Google’s Pigeon Local Search Update: Local SEO Tools

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As part of winning in the Business Listings category of the Ad to Action Awards, Rio SEO‘s Bill Connard, VP of local search solutions, will provide monthly insight into the world of search engine optimization (SEO).

We recently contributed to a blog about Google’s new “Pigeon” algorithm update, a major local algorithm change rolled out July 24 affecting Google Maps and local Google search results. Now that the dust has settled, local SEO practitioners can focus on the strategy and tools to prepare for the next inevitable algorithm shake-up.

Google’s algorithms are constantly in a state of flux even outside of the occasional mass-impact update, which is precisely why we advocate for adherence to local SEO best practices. Today we’re going to introduce you to the key local SEO performance indicators you should be tracking, as well as the tools you’ll need to Pigeon-proof your web presence.

How Do You Know If Your Site Was Affected by Google Pigeon?

Local search marketers should be tracking their rankings on an ongoing basis to determine the impact of any algorithm update. Checking your rankings and reviews through automation enables you to track your own standings, as well as your competitors with greater accuracy.

Smart marketers, including many of our clients, measure monthly and therefore have the ability to pinpoint ranking fluctuations and react quickly. Just as importantly, you need to be able to then measure the effects of any actions you take to see if you’re moving in the right direction.

Be sure to track your rankings across “The Big 3″ (Google, Bing, Yahoo). According to comScore, the three major engines together account for over 96 percent of search queries. Google itself processes 65 percent of that activity. However, if you’re only tracking your rankings on Google, you’re missing out on a substantial portion of potential web traffic.

Local SEO KPIs to Track and Measure The Effects of Algorithm Updates

Beyond measuring your rankings, how can you Pigeon-proof your website? Pay attention to these important local SEO key performance indicators:

  1. Rankings on Local Search
  2. Citation Consistency across the Ecosystem
  3. Traffic from Local Sites
  4. Link Activity Analytics
  5. Local Reviews per Location

What Do These Local SEO KPIs Tell You?

In addition to helping you diagnose issues and pinpoint opportunities, tracking and measuring local SEO KPIs alongside rankings across search engines and local sites gives you a great idea of how your SEO efforts are performing as a whole.

  • If you see an increase in rankings, then you’re excelling in SEO (great reviews, citations, content).
  • If you’re retaining rankings, then you are on-par with best practices.
  • If you see a decline in rankings, then the local efforts and activity that you are focusing on are not on-par with best practices.

Tracking and measuring on an ongoing basis gives you the ability to identify when your site has been affected by an algorithm change. You have historical data. Plus, if you’ve automated the process, it’s quite easy to see exactly when and where your site has been affected.

While it’s ideal to have diverse sources of traffic, the reality is that many businesses rely heavily on search engines to send prospects to their website. You can’t afford to suffer a rankings drop along with the subsequent traffic loss and only then go in search of a solution.

Rio SEO has integrated local ranking analytics, which take the legwork out of ranking reports and enable marketers to react quickly to remedy ranking and traffic declines caused by algorithm updates.

In our next blog, we’ll share insights from some of the nation’s leading retailers on the impact Google’s Pigeon algorithm has had on their rankings. Stay tuned! If you’d like to see Rio SEO’s software in action schedule a free demo with a local SEO specialist at

LSA Member Innovation in Local: PaperG

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This week we hear from PaperG, an advertising technology provider that makes it easy to build and distribute cross-device display ads. Companies like Time Warner Cable, Dex Media and Charter Media rely on PaperG to make display advertising work for local advertisers.

We caught up with Victor Wong, CEO of PaperG, to learn more:

What local problem(s) does PaperG solve? How?
Display advertising has historically been an effective branding and customer acquisition channel for only national advertisers. The difficulty and costs of producing, distributing and optimizing the ads were too high for local advertisers.

In addition, with the proliferation of devices (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.) and platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), display advertising has only grown in importance and in use by national advertisers. PaperG’s technology makes it easy for anyone to build, distribute, and optimize ads now — including local advertisers.

What makes PaperG innovative?
PaperG is first in many areas because of our focus on technology as the problem-solver. We are the #1 display ad platform for local because we actually made it possible for sales reps to make their own spec ad — whereas all other ad creation solutions focused only on designers.

We are the first creative platform for teams because we realized that as display got more complicated, more teams were involved in a campaign but each new hand off introduced delays. To get a display campaign off the ground today, you often need a client services team, a campaign manager, an ad ops team, and a production team — that’s a lot of teams.  Consequently, we built a way for teams to work together on a campaign without creating more work for other teams or delaying other teams.

How does PaperG make the local space better for advertisers and/or consumers?
We make the Internet much more local and relevant to consumers by making it possible for local advertisers to get on the websites that consumers spend 95%+ of their time on. Now instead of seeing some junky belly fat reduction ad, we make it possible for you to see high-quality looking ads from your local business which you are much more likely to care about and engage with. We want the ads on the Internet to be much better designed and localized.

