Creative Commons image by Tires 8 (Flickr).
Creative Commons image by Tires 8 (Flickr).

Creative Commons image by Tires 8 (Flickr).

Yet another Google update has become active! You might or might not have seen any impacts from Penguin, Panda or Pigeon, but this one might be more likely to make a difference when it comes to local SEO. Possum rolled out on September 1, but things are still changing, so if you see a difference at the moment, you might not see one this time next month or three months from now. As with all of Google’s algorithm changes, a lot of this will require waiting and seeing. Here are some of the changes that might impact your local SEO:


Out-of-city-limit companies might get more business.


Prior to the Possum update, it was difficult for those companies who are located out of city limits to show up in the top three results for any given keyword. This was true even if their address and zipcode matched those located within city limits. Now Google isn’t penalizing these businesses for their physical locations. Instead, they will tend to show up more for certain keywords based on their postal addresses. What this means for you is that if you are located in an unincorporated area or CDP outside of official city limits but you still have a zipcode indicating that you are part of that city, you will likely get more hits.


Those with fake addresses and post office boxes might be penalized.


You’re not supposed to be using false addresses or PO boxes on your Google My Business account, but this is enforced fairly inconsistently in some cases. Now, though, businesses with false addresses (or, in some cases, duplicate addresses) will likely find themselves dropped out of the top three search results. It’s not actually a penalty, because the business will likely still be in the search results; they’ll just miss being in the “three-pack.”


The location of the user matters.


If you are in Orlando and you search for “florists in Orlando,” you’ll now get different results than if you are in Miami searching for “florists in Orlando.” This can affect your search results if you are using “florists near me” as a keyword or if you are a business that routinely gets clients and customers from other areas of the state, country or world.


The keywords used matter.


There’s not a surefire rhyme or reason for this, but searching for “Orlando florists,” “florists in Orlando,” and “florists Orlando FL” will likely bring up different results on the three-pack. It might be helpful to check out where your business is being ranked the highest when it comes to variations on common keywords.


Google likes to keep us guessing, and the Possum update is no exception. Stay tuned for more information as Google finishes up its testing of the various factors and makes more long-term changes to this update.




Creative Commons image by Olga Berios
Creative Commons image by Olga Berios

Creative Commons image by Olga Berios

Google has a way of keeping us guessing, and while there are definitely SEO practices that can boost your ranking with the search engine superstar, no one has actually “cracked the code” of the exact algorithm used. Still, there are some tips that anyone who knows anything about SEO will tell you if you ask. Recently, Andrey Lipattsev, the Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google Ireland, answered some questions about the top three characteristics that Google is looking for. They come as no surprise to those in the know, but here they are, in no particular order, for your consideration.


Remember a few years ago, when a common catchphrase was “content is king”? Well, it turns out that this is still a valid and large piece of the algorithm. If you have a web page that doesn’t actually give any information, is stuffed with irrelevant keywords, or is poorly written, Google is going to take notice and send you careening toward the recesses of the double-digit search result pages. So, what are the characteristics that your content should have? A few include:

  • Scannability and a clear, easy to read font.
  • Compelling. Include information that people will want to read and share.
  • Concision. Don’t go on and on about nothing. At the same time, though, strive to keep your pages over 300 words.
  • Original. Plagiarism? Don’t even think about it.
  • Accuracy. Make sure what you’re including in your articles and blog posts is actually true and verifiable.

The takeaway here is to write for human readers and Google will soon follow.


Speaking of human readers, you’ve probably been aware for some time that artificial intelligence is rapidly catching up to, and in some cases even surpassing, the brainpower of humans. RankBrain, Google’s AI system, is an important piece of the algorithm puzzle. You can take a look at what RankBrain is all about and how it works, on Search Engine Watch.


Sometimes considered a gray-hat SEO technique, making sure that other sites are linking to yours is actually important when it comes to ranking well on Google search results. The actual links are a good thing, if you handle it the right way. If reputable sites are linking to you, Google will assume that you have good, actionable, useful content. If you are posting your link as spam all over other people’s blogs, however, it’s not going to work. Here are some link-building strategies can can work for you.

