Google announced this week that their algorithm was updated to include “Neural Matching” in local search results. This update began around November 7th and Google officially announced the update on December 2nd. You can read more on it here. Google is calling this the “Nov. 2019 Local Search Update”.
The use of neural matching means that Google can do a better job going beyond the exact words in business name or description to understand conceptually how it might be related to the words searchers use and their intents…
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 2, 2019
“Neural matching” in Google’s own words is “an AI-based system Google began using in 2018 primarily to understand how words are related to concepts. It’s like a super-synonym system.”
What this means is that when someone searches for a specific term, Google is going to try to return search results that could be related to what you’re thinking and not necessarily results that match your term directly.
A good example would be someone searches “sue a bar for over serving a customer”. Google knows that this person is trying to learn more about Dram Shop Liability laws and will give them results related to that.
This update is affecting small and local businesses’ search results and Google Maps rankings. We have seen crazy fluctuations with clients losing and gaining map rankings for dozens of terms in a single day.
These charts illustrates what this looks like. The black is the amount of top 3 maps rankings this business had on a given day.
According to other experts in the SEO field, this kind of fluctuation is affecting all kinds of industries and markets.
According to Google, “The use of neural matching in local search doesn’t require any changes on behalf of businesses.” and they go on to tell businesses to continue using best practices.
Google in the past has made drastic updates like this and then rolled them back to stop the fluctuations. Someone on Twitter asked Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liason, if the fluctuations would stop, and he did not give a definitive answer.
Neural matching is done. But that said, it’ll keep being improved. More important, we always have other updates. That’s what this part was covering: https://t.co/0zS8kcmIgG https://t.co/0zS8kcmIgG
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) December 2, 2019
So our best advice right now is to continue using best practices when it comes to your on-site SEO, updating LocalBusiness schema, post to GMB and make sure you update your photos on your GMB listing when you get new photos! As more information comes out about this update we will update on our blog.
If you are interested in receiving a Local Search Audit of where you stand in your market, please feel free to contact us to get started!
When choosing to market online, Google and YouTube are essential channels you need to be on. Google is dominant, but just how dominant? And are they losing dominance? Some data shows that online ad revenue is being split more than it ever has, but when it comes to Organic Search, online advertising and video, there’s no getting around Google.
Google was not the first search engine to be created. Some of the first search engines became public around 1993 and the Google as we know it wasn’t officially launched until 1998. Yahoo, AskJeeves (now Ask.com) and MSN all came out with Search engines before Google.
So why, over two decades later, is Google the most dominant search engine, and one of the most powerful companies in the entire world? Because they did it better. There’s a lot of factors you can go into, but in the end, Google gave searchers the seamless user experience they wanted when making searches. People were getting the results they expected when they searched on Google. This all goes back to their algorithm and PageRank, but I will spare you those details for now. All you need to know is Google did search engines better and still does.
After 21 years of dominance, it stands to reason that Google would encounter fierce competition to take some of Google’s enormous search engine market piece of the pie, but no one has come close.
According to StatCounter, as of September 2019, Google had a 88.37 percent share of the United State’s search market. This includes Google Search, Google Image Search, Google Maps and YouTube. The rest of the 11.63 percent market share is split mainly between Bing (6.07%), Yahoo! (3.94%) and DuckDuckGo (1.28%). Since 2009, Google has gained almost 10 percent of the search market share in the United States.
Google has seen this rise in use, while also facing stiffer competition. Microsoft’s Bing launched in 2009 and DuckDuckGo is rising in popularity lately. DuckDuckGo promises to not collect user data, which is appealing to a number of people who are wary of Google’s data collection methods. While the sentiment is nice, it is difficult to create a great user experience without data.
All of the data says one thing, Google Search is here for the long haul, and if your business wants to be prominent on the web, then you need to be seen on Google.
