Yellow Pages: The Way into Google Maps?

Here’s a Wired blog post that says some interesting, if confused, things:

Ed Reese, business development director of Hotbed, a San Francisco-based film production company, was paying about $400 a month to Yellowbook.com and Superpages.com to promote the company’s local listings on the internet. Because Hotbed caters to local ad agencies, Reese wanted to make sure the business was seen by people who searched for the terms “San Francisco” and “Film Production Company.”

As long as he paid his Yellowbook and Superpages fees, Hotbed was among the top three local listings under those terms in the Google OneBox (the box of results that appears immediately under the search box).

Then, as an experiment, he stopped paying, and Hotbed mysteriously fell off Google’s top ten local film production companies in San Francisco. He has since made it his mission to figure out how to improve his site’s placement in Google’s local search, and his conclusion, so far, is that he’s got to pay to play.

This suggests that all the listings in Google local search results on Google.com are, in effect, paid inclusion. This is not correct. In some cases, there may be overlapping results between IYP sites and Google because:

  1. These IYP sites offer feeds to Google as trusted local data sources
  2. Google relies on some of the same underlying commercial databases that IYPs do

Alternatively, perhaps he was paying for local SEM services from the IYPs and they were doing a good job for Hotbed. But that should not affect the organic links in Google Maps.

Google has its own local index and algorithm that is separate and independent from third party advertising/influence. And there’s no paid inclusion at Google in general (Yahoo has it by contrast).

As an interesting experiment, compare results for these three queries:

Sushi, San Francisco, CA

Plumber, Denver Colorado

Lawyer, San Antonio Texas

The only category in which there’s any overlap in the results is the sushi restaurant category. But otherwise, there’s apparently no direct Google Maps inclusion based on inclusion in IYP results.

Despite the fact of no paid inclusion, something doesn’t make sense here. If Hotbed was truly part of Google’s local index it should not have disappeared by discontinuing his relationship with the IYP sites.

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15 Responses to “Yellow Pages: The Way into Google Maps?”

  1. Tim Cohn Says:

    I would question the question.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    what question precisely?

  3. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    Hotbed Media for whatever reason does not have a record AT ALL (as of today) in Google Maps. These two searches demonstrate that:

    Search on Their Phone Number – 415-227-0380

    Search on Hotbed Media + San Francisco

    For whatever reason, their record is not there. The possibilities are:
    1)Google error
    2)Client Error
    3)Google Penalty

    My bet is on 2 but or 1 but who knows.

    Mike Blumenthal

  4. Local SEO Guide Says:

    And how about the fact that no where in the body of the home page, or any other page for that matter is there any text that says “film production company”?

    Since they are not in GLBC, it may be that the IYP pages were the only way that G could figure out what category they are in.

    And they have “no follow” tags on almost every link off the home page including to the page that describes what the company is about.

  5. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    Greg,
    I can confirm what you stated 100% — paid inclusion in the YPs should not necessarily affect inclusion in Google Maps.

    Mike has some good theories here, and Andrew Shotland’s (Local SEO Guide) observation is interesting, too.

    If the business’s listing was not already in the data Google receives from their basic listing data aggregator (infoUSA, I think), then the listing being in IYP feeds might have been the only way it would get introduced into Google Maps in the first place. If for some reason that listing dropped out of the IYP feeds, it might then likely disappear from Google Maps. Though, it seems highly unlikely that either YP company would delete the listing entirely (and having both do it simultaneously defies the odds). Indeed, I can see that the company continues to have a listing in both IYPs cited.

    I’ve seen cases similar to this before in the past — where someone observes two separate events which coincidentally happen near simultaneously in time, and they then leap to assume that both are related. There’s no real evidence (nor likelihood) that payment of fees to IYPs should affect the business’s presence in Google. Two separate events can occur simultaneously and have a causal unrelation.

    Andrew Shotland’s quick analysis of their site shows some major SEO gaffes that could easily impair their presence in regular web search engines. So, not only is their logic faulty, but they’re apparently mucking about to some extent, shooting themselves in the foot for natural search presence. No wonder they feel the need to pay to get referral traffic.

