How to Add Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Like everything we do, the subject of this post is really “How to get better visibility in Google Search Results”. Isn’t that what everything is about?

Use this How To post as a way for you (business owners) to understand the scope of the subject as well. Its not just about Review snippets. Here is how Google describes it.

Integrate with Search to help grow your business > Enhance Your Presence on Search > Search is evolving beyond ten blue links to bring your content to people in much richer and faster ways. Learn how structured data markup can drive users to your content and services with rich results on the Search results page.

https://developers.google.com/search/

Here are the features you have at your disposal to accomplish that.

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-features

For most business we work with, this is what we want – Local Business schema

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/local-business

And finally the Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings

Login to your Google Search Console (GSC) >
Structured Data Testing Tool >
Fetch & Validate >
Expand Reviews Section >

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#2 Search Rank Factor in SEO

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Having a clean business listings in search is considered the #2 most important search rank factor in SEO. Could your search rank be affected because you have duplicate phone number, address, business names – all over the place? Yes!

Why are duplicate phone numbers and addresses (or even names) in search engine listings harmful to search rank?

Because search engines try to provide an efficient search experience for the user who is searching (for anything really, but we are talking about a business here). If you think about it from the user’s point of view, and then think about it from the the search engine’s perspective, the need to provide one listing per real business is very important.

Imagine; what would you do as a search engine developer when you see 20 listings for your test-case search “AAA Locksmith”?

These same guys used AAA in the good’ol days of the phone book and they are still the same type of person today. They used A, then AA, then AAA was the trick to get ahead of the other guys in the phone book. These guys are still “spammers” today. These spammer-types make great test-cases for developers of search engines.

As a developer at your search engine, Im going to work very hard to clean the list by using ____what?___ to identify the duplicates? Well 1) phone numbers, 2) Addresses, right?

And as a developer at your search engine, I’m going to punish those guys who are purposely duplicating listings to get more clicks (and making my job harder). Those spammers are hurting the good guys that play by the rules. I’m going to punish them when I find them because I want them to stop spamming.

I get asked about the importance of phone numbers and Google My Business listings all the time, but this is pretty simple logic isn’t it? Now you may not be a spammer, but if you look like one, you’ll be treated like one.

So you can see why it is BAD to have duplicate listing. You don’t have to just accept that it’s a violation of Google’s guidelines to have more than one listing for a single business (unless it meets their standards of being a multi-practitioner or multi-department model).

What is a multi-practitioner? and what should you do it you are a multi-practitioner?

DON’T FORGET to scrub your website of the duplicate NAPs that are often in your website. Many customers only update their business listings at (Google, Bing, etc) but they forgot that long-long-ago someone put those phone numbers and addresses (and even old business names) into the meta tags (and sometimes even hard-coded) in the website.

LOOK AT THE CODE by using the Crtl-u keys. While looking at your webpage in a browser, most browsers allow you to see the code by pressing the Ctrl and “u” keys simultaneously. Then you can press Ctrl-f to search for anything in the code of the website.

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Should SEOs Put Phone Numbers in The Meta Title Tag – Answered.

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing I just ran into a presentation wherein the SEO analysis claimed that putting your local phone number in the meta title tag was a wasted SEO opportunity – that there are other more important keywords that should go into the precious 70 characters available.

The Precious 70 Characters

Many SEOs focus a bit too much on that supposed 70 character limit in this most-important of meta tags – the Title Tag. Some SEOs spend hours playing their version of Scrabble in order to get their Title Tag just right, but…that means they should read up on Google and the 70 characters before spending too much time there.

I do include local phone numbers in the (meta) Title Tag. I think its a very smart online leads generation trick. But before we go there, I decided to search the latest forums to see what others had to say before I argued against the purported wisdom of another SEO.

Over at LocalSEOGuide there is an article wherein many of those local SEOs thought its a great trick.

Yet over at StackExchange webmasters, the opinion was much the same as my SEO Analyst.

