More threads by Linda Buquet

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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<img src="" alt="geoserp" width="65%" />​

I have a long awaited and much requested Local Search tool to share with you today.

Most consultants work all day to get their clients better visibility and conversions.
There are traditional rank trackers and other tools that are helpful for that job.

What I end up spending a lot of time doing is ranking troubleshooting. That job takes a different toolset! Today I'm going to share a super hot troubleshooting tool that I know you'll want to add to your tool box!
I also spend a lot of time trying to reverse engineer the algo. There are certain SERPS I watch in order to try to figure out algo changes and the tool I'm about to share is uber helpful for that as well.

Many of you have requested this for months and it's now ready to go! :)

I labeled this post "advanced" because most of the local search pros that read this forum already know why it's important to track the full local pack and all the 1st page search results. So I'm not going to write a book to explain why. But in a nutshell, here is just one of the reasons.

If you have a client that is consistently B or C in the pack and then suddenly one day they drop out of the pack completely... you have no way to diagnose the ranking drop unless you've saved a screenshot of the whole pack and SERP radius map. If you have 10 clients you won't remember what that 7 pack was like last week, before they dropped, so you have no way to analyze what changed and why.

PLUS if you have 10 clients or 100 how are you going to take screenshots of every SERP for every keyword for every client, every day or every week to watch for pack changes? (Just in case the client drops and you need to go back in history to see what changed???) Nope, you won't do it!

Now there is a tool that will automagically take screenshots of the SERPS for you, so you can track changes over time. It's called VisualPing

(This is going to be a long post, so I'm going to cut to the chase since most of you are Pros and know why this will be helpful. But if you are unsure if or why you need this type of tracking see below:

BACK STORY: I discovered VisualPing back in June. It tracks changes to any page and makes a screenshot automatically and sends an email notification when there is a change to the page. So I knew it had potential to do what we needed. However their server is in Switzerland so the ranking order was not accurate compared to what you would see if you were local to the query.

So I reached out to the developer, Christian Merkel who was willing to work with me to bake in a GEO search location feature. We worked and tweaked and BETA tested.

About the time we got it working right Pigeon hit! Damn bird broke it! Just like it broke many of the local rank trackers out there. So then all the results were showing the old ranking algo order and no longer matched up with what we were seeing locally post Pigeon.

After Pigeon went international, I realized the software may work again, so gave it a try.

YAY! VisualPing works again now that Pigeon flew overseas!

Here is a short little video Christian did showing how the GEO search feature works in general. But below I need to explain several things, so you understand the best way to set it up for Local SERP tracking. - GEO locate your Google Search for a specific location

<iframe width="480" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


If a client drops down or out of the pack you need to know things like:

? Did the entire pack change?
(If so this could indicate an algo update)

? Did 2 new listings get in the pack that are spammy and push your client out?

? Did 2 new listings get in the pack that are NOT spammy and push your client out?
(If so, what are they doing that Google likes so much?)

? Did the map radius change in the small SERPS map? Did it shrink so your clients area in no longer on on the map?

? Did their organic drop or just local? Were they on page one in organic before too?
(You may not remember if you mainly looked at the pack.)

? OR did the entire ranking order of the pack stay the same and just your client dropped?
(This indicates that it could be a specific problem or penalty for your client.)

? It goes without saying this could also be used to track pure organic results as well.

Not only can it be helpful for you in troubleshooting a ranking drop, it can be helpful to have the before and after screenshots to explain to your client what happened!

Example #1: "See those 2 listings? They were never in the pack before. They just moved up and knocked you out. But they are fake spam listings, so I'll need to work to try to get them removed."

Example #2: "See how last month the map was showing a wide area? Now see how the map is a tighter radius and your area is not even included?" (In other words Google changed the radius it's nothing I did wrong.) CYA :p

OK so here are some things to understand when setting up. I'm not going to go into detail to explain everything because I don't make a dime sharing this with you and it's not my product, so I'm not going to do complete training or support. BUT I've tested enough to know what works and what to avoid, so instead of explaining all the options, I'll just tell you the best options for your local search needs. (But feel free to play with various options and let us know what works for you.)