What is next in local?
Local is going to see a surge in display advertising opportunities.

  • First, we’re just starting to see smaller advertisers take advantage of “re-targeting” in which they can serve display ads to consumers who have visited their website. It used to cost too much money to build the ad creative and target these consumers but now it’s possible.
  • Second, we’re seeing new forms of display advertising emerge like Facebook which have a lot of interesting new targeting data but also new creative formats.
  • Last, we’re beginning to witness search re-targeting take off where you can target display ads based on what people previously searched for on search engines.

These new targeting abilities will continue to drive digital ad spend on display from the local advertising market.

To learn more, visit or check out the video below.

PaperG Demo Video from PaperG on Vimeo.

Top 5 Local Ad Stats of the Week: SoMoConf Takeaways

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As many of you know, we hosted the Social + Mobile: Show Me the Money! Conference alongside the Local Media Association and Borrell Associates this week.  With an agenda featuring social and mobile powerhouses like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YP, ESPN and others, the insights were powerful.

In addition to hearing from these social and mobile pros, we also got to hear about some money making strategies and case studies from local media organizations that have successfully navigated the social and mobile landscape.  From mobile apps to social media management, local media professionals are finding a variety of innovative ways to solve the SMB’s marketing woes.

While it wasn’t easy, here are our top 5 takeaways from the event:

  • Not all social media metrics are insightful. For instance, engagement might not mean performance because when looking at article shares on LinkedIn, people actually share articles before they read them. (LinkedIn)
  • Marketing mix matters a lot.  One case study showed that by allocating 16% instead of just 1% of an awareness building campaign budget to mobile, one cell phone developer would have increased overall campaign performance by 12%. (Mobile Marketing Association)
  • The average consumer spends around $500 during the holiday season and there is already a huge opportunity to capture ad dollars during this time of year. (Bing)
  • Digital engagement is almost completely uncorrelated to offline sales. (Facebook)
  • When looking at 10K mobile campaigns, there was a 2x increase in click-through rate (CTR) on campaigns that were geo-targeted. (Thrive Analytics, SMG Local Spectrum)

Be sure to check back next Friday for our next edition of Top 5 Local Ad Stats of the Week. Have a great weekend!

SoMoConf: Capturing the Online Opportunity for this Year’s Holiday Season

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The holiday season generates significant consumer spending and, according to Felicia Gardner, Bing evangelist, around $600B is spent during the season.  Felicia went on to discuss the mobile opportunity and just how significant it is given the fact that mobile devices are going everywhere with consumers.

From right before Thanksgiving dinner, to afterwards, consumers are able to easily shop online no matter where they are.  Felicia provided a dump of stats showing just how powerful the holiday season is and how advertisers need to get involved:

  • Shoppers plan to purchase gifts online;
  • Shoppers begin early and end late but the majority (40%) of holiday shopping happens in November;
  • By August most marketers start holiday planning;
  • Half of holiday campaigns kick off in November;
  • The top three days for holiday shopping are Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day;
  • Even during holidays, mobile allows consumers to shop while with the family via their device. The best way to optimize is ensuring campaigns are running at all times during these days;
  • Average consumer spends around $500 during the holiday season;
  • A fifth of Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales come from mobile;
  • 55% of consumers check for item availability before going into store;
  • 49% of consumers research gift ideas.

“Mobile’s going to be huge in offering online to offline deals given the ability to target showrooming consumers,” Felicia said.  “Make sure to bid on the proper key words so you don’t miss out on those sales opportunities.

She went on to talk about the difference between mobile and tablet consumer usage.  Felicia said that “shopping with mobile brings holiday cheer” because smartphones generate more traffic but tablets generate more online shopping traffic.

SoMoConf: Radio, Newspaper, Directory Executives Weigh in on Social and Mobile

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This panel consisted of executives from radio, newspaper and directory businesses and panelists described how each busienss is getting in the social and mobile game.

Radio: Entercom
Stephen Gibbons runs Smart Reach Digital, a division of Entercom Radio, said that they don’t look at social and mobile as distinct products to sell, but rather part of an overall solution that media companies can bring to SMBs. He also gave the top 10 benefits of selling social and mobile which are as follows:

  • Easy to convey  relevancy;
  • Most businesses don’t think of mobile as a separate opportunity;
  • Social and mobile is much deeper into the sales funnel;
  • For social, the word of mouth parallel resonates;
  • Bundled together, they play very strategic role;
  • For Entercom, it is a logical fit with radio;
  • Price points are reasonable relative to user engagement;
  • Most everyone has a personal anecdote;
  • Businesses can’t or won’t manage on their own; and
  • Easy to prove value and convey results.

