Why did this site's local ranking drop?


Marie Haynes

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Hey guys! I have been doing some work lately helping webmasters diagnose the reason for their traffic drop. I am pretty good at figuring out Penguin and Panda issues but the current site that I am working on has had a drop in the local listings and I am not as knowledgable here as I should be. (Linda taught me well, but for some reason she didn't teach me EVERYTHING that she knows.) :)

Here is the listing: https://plus.google.com/109675741887574763769/about?hl=en

The business was ranking #1 in local for most of their terms. Around February 19th they dropped out of the local listings and are now ranking organically near the bottom of page 1 for most terms.

It looks to me like I can see them at #11 on the local listings.

The client has made no changes at all to his local listing or to his site. I did notice that the NAPs do not match each other exactly. He has a number of reviews so I am going to ask him if there is any possibility that any of them have been self made.

Were there any updates to local in mid February? Can anyone else see a reason for this drop?

Thanks!
Marie
 

Linda Buquet

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(Linda taught me well, but for some reason she didn't teach me EVERYTHING that she knows.) :)
LOL Marie, thanks for posting.

Well you were the 1st person I trained, before I knew what I was even doing and over a year before I started officially offering training - so I didn't know much back then. Plus EVERYTHING has changed since then... Whole new ball game! :)

They rank C for Yarmouth Hotel which is pretty good considering the site isn't optimized for Yarmouth.

You didn't say what KW but I assume it's Cape Cod Hotels?

In local it's easiest to rank for the city you are actually in and hard (depending on competition) to rank for anything outside the city.

For Cape Cod Hotels there is only one listing in West Yarmouth and it's in last place at G and it probably ranks in part due to having Cape Cod in the name.

Are you managing this one? Can you share a screen shot of the edit screen? Or copy for me the description, street address and city? Those are the only problems I see.

Google is VERY data sensitive especially when it comes to location. I think the city should be WEST Yarmouth, not Yarmouth as it is on the G+ L page. So I'm curious if it's entered wrong in dash or if G changed it?

Having the city wrong could really mess things up and street address is different than on their site, so I'm wondering if that part is wrong too. Complicated by the fact that it looks like that's one of those addresses that could be formatted a variety of different ways.

So anyway before I go off on a tangent, would like to see what's actually in dash.

Thanks!
 

Marie Haynes

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Thanks so much Linda.

I don't manage this listing per se, but I'm trying to figure out why the listing has dropped from a steady #1 in local for a couple of years to #9 organic and yes, the main keyword is Cape Cod Hotels, especially considering no changes were made to the listing at all.

I got access to the edit panel today and I see that the address is actually entered in the same format in the panel as is on the website. I do see that the "Services Included" area is stuffed with: "Services include : hotels in cape cod, cape cod hotels and cape cod hotel"

I've included screenshots of the edit panel.





Do you see any possible reasons for a drop in rankings?
Thanks!
 

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Linda Buquet

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trying to figure out why the listing has dropped from a steady #1 in local for a couple of years to #9 organic and yes, the main keyword is Cape Cod Hotels, especially considering no changes were made to the listing at all.

I do see that the "Services Included" area is stuffed with: "Services include : hotels in cape cod, cape cod hotels and cape cod hotel"
Yep that part could be tripping a filter. I also see several other minor problems but I don't know if any of them are bad enough to trigger a ranking penalty. May just be having the city wrong. Which I know they ranked and dropped without changing anything, but it could be a new filter or change on Google's end.

I'm tied up and won't be able to get back to this til tonight. But hang on and don't make changes here and there as we mention them. Wait til I give you the full list. Then they should go in one time and make all the edits at once instead of constant tweaking here and there.
 

Marie Haynes

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Just to add a little bit of information, the site owner just told me that for the last 18 months they have hired a firm to build links directly to their places page. I can't see those links in any backlink checker though...perhaps I am using the wrong url?
 

Linda Buquet

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Sorry Marie, could not get back to this last night. Will try late this afternoon. Still madly playing catch up from 2 computer crashes.

If they hired someone 18 months ago I bet they were linking to the OLD Place page which was a totally different URL. Wonder if the backlinker knew about the change to G+L and the new URL or if they just kept linking to the old page?

Building BL to the old Place page I don't think would do much if anything. BUT if they WERE paying someone to do that - makes me think they are pretty aggressive and makes me wonder what else they were doing? :confused:

I'll check back and give my list of other changes later today.
 

Marie Haynes

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Linda, I think I may have found the problem. The client sent me the backlink work done by the company. The spreadsheet included a list of reviews that they made, some on maps.google.com, some on Google plus and a bunch on sites like checkmyreviews, tupalo and gomylocal. The reviews were submitted with different email addresses. There were 83 fake reviews in all, and some of them are indeed on the current Google Plus page.

They also did a bunch of geotagging which I'm not too familiar with by uploading photos to flickr, picasso, etc. Here's an example. There were 45 of these done. Not sure if that is considered manipulative or not or if it even helped in the past.