SCREENSHOT AREA: You have the ability to select the area of the screen you want to track. Now at 1st I was using it to ALERT me to problems/changes in the pack. So I would crop right around the pack, so I would not get alerted every time the Adwords or organic listings changed. Sounds good in theory, but it does not work and is not practical for 2 reasons.

1) On weekends when there are no ads the whole pack is going to move up the page. Then the top 3 pack listings are moved up and OUT of selection area you chose. Plus even if pack ranking order didn't change, you'll get an alert because the whole pack moved up the page.

2) One of the main things you want a screenshot of is the little map right on the search results page. Very important for diagnosing rank drops!

Sooo, just grab the whole page. Because it's really not going to work to have this alert you to 7 pack changes. Initially I was using it for ranking changes notification, but it won't work for that. There is too much changing on the page all the time.

We'll just be using VisualPing for 2 main reasons.

1) It will send us an email with the before and current screen shot, so you can just quickly check email to see if ranking changed.

2) But the important thing is you'll have historical screenshots so you can look back at last week or 3 months ago to see how the pack shifted. (So if you think: "Wait where did that one come from. I don't remember seeing him in the pack before." Now you can check and if it's someone that came out of nowhere and shot to #2 you may want to analyze what they are doing right, or wrong, as the case may be.

GEO LOCATE SEARCH: After you set up the job for "Seattle Chiropractor" or whatever, then you need to GEO locate the search.

When you tick that setting it's going to want to GEO locate where you currently are, not where the search result is. You need to let it do that to get started. Then edit the location and SLOWLY type in the city of the query and if US, it should pick it up.

It costs 5 credits to do the GEO runs, so decide how often you want it to run. If you have a problematic volatile client that keeps jumping in and out of the pack you might want to do daily, otherwise if you just want basic backup history of the SERPs I'd just do weekly.

A PROBLEM - Wanted to alert you to a problem you'll see right now, but I told Christian about it and they will have an option added by end of the week that will resolve this.

The software is set to highlight in red any area of the page that changed. So for example if you set up to watch a product page in Amazon to be alerted to a price change, it will highlight that part of the page.

However for these local results, because so much changes on the page, it ends up highlighting all the text and even the pins on the map in red which makes it super hard to read.

I asked Christian to make an option in advanced settings to turn off the highlighting, so look for that feature to be added in the next few days.

IS IT FREE? It costs next to nothing as local search tools go. And it's free to initially try. In huge volumes it could add up a little, but still is really next to free. 250 credits for free. Refill 5000 credits for just $10.

Each run is 1 credit. If you use GEO it's 5 credits. (But you may not need GEO as much now that Pigeon has settled down, so test for your market and see.)

OK so I think I've given you enough food for thought.

Take VisualPing for a ride and try it out.

You like???

Please share your feedback and tips after you try it with the rest of the group!

<meta property="og:type" content="article"><meta property="og:title" content=""><meta property="og:description" content="For ranking troubleshooting and reverse engineering the Google Local algo, this software is the ticket!">
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Forgot to mention, to get faster results, just so you can see what it does, set your run at 1 hour. Just so you can get a quick report and something in your dash, so you can see how it works.

Then after that you can reset to 24 hours or weekly, depending on how often you want it to run.

Also in addition to the screenshots you'll get via email, it will save all previous screenshots in your dashboard so you can check last week or 3 months ago.
No Geo-Location support for Canadian cities :( ?

---------- Post Merged at 01:23 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 01:20 PM ----------

NVM! The dropdown selector isn't working for me in Firefox. Worked in Chrome :)
Donnie Stompf on Google+ just commented:

"This is a really cool tool for monitoring competition as well."
They have an enormous job, no doubt, and I really hope they keep developing the tool.

Unfortunately their geo settings are still too broad for many of my clients, especially since pigeon arrived. They are better in some parts of the world than others...

