Google Places Is Pissing Off Directory and Review Sites

March 1, 2011

Recently on Search Engine Land, resident expert of all things local search related, Greg Sterling, posted a great article  Yelp: Google Told Us “Our Way Or The Highway”. This is a great summary of the challenges for Internet Yellow Pages sites and local review sites as previously outlined last year by local SEO expert Andrew Shotland in a discussion, titled “Dead Fingers Walking“, a “phony letter from Google to directory sites and IYPs.

Basically this can all be summarized as Google owns the court (traffic,) Yelp provides the ball (reviews,) and if Yelp has a problem they can take the ball and go home, but suffer losing the ability to use the court and all the attention that comes with it!

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. My suggestion for Yelp is to realize that the data or citations that Google wants is going to be a TAX of sorts. Now, what if Google makes a manual change to the algo that impacts Yelp rankings the same as Google recently did to penalize poor quality content in the February “Farmer Update.”

Looks like DexOne’s and SuperMedia’s sites got hit pretty hard from this recent update:

Also looks like and other “low quality content” advertisers also got hit pretty hard by this update as well. Most of these sites just copy content from other sources or distribute pricing and product information from another source, such as These tactics will no longer work, Google will begin validating that the content gets credited to the original publisher of said content.

Btw, Talking about horrible user experiences and searches, check this out:

The Walgreens, MySimon, and Staples results on for a local “electronics” search is a pathetic at best user experience. Good going Skunkwerks!

What is REALLY wrong with Yellow Pages company products and services?

February 4, 2010

Recently a few bankrupt Yellow Pages publishers sent letters to clients disclosing information regarding previous contracts and commitments.  Does this permit them to no longer follow SIZE & Seniority commitments to yellow pages clients?

Did you know that to curb massive revenue losses, as consumers have shifted away from print yellow pages phone books, the yellow pages industry is now offering ad seniority placement buyouts?

When Bell South began publishing mini-books other publishers quickly followed suit. When one does something… so does the other? Let’s not hope so!

Rumor is post-bankruptcy yellow pages directory publishers are considering offering “select clients” the option of jumping phone book directory placement (old contract agreements that outline size and seniority guidelines) with new “display ad placement buyout options”.

Seems like they will do anything to earn a buck, huh?

How can you trust a organization who fails to keep promises clients regarding these advertising investments. They made a commitment to the client that the ad they purchased would be placed by size and seniority from the date when the contract is signed. The print yellow pages industry has held the “decrease your ad and lose your discounts” AXE over clients heads to persuade clients into keeping ads for many years.  Is the Yellow Page industry selling products or services? Is the pricing fair? In my opinion the yellow pages industry needs to stick to products… not services.  Search Marketing service requires fulfillment and constant attention, something the print industry has very little experience in vs local advertising agencies.

Yellow Pages sites are attempting to become the local resellers of Google advertising. As a local search marketer, I don’t think the long contracts that leave little recourse and zero cancellation options in the event the Phone Book Companies PPC Management campaigns are not performing to expectations. In my opinion this is another means of continuing to grind the axe on cancellations. Without flexibility and a diverse offering (product portfolio) they are going to have continued issues with client churn.

Did you know that when you place advertising on Google’s AdWords interface, not only do you own the work produced when hiring a local search marketer, (I do not recommend  signing a 12 month contract , considering Google does not require such a contract to advertise) you also are able to see what changes your account manager and “PPC coach” made to your campaigns

PPC management Account Activity Reports prevent PPC Fraud by Google Guru

Next topic for Today:

Google Maps vs Yellow Pages searches:

Here is the graph continued and combined with Searches for Yellow Pages companies:

"Yellow Pages" is now obsolete

Who has experienced the greatest and/or most rapid decline in the Top IYP (Interactive Yellow Pages) & local search brand sites?

Notice how much gained compared to the decline of This goes to show the consumer preference for review based sites  (and why Google was tendering an offer for

FACT:  Did you know that Yellow Pages print directory usage has declined over 50%?

Has your “Yellow Page Rep” told you about the trends away from print and towards digital that is taking place?

Have print ad rates gone down to accomodate for the decline of print yellow pages and the industry fragmentation?

According to Greg Stewart from TMPDM, “Print Yellow Pages accounts for approx. 28% of Local Search.”

Primary Source of Local Business Information

I will go ahead and state my prediction: Yellow Pages Print usage will be less than 24% of Local Search by 2012! That means the phone books of 2005 (that were over 70+% of local search product or service queries) are now less than half as popular as they once were as a medium. (yet more phone books exist today than ever!

Do you think it is time the phone book publishing industry adapt to OPT IN vs a very misleading OPT OUT method? What are your thoughts? Take my poll!


Mike Stewart

“Your Dallas Local Google Guru”

BTW, Webformance Inc. will be offering call tracking to all clients. If you want to track your phone book, direct mail, email, Google, Video, Business Card, or other advertising investments and see which ones are really bringing the calls….. all you need to do is call: 214-267-9553!

“You can’t manage to get the best advertising if you can’t measure what advertising efforts work!” – Mike Stewart the Local Dallas Google Guru

The Best Six Local Business Review Sites : Google,, Merchant Circle via THE MARKETING ZEN GROUP

December 15, 2009

The Best Six Local Business Review Sites : Google,, Merchant Circle | THE MARKETING ZEN GROUP

Posted using ShareThis

Great summary of local sites.

Since a potential customer’s initial search still starts with keywords on a search engine using a service-oriented keyword followed or preceded by the city in which they’re searching (ex: BMW mechanic Dallas). You should first pay attention to the truly important ones already showing up in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN for your keywords. Below are six of the major review and business listing sites which hold weight and have huge online presence. Learn the six biggies.

