Geofencing vs Hyperlocal Search Confusion

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing There is a bit of confusion about Geofencing. It is a new advertising methodology after all and that newness has spawned misleading usage of the word. Many are confusing it with the act of searching using a mobile device. Let’s see if we can’t clear up some marketing BS floating around in the blog-o-sphere.

Android has some training for the technically inclined that is useful to understanding how it works.

For the rest of us, Geofencing encompasses advertising to an audience that happens to be in your targeted area but is not searching per se. The advertiser is trying to catch the attention of this audience while they are in a usually small target area (the geofence).

For the advertiser to apply a geofence on a consumer, the consumer must either a) use an application (APP) on a mobile device or b) visit a website with geofencing capabilities.

If the consumer has downloaded an APP for receiving alerts, they are actively shopping and aware that they are targeted. We aren’t so concerned about this active/passive consumer because they are not the most coveted consumer. Its the unaware passive shoppers that are more interesting and valuable to the advertiser. Lets take a look at why that is the point of what makes geofencing attractive to advertisers and why this is where all online advertising is headed.

The Passive Consumer

Lets use a contemporary example and the best representation of geofencing (proximity advertising). I’m shopping for a car and I’m at a dealership talking to a salesperson about the price. They of course says this is the best price anywhere and I of course whip-out my mobile device to see if that’s true. ( BTW, what I am doing as a consumer is called price comparison shopping, not searching! )

As it happens, the nearest competing dealership has geofenced the location of the dealership I’m standing in. The geofence could be very small and is identified by the IP address or GPS coordinates of my device. When I visit the website of the competing dealership, I’m greeted with a pop-up ad that says “We’ll beat that dealer’s price”. Hmm! That’s pretty compelling. I think I have to check what that competing dealer is going to offer me. Don’t I?

As an advertiser, that’s about as good a lead as any. This is a confirmed buyer because they are far into the funnel – they are price shopping. As an advertiser, I’m all-in for Geofencing! And I’ll pay more from these highly qualified leads.

The Hybrid Consumer

The hybrid scenario means the consumer is active in the sense that they downloaded an APP for, lets say, car shopping onto their mobile device. This consumer would get a passive alert on their mobile device that the car they are looking for is on sale near by when they enter a geofence setup by the car dealer.

While there are a few APPs for car shopping, they are not all-encompassing and therefore not too popular. My guess is that for this capability to mature it will have to be offered by search engines – probably in the not too distant future. This explains many changes Google has made recently; particularly the change to Places listings that are now entirely based on distance from the consumer/search. Google is polishing its location services with regard to the consumer’s location as communicated by the device.

The Active Consumer

Search has been around for a long time now. I search on my computer/mobile device for the car I want and I see an ad from a nearby dealership. While that ad is shown to consumers in a limited geographic area, this is NOT what is referred to as geofencing. That is a typical PPC (Adwords) ad. That geo-targeting capability has existed for about 14 years now. The car dealer simply specifies where those ads appear depending on a) a radius from a location or, b) a zipcode, city, county, or entire country. Thus far, Adwords cannot alert you. You must search first. That is why I call this an “active” consumer. They are searching.

OK! Now that we have all that clarified, here is as example of how a so called marketing “professional” does not understand that geofencing has nothing to do with search.

In this post 3 Geofencing Stats You Need To Know:

#3 is > 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product when conducting a search on their smartphone.

Yes, that statement is true, but…it has NOTHING to do with geofencing. (or maybe its how marketing people just cant help themselves when the ability to use misleading context arises. You know. “Baffle them with bullshit”.)

Note the word “search” there? It is outright misleading to include this item in the list of benefits of geofencing. Search is how you FIND new businesses. Geofencing by itself does not help you FIND what you want.

Here is another in my diary of marketing companies that either don’t know what they are talking about or they should just not blog. You decide.

What Is Geofencing and Does It Matter? in which they write “The smallest location you can target in AdWords is a one-mile radius.”