As mentioned earlier, there is more competition now for marketer’s online advertising dollars than ever before. Facebook, SnapChat, Pinterest, Amazon and Twitter are all competing for Ad dollars and they are taking market share. This has led to Google’s ad revenue growth to slow, but it is still growing. Google Ad revenue in Q1 2019 was up 15 percent YoY and in Q1 2018 their ad revenue grew 24 percent YoY.
So is Google going to see a decline in dominance? Eventually yes, but it shouldn’t dilute how important Google is for an Online marketing campaign. More and more advertising dollars are being shifted to digital marketing from traditional media every year. In 2018, $108 BB was spent on digital advertising in the United States. By the year 2023, it is projected that this amount will go up almost 100 percent to over $200 BB. 2019 is projected to be the first year where digital advertising spend outweighs the ad spend on traditional media (Billboards, TV, Outdoor etc.) in the U.S.. As the world becomes more digital, it’s natural that advertisers will look to diversify where they spend their money online so they aren’t as dependent on Google. However, it is unlikely that the power of Google, and what it can do for a brand online, is diminished.
Google owned YouTube dominates the video search market. 95 percent of internet users are serviced by YouTube. If a company wants to be seen, they need to have a presence on YouTube.
YouTube is Responsible for 37 percent of All Mobile Internet Traffic. People sharing interesting videos and topics is what drives traffic to the site. That’s why it is so important your company is uploading unique content to their YouTube channel and website.
The great and mighty Google and YouTube are here to stay. Their products are an integral part of an internet user’s daily life. From using Gmail, watching YouTube videos to getting directions on Google Maps and much more, an individual could get their entire online experience only using Google products. Marketing on these platforms is more important than ever and their importance is not waning.
If you are looking to run a SEO or PPC campaign to be seen on Google Search, or if you are interested in building a brand on YouTube, contact The Search Engine Guys. We help law firms and small local businesses take advantage of these platforms.
When building out the marketing strategy for your law firm or small business, you might ask yourself if it’s worth taking the time to build out business citations and add firm to niche, relevant directories. Directory and listings management is tedious, time consuming, and can cost money. However, these listings are extremely important to maintain and build in order to get your site to rank in search engines and ultimately drive leads.
When we talk about online directories and listings, we’re talking about the many local listing websites that you might or might not be familiar with. These online directories display your business information, logo and (most of the time) link to your websites. Every online directory is different, but this is all that is normally included in a typical local listing:
There are two types of listings we are interested in: Local Citations and Niche Directories.
You probably know the names of the big local citation sites. (Yelp, YellowPages, MapQuest, Foursquare, Bing For Business, Google My Business etc.) But you are probably not familiar with the hundreds of other local business directories on the internet. (Yalwa, USCity.net, Soleo etc.) Why would you want to be on a bunch of directories that most people have never heard of? I will discuss in depth later, but in short, the more your consistent business information is listed on the web, the more trustworthy you look to the major search engines. More trust = higher rankings.
Adding your small business to directory sites that are only for businesses in your niche is also incredibly important. This is because links from these sites increases your site’s relevancy. More on relevancy later.
Every niche has its own directories. For example, Avvo, Lawyers.com, and Findlaw are some of the major directories that an attorney should be on. Angie’s List and Houzz are directories that a home improvement company or contractor would want to be listed on. Just like general local citations, there are hundreds of smaller niche citation websites that you can be added to.
A lot of businesses and business owners who have created listings in the past are all probably skeptical of them for one reason, they don’t bring in a ton of referral business. Some bring in more than others, but in large part, you are not going to be getting dozens of leads each month from these directories. So if they aren’t directly bringing in business, why should I take the time to get listed everywhere? At TSEG, we build out local business profiles to do the following:
Most of these directories send links to your website and they, for the most part, are very authoritative sites. Directories and local listings are an easy way to build up a business’s backlink profile, especially for a small business that has little to no online presence. Even though search engines don’t value these links as highly as those from a news website or authoritative blog, your backlink profile needs to be diverse, and these links do just that.