1. Google Local Business Listings (The “10 Pack”)

You can get your business listed on Google’s map and show up directly on the search results by registering at the Google Local Business Center Describe your business with location info, services, hours of operation and business website link. After you have a listing, your goal is get reviews. If you let Google find your business first, you’ll be rewarded with better placement on the map. Much like Google would rather find your website on its own through links rather than search engine submission, Google Maps will trust and more than likely post reviews from other review sites before submitting or modifying your listing. Often, the Google Local Listing bot will scour the Internet for other reviews sites already touting your company’s offerings and experiences, so start building profiles on some of the other sites first and you’ll already have a diversity of amazing reviews before you expand. Another backdoor is getting your business listed on the BBB’s website or to ensure your Google Local presence. Reviews are by far the #1 one factor in achieving top placement in the alphanumeric listing of the Google Local Business Listings/Map Listings. Make sure the reviews are real though. Having keywords in your business name and a complete profile also helps. Get started at the Google Local Business Center.

2. Yelp!

Almost tripling in traffic from 10 to 25 million unique visitors over the last year, this community has exploded becoming a full-on social community with add friends function, reputations, commenting, and picture profiles. Yelp! has recently opened its doors a little more allowing business owners to talk back. Yelp! shows up well in search and they have the trust factor down due to their proprietary algorithm which has been cutting out fake reviews since 2006. To gain control of your profile you should first see if your business is already listed, then you must “claim” the listing with phone call verification. It’s the same process with most of these sites.

See what others are saying about your business and talk back on

3. Yahoo! Local Listings

Similar to Google Local Listings above, Yahoo! now offers the “10 pack,” only it’s three instead of ten. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! local shows up above organic search and below the top three pay-per-click listings. It’s wise to promote your Yahoo! Local Listing by treating it like it’s one of the family – get reviews, flesh out the profile, add business information. Although Yahoo! only gets 20% of the search engine share, that’s a pretty big chunk of search engine goodness. Get your Yahoo! Map Listing started.

4. Citysearch

This business review site has been around for many years. I can remember at least 10 years ago, when I wanted to be a “City Expert” reviewing restaurants and the like in my area. According to Wikipedia, Citysearch started in 1995 and although much of their content is not user-generated, they do have the notoriety to command attention when they put out a top ten list. Each review, although staff provided, seems thoughtful and specific. The most important aspect of the site — they show up well in search for Google and even better in Yahoo!. Get your business listed, and it may even be worth to have an “enhanced listing” for a monthly fee. Check out

5. MerchantCircle

Somewhat new on the scene, this company started in 2005 and has been infiltrating search listings and growing ever since. In June 2008, MerchantCircle announced over 5 million monthly users, 500,000 registered merchant users, and over 5,000 paying clients, with 4.3 million visitors a month according to Quantcast in 2007. Join the circle.

6. Insider Pages

Insider Pages is an online “local search” service operated by IAC/InterActiveCorp. Before its acquisition by IAC the company was based in Redwood Shores, California, and had over 600,000 reviews of local merchants around the country. Insider Pages was founded by Stuart MacFarlane in 2004. On March 27, 2006, the company announced an $8.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital, Softbank Capital, and Idealab. The company addressed a demographic (by its description) of young and middle-aged families who own homes in urban and suburban areas. Add you business. Google Maps definitely picks it up. Be an insider.

Three Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

1). Never fake reviews or testimonies, it’s not worth the consequences (possible banning).

2). Ask happy customers to review right after he/she has bought, and keep reminding.

3). Don’t freak out if there are some less than 100% positive reviews.

To address the last one, potential customers expect a balance with everything veering on the side of positive and not for your business to be perfect. If there are any negative reviews follow up with that person by contacting him/her and try to make their after experience a good one. Consumer studies and surveys have proven customers are more satisfied with a company in which there was a small issue and the issue was resolved, compared to if there was never one in the first place. The more reviews and complete your business profile the better.

For almost five years, Neil Lemons has worked behind-the-scenes to help create exposure, traffic, leads, and sales through major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Calling upon his diverse background in copywriting, advertising, marketing, and sales, he has been learning traditional SEO and SEM tactics since 2004.  He is the lead SEM Strategist at, a Dallas website design company. For more information on Internet Marketing, SEM & SEO contact The Marketing Zen Group for a free site evaluation.

I would also include (which includes and on the list. Although, after Chris Smith left the company, Brian Gulledge from Inceptor took over the search marketing objectives for the company and they have become significantly less innovative, strictly focused on a single tiered approach in search marketing via paid search (as opposed to SEO & Google Maps,)  as well as offering less contribution to local search at local search SEO conferences, seminars, and discussions. He and Briggs Ferguson (the former CEO of CitySearch) are not the leadership Idearc needs.  I blame this on CEO Scott Klein. I also feel they have shifted away from Google focus beyond PPC.

Klein showed an error in judgement when he went to market with SMLocal (1.0) while not having the staff or tools to support sales. He also had PPC managers on gag orders by giving directions to managers not to disclose the amount of clients they were managing. According to a former PPC manager at Idearc, he was responsible for well over 100 accounts. In my opinion it is impossible for 1 individual to manage more than 15-20 accounts. Unless of course you use the taxonomy of for keyword research. lol. Wonder when the last time someone searched on Google for a “Plumber Licensed Commercial & Industrial”?

I have a strong hunch that Briggs Ferguson will soon leave Idearc Media.