Linda Buquet

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Sometimes when your ranking drops or a client totally falls out of the pack, it's nothing you did wrong AND it's nothing competitors did right to leap frog you - it's simply that Google has changed the local algo and loosened the spam filters.

spammyplace.jpg

When this happens crap filters up to the top, that was previously filtered out and you or your client's listing gets knocked down or totally out of the pack.

About a month ago, lots of folks were complaining about a ranking shake up and new listings popping into the pack that were not previously there. I did a bunch of research and ranking analysis but just had not had time to post about it until now. I think below is part of the reason for the shake up. Some of the spam filters were loosened.

This is why it's important to track the pack and really the entire page 1 SERPs - via screenshots or automated methods to understand shifts. I'll give you tool to help you do that at the bottom of this post.
But 1st, here's a great example.

One of the markets I track for algo changes is Seattle Chiropractor. Why, you ask? Because some of the Chiros there are super aggressive and I have seen some that use black hat tactics. So I know it's just a dog-eat-dog competitive market.

As soon as the complaints started coming in about the ranking shakeup (beginning or March or so I think it was), I checked Seattle Chiro and noticed that the pack had changed and lots of the regular players who are usually in the pack got knocked out. I dug in to see if there was an algo change and below is what I found. 1st a screenshot of the current pack.


SeattleChiro3.9.14.jpg


A (seattlefamilychiro) used to always be #1 in organic but I'd never seen them in the pack before. I never checked to see why and assumed it was proximity or dupes.

So when they suddenly moved into the pack I checked them out and found this lovely G+ L description:


SeattleFamChiroSpamDe.jpg


Can you spell local description spam??? They also have city 3 times in cats, which is a violation.

In the past I've seen ranking penalties for excessive city and KW repetition. I guess that's not an issue any longer. I believe they used to be locked out of the pack even though they were #1 organic, because it's a spammy listing. But when the spam filters were tweaked, they were allowed to pop into the A spot.


C used to be locked out. Has the city Seattle as a stand-alone cat which is a violation.

D is missing the web site, has KW stuffed cats (a violation) and massively KW stuffed description as you can see below.


SeattleChiroDescSpam.jpg


In the past, with the old 200 character Places description, all words capped like that and excessive KW repetition would not have flown.

The sad thing is that when the spam algo was relaxed and these 3 spammy listings were let in - 3 other, possibly good clean listings, were knocked out.

FYI - If I had a client that was knocked out of the pack because spammy listings jumped in, I have no problem reporting or editing listings that have violations. I don't think of it as competitive sabotage, but an act to level the playing field and report those that are breaking the rules. However, as many of us know all too well, Google does not seem to be keeping up with or taking action on spam reports these days.

So this is why I say if at all possible you should track the entire page one SERPS and especially the pack, not just your clients rankings. Now I realize if you have 200 clients with 10 primary KWs each, that's a big challenge... but many of you only have 20 clients and if you track the pack for their core KW like chiropractor or Dentist, it's doable.

When consultants come to me for help diagnosing a rank drop it's tough if I can't see previous pack history.

Here is a tool that can help you automatically track the pack movement and history for clients. TrackEngine

It emails me a snapshot of Google page 1 for Seattle Chiro every day including organic and pack. So then I can go back and look at the snapshot from 3 months ago or last week to see what has changed. It's free to try for like 5 or so then if you need to track up to 50, it's only 4.95 a month.

I just discovered a local rank tracking software program that says they do a screenshot of Google page one SERPS. Local Rank Tracking | SERP Scan. Don't know anything about the software or who owns it, just stumbled across it.

I'm going to ask Mark from Places Scout if he can add the screenshot feature too.

Do you know any other solution that will do automated tracking of page one SERPs by KW over time?

Have you seen some ranking shakeups? If so, check to see if some of the new players in the pack are spammy and let us know you are seeing something similar to what I shared above.


spammyplace.jpg


SeattleChiro3.9.14.jpg


SeattleFamChiroSpamDe.jpg


SeattleChiroDescSpam.jpg
 
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Wow! Nice listings and thanks for the post. That would also be a great addition to Places Scout as I manually do the screenshots for competitive markets. Thanks Again Linda. You always seem to keep my brain moving forward.

Question: Do you think Google has what I call a "Boneyard" Database that holds all the listings they mark as spam. I could see these listings populating the pack once and while during Google updates.
 

Linda Buquet

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I've had some folks PM to thank me for the Track Engine tip and all the time it would save them so thought I'd share a little more.

