Who REALLY Knows How Much "Optimization" Is Just Wheel Spinning


consultant

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Here's an interesting thought. I've always held the personal opinion that things like NAP consistency as it relates to search rankings was essentially a myth designed to create more revenue for sites like Whitespark, MozLocal, Brightlocal and the like. (I'm talking minor inconsistencies, not like wrong, disconnected phone numbers.) Yes you need local citations (as opposed to not having them) and yes, you need to have your correct phone number and/or address listed, so people can contact you!

Any evidence I've seen attempted to be presented as far as NAP consistency having any significant factor on search rankings has either been anecdotal (or essentially a guess) or something that was presented as a "study" but guess who is presenting it? The Citation Management Services of course. I can't imagine how much the ad revenue of publications hit the crapper over the past years causing these types of companies (and their sister companies) to be desperate for revenue.

Now that I started this thread sort of on a tangent, let me get to my point. If you have a lot of locations to manage, updating all the various possible information can be very time consuming. Now I don't know about you, but for most businesses that I personally search for (I say most, because businesses like restaurants I would consider an exception), I virtually never look past the address, phone number, hours and maybe the average review rating. The description, the photos, the videos, the posts, the reviews and responses, etc etc are unimportant most of the time. And I'm willing to bet the farm, most other people are like me in their local search behavior for most, not all business types.

So unless someone has proof that adding a video or business description on a Google local listing improves your local search rankings, for all we know, we could all be "spinning our wheels" 80% of the time.

The bottom line (at least for me) is that I bet 80%+ of the time, the searcher doesn't dig any deeper than this screen:


So while adding a well-crafted business description and engaging videos may all make us feel like we are doing are jobs well and making our listings "stand out from the competition", who really knows how much difference it really all makes? I think only the service businesses that manages thousands of listings for thousands of businesses that can do an aggregate analysis to see what works and what doesn't would be an authoritative source on this subject. And if most of the stuff they do doesn't make that big of a difference (or no difference at all) do you think they want to acknowledge that if their business revenue is affected by the perception that these things are critically important?

Food for thought. So for example, does a Google Local Busines Description make any difference in keyword search rankings for that business? How significant or not significant is it and how are you so sure? Do you have hard data or is it a gut feel? Or just fear of the unknown - if I don't do this then I may be "missing out."
 
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Yan Gilbert

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Google stays on top by providing the best results for its users. It does this by compiling as much information as possible.

To address what you started out with, NAP consistency used to be a much bigger deal than it is now. A few years ago, Google's algorithm was not as good at figuring out which businesses were real and which were not. One of the ways it did that was by checking directories. The more data it was able to match up, the more confident the algo was is serving that as a result. The consistency issue was real because the algo was not as sophisticated. Now, the algo is able to deal with minor inconsistencies much better.

That does bring up a good point though. Sometimes we continue with optimization tasks just because they 'used to' work. Without evidence to the contrary, we continue to work away on things that may not be important any more because for the main reason that Google's algo has been updated.

At the same time but on the opposite side, we are also anticipating Google's changes. Entering a description into the GMB profile does not seem to affect rankings at all right now...but it might at some point. Google doesn't announce such things so many of the tasks that get performed are ones that might work at some point, or 'just in case it helps' tasks.

But in general, the more data Google can find, the better the algo can score the site with the hopes of ranking it better.
 

BenFisher

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@Yan Gilbert 's points are totally on spot.

There is someone in this forum who is working on a test regarding citations (not me)

Although I am doing some test for certain GMB aspects... hint hint Q&A. Maybe I'll look at descriptions, but I feel they are more for the user and not SEO bumps persay.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Ben and Yan make some great points and highlight an important point. And that is that you need to always be doing testing of your own to find out what truly works.
 

consultant

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NAP consistency used to be a much bigger deal than it is now. ... The consistency issue was real because the algo was not as sophisticated. Now, the algo is able to deal with minor inconsistencies much better.
Well if a few years is > 3 then I can't say I disagree with these statements but I can say that a business listing that was just 'killing it' for their market (3-pack 100% for a variety of keywords) changed locations. I purposely did not correct the NAP on any of the directories for several months as even though we were showing the address on all directories, it was a by appointment business so all that was really important was that the phone number (and website address) were correct. When I updated the GMB address, I purposely didn't update the NAPs in any of the dozens and dozens of directories it is listed with, even the prominent ones. Two years later there was no effect on its ranking.

Maybe that's because many businesses can have multiple locations and use the same phone number. The new location for this business was like 5 blocks away.

I guess the point is on a lot of this stuff no one can really prove one way or the other. It's just that people have limited resources (mainly time) and if you have limited resources and lots of listings to manage you need to consider the law of diminishing returns performing updates to things that not only don't matter from an algo perspective but that 90% of the users never look at anyway.
 

Yan Gilbert

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It's possible that when you update the GMB listing, it keeps a record of the previous address. The algo sees the old address in a directory but already has the correct info since the address was updated from that old one to a new one and has an internal record. Since the info is not in doubt, it does not affect rankings.
 

