Local Roundup – October 2011

Here’s my recap on some of the local news that I have bookmarked during October and thought “Hmm that’s quite interesting”.

major ranking drops – Places gets an algorithm update!

Creative Commons License photo credit: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser

It would appear that an update on the places algorithm has had a somewhat disastrous effect for local map listings and ranking thanks to Google’s new tweaks. Basically, Google has tightened the proximity of  listings so that if your places location falls outside of this (even if it’s still quite central) your rankings are going to hurt! The new update has been named the ‘proximity lock out algo’ which seems quite doomsday. While it’s still early in the game, the consensus appears to be that you can’t optimise yourself out of this situation (citations, reviews and general strong organic rankings don’t appear to have any influence – boo).

Full story


ultimate list of local citation sites

Here’s a nice list of local citation sites that you may find helpful for improving your listings. It would appear that a lot of these sites are quite focused on the American market, but I still think it’s worth a quick mention.

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users automatically updating your Google Places

Creative Commons License photo credit: Benson Kua

Quite worryingly Google has now taken a brash move to allow users to update places information like working hours, addresses and names! While this concept is about making listings more ‘real time’ reflective, it also has a worrying potential for negative manipulation.  Business owners will be notified of any changes which is good, but this doesn’t really help when you need to sit down for a hour changing all your places information back because of some overzealous competitor.  But then again, people aren’t that manipulative…

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Adwords location makeover

If you’re an Adwords advertiser you may have noticed that the location targeting settings have changed! Google has utilised maps with location targeting to provide a more comprehensive overview of your targeting opportunities. The notable advantages are easily discoverable locations, more details on location i.e. reach, and a massive increase in location targeting (300-10,000 selected locations).  So, let’s get targeting…

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justice for Places manipulation – if you threaten Google with legal action

Creative Commons License photo credit: Helga Weber

I thought this is an interesting piece about the implications of places manipulation (especially when thinking about automatic updates) and how unprepared Google appear in light of potential defamation for local businesses. I thought it was interesting how Google advised that they provide a free, open system for claiming listings…oh, and for calling other people paedophiles.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this post – if you feel there’s anything I’ve missed, drop me a quick comment and link and I’ll update the post (with acknowledgement for your hawk eye of course!).

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7 thoughts on “Local Roundup – October 2011”

  1. Attacat Tim says:

    Hi Jon,

    I’m less convinced by the proximity lock out algo. Whilst I admire the author of that article’s efforts to provide data and to put forward theories I’d like to see a lot more data before believing in the theory. He might be right but I can think of other ways that the same results could have been achieved. Even if he is right, this is a dial that will likely get moved again if it has “locked-out” lots of good listings.



  2. Attacat Jon says:

    Thanks for the comment Tim! Yes, there’s a lot to be deduced from his examples and the ‘lock out algo’ is just one theory. It would seem rather unfair if Google started showing central locations regardless of the users specific location – yes, let’s get more data before we jump to conclusions!

  3. Linda Buquet says:

    Hi Jon and Tim,

    He’s a she and that’s me. 😉 Thanks for the link!

    Actually Mike Blumenthal has confirmed a couple times that my proximity lockout algo theory is correct. He said he’s seen it in some markets since May.

    But again important to realize it only affects the CORE keyword with city modifier. So City Dentist and Dentist City would be disconnected but City Cosmetic Dentist and other keywords would be fine and not disconnect or be locked ou.

    Also important to realize it’s only in certain cities. But Mike and I both feel it’s been getting more aggressive. And I’ve had people in different parts of the world confirm they’ve seen it.

  4. Attacat Tim says:

    Hi Linda, How embarrassing! So sorry for the mistaken-gender-error (In my defence I’d read your post a while back and hadn’t bothered to check before commenting).

    Re the algo. Is there anyway that this could have been observed because a higher ranked listing located further out dropped and the area was then redefined before deciding who gets in?

    Any thoughts on why it is only the core keyphrase rather than sub-phrase? (I went through the comments to see if there was any discussion on this point but couldn’t see it)

    Thanks for your comment – appreciated. Tim

  5. Linda Buquet says:

    No worries at all Tim!

    Here’s my theory based on my niche, Dentistry.

    Let’s say there are 100 actual Dental offices in a city. Due to bad scrapes, dupes, Place pages for indiv Drs., black hatters and fake Places there are likely 400 Place pages in that city.

    All the dupes, Dentists no longer in business and even all the unclaimed dupes, they are all going to have the main cat Dentist. Plus all the web sites even little one-pagers are going to have the KW Dentist.

    So when G goes to find a selection of Dentists there are tons right there to choose from. And so wrongly IMHO the algo tightens up because there are SO many to choose from right there in the center of town.

    However for the KW teeth whitening or cosmetic dentist, that takes a claimed Place page and someone that optimized for that KW.

    My guess is out of those 100 actual practices and 400 total Places there are probably only abour 50 that are claimed and maybe 30 that are optimized with a some categories. And not all of those are going to have teeth whitening or cos. So to find a good cross section the radius must expand.

    Here’s a fairly dramatic example.

    Search Chesapeake Dentist. See how the A,B,C s are in a tight cluster? See TONS of red dots? Those are all the other Dentists that didn’t rank on page one either.

    Now search Chesapeake Cosmetic Dentist. See how few dots there are now and how much further the map zooms out, including Dentists in a wider radius?

    Some would say that’s more just about longer tail and less competitive KWs and that’s true. But I think it’s also that fact that the core keyword is the default category so every Place page is going to have that cat whether claimed or optimized.

    Not trying to write a book, but just kinda thinking out loud and trying to figure it myself too.

    Think of it this way. Only 7 or 10 spots on page one. Let’s say there’s a Place page for a Dentist downtown that was in practice for 20 years. He’s retired and the practice is now closed. But G scraped and created a Place page 3 years ago and it has TONS of citations and other trust points because it was so well established. The old, now retired Dr. never claimed it. So the only cat is the default. He’s going to take a spot on page one, that should go to your well optimized client on the edge of town because, he has lots of trust, authority and the default cat Dentist. However for cosmetic dentist that Dr. and other’s that aren’t claimed aren’t going to rank and clog up page one because they only have the default cat.

    Does that make sense? When I try to explain it verbally people get it and agree, but not sure I’m explaining it well in writing. And I’m tired. 🙁

  6. steve says:


    This Algo proximity change has just turned up in Scotland as well – my company had Google map position A over our top 4 keywords for the Edinburgh area- Bathroom fitters, Bathroom installers, Kitchen fitters, Kitchen installers ( also with “Edinburgh” attached to keywords)- The company address is in the small town of Musselburgh (the address is approx 200 metres from the Edinburgh city boundary) – We are now totally off google places with a lot of smaller and non specialist “Edinburgh” companies taking up places they never had before – This has had a devastating impact on business enquiries via our website- Is there anything we can do about it ?

  7. Tim Barlow says:

    Hi Linda

    A happy new year to you and an embaressingly late response to your very insightful comment. If I interpret it then you feel that Google draws it’s radius based on having a minimum number of listings above a certain minimum quality threshold (i.e. it is happening on the core phrase because there are so many listings, rather than simply because it is the core phrase)?

    I’d also be interested in your thoughts on Steve’s case above (and I promise to respond faster this time!). To me it sounds like it might be something other than what you describe because it is affecting multiple phrases rather than a “core” phrase.

    Interestingly I did find Steve on the searches he mentioned. I wonder if changing map shape has anything to do with it?

    Thanks again for taking the time Linda (and Steve) to create a really interesting debate.

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