It’s important to keep in mind that there is no simple formula for ranking well with Google. Even if you have solid backlinks, great content and a good rating on RankBrain, you still might not make it to the top of the first page of results. On the other hand, if you aren’t achieving these basics, then it’s almost definite that you aren’t going to find the success you are looking for. Google uses the best tools available to put engaging, actionable sites toward the top of the results page. It’s in your best interest to write for human readers, incorporate some SEO techniques into your site, and contact a reputable SEO company, such as Most Optimal, to help you get the best results out of your efforts.

call tracking or SEO?
call tracking or SEO?

Creative Commons image by Abie Sudiono

As a business-owner, you might have heard conflicting advice about call tracking and SEO. Your call tracking company might say that the practice does not impact SEO at all. On the other hand, your local marketer recommends against the practice, saying that it always negatively impacts search results. Who are you to believe? And what can you do as a happy middle ground? Here are some tips on this controversial — and confusing — topic.

What Is Call Tracking?

Not sure what call tracking is? Simply put, it’s a way of tracking which ads (or other sources) are responsible for generating the phone calls that users make to your company. It can help you determine which strategies are most effective in bringing in leads. In addition, call tracking will show you where, geographically speaking, callers are from, which can help you concentrate on the most effective local marketing practices. You’ll see how many unique callers you’re getting, and you can even determine which times of the day are most profitable.

How Does Call Tracking Impact SEO?

The way call tracking works is that it displays a different telephone number on the tracking end, depending on where the call is originating from. Since Google wants your NAP (name, address and phone number) to match on all directories, having different numbers on various platforms can confuse the bots. This can push you down on the local search page.

If done correctly, however, using technology to your advantage, you won’t have to worry about call tracking negatively affecting your search engine rankings.

What Is Dynamic Number Insertion?

By using JavaScript, you can actually have your consistent number (the one displayed on all of your directory listings, as well as on your website) shown on every web page and in all search results, while having users actually ring in on another line. This script will allow you to implement call tracking and enjoy all of its benefits without anyone (including Google bots) knowing that a different incoming phone number is actually being used. While it sounds complicated, your webmaster can set up the scripts needed. For more information, check out this guide to maintaining your local search integrity while practicing highly useful call tracking strategies.

If you have questions about how you can take advantage of call tracking technology without hurting your local SEO and Google rankings, please contact Most Optimal. We can script your site to allow for dynamic number insertion, as well as talk to you about other ways to boost your local marketing strategies for greater success. Get in touch with us today!


just bing it!

If you were to ask just about anyone who the biggest search engine is, they’d rightfully answer Google. In fact, Google is used nearly two-thirds of the time when it comes to organic searches. Bing, however, has been movin’ on up in the search engine hierarchy; in addition to partnering with Yahoo, the growing engine is now powering AOL’s search, bringing its total domain to approximately 1/3 of organic searches.

While most webmasters focus mostly on how to rank higher in Google’s search results, it would be remiss to neglect to consider what will help a page rank higher with Bing. Interestingly, Bing is more transparent than Google is when it comes to their algorithms, so you will have less guesswork to do if you would like to focus some or all of your sites on Bing criteria.

Some Is the Same

There are some components of a good website that will help you whether you are attempting to appeal to Google or Bing users. For example, your site needs to appeal to users. A high bounce rate tells both search engines that people are simply not receptive to your site. Your content should be well-written and should hold authority.

Click-through rates are also important. Keep this in mind as you create your ads and hyperlinks; you want people to click those links and go to your site.

Backlinks May Matter Less

Fewer of the top results from Bing contain backlinks, something that Google has relied on in their algorithms. If you are going to include backlinks, try to get them in the body of the content rather than in a sidebar or as a list at the bottom of a page.

Keyword Matching Is a Bit Iffy

While Google is genius at keyword matching, Bing seems to be a bit slower on this. When you use inbound anchor text, make sure that you are using good keywords, including long-tail keywords. The danger here is that you link too many keywords, which will set off Google’s spam-o-meter; keep this in mind and use moderation.