    I’ll pay the devil’s advocate just slightly, though, about whether paid advertising in IYPs could help in rankings in Google Maps. I’d say there’s maybe not much direct correlation, but it might help a little indirectly. Some IYPs allow website URLs without any fee involved (I’d venture to guess that all the top ones might do this). And, they have rules about inclusion and try to police URLs and remove those that have gone stale and such. That sort of non-paid, managed directory of links is the sort of site that Google and other search engines tend to honor in terms of allowing PageRank to transfer. (Sites or links which are paid are not supposed to transfer PageRank.)

    If the search engines are discounting IYP’s Sponsored ads, PageRank might be unaffected by IYP advertising. However, the link part of the business listing is not at all paid — the business could still have a listing in the directory, with a link, even if they didn’t pay advertising fees. The fee in many cases merely brings them to the top of the page giving them placement, and other attention-getting treatment options, and maybe additional geographic reach and such.

    So, it’s possible that the search engines might count PageRank from those sponsored ad links (if the links were formed properly to pass PR). Since these IYPs allow their pages to get indexed by the search engines, the first pages of results in them often would confer greater PageRank value than those further back in the pagination.

    So, I’d theorize that there’s a very slim chance that being on the first page of results in IYPs could help get slightly higher ranking in Google Maps results and the Google Local One-box that can appear in web search results.

    At the SMX West conference this week, one of the Google representatives, David Bailey, stated in his presentation on The Blended Search Revolution that classic SEO factors also feed into the rankings within each vertical search they have. We all know that proximity to city center and user ratings and reviews affect the rankings in the various Local Search Engines, but one of the other factors feeding in, perhaps at a lesser weight, is PageRank.

  6. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    Great points Andrew and Chris. It certainly appears that on page issues and pagerank affect Maps rank.

    But they are mute if they don’t have a business record in Maps. Google doesn’t have a history of “dropping” records very quickly. So the question comes back to why isn’t it in Maps now and how did it disappear?

    Mike

  7. Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search » Local Links of Interest | Developing Knowledge about Local Search Says:

    [...] Yellow Pages: The Way into Google Maps? Greg Sterling, Screenwerk [...]

  8. Tim Cohn Says:

    The only results I can report are those I have personally tested and experienced from having been a marketing consultant practicing from the same location for the last 19 years.

    In this post, I wrote about some of the factors I think Google uses to generate their Local search results.

    I believe it answers your question in general at a level each respective reader and their own level of understanding and experience allow.

  9. MiriamEllis Says:

    Mike and Andrew’s points stand out to me in this very weird situation.

    This has got to be one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where Google appears to have acted with lightning speed. Maps is usually snail-like in its data alterations.

    Greg, I think this is the first time I’ve commented on your blog, though I’ve had you in my feedreader for months. Hello there! Thank you for bringing up this interesting case. It deserves answers.

    Miriam

  10. Greg Sterling Says:

    And thanks for commenting.

  11. pm98345 Says:

    This one might be pretty simple. The sales rep wiped out the customer’s business profile in superpages when he deleted the advertising. Their are 2 types of BPs, free and paid.

    When he cancelled the advertising he should have went back and added a free business profile.

    Notice on the listing there is not a “more info” link; that means no business profile. Google was probably getting the info from superpages, when the business profile disappeared, so did that info. The second IYP is just a coincidence.

    Also, according to Mike’s superpages category theory, Google may have been picking up that category info from that business profile and when it disappeared, poof, so did that listing.

  12. earlpearl Says:

    In dong a search for Hotbed, San Francisco, California the site is currently found in google maps and categorized under Schools, Colleges, Universities.

    Quick, run to Mike’s 3 part primer on how to get correctly categorized in Google Maps.

    Dave

  13. Mihmorandum | The Value of Internet Yellow Pages Websites: A Case Study | Google Says:

    [...] However, it did start amplify the discussion. A very good take on her article can be found on Greg Sterling’s Screenwerk blog. It includes some great comments from Chris Silver Smith, Mike Blumenthal, and others. While [...]

  14. SuperPages: A Case Study : Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Consulting | Spokane, WA | Sixth Man Marketing Says:

    [...] However, it did start amplify the discussion. A very good take on her article can be found on Greg Sterling’s Screenwerk blog. It includes some great comments from Chris Silver Smith, Mike Blumenthal, and others. While [...]

  15. tkffilms Says:

    That’s a great post and glad you wrote about this because video production san francisco hd bay area corporate company working in high content.

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