Similarly 47 Google maps were made and tagged, all via a different gmail address. Here is an example:
Bayside Resort Hotel - Google Maps

All of this is pretty darn manipulative and I'm sure the local listing has been penalized for it. I don't know much about Google local penalties. However, you did mention that they still rank for hotels in Yarmouth, but perhaps the proximity can override some of the penalty. Or, perhaps it's possible that it wasn't a penalty but just a devaluation of all of the previously counted reviews, etc.

Interesting stuff. The client has given me permission to share with you the full list of backlink work done if you are interested in seeing how this company tried to game the system.

So, now my two questions are:
1. Do you agree with me that this manipulation has caused the site's demotion?
2. How would you recover a listing like this? Get valid reviews and see if it helps? Or delete and start over? However, the geotagging and maps would still be there.
 

Linda Buquet

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OK 1st here is my list of problems to fix.

MAJOR PROBS: City needs to be changed if it's really WEST Yarmouth. And that whole services include field in the more details needs to be deleted as spammy and that one could trip a filter.

MINOR PROBS: I don't think any of these would cause a ranking penalty but... description should not be in all caps like that. Can cause a pending review.

Delete hotels. It's spammy to have both hotel and hotels. Last category is a a double violation and needs to be changed. Be sure they don't add another cat that's repetitive or includes any GEO term.

They NEED to list hours. If hours are missing then I think sometimes the algo assumes it's only open via appointment in which case address should be hidden.

Linda, I think I may have found the problem. The client sent me the backlink work done by the company. The spreadsheet included a list of reviews that they made, some on maps.google.com, some on Google plus and a bunch on sites like checkmyreviews, tupalo and gomylocal. The reviews were submitted with different email addresses. There were 83 fake reviews in all, and some of them are indeed on the current Google Plus page.

They also did a bunch of geotagging which I'm not too familiar with by uploading photos to flickr, picasso, etc. Here's an example. There were 45 of these done. Not sure if that is considered manipulative or not or if it even helped in the past.

Similarly 47 Google maps were made and tagged, all via a different gmail address. Here is an example:
Bayside Resort Hotel - Google Maps

All of this is pretty darn manipulative and I'm sure the local listing has been penalized for it. I don't know much about Google local penalties. However, you did mention that they still rank for hotels in Yarmouth, but perhaps the proximity can override some of the penalty. Or, perhaps it's possible that it wasn't a penalty but just a devaluation of all of the previously counted reviews, etc.

Interesting stuff. The client has given me permission to share with you the full list of backlink work done if you are interested in seeing how this company tried to game the system.

So, now my two questions are:
1. Do you agree with me that this manipulation has caused the site's demotion?
2. How would you recover a listing like this? Get valid reviews and see if it helps? Or delete and start over? However, the geotagging and maps would still be there.
I've never heard of or tracked a penalty to any of the above but it would not surprise me.

Google HATES duplicate content so if same reviews were copied other places normally they'd just delete the ones on G+.

I noticed that one MyMap just copied their description so they probably took the easy spammy way and just made a bunch with that same content so that could do it. Plus lots so slimey companies USED to make a bunch of MyMaps to boost ranking so I can see G penalizing for it. PLUS that tactic I don't think really moves the needle these days.

Geo tagging images itself is not a problem BUT if excessive and same KWs, tags or description that could have tripped a filter.

"However, you did mention that they still rank for hotels in Yarmouth, but perhaps the proximity can override some of the penalty."

Well I've seen folks penalized in local for one key phrase and not another. I BET what happened is in MyMaps. images and BLs and everything they were targeting Cape Cod Hotels so they just got penalized for that phrase and not for Yarmouth Hotels.

"Or, perhaps it's possible that it wasn't a penalty but just a devaluation of all of the previously counted reviews, etc.

# of reviews does not really count for much as far as ranking in the current blended algo. It's mainly about on-site organic SEO factors now. But if a site still ranks high in organic and NOWHERE or very low in local/blended that suggests a problem or penalty on the Places side of the house.
 

Marie Haynes

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Linda, this is for you:

Who's Awesome? You're Awesome

"Well I've seen folks penalized in local for one key phrase and not another. I BET what happened is in MyMaps. images and BLs and everything they were targeting Cape Cod Hotels so they just got penalized for that phrase and not for Yarmouth Hotels."

I just checked and you're right. It looks like at least 90% of the my maps are anchored with "Cape Cod Hotels".

So, I think the plan will be to make the changes that you suggested above and see what happens. But, *if* there is a penalty because of the mapping, I don't see any fix other than to try to have the SEO go and remove them all.

btw...I spent about 2 hours today just reading through your forum. There is amazing stuff in here.

Marie
 
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Google is VERY data sensitive especially when it comes to location. I think the city should be WEST Yarmouth, not Yarmouth as it is on the G+ L page. So I'm curious if it's entered wrong in dash or if G changed it?

Having the city wrong could really mess things up and street address is different than on their site, so I'm wondering if that part is wrong too. Complicated by the fact that it looks like that's one of those addresses that could be formatted a variety of different ways.

So anyway before I go off on a tangent, would like to see what's actually in dash.