Newspaper: Victoria Advocate
Jason Holmes, GM at Advocate Digital Media (ADM), leverages existing newspaper brands to build relationships and position digital sellers as digitally focused marketing experts.  The biggest part of their local strategy is having advertisers sign agency agreements, allowing them to manage a client’s entire marketing budget and not just the digital aspect.

Jason made the distinction that they are a digitally focused marketing company, not a digital agency, and all of the digital related products are managed by ADM.  In addition, he said that they want to be more than just an outsourced products and services organization, but an agency that actually executes a strategy.

Some of the products they sell include social management, mobile ad executions, owned digital products and those in extension channels, and agency services.  When it comes to mobile, it is just “part of what we [ADM] do,” and is nothing new.  He said responsive design is a jumping off point that must be done before other venues are explored.

Directory: Dex Media
Rick Bastian, premium digital services manager at Dex Media, started out by saying that “every dollar a small business gives you is extremely important. ” With that being said, the new marketing mix is extremely complicated and SMBs have a hard time knowing where to start.

He went on to provide four keys to digital sales success:

  • Know your audience. Are you dealing with the expert or the “I don’t care to know anything person.”
  • Be specific. Provide data to support your findings and give the plethora of data marketers have access to, you need to offer great insights that can help you sell.  In addition, use this data to prove your worth with case studies, testimonials and referrals.
  • Have a system and stick to it.  Think using the scientific method so you can try things over and over in order to find out what is working.  In addition, follow up regularly with clients and potential clients and create urgency.
  • Show your authority in the space. Certifications from Google, Bing, Yahoo and other places are great ways to prove authority. Become your own content marketer by building your own brand within your organization.

SoMoConf: The Art of Managing a Client’s Social Media Presence

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During this session, Beth Lawton, author of “Social Media & the Future of Audience Development,” and Shannon Kinney, founder of Dream Local Digital, gave some tips when it comes to managing social media for a client.  Here are a few of those tips:

  • Pay attention to messages and questions and engage;
  • Customize and consider messaging for your specific audience – what matters to them?;
  • Stay away from automated posting with no human interaction;
  • Timing and clarity is critical;
  • Create balance and don’t just broadcast information;
  • Encourage conversation, sharing, tagging and other engagement;
  • Utilize photos and videos regularly because it can result in a more than 60% lift in engagement;
  • Tag, link and hashtag in order to bring people into your social experience;
  • Get more fans by promoting social pages on website, email, physical signs, stationary and any other venues of communication; and
  • Sometimes bad reviews pop up and responding will lead to a much better outcome than just ignoring them.

“Getting people interested in what you’re talking about is not a one way street,” Shannon said.  “Social is completely conversational.”

In addition, Shannon talked about the sales process and said that while “agents don’t know how a printing press works, they can still sell print.”  Her point was that when it comes to communicating the value of social, it needs to be simple to do.

Beth talked about some new features being launched by major social networks. For example, Facebook now has a “save” feature for posts which allows users to find a post in their newsfeed and save the post for later because they are unable to read the content at that moment.  This is helping make sure the most engaging content is read.

“With a lot of SMBs, their default is to hand their Facebook account over to their intern or youngest employee,” Beth said.  “The reality is, Facebook can be very complicated.”

SoMoConf: When Done Right, Location Targeting on Mobile Drives Results

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Given the rapid adoption of mobile devices and their growing usage, we heard about some case studies of executions with some compelling results.  From a fashion retailer that ran a mobile campaign through YP resulting in a 2x return on ad spend and 2,000 store visitors, to an auto dealer’s service center that ran a geo-conquesting campaign from xAd resulting in 800 secondary actions (calls, appointments, etc.), mobile can really drive results.

Panelists included Heather Sears, VP of national marketing at YP, Joseph Naylor, senior director of product management at Cox Media Group, and Jon Silverman, senior account executive at xAd.  Overwhelmingly, they all felt mobile, with the right targeting, offers powerful results.

“The intent of mobile is reaching the right people at the right time, and we need to give them reasons to act,” said Joseph.

Jon talked about how marketers are able to transcend time and space on mobile because consumers carry phones everywhere they go, all the time.  Heather reinforced that point by saying that location is a critical influencer, and where consumers are in addition to where they have been is extremely important.

The group also talked about the importance of capturing intent.  Both YP and xAd work with mobile search data in order to find the consumers that have more intent to act or interact with an advertiser.

Much like the previous session with Thrive Analytics and SMG Local Spectrum, the panel noted that secondary actions are an important aspect to mobile.  Another compelling case study from xAd showed a healthcare location was able to earn a 23% secondary action rate from a mobile campaign. Furthermore, the parent company of the client is now interested in using mobile targeting across multiple locations.