What? A radius in Adwords is not a geofence (nor is it a recent innovation). And there is a lot of other useless information in that post too. In the article is a Premier Google Partner badge. I guess you can trust anyone with a badge.

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The World Goes Mobile-Local

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Does that sound like old news? Needless to say, the search engine marketing business is always changing and marketing people being marketing people, write about every hiccup as if it were newsworthy. However this is different and I encourage you to read and think about recent changes to search results page-ad layout and how this change profoundly impacts your internet marketing reach.

Google has made a few changes recently, two in particular, that signal a monumental change in search marketing. Its not just a page-layout thing. Its a fundamental change in business.

The shot heard around the SEO world was the removal of local search filters from search. Forget about the “why” for the moment, Google never tells the truth about changes anyway. That change was followed by the radical change in paid search layout on the desktop – by doing away with side ads, the desktop now mimics the mobile interface. Some other noted initiatives point in the same mobile-local direction; re. Google Explorers and Google My Business road shows. All together these clearly focus on local business and that is because mobile search is now the largest search segment and growing. Its clear that in Google’s world, mobile is now the driver and mobile is local in nature.

We can therefore surmise some things that are unique to mobile that will drive all search optimization and search marketing going forward.

Page (Format) Strategies

If our space changes, our behavior must change. That would apply to a rat in a maze, just as it applies to an advertiser and ad formats. With the new “mobile” format, we must adapt new behaviors and strategies.

  • Paid search strategies must be drastically overhauled. What you were doing last month won’t work anymore. With four (4) instead of about ten (10) potential spots for ads on a page, it is now a “Winner Take All” environment “Go Big or Go Home”. If you are not in the those 4 spots, you are out. Its even more dramatic than that. Some pages split the #1 spot at the top and #2, 3 and 4 spots are now at the bottom of the SERP, rendering them far less fruitful. (I have seen 8 ad spots total. 4 at the top and 4 at the bottom. But bottom ads? Really?) This means the deeper pockets and the more aggressive will win. Because if you don’t get the #1 spot, your clicks are going down dramatically. Those playing at the margins are out. Keyword knowledge will become more valuable than ever before.
  • More important than Ads; the Knowledge Graph that sometimes occupies the top right of desktop display and the top of mobile is now the local elephant on the page. Also called a Business Card (or just Card) it gets the majority of SERP real estate. Therefore it gets more clicks that any paid ad.  Getting your business into the Card is a matter of survival and needs to be the heart of your SEO (natural search optimization). If you don’t have your SEO ducks-in-a-row you are not getting the Card and therefore, your natural traffic may take a hit.


Search Footprint not Search Rank

Search rank tracking formerly could be content to display natural search rank alone. Are you #1 on Google? Today #1 in natural results doesn’t mean much. Who gets the Card gets most of the clicks, along with who gets the #1 paid spot. There are also places and sitelinks that take up real estate. Adding them all up signifies a Search Footprint, which better illustrates who gets the most clicks on a SERP.

Mobile is Local

Google has a tiered keyword approach to search rank, local, national and global, and perhaps others in between as well. Global can be understood as the Brand segment and Local could be understood as a Product segment. To get your head around a this tiered keyword-search segmentation, think in terms of how searches signal whether your want a Global or Local result.

We can see this with Toyota as an example. Search for simply “toyota” and Toyota Corporation will get the Card, which is our Global result. Search for “toyota for sale” and you get what I call a National result (re. autotrader, carguru, etc.). Search for “new toyota prius” and you get a Local result (local car dealers). There is overlap, but it is often not significant and it is rather logical.