It does not do a screenshot - what it does I like even better.

Wish I could show a live page, but you need to be logged into my account to see it.

Basically what it saves is like a live Google SERPS page AND ALL THE LINKS WORK. It's a little different layout than Google but clearly show the organic and pack ranking order.

Here's a screenshot but again all the links are live. So for example if you check 3 months ago, see a listing and think "wait I've never seen that one before, wonder why they are no longer in the pack" you don't have to try to hunt them down or type in domain, just click the link in Track Engine, even though they are no longer ranking in the current live pack. (Can't do that with a screen shot.)

Here is a screen shot of the layout of the Track Engine page​

trackengine.jpg

There is a similar program I've used in the past but I can't remember what it's called. In fact I think I did a post about both of them. Will let you know if I find it.

trackengine.jpg
 

cgreen

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This was a great post Linda. I saw some major drops around that time as well for our law firm, although there are many reasons I believe it could have been caused.

Before the beginning of march we enjoyed a very nice run ranking as #1 for Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer and car accident variants as well. We have been focused on strong citation building for years. Unfortunately after this update we disappeared and moved out of the top results. This update actually affected many of our locations across southern California too so we can attribute it to something on Google's end.
 

Linda Buquet

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If you have a serious drop it's usually due to violations or dupes or other problems.

I've consulted for lots of attorneys who were dinged for multiple locations because typically they are not valid locations and should not have had multiple listings. I know attys who had 10 listings deleted due to the issue.
 

Broland

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Interesting post Linda. I too track Seattle Chiropractor in way from time to time and can confirm that local listing A from the first screenshot did have a local penalty, and I believe the other two you mentioned did as well. It's hard to say what exactly changed with the algo, because in some ways things just seem shaken up. What's weird is Eastlake (now spot B) didn't seem to have a penalty before and shot up from being at spot 70+, which does happen, but not usually in a market with this high of competition.

Are you able to share either publicly or privately what businesses dropped out of the 7 pack with the change Linda? I feel like you have a few missing pieces to a local seo penalty puzzle I've been working on for a bit (See below), and together we might be able to find out what may have changed.

Question: Do you think Google has what I call a "Boneyard" Database that holds all the listings they mark as spam. I could see these listings populating the pack once and while during Google updates.

Yes, I do believe so, in a sense. I'm sure Google has all kinds of databases. Within the next couple days I'll share a way to check some of these penalized local results.
 

Linda Buquet

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Interesting post Linda. I too track Seattle Chiropractor in way from time to time and can confirm that local listing A from the first screenshot did have a local penalty, and I believe the other two you mentioned did as well. It's hard to say what exactly changed with the algo, because in some ways things just seem shaken up. What's weird is Eastlake (now spot B) didn't seem to have a penalty before and shot up from being at spot 70+, which does happen, but not usually in a market with this high of competition.

Are you able to share either publicly or privately what businesses dropped out of the 7 pack with the change Linda? I feel like you have a few missing pieces to a local seo penalty puzzle I've been working on for a bit (See below), and together we might be able to find out what may have changed.

A couple of those Chiros (can't remember which ones now) 3 years ago when mymaps was a ranking factor had like 1000 mymaps and have often used other gray/black techniques like like Seattle stuffing cats.

Here is a screen shot of the rankings from 7/1/13

seattleChiro7.1.jpg

Anxious to hear what you have to share Broland.

seattleChiro7.1.jpg
 

Broland

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Hmm, even more interesting seeing that eastlakechiro.com listing at #1 back in July of last year. Notice that's with the www version listed and the current one ranking for spot B is the non-www version. They don't have url canonicalization set up which can always add more craziness to Google algo's identifying and matching business data with websites. I have SERPS saved from February 2014 with that same listing that ranks in both of your screen shots ranking number 96 - but that is with some or all penalized listings included, and a different listing for Dr. Lincoln Kamell - with the same phone, address and non-www version of the website ranking number 2, but was likely penalized for dupes.

Okay it's doubtful that anyone followed all that. But basically that listing changed from having a fake keyword name and the www version to the non-www version of their site linked from their Google listing, and Google seems to have tweaked some kind of penalty filter too.

Anyways, here is the how to on: Checking Google Places Penalties - DirectoryBug

I have the top 100 results from Feb. 2014 saved using the Google Places 100 method described in that post, but don't have the regular search results with the local pack from then to compare them to. I can send them to you Linda if it helps in your research.
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Broland, but I'm researched right out of time on this one.
Too many fish to fry. :p
 
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