Would be really good if they could let you enter geo codes or a pin on a map or some other point of reference apart from their drop-down list. For example, I type in "greenway" and the dropdown only shows USA location. I enter "cheltenham" (where I live) and I get US and UK, but no AU. I do get the capital cities, but that is far to broad an area to be useful. I then tried an island in Thailand, no joy and had to go way broader to get close to location. Little bit of trouble with smaller south american areas as well.

The US locations all seem to be good, UK locations seem to be good as well for the smaller areas.

They're well on their way, so much better than when I tried this many months ago :)
Thanks for the update Linda!
Yes US works, overseas not so much. Forgot to mention that.

I gave up on pushing for more modifications once Pigeon hit and broke it.

Plus I think they kinda gave up on it, since I don't think many besides us would even care about GEO. But once enough of you guys start using it and they see there is demand, maybe some day they will refocus efforts.
Am I right in thinking this could be used to monitor competitor landing pages?

For example:

You have been ranking position 1 for a huge search volume keyword.

Then one day you drop to position 2 and you are wondering why.

Then you check the Visual ping and find out that your competitor has made fundamental changes to the content and heading structure of the landing page and that's why they have increased.

Therefore you make some necessary changes to your onpage and restore your rankings...
Yes Jonathan on 2 counts.

You scan the SERP which would tell you if they moved up.

If you already had a scan on that competitor's home page you could see if anything changed on the page. But obviously they could have moved up due to citations or backlinks or something and that would not show.
FYI Christian just emailed me to say: "I'll do a few more improvements on the UI based on the comments (more Cities, better & faster autocompletion) in the next days."

So stay tuned...
I've been testing and so far I like it... One question for those who are using it. What percent change are you setting the alerts for? I initially set it for Major - 25%, but I'm thinking that may not be fine enough.

Hi Jim,

I'd leave it turned up so you don't get so many notifications.

Because like I said you can't really use it to be notified of ranking changes. Too much is changing on the page with Adwords changing and pack moving around. You don't want a notification every time an Adwords ad changes.

So set it high and then just take a quick peek daily or weekly (based on your settings) as emails come in.

So happy you helped make this happy. I've used Visual Ping for sometime, but could never quite get what I wanted. With your explanation in the introduction it now seems obvious why it wouldn't have worked.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

This is such a core task for this niche of SEO (re: archiving the SERPs). Hopefully, Christian will benefit greatly. I'm not sure he's got any competition at the moment.

I'm also thinking there's got to be some ways to combine this with IFTTT to come up with even more useful applications.

Did I say thank you? THANK YOU!
URL Formats and Variations To Monitor

I should have thought about this before I finished editing my previous post.

You'll want to use "clean" URLs. Just "cutting & pasting" from your browser address bar might not give you the best option for which URL to monitor.

Here are some examples of what I'm using, including the previous one I shared: version, I'm not sure how the GEO Location setting will affect this, MA/s/roofers

With these I'm testing the GEO Location feature on VisualPing.

roofers - Google Search
roofing companies - Google Search

Here's a version that adds the geo parameters to the query string. I'm not setting the GEO Location in VisualPing for this url.

roofers - Google Search

It's also possible to add even more specific geo parameters like zip codes.

Hoping others will have some additional ideas for this.

So happy you helped make this happy. I've used Visual Ping for sometime, but could never quite get what I wanted. With your explanation in the introduction it now seems obvious why it wouldn't have worked.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

This is such a core task for this niche of SEO (re: archiving the SERPs). Hopefully, Christian will benefit greatly. I'm not sure he's got any competition at the moment.

I'm also thinking there's got to be some ways to combine this with IFTTT to come up with even more useful applications.

Did I say thank you? THANK YOU!

You are so welcome Bill! Your extensive thanks makes it worth the time I invested to get it this far.
Really glad my explanation helped.

Thanks for your tips too! I don't search with or monitor Google/local enough so you reminded me to do that as well.
I'm not trusting all the SERP snapshots I'm seeing. Most importantly, the location setting feature does not seem to be working. Results I'm seeing do not match the locale i set.

For SERPs where I added the ?near=[insert location] to the query string, it seems to be useful.
Hmmm, last I checked it was working. Will do some more checking this weekend if I can.

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