You Ranking Strategy and Keyword Focus

Your search rank strategy must now account for which tier your business fits into. Forget what you want to rank for. You cannot expect to get into another tier easily. If you are a local business, you will not easily get into the Global keyword tier. If you are a local business you will seldom get into the National tier even in your local SERP. That is just how Google’s algo works at the moment. Those in the National tier are large enough to employ a full-time SEO team/strategy. As a local business you seldom have those resources available, so its more important than ever to know which keywords are in the Local tier and make sure your SEO efforts make use of those keywords most efficiently.

And to come full-circle, when you know the National and Global teir keywords (those which you cannot rank naturally for), those keywords should be in your Paid Search Strategy. But those Global keywords just went up in price significantly, while the National keywords went up in price too. What to do?

Local search is a local game that can be won by locals. While the Global and National players will be in your paid search backyard, they just can’t know your neighborhood the way you do. Use your local know-how and maximize your Local Search Footprint judiciously.

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Google Drops Side Ads – Confirmed as of Feb 22

This was much anticipated, and I can confirm that as of Feb 22 all SearchStations have seen no side ads since. But I’d like to concentrate on two things; a) what local businesses need to know, and b) how this particular issue is a great barometer indicating who in this business is just blogging (asleep at the wheel) for the sake of SEO, and who is awake.

The later does not take much analysis except to say I’m amazed by what little substance these noise makers in search engine land actually produce. I looked though dozens of articles “blogs” and 95% are absolutely empty dribble echoing the headline – worthless wastes of time. Do something else will ya?

What people want to know is not that it happened, but “what does it mean to me?”, the local business. So here are the bullets:

What is not new is the fact that last year we became acutely aware that mobile search had surpassed the desktop (non-mobile shall we call it?). I think you’re leading a sheltered life if you have not been to local hangouts (bars, restaurant, malls, movie theaters) and witnessed that the majority of people are more preoccupied with whatever they are doing on their mobile device than what is going on around them. That’s a fact. So you have to be there.

  • The #1 spot is what catches the fish on a mobile device. So this point has not changed so much as its now not an optional PPC rule. We have to get that #1 spot now regardless of what we think our shopper is doing. Google has forced the issue.
  • Therefore, the competition for the top 4 spots has just moved up a big notch. Therefore the CPC (cost per click) is going up.
  • That also means this change favors the larger members in their niche. ( re. the national chain flower shops will crush the mom & pop shops, the auto dealer groups will crush the single roof tops ).
  • This may not be permanent on desktops because Google experiments a lot. They may loose ad revenue as smaller players get squeezed out. But the fact remains – mobile will always be more important.

The bonus point which only one blog I read pointed out:

  • The “Card” or Knowledge Graph (or whatever it will be renamed by Google tomorrow) is the key to your online success. You can’t buy a Card from Google yet, but the Card gets ALL THE CLICKS.

Google servers up those cards only in local searches, and only when its 100% sure its the right thing to server up to the user searching – so its pretty hard to achieve. My experience is that a business can get an average of 4 keywords to produce a card, but rarely does a business have more that 8 keywords that produce a card. (I’ve seen 14 max.)

Not coincidentally, Google is making the rounds organizing local business meetups called “Lets Put Our Cities on the Map“. This is what you should be doing if you don’t already know and understand everything in this article. Here is the link

Not so long ago Google rolled out a program aiming in the same direction by enlisting people interns to update maps called Local Guides.

Altogether these separate initiatives confirms the direction Google has chosen and its not a temporary thing.

  • Its about accurate business location data! To get a Card, forget about all that other SEO stuff for the moment and clean-up your location data wherever it may be found online.

If you do understand everything in this article and have the time to DIY, then I suggest getting starting here with MOZ Local.

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YELP is on the way out

Read all about it > WSJ – Yelp Needs Help.

Conforming what I’ve believed for some time now, Yelp’s future was never bright, and that goes for the entire 3rd Party Reviews business. ( Yelp would have been smart to take that half-a-billion dollar offer from Google when they had the chance – but those smarter-than-you-you-just-dont-get-it VCs knew better )

Yes reviews play an important role in the sales cycle. Reviews make sense as an add-on to search engines and eCommerce sites. I don’t think that’s hard for anyone to see.