SoMoConf: New LSA Database Houses Data from 200K Local Campaigns

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This session with Jason Peaslee, founder of Thrive Analytics, and Hynek Stehno, VP of digital services at SMG Local Spectrum, started with a plethora of data points showing just how much of an impact mobile devices have on consumer media consumption.  Stats included:

  • Over half of time spent online is on mobile devices;
  • Mobile phone users check their phones 100 times a day;
  • 60% of consumers use mobile devices to find information on local products and services, with 40% being “on-the-go”;
  • 39% of agencies are using location-based data to target mobile consumers; however, Hynek felt that “it should be 100% of agencies using location data” given the importance of relevant ads;
  • 70% of consumers are willing to share location info if they get value in return like deals coupons, loyalty points or other forms of rewards; and
  • Roughly $4B-$6B will be spent this year on location based mobile advertising.

From agency standpoint, Hynek talked about how advertisers often start with very simple geo-targeted mobile display in order to drive relevance as much as possible.  Advanced tactics like geo-fencing and geo-conquesting are used as well, but some of the greatest success is coming from clients with a optimized marketing mix between mobile and traditional venues.

In addition, Jason gave a glimpse into the Local Search Association’s new Metrics that Matter database that has data from roughly 200K local campaigns spanning various forms of media.  When looking at 10K geo-targeted mobile campaigns, the database showed a 2x increase in click-through rate (CTR).

Hynek talked about how CTR is great directionally, but the real value comes from the secondary action like click-to-call, click for directions, etc.  When looking at these actions, Hynek says you get a much better sense of ROI.

SoMoConf: Three Winning Social and/or Mobile Strategies

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In advance of SoMoConf, we conducted a contest across all local media platforms to intentify the top three case studies for making money with social and/or mobile.  Here are highlights from the three winners:

Local Entertainment Content App Creator saambaa
saambaa started out as an app that made it easy to create plans on the go with friends and, within 4 months, Apple selected them onto the front page of app store but the company. However, they abandoned the saambaa app and began focusing on partnering with local media providers to organize and share local entertainment content.

Currently, saambaa has 30+ media partners and is growing fast.  One case study comes from work with the San Antonio Express-News where they created a white labeled local entertainment app called playSA.  By selling in-screen display ads, native ads, push notifications, deals and offers and other ad solutions, the company was able to get $58K in ad commitments pre-launch, with no development costs, and the newspaper is on track to hit $20K per month in gross revenue from the solutions.

Mobile Mall App Samy
With shopping in the physical world still making up 90% of commerce, Kent Kirschner, EVP operations at Mobile Bits, talked about his organization’s mobile app called Samy.  Samy is the first ever mobile mall and one that follows the shopper everywhere they go.  Store owners manage the experience and it takes just a few minutes to plug in content, update inventory and is very simple to use.

The case study Kent shared was a campaign with McDonald’s in Europe. The campaign resulted in 10x conversion rates that were higher than any other digital channel and a conversion rate of 26%.  What is most compelling about the program is that 62% of all of these offers are being redeemed through the application.

Local Jewelers Social Media Contest Management
Jason Holmes, GM, Advocate Digital Media, talked about their work with Victoria, Texas-based Regal Jewelers in helping them increase their social footprint via a Valentine’s Day social media contest.  The business is a family owned mall jewelry store that is competing with national chains.

The prize for the contest was a two night stay in a hotel, dinner for two and gift card.  As a result of promoting the contest via the business’s Facebook page and a local newspaper, the campaign resulted in 1.45K entries, 509 likes, 324 shares, 2.65K site visits and the advertiser is currently running another contest today.

SoMoConf: Facebook Digital Engagement is Uncorrelated to Offline Sales

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The message from Ted Zagat of Facebook to advertisers is that clicks don’t matter.  In fact, he went on to say that if the objective is offline sales, digital engagement is completely uncorrelated to that sale and optimizing around likes, shares and clicks is actually not serving a client’s best interest.

Ted sighted a few stats to reinforce his point.  One of which came from a study done by Datalogix showing that of the people exposed to an ad on Facebook that went on to make an in-store purchase, 99% did not click on the ad.

Ted also talked about the much publicized 30 million active SMB pages – 1.5 million of which are active monthly advertisers – and the social powerhouse’s efforts to attract more advertisers.  One way they are doing that is by measuring what a consumer’s conversion path is across devices before making online purchases.

Citing one local plumber advertiser, Ted shared some high level results from a recent campaign the advertiser ran.  While plumbers are not the poster child for social media, one local plumber advertiser on Facebook saw an over 30x return on ad spend.

As consumers move back and forth between devices, it is critical for Facebook to offer ad solutions that reach consumers wherever they are accessing facebook, but with a mobile first mindset.  With 152 million people using Facebook in the U.S. each day, 127 million of those are accessing the site via mobile alone.  Furthermore, 22% of all mobile time spent in the U.S. is on Facebook and Instagram.