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What’s new in local search

Open and closed on Bing

 
Bing Local has begun enabling open or closed notifications for business listings, but there’s a catch, and it’s a pretty notable one.

 
Whether you show up as open or closed is based upon your Yelp listing, which is what Bing pulls from. Even if you have a verified Bing listing, you’ll need your operating hours to be correct on Yelp for them to show up appropriately on Bing Local.

 
We don’t have to tell you how important it is to have correct operating hours displayed on Bing Local. While it’s true that Google holds a full two-thirds of the market share in Search, Bing holds almost 19 percent, which is nothing to sneeze at.

 
You don’t want 1 in 5 customers to avoid visiting your business because they incorrectly believe it’s closed. You also don’t want 1 in 5 people showing up to your closed business believing it’s open. That’s a sure way to put off potential customers from ever visiting again.

 
But there’s another concern you might not have considered about having your operating hours accurately listed. It can influence whether the business even shows up in search results.

 
And that’s not just true of Bing: It appears to be a consideration in Google’s Pigeon update as well. So don’t take any chances: Make sure your operating hours are correct and up to date on all your business listings—especially Yelp.

 
Ranking in Local Search takes time

 
BrightLocal is one of the best provider of surveys related to online marketing, and it’s come out with another useful survey on the time it takes to get significant ranking improvements in Local Search to occur once you’ve implemented SEO techniques.

 
As the survey noted, defining a “significant ranking and/or performance improvement” can be tricky, because this can be different for various businesses and scenarios.

 

So BrightLocal came up with a definition for respondents (18 knowledgeable local search experts) to consider when answering each question:

 

A clear improvement in either search ranking and/or clicks that leads to increased lead generation attributed to the optimization work being done.

 
There’s a lot of information in the BrightLocal report, so we’ll summarize the major points as briefly as possible here. The survey attempted to answer how quickly you’ll see local search ranking improvements for five scenarios as follows:

 
A brand-new business: Per the survey, if a new business (no previous website or local listings) is trying to establish itself in a competitive sector or location, achieving substantial local rankings is likely to take a bare minimum of three months. But in a noncompetitive environment, significant local rankings can be achieved more quickly.

 
An existing website with some optimization: In a competitive sector for websites that have had little work done on them, per 50 percent of Local Search experts surveyed, significant local ranking improvement can occur within 3-6 months.

 
An existing website with poor optimization: In a competitive scenario, if a site has been damaged by poor optimization, there is a far greater chance that significant ranking improvement will take longer than nine months.

 
In a noncompetitive scenario, however, these issues are far easier to fix: Most experts said they believed improvement could be achieved in just 3-6 months; only 12 percent believed it would take more than nine months.

 
A site hit with a manual penalty: This is somewhat case-dependent, per the experts. If a site was hit with a manual penalty thanks to some black-hat SEO or related shady tactics, the general consensus was that a website would have to wait a minimum of three months before it could reappear on the search engines.

 
In fact, most panelists said it would take more than six months. This is a good reminder of why you’re playing with fire if you try to game the system with questionable links and spun content.

 
An existing site that stops investing in SEO: A business that stops investing in SEO can expect little change over the first couple of months, according to the respondents. However, a significant decline (34 percent on average) will occur over six months, and over two years, a rankings drop of up to 50 percent can be expected.

 
This is an important reminder that SEO isn’t a one-time thing: To continue to rank well, a business needs to think of Local Search optimization as an ongoing project and continue to put resources toward it.

 
Wow, that was a terrible idea

 
We’ve mentioned again and again (and again and again, for that matter) that fighting online review sites is a waste of time and just a bad idea overall.

 
You’ll find far more success by working with the process, encouraging good reviews and understanding that sometimes bad reviews happen. There are strategies that can help mitigate bad reviews or even make them disappear, but the last thing you want to do is… well, what this business did.

 
The New York Post reported on an upstate New York hotel that threatened to impose a $500 penalty for each negative online review lodged against it. The penalty would come out the deposit placed by couples getting married at the hotel, the Union Street Guest House near the Catskills.

 
If that sounds crazy, hang tight: It gets better. The hotel didn’t just threaten to fine the bride and groom if they posted negative reviews. If any one of their guests posted a critical assessment, that’s right: It’s a $500 fine.

 
To top it all off, the proprietors made a point of replying with ugly wisecracks whenever someone did post a negative review. One example, per the Post:

 
I know you guys wanted to hang out and get drunk for 2 days and that is fine. I was really really sorry that you showed up in the summer when it was 105 degrees . . . I was so so so sorry that our ice maker and fridge were not working and not accessible.

 
At Ring Ring Marketing, we find it hard to put into words how delusional this behavior is. You’d almost think a competitor had hacked into the inn’s computers to make the business look as bad as possible. But no, this actually came from the proprietors themselves.

 
As you might expect, this strategy has backfired completely. Once this policy was reported upon, hundreds of negative reviews flooded in and drove the hotel’s rating down to one star.

 
It’s true that the vast majority of these new reviewers have never stayed at the inn, and we don’t condone that sort of behavior. You should only review a business you’ve actually frequented. However, this type of response is to be expected when you come up with such an asinine policy. You’re just begging people to rip you apart online.

 
Long story short: Never penalize your clientele for bad reviews, and never respond to bad reviews online in a tone that reflects poorly on your business. It just makes the problem exponentially worse.

 
At Ring Ring Marketing, we know how to help you deal with negative reviews in a way that will improve your online reputation and ensure positive reviews now and in the future.

 
News in brief

 
Only Local pages on Facebook get rating stars: To receive and keep rating stars on Facebook, the type of page must be Local, and there must be an address on the page.

 
Google My Business: Verification problems and access to listings are the most prevalent problems noted recently in the help forum. These are typically linked to listing ownership issues. Check all your listings at least once a month to make sure they are not flagged for anything. When things are in flux (like now, due to the GMB launch and the Pigeon update), you might want to check more often.

 
More on Google My Business verification: You likely can make GMB verification a snap by verifying your business website in Google Webmaster Tools. It doesn’t work for all types of businesses, but getting Webmaster Tools verification is now critical for all online marketing. That’s how Google now communicates with business owners regarding the particular website.

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