Now before you spend your precious time reading my rational to the bottom of the page (which you may not need ) here are your action items:

  • Build and Manage your reviews on search engines (Google, Bing, skip Yahoo)
  • Manage your reviews on eCommerce sites where you sell your products.
  • Try to avoid participating in 3rd Party Reviews when possible (why? read on… )

So back on track – the review business is not a viable stand-alone online business model. As we’ve explained before about the evil that lurks beneath FREE 3rd Party Reviews like Yelp. Yeh its FREE until you depend on it, then your friendly reviews platform transforms into your local crack dealer, you can’t get rid of him and he’s not cheap.

And I might add, only the deranged, disgruntled and those who have no lives thrive there. Normal folks know that, which is why managing reviews is the solution to your bad review when they do arise. Most people will read the reviews – and the bad one’s especially, but the majority respond positively to a business that addresses bad reviews in a mature and realistic fashion.

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Hyper Local Search Using Proxy Services

Proxy servers provide a way to locate your search in another location. You may think “Great. Just what I need to get localized search results in a far-away location.” But look closer and you will find that localizing your search results via a proxy service is not really solving the problem.

Proxy servers are still located somewhere. And if the server is not located exactly where you need it, its useless. Most proxy servers are located in datacenters. Most datacenters are neither located where local businesses are, nor where their customer base is; they are usually located where power is least expensive and communication lines are abundant. That means they are usually located outside populated areas. There are exceptions, even in some major metropolitan areas. But finding the right proxy server for your situation requires you do a lot of research.

AdvancedWebRanking says…
Trusted Proxies is how Advanced Web Ranking accomplishes their localization. And Trusted Proxies Says…

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Google Removes Search Location Filter and What it Means

For users of SearchStation this does not change anything. SearchStation does not use “methods” to generate approximate local search results. We generate 100% accurate local search rank reporting – no tricks or work-arounds.

For some background on our take on the accuracy of local search rank checkers. There is no way to trick Google into giving you results for any other location than your actual physical location (from where your search originates) everything else is a compromise. I have yet to find the comparison test for a search rank tool that compares actual on-location testing and the (remote) search rank checker. Anyone?

From AWR…”Up until today, Advanced Web Ranking was delivering Google localized ranking results based on the now-extinct filtering option. With the removal of the location filter, a source of ranking data is now lost.” quoted from

If you read the comments (which I highly recommend) from webmasters who have used this feature, you’ll get a good sense of what it means and invaluable insight into local search.

AWR goes on to say “More specifically, for each location based search engine you have in your projects, we’ll be automatically appending the location to your keywords when querying Google.“, which means, you will get an approximation. Whether this is close enough to make significant marketing decisions is up to you. We know that appending location keywords to a keyword or phrase does not produce the results seen locally.

AWR… “it may be possible to get different results than a person located in the city you are tracking, but at this moment, this is the only option Google provides to get similar results to the previous ones. As soon as other options become available..

Regardless of how you “want” to represent your location so you can get local results, Google auto-detects the source of your search. Here is the link to “How location is auto-detected“. “If you don’t set your location, Google shows an approximate location based on the following things to help provide you with the most relevant results:”

  • Your IP address.
  • Your Location History if you have it turned on
  • Google Toolbar’s My Location feature if it’s turned on<< the now defunct feature >>
  • Recent locations you’ve searched for

Besides proxy servers and augmenting a location to your keywords, there are some other approximation methods you should be aware of when buying or subscribing to a search rank tool:

The uule parameter – more on that at MOZ. This method is now the standard seemingly used by most tools, either as a primary or backup method.

Rank Tracker is using the Chrome Emulation Method – if you are willing to do the elaborate setup.

These are still “methods” that can be made obsolete by Google at any time.