Authority Counts

Having an older domain name and older domains linking to your site will boost your ranking with Bing. New domains don’t do as well, so if you have an older domain name that you just haven’t been using, it might make sense to use it for a while, even if only to let a newer, more preferred domain name age a bit before switching over.

There Are Tools for You to Use

Bing does seem to try to make it easier on its users by providing a webmaster guide as well as a tool to tell you how your site is doing. Check out the guide and the SEO Analyzer to measure the appeal of your site when it comes to this search engine.

Remember that while search engine rankings are important, it’s just as important to appeal to actual humans. Speak to a professional search marketing expert at Most Optimal to learn more and to hear about what we can do for your site and your page rankings on the biggest search engines.

a bar graph

15087456064_be1faf2e6a_zYou might have heard rumblings over the summer that Wikipedia’s rankings had fallen due to Google algorithm changes. It’s true; MOZ and Stone Temple Consulting have verified that yes, the online encyclopedia was coming up less often than it had in the past.

What might surprise you, however, is that Wikipedia was (and is) still coming up higher than Google sites. Interestingly, commercial searches are more likely to bring up Wikipedia sites, while informational searches are bringing up more Google sites (but Wikipedia is still ahead).

The drop is not significant enough to make anyone think that Wikipedia is going anywhere any time soon, but it was enough to be noticed by Wikipedia and by analysts.

You can read more about the studies on Search Engine Land.

What’s the takeaway here?

It’s important to keep in mind that algorithms change frequently, and a long-term vision and strategy is more important than trying to adjust for every up and down. If your Google ranking is dropping consistently, this is a problem worth looking into and fixing. If it’s fluctuating a bit, there’s usually no need to worry; even Google’s own links and sites fluctuate! Keep an eye on your site’s trends and be proactive if you see a consistent drop, but don’t panic if it’s mild and temporary.

Also, the fact that even a site as large and reliable as Wikipedia can drop pretty significantly is a good indication that an expert in rankings might mean the difference between a small company having a position on the first page of local search results. At Most Optimal, we focus on keeping our clients’ Google rankings as high as possible. Please contact us if you want to talk about your ranking and what we can do to help you raise it.

This guy is not happy about the latest change to the Google local pack.

Creative Commons image by Barkbud (Flickr)

About a month ago, Google changed one of their algorithms. The change didn’t get too much attention or publicity outside of local SEO circles, but it has the potential to create quite a stir when it comes to search queries with local intent. In the past, when you searched for a local business, you would see the top seven Google search listings. That 7-pack has now been reduced to just three listings.

If your business has been in 4th through 7th place, this can be disconcerting news. After all, instead of having your business name and contact information come up immediately in searches, users will need to click “more” in order to see your listing. While this might seem like a big negative, the change might not impact you quite as much as you think. Here’s why:

Addresses Are Not Included

If you go to Google and run a search (try “dentists in Chicago,” or “plumbers in Miami,” for example), under the PPC ads, you’ll see a map of the city you entered, along with the top three listings. If you look closely at the listings, however, you will notice that the actual street addresses are not included. The streets are there, but the numbers are not. The phone numbers are also missing.

If you click “more dentists (or plumbers),” a bigger map will come up, along with more listings. If you are in the top dozen or so listings, you might end up in this section. There are still no numbers or full addresses listed. (If a user clicks a particular listing, they will be brought to a page where the contact information is available.)

What this means is that in order to get the information they need, users are going to need to click and click again. When they click “more,” they will have an additional opportunity to see your listing, provided it is in the top handful of listings.

It Might Not Make a Difference, Anyway

Think about this: The reason Google made this change was most likely because the listings below #3 were simply not getting a lot of clicks. If you were getting, say, 5 hits per month before the change, you are likely to get the same number after the change.