Here was another well written perspective that includes phone numbers in the meta tags, and why.

So there is a range of opinions on the matter. Who is right?

Local Logic

I started this practice of putting local phone numbers in the meta tags when I realized that when I searched, if the phone number is prominently displayed in the SERPs I don’t have to go to the website (and I’m an impulse buyer), I might be inclined to immediately call the business. What do my clients want more than anything else? A phone call from an online shopper. Period!

The Best Leads

Further I thought, if I’m a car BUYER (not a tire-kicker), I just want to know if they have the car I want. Why bother with more clicking around to find what I want to know right now! (especially if I’m doing all this on my mobile phone)

Now I realize that might not be the majority of people in the market for a car, but that is the type of online shopper I want to call me first – before he shops the other dealerships. Smaller percentage, but better quality lead!

(If you are the SEO who stops here (I know you are out there) to argue that “but, but we can’t measure that call in analytics!” You need to get on the other side of your desk. Your client won’t care about the analytics if their phone is ringing. However, they will care about the analytics when the phone is NOT RINGING!)

Local Large-Ticket Products

This is partially a matter of local search vs global. If I shop for a product that I can buy on Amazon, I probably don’t need to talk to someone. But if I’m a few miles away from a couple of potential sources of my desired product (thinking automobile), then I would rather call first, then drive over to see it. Local shoppers are more likely to call than click. The other aspect to consider is whether a product requires a conversation in order to purchase? Large-ticket items ($) require more discussion than buying a pair of shoes, right?

Bottom Line

Cookie-cutter SEO is always wrong. Just because there are only 70-some characters Google will read from your Title Tag in order to index your webpage to your best benefit, does not mean somethings must get in there and other things must be left out. Typically the bigger the agency, the more standardize practices become. The SEO wisdom shared by our SEO Analyst turns out to be just that – generic large agency advice that will ultimately costs some of their customers the best Internet leads.

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Proximity Advertising and Geo-Fencing Technologies

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing A few events recently got me thinking about what might be happening in the future of local search advertising. I’m calling it “proximity advertising” because the terms “geo-fencing” and “local search” are separate terms that need to merge in advertising, and they are not as accurate, nor very eloquent.

In the span of just 3 days, I followed two Apple Maps vans though the mountains. I drove down a street to see a WAZE vehicle pass in the opposite direction. Then I drove near Moffet Field (Silicon Valley) and another similar but unmarked vehicle pulled out of the (unknown) facilities over by Lockheed Martin Way (where you can’t get Google Maps street view) oh! the hypocrisy! It seems every company and government contractor is driving a street level mapping vehicle.

There is also the seemingly unrelated change Google has made concerning SERPs and Places displays. All of these things got me thinking about the future of local search advertising. It seems suddenly obvious that the next big thing is Geo-Fencing/Proximity Advertising. As is typical in the early days of a technology, there is a lot of hype and confusion about what geo-fencing is, so lets clarify what it is and what we think is really happening.

Proximity Advertising

Geo-fencing is just one element of “proximity advertising”. When you move into an area (a geo-fenced area), …read more about Proximity Advertising

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Who is Really Winning the Maps Game

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Google Maps market share is amazing considering they have failed in Europe. Yeh! Thats a strong statement. I say that because almost everyone uses Google Maps as a default, until…it gets you lost.

What I do for a living (local search optimization) is very connected to mapping applications. What I’m saying is already known to anyone who tries to use Google Maps while traveling “outside of tourist areas” in Europe. That qualifier is very important because most visitors to Europe may never see what I’m illustrating here. Tourists will use Google Maps in their whirl-wind tour and blissfully return home unaware that they live in a Google Bubble.

Google Maps might work in heavily trafficked areas all over the world because tourists tend to do a lot of sharing, which Google then uses to maintain its services. However, try using Google Maps in the countryside – ne, the suburbs – ne, just off the beaten path – by maybe a block.