———– Other recommended articles to read on the subject:


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Google Maps Virtual Tours Good For SEO

Google 360 Virtual Tours Get more hyperlocal search results using Google Maps Photosphere (also referred to as Google 360, Google Businessview, Google Virtual Tours)

Google Virtual Tours create what Google calls a Google Businessview, a premium-quality 360-degree interactive virtual tour, of your business.

Google’s 360 degree virtual tour appears on Google Maps and in SERPs (natural search results pages) and Google+. You actually manage all of this from within Google+Google My Business.

You can even include it on your website like San Leandro Honda has Its a nice touch for local businesses that want to encourage their customers to “come on down”. Our analytics suggest that it works to convert online visitors into real world visitors. (of course its almost impossible to qualify) But all the other numbers, including sales, support this simple addition to your Internet Marketing efforts.

You can also post Google Virtual Tours to your Facebook page and you can email it to your prospects and clients. Think about the email you get today. They are often not very engaging. This is.

Click on this link and you’ll see how Google Virtual Tours lets your customers step right into your store from Google Maps, with the simple click of a button > this local business Google Virtual Tour increases customer engagement. It allows you to stand out and differentiate your business from competitors. Where would you shop?

A Virtual Tour creates a compelling (emotional) reason to choose one business over another. Wouldn’t you?

Bottom line : Your prospective customers are looking for your product online, using a search engine. Google handles 70% of searches. 80% of those searches are done via a mobile device, most of which are served with Google Maps. Having your Google Virtual Tour pop up simply makes sense.

Get Started and don’t for get to optimize! You can double the effect this has on your search performance with the right tweaks.

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The SearchStation Method for Top Search Rank

SearchStation is only useful for local search. It is not designed to help your global search rank. Therefore SearchStation is for those businesses that depend on local (hyperlocal) visibility in search. If you are attempting to be found on mobile devices, in a specific area, SearchStation is for you.

SearchStation works by measuring your local search rank. Its no longer enough to be #1 in natural results on a desktop browser; you need to consider how your website is presented on mobile devices and the many ways search engines design their desktop results pages today. Take a close look at SERP (Search Engine Results Page) layout the next time you search from your desktop for something local. Notice the Tile (also called a Card or Knowledge Graph) at the top right? If you want to get the maximum number of visitors to your website, it is vital that your local business is in the Tile-Card. And you will get this kind of placement when all your SEO ducks are in a row.

SearchStation is a search rank tool and a step-by-step method, to identify what to do to get into those highly coveted positions in local search results that produce the greatest number of visitors to your website.

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Hyperlocal Search Reporting Case Study

A False Sense of Security

– is a common thing in search rank reporting as this case study illustrates. If you follow this very small business story to it conclusion, you will take-away most of the key issues all local businesses that depend on online visitors face today. Local search is not what it used to be and its changing quickly. Whether you are a Yoga instructor or Pizza Delivery, hyperlocal search marketing will become a priority channel as new customers increasing use mobile search to find you. And the old tools don’t work.

search rank report for Yoga am Bach vs Yoga Schwarzwald
AWR Cloud
(screenshot AWRCould – #1 ) This AWRcloud report for Yoga am Bach ( indicates that Yoga am Bach is #1 for the keyword “yogalehrerin schwarzwald” (yoga teacher). Yoga am Bach is satisfied that they are #1 and reassured to see a “competitor”, Yoga Institute Schwarzwald ( is struggling to stay in 4th positions – and sometimes hitting lows on the second page of SERPS.

Yoga am Bach is feeling confident that their SEO efforts are working and that they are getting their share of Internet Leads.

How To Choose The Right Keywords

yogalehrerin schwarzwald” is a good keyword for Yoga am Bach to track because it accurately describes what the business is, and its a keyword a real potential customer would use to find them online. Except locals would not include “schwarzwald”. So is this keyword really viable?

