FYI -- I talk with the client today and they have not felt any abrupt changes in call volume since we started the test on September 22nd. " but now you're saying their calls have dried up? So the calls drying up didn't happen until 20+ days into the test? I'm having a hard time following :)
 
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Just checking the rankings, and this looks like normal fluctuation to me. In my opinion, no rankings have been lost or gained throughout this process.

This is a remarkably stable chart for Local Finder rankings over a 1 month period:


So is this:


Pick slightly different end or start dates and the Visibility and Progress numbers can be adjusted to look more positive.


After running this test and seeing a month of daily ranking data, I still believe that the service areas in GMB have zero impact on rankings.
 

Mindquest

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Jul 10, 2013
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48
I realized that my charts are only showing the "after" data. Here are some better charts that show before and after:




Both of these look remarkably stable to me. Any ups and downs look like normal fluctuation.
Pretty obvious from these charts that the one factor that was being tested had no major effect on rankings.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to test and get these results!
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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144
@whitespark -- thank you for sharing that... in the "Keywords" section in the top right, how does the number of "Ranking" keyword change relative to the timeframe selected?

For example, if you selected a shorter period of time vs. a longer period of time, does the "Keywords" number change based on that time frame?

Thank you again

Bobby
 
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Aug 9, 2012
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393
Hey Bobby, that number represents the number of keywords ranking on the end date in your date range. It is not related to the range. It's only the last day in the range.
 

BipperMedia

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Jan 13, 2019
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144
@whitespark -- gotcha, thank you...

What is your interpretation of the following data / impact we've seen since removing the service areas?

Total keywords ranking

On 9/21, we had 319 keywords that were ranking... today we have 181 keywords ranking.

That's a drop off of 43.3% since removing the service areas.

Position 1 - 3 keywords ranking

On 9/21, we had 82 keywords ranking in position 1 - 3... today we have 32 keywords ranking in position 1 - 3.

This is drop off of 43.3% in position 1 - 3 rankings.

For you reference, here's the screenshots from those dates:

Here's the screenshot from 9/21:



Here's the screenshot from 10/21:



Update: also... now that I'm looking at these 2 screenshots here's another observation:

The screenshot showing the time period where the service areas were removed (2nd screenshot with the date ending in 10/21), looks a lot more volatile than the screenshot when the services areas were present (1st screenshot with the 9/21 end date).

Any thoughts on what looks like a dramatic increase in volatility in positions and ranking data?

I look forward to your interpretation.

thank you again for the dialogue

Bobby
 
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Aug 9, 2012
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393
Hey Bobby,

Your first screenshot is Local Finder rankings. Your second screenshot is Organic rankings.
 

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