One strong possibility here is that on mobile phones, which the majority of Americans are using to access the Internet, really only show three listings comfortably. When people searched before, they would only see the top three listings anyway. They’d need to have a reason to scroll down and see the other four that used to be included.
A New, Smaller Local Pack or Snack Pack on Google
The Future and You

So, if you are not in the top 3 listings for your industry and locations, what can you do? Obviously, doing what you can to boost your ranking is going to be key. It’s also important to consider what the future may hold. Here are two possibilities:

  • Your ratings and reviews might become more important. As a general rule, you should be encouraging your clients to leave you a review or a star rating on your Google+ page. This might pay off in the future, should Google decide to show those star ratings in search results.
  • Paid advertising might take center stage. Aside from those PPC ads, you might also begin seeing more paid advertising in what looks like regular listings. Go run a search for locksmiths in San Francisco, and you’ll see what we mean. (At the moment, only plumbers and locksmiths in Frisco are affected by this, but the practice could extend to other industries and locations.)

As with other Google algorithm changes, your response to this change should largely be a matter of waiting and seeing. You can depend on Most Optimal to not only keep you posted on the latest changes when it comes to this search engine giant, but also to help you rank as high as possible to avoid being impacted by these types of changes. Please contact us to find out what we can do for you and your business.

yahoo maps gone
yahoo maps

CC image courtesy of Aaron Parecki.

Effective the end of June, Yahoo has discontinued Yahoo Maps. The company says that it will still have some mapping services available within other realms of Yahoo, but the maps won’t necessarily be powered by Yahoo.

What does this mean for you, as a small business owner? Basically, it’s a good reminder for you to make sure that your business is listed accurately with Google and Apple Maps. If your business name, address or zip code is not correct, you may end up with some very frustrated would-be customers!

Even if your address is listed correctly, sometimes a technological glitch will make it so the map displays incorrectly, which can, again, frustrate your visitors and customers. What can you do about this?

  1. Check Google Places and Google Local. If you have listings there, one might be incorrect. Updating to the right address will extend to all branches of Google, including Maps.
  2. Type your business name and incorrect address in a search engine. If another website has your information displayed inaccurately, it can trigger Google to do the same. If you find this to be the case, contact the site owner and ask them to update their information.
  3. Submit a help request to Google. Use Google’s Report a Problem page and follow the instructions. You’ll be able to let the company know what the issue is, and they will fix it. You might need to submit more than one help request, so keep an eye on whether you receive an answer in a timely manner.
  4. Report the problem to Apple. Last fall, Apple improved the process for reporting an issue with mapping with the IOS 8 update. You can follow the directions as described here to get your problem resolved.

You might have heard that location is everything when it comes to success in business, but in reality, having the best location in the world is not going to help you if people can’t find it! Now that Yahoo Maps is defunct, it’s important to double check your other map listings to make sure they’re correct, so your customers can find you easily.


Google mobilegeddon

CC image courtesy of Carlos Luna

You may have heard the hullaballoo about what was affectionately termed “Mobilegeddon” a couple of months ago. If not, here’s a quick recap:

Google’s latest algorithm change was to ensure that the sites coming up in mobile searches (i.e. on smartphones) would be mobile-friendly. This means that the sites would load quickly on mobile devices, the links would be easy to open on a tiny touch-screen, and users wouldn’t have to scroll from side to side or up and down to see the entire mobile page. Websites that were not deemed mobile-friendly would still come up with their original rankings on searches performed via laptop, PC, Mac or tablet, but would be pushed further down the list on searches performed with smartphones.

Sounds simple, right? Some businesses might not have worried about it, figuring that most of their clientele were using devices other than smartphones to search for their websites anyway. Unfortunately, it’s those very businesses who have noticed a drop in their rankings.

As Brandon Prettyman, a website strategist quoted by explained, small businesses might lack the resources and know-how involved in making a site mobile-friendly. What they might not have realized is that many customers will search and shop on their phones, then switch to a computer to make their purchase. So if your company is not coming up on mobile searches, you’re already at a disadvantage when the time comes for a customer to log onto their laptop and make a purchase.

If you are among the sizable percentage (40 to 50 percent) of small or medium-sized businesses to be affected by this change, it’s not too late to get your website up to par. The first thing you should do is run the Mobile-Friendly Test. This is a Google tool that will analyze your site and let you know what needs to be done in order to make it mobile-friendly. You can make the changes yourself if you’re technologically