Thanks!
OK 1st here is my list of problems to fix.

MAJOR PROBS: City needs to be changed if it's really WEST Yarmouth. And that whole services include field in the more details needs to be deleted as spammy and that one could trip a filter.

MINOR PROBS: I don't think any of these would cause a ranking penalty but... description should not be in all caps like that. Can cause a pending review.

Delete hotels. It's spammy to have both hotel and hotels. Last category is a a double violation and needs to be changed. Be sure they don't add another cat that's repetitive or includes any GEO term.

They NEED to list hours. If hours are missing then I think sometimes the algo assumes it's only open via appointment in which case address should be hidden.

I've never heard of or tracked a penalty to any of the above but it would not surprise me.

Google HATES duplicate content so if same reviews were copied other places normally they'd just delete the ones on G+.
Linda, this is for you:

Who's Awesome? You're Awesome

"Well I've seen folks penalized in local for one key phrase and not another. I BET what happened is in MyMaps. images and BLs and everything they were targeting Cape Cod Hotels so they just got penalized for that phrase and not for Yarmouth Hotels."

I just checked and you're right. It looks like at least 90% of the my maps are anchored with "Cape Cod Hotels".

So, I think the plan will be to make the changes that you suggested above and see what happens. But, *if* there is a penalty because of the mapping, I don't see any fix other than to try to have the SEO go and remove them all.

btw...I spent about 2 hours today just reading through your forum. There is amazing stuff in here.

Marie
I did notice in the website "Cape Cod Hotels" is repeated twice, which Google likely sees a spammy.

The City selected should be West Yarmouth, but that alone shouldn't be a huge issue. Except the issue could have been that in Map Maker, West Yarmouth was listed as a Locality in Barnstable County, instead of being in Yarmouth. Both are correct, but the proper way for it to be mapped would be indicating that West Yarmouth is a subset of the Town of Yarmouth. I have an edit to fix this issue.

For Bayside, I cleaned up the categories to just hotel and resort; pinned the POI to the building polygon and corrected the City to West Yarmouth. Hopefully with the categories cleaned up, etc. then the ranking will be better if the person with access to the dashboard fixes the stuff identified by Linda.
 

Linda Buquet

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Awww thanks Marie. Love the puppy!

Thanks so much for helping out Andrew. We really appreciate it.
 

Marie Haynes

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Interesting. I didn't know that you could edit someone else's categories. Wouldn't that just open up all sorts of opportunity to mess with your competitors?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Interesting. I didn't know that you could edit someone else's categories. Wouldn't that just open up all sorts of opportunity to mess with your competitors?
Yes and no, Marie. Most edits have to be approved by a trusted reviewer. But a lot of the time the reviews get approved by automated bots, which aren't perfect and could approve an edit that was designed for sabotage.

It's an organized wild west.
 
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Yes and no, Marie. Most edits have to be approved by a trusted reviewer. But a lot of the time the reviews get approved by automated bots, which aren't perfect and could approve an edit that was designed for sabotage.

It's an organized wild west.
And when malicious edits are made, Google can go in an undo them and/or take action against the account to include deleting the account.
 
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Plus there is a team we refer to as the Follow-up Team that review edits about 1 to 3 weeks after they are published. This even includes bot edits, I've watched them follow bots around. They'll usually catch the inappropriate stuff.

If not, almost every city has a few main mappers in it who notice the changes occurring.
 
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My edits were approved to make West Yarmouth part of Yarmouth and to the Resort (thought the Syncer bot) has gone in and changed some things. It looks like the resort is currently ranking 6th when searching for "Cape Cod Hotels" in Google+ Local for Yarmouth, MA. However if you search for "Cape Cod Hotels in MA" in Search the resort shows up #3. I did some modifications for location, etc and it seemed to consistently come up in the "Local Pack" at the top of the SERPs in Search. I'd say whatever problems were there have largely been smoothed over. I'm sure the 87 reviews definately helps with ranking in a tight market on The Cape.

P.S. I'm fond of The Cape as I have been vacationing there since I was born (save 1 or 2 years). It is nice being a "regular!" :cool:
 

Marie Haynes

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Wonderful! Thank you!

When I search on G.com for Cape Cod Hotels I don't see the site, but if I click on "more results near Cape Cod" I see the site at #2. Strange.
 

Linda Buquet

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For me they are still disconnected in blended on bottom of page 1. #7 organic. No one from Yarmouth is in blended though. All results are centered on the other 2 towns.

But weird, when I clicked more results in Places search they were C.
(And my location was set to another state)

So then I changed location to Yarmouth, MA which SHOULD have made them MORE relevant to my search and now they are not on Page 1 of Place search at all. They are B on page 2 of Places search.

Plus their city is still wrong. It's still Yarmouth, MA which is WAY out of the search circle. I think when city gets changed to West Yarmouth, MA things could improve.
 

Marie Haynes

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Andrew...in the client's words, "Bayside's address is "West Yarmouth", Yarmouthis a different town." Does this jive with the changes made in the edit?
 

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