Phil Rozek

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@consultant: I agree, generally. There's benefit in getting the basic and important industry-specific listings right, because (1) if they're too much of a mess you can have good organic rankings but poor 3-pack/Maps rankings, and because (2) some of those sites are also review sites.

But getting the listings perfect is a waste of time, in my experience. One hits the point of diminishing return soon.

Not sure anyone deliberately seeded any "myths," but many local SEOs like straightforward tasks they can easily delegate and that look good on paper. Coiffing the descriptions and other details on your listings is fine, but in my book it's usually a way to procrastinate on the much-harder stuff with more-definite payoff.

As I've said a thousand times, the only way to approach listings is to get them good enough and to move on.
 

consultant

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Check it out. I never notied this on the listing dashboard. If Google considers the listing not 100% complete, this shows up:


In my own opinion though, Google is just asking for people to do free data entry for them to help them build their database with what I think may be an empty promise about improving your ranking. That's just a gut feel based on my own experience and reading hundreds of posts on Local SEO over the past couple years. But who knows maybe fleshing out some aspects of your listing like the business description, service list, and adding more photos and video has a negligible effect that no one notices. Seems I've almost come full circle here. LOL.

I think Phil makes a great point. There's more difficult things with a more widely known definite payoff that is better to spend time one than the GMB listing.
 

Yan Gilbert

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I think there might come a time, and Google knows this, that they won't be able to 'take' everyone else's data for free and serve it back as their results. So the more info that Google gets you to put into their product, the less they will have to rely on other people's data.
 

HoosierBuff

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I am in agreement. I think most of NAP consistency is useless spinning. There is probably a decent reason to stamp out duplicates, and basic DB submission, but after that, fixing citysearch is just dumb.

I think I remember a study a while back, I think from Dan Leibson who did a bunch of work for a multi-location company and found that updating listings didn't move the needle (but getting GMB correct did).
 

JoshuaMackens

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Here's an interesting thought. I've always held the personal opinion that things like NAP consistency as it relates to search rankings was essentially a myth designed to create more revenue for sites like Whitespark, MozLocal, Brightlocal and the like. (I'm talking minor inconsistencies, not like wrong, disconnected phone numbers.) Yes you need local citations (as opposed to not having them) and yes, you need to have your correct phone number and/or address listed, so people can contact you!

Any evidence I've seen attempted to be presented as far as NAP consistency having any significant factor on search rankings has either been anecdotal (or essentially a guess) or something that was presented as a "study" but guess who is presenting it? The Citation Management Services of course. I can't imagine how much the ad revenue of publications hit the crapper over the past years causing these types of companies (and their sister companies) to be desperate for revenue.

Now that I started this thread sort of on a tangent, let me get to my point. If you have a lot of locations to manage, updating all the various possible information can be very time consuming. Now I don't know about you, but for most businesses that I personally search for (I say most, because businesses like restaurants I would consider an exception), I virtually never look past the address, phone number, hours and maybe the average review rating. The description, the photos, the videos, the posts, the reviews and responses, etc etc are unimportant most of the time. And I'm willing to bet the farm, most other people are like me in their local search behavior for most, not all business types.

So unless someone has proof that adding a video or business description on a Google local listing improves your local search rankings, for all we know, we could all be "spinning our wheels" 80% of the time.

The bottom line (at least for me) is that I bet 80%+ of the time, the searcher doesn't dig any deeper than this screen:


So while adding a well-crafted business description and engaging videos may all make us feel like we are doing are jobs well and making our listings "stand out from the competition", who really knows how much difference it really all makes? I think only the service businesses that manages thousands of listings for thousands of businesses that can do an aggregate analysis to see what works and what doesn't would be an authoritative source on this subject. And if most of the stuff they do doesn't make that big of a difference (or no difference at all) do you think they want to acknowledge that if their business revenue is affected by the perception that these things are critically important?

Food for thought. So for example, does a Google Local Busines Description make any difference in keyword search rankings for that business? How significant or not significant is it and how are you so sure? Do you have hard data or is it a gut feel? Or just fear of the unknown - if I don't do this then I may be "missing out."
I agree there's no real way to know.

However, we know accurate NAP worked in the past. If it worked in the past, it more than likely works now. Whether in the same capacity or not is debatable of course and again, you are correct, there's no real way to know.

All SEO "proof" is anecdotal because of time to live on SEO improvement tasks affecting your ranking and because of the possibility of 200+ different factors being the actual responsible party for the increase or decrease during a study. Not to mention Google's unwillingness to provide any type of clarity or insight. SEO tests typically cannot be done in a vaccuum and will largely always be anecdotal in nature.

If something worked in the past and its not spam, keep doing it. The only reason not to is if it is expensive in either time or money. Luckily, citations are not expensive in either typically.

This line of thinking is basically me regurgitating what others have already said in the thread before me, such as if you're doing a lot of clean up, just get it done "pretty well"; don't be perfectionistic about it and waste your time. Get it done and move on.

Your point is well received and I definitely agree.
 

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