Don’t take my word for it. There are other Americans who notice this as well. http://streetfightmag.com/2016/08/31/maps-me-offers-open-source-alternative-to-google-and-apple-maps/, which mention Maps.me, a very good alternative maps solution.

I and all acquaintances-friends-strangers use a variety of other map alternatives in Europe. Copilot seems to be tops for serious navigators – especially where driving and avoiding major traffic jams on the Autobahn(s) is concerned. OpenStreetMap is very strong. I’m biased to open source anyway, and most European are as well (I get the feeling its about privacy, don’t you?). So the usefulness of OpenStreetMap in Europe is solid and has legs. And there are many apps spawned from OpenStreetMap, such as Locus promising even better things to come. As an example, the level of detail in Locus is great for outdoors use. Google is not even a contender.

Google has failed to win heart and minds in Europe ( Gee! can’t understand how that happened? Could it be the eavesdropping? ) I have seen a number of clues that indicate Europeans are editing Google Maps to include erroneous information or removing details altogether. I have no examples to offer because who can do that in the shifting sands of the Internet (and Google), but try it yourself. Let me know.

I can’t speak for other parts of the world either. One has to live for some time in an area to know things like this.

Sadly, my business revolves around search engines such as Google and I would rather not see things deteriorate this way for any search engine, but nothing is so consistent as change.

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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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What is a Blog Post Worth

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Does Blogging Pay?  Its the most common directive issued in SEO. Blog! If you want free traffic, Blog! If you don’t have a big budget to pay Google Adwords or Bing Adcenter for clicks, BLOG!

But does blogging really payoff? Here is your real-world-local-business answer. Not only can we see exactly how many clicks a blog post is bringing every month, month after month; we can calculate the exact value of those clicks, and therefore calculate the exact value of the blog-post. (which means how much could you pay someone to blog for your business) Here is our Query Report from Google Webmaster or Google Analytics.

blogging-pays

A single Blog-post about how swimming pools can pop out of the ground, brought our business 31 clicks from natural searches last month.

average-cost-per-click

Therefore if our blog-post brought 31 visitors and we are paying a nice round figure of $3.30 per visitors in our PPC campaigns, the blog is worth $102.30 per month or $1,227.60 per year. With this data, we can now make many more assumptions about our marketing spend.

Brilliant! Hold on! What you may have missed is that there are 4 blog-posts on this website, but this is the only one that is performing to bring us a measurable number of free visitors. That is a variable that needs to be included in our overall marketing calculations to determine what a blog-post is really worth (paying for).

Plus there are a few noteworthy bullets to go with our numbers that can serve to flesh-out your Internet Marketing assumptions:

  1. The blog-post title, when written, did not reflect what those online searches would be that produces our traffic. This blog-post could potentially perform much better with the right title. That’s water under the bridge, but now that we know, we can still do some SEO to increase our page position and thereby, increase our clicks.
  2. The CTR for this post is exceptional. Combined with Average Positions (that are at the bottom of page 1) and that tells us the other results on the SERP (search results page) are not as appealing, and may also mean our meta description (SEO) is working well.

Another critical marketing variable not provided here is CONVERSION (into leads, into sales) but that’s something for another post. With conversion figures you can really dial-in your ROI – the ultimate in Internet Marketing Planning.

Alrighty then:

  • Q: What should I blog about?
    • A: What questions do your customers ask you?
  • Q: Should you hire someone to write blogs?
    • A: Can you produce the material for them and can they optimize the content?

I know those are not an answers, but they should point you in the right direction to the answer you need. Only you know your business well enough to make all this work. Everyone else can only help.

Well, without question, blogging works to bring (relatively) free traffic and save you the cost of paying Google and Bing for visitors. There is technique (SEO) involved in making it work to its full potential, but my experience is that everyone has moments of inspiration and motivation, but few can actually execute – consistently. Perseverance and persistence (lack thereof), not $, is what inhibits most Internet Marketing from real success.

But at least now you cannot say you don’t know whether blogging is worthwhile for your business.

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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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