(Schwarzwald is The Black Forest in Germany and it is important HERE to talk about this location specific keyword “schwarzwald”.) We MUST use this in our keyword-phrase when attempting SERP reporting using AWR – and any other search tracking/reporting SEO tools for that matter. Spoiler Alert! – in screenshot #4 you are going to be surprised to see a completely different SERP without this local keyword.

SERP of Google Card
Google Card
( screenshot #2 ) But as this case study illustrates the Card on the page (the top right box) that is so prominent, contains none other than Yoga Institute Schwarzwald. Clearly these Cards, when displayed, probably get the majority of clicks. This Card in the top-right of the page is not indicated in the AWR report. The results from AWR is far from accurate and not indicative of the exposure Yoga Institute Schwarzwald is getting online. As a result Yoga am Bach has been overconfident in their dominance of the market (and complacent).

How did we find this discrepancy?

Our SearchStation alerted us to the Card.

Accurate local search results reporting - SearchStation
Then as we take a close look at our SERP produced locally ( screenshot #3 ), we see that Yoga Institute Schwarzwald is actually #2 in real local search results ( not 4th – 10th as AWR reports ), and also has a Place listing in the real 4th position, and has the Card on the top right of the SERP. Seems that reality is very different from our original reporting – Yoga Institute Schwarzwald dominates these SERPs.

What you don’t know can hurt you.

SearchStation located in Schwarzwald ( screenshot #4 ) is the result produced by our actual local search for “yoga lernerin”. Neither Yoga am Bach nor Yoga Institute Schwarzwald rank at all. Now we have a whole new Hyperlocal Internet Marketing ball game determining how to get the most visitors to our website, when our assumed keywords don’t work at all the way we thought they were using other tools.

This case study is typical of what you get in most local search rank reporting services, a false sense of security. We would not know this using any other search reporting tool.

If you want to really know track how you are doing in search results, get the SEO tool that accurately reports search rank – SearchStation.

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Why Search Rank Reporting Still Matters – and why you are told it does not

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

That’s a truism. So it follows that we need to measure how our website ranks for certain keywords in order to improve our search rank. After all, the only objective of measuring our search rank is to maximize our exposure vs our marketing budget. We need a 360 view of our competitive landscape to do that. That means if you have no competition, you don’t need a marketing initiative and you sure don’t need to read any further.

We assume that keywords (or maps*) are how the world finds your business online and offline these days. If 80% of customers use the internet in someway related to your business, we need to know how your website is seen in search results by those customers.

Then why do I occasionally read that Search Rank is dead? or not so important? or obsolete? or irrelevant? (take your pick)

Here is one that captures it all. This tells us that we really should be paying attention to the following:

  • Conversion
  • Engagement
  • Social Media**
  • Traffic

This list consist only of those things you can measure from Google Analytics. (that’s really out-side-the-box ;^}

What these blog/articles all have in common – is what they do not say (the elephant in the room is…). They are not telling you that they want to avoid talking (with their clients) about search rank, because search rank is almost impossible to report accurately. Yeh, so its better not to open that can of worms with clients today! Those clients could ask inconvenient questions that can’t be answered, such as, “why do I see my competition rank higher than my website while you said we are #1?”.

Search engines have gotten so sophisticated regarding location, that rank can only be measured locally. That’s why. That means its different for everyone depending WHERE they search from. This means your “local” SEO agency (that is located in A-Far-Away-City) can’t tell how your website ranks. They can’t KNOW how your customer sees your website in search results because they are not your customer.

They CAN tell you how you rank globally – obviously. But if you are not a global brand with a global market, how do you measure your search rank?.

If you have a local target market of some sort, SearchStation is your only local search rank tracking and reporting solution.

* Maps are hyperlocal and still driven by keyword search terms.
** Social Media is not a marketing channel for most SMB’s. Social Media CAN work well for Toyota (as a BRAND), but it DOES NOT work for a LOCAL Toyota Dealer. It may work for Apple, but it does not work for real estate agents.

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