Niche Directories go a step further because they are not only adding authority to your site but they are also adding in relevancy. For an attorney site, a link from Lawyers.com is much more valuable than a link from a home improvement site because it is more relevant. Google and the other search engines look at the types of sites that are linking to you in order to decide how to rank you.
Majestic has an online tool where you can check the category of your incoming links. (Majestic is a paid online SEO tool, but there is a free trial if you want to try out on your site.) This is an example of the backlink profile for one of our attorney websites:
Over 93% of his incoming links are “Law” related. This is an impressive relevance percentage and should cause no confusion for Google as to what kind of keywords they should be showing for. Having a variety of other types of sites linking to you is good and natural, however, the majority of your links should be relevant to your niche.
Link building is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to SEO, but directory links are very straightforward to build and you can do it in bulk if you have the correct online listing management tool.
Having a consistent business profile across the internet is very important for local Google Maps rankings. If you are struggling to get into the maps, but your site is ranking highly otherwise, you might want to audit your business information for consistency across all of your listings. If you would like to check your business information, we invite you to use our free tool.
Having a consistent online business profile sends good, what we call, “local signals” to Google. This means Google is confident that you are where you say you are. Google and other search engines will avoid ranking your listing in the highest map placements if they aren’t sure you are actually located there.
Having control of these online listings additionally gives you the preparation needed in case any of your business information changes. If your business changes it’s closing time, you want that to be reflected across the web. A customer showing up to your place of business after it has closed can hurt your reputation.
Earlier, we discussed that many business owners have not put much effort into expensive online directories because a lot of them don’t drive leads. However, the top niche directories and local listing sites can generate leads for your business.
If you are wondering which directories you should join to generate more leads, simply search your keyword into a search engine.
For the search “Dallas personal injury lawyer”, four of the top seven organic results are attorney directories (Super Lawyers, Justia, FindLaw and Avvo) and another one is a general directory for businesses (Expertise). If you are wanting your business to “cut” the line and be visible on the first page, then you should probably add yourself to these directories.
Now, to be listed at the top of those individual directories is a different story. Most of those sites make you pay for a “premium placement” or “top spot.” Prices vary, but this is not cheap. In my mind this falls more in the category of paid search, not SEO, since the results are not permanent.
Regardless, being on these directories increases your visibility, especially if you are a business that is having trouble showing up in the Search Engine Results.
This is the smallest benefit of these directories for SEO, however, it does not make it insignificant.
The first step to building out directories is figuring out which directories you are already on. The tool linked above can help with that.
Then it’s just about finding all of the sites you want to be added to and manually adding yourself. There are also citation services where you can get listed in many places at once.
The easiest approach to setting up directories, though, is to have your digital marketing team help you out. They likely already have a list of sites they can add you to, as well as the tools needed to manage all of these listings.
Many local listings are free. Yelp, YP.com, and Google My Business are all free. The directories that cost money are most likely going to be your premium niche directories. The costs vary for all of them and many require you to be in contact with a rep that can get you a quote. Some directories will charge you monthly and others require you to pay the year upfront. This is an important factor to keep in mind when setting up directories and budgeting.
The short answer is yes. Every location you want to appear map rankings should be added to every directory you can. For the paid directories, this will most likely be an extra cost, but it depends on the site.
If you are not worried about local SEO, then you may not want to set up profiles for your extra locations on the paid directories. There is a law of diminishing returns for links from the same domain. The extra links from a site are probably not worth the cost if you are not worried about local rankings.
First, you want to decide on a yearly budget for directories. Every company is different. A good rule is you should be spending at least as much as your competitors are. Once you have a budget, you need to prioritize the directories. A number of factors can go into this, including:
Your digital marketing team should be able to audit the value of each directory that you use and recommend which directories you should leverage with your budget.
TSEG can help you with your listings management needs, including:
This is just part of how TSEG can help your small business. To learn more about our SEO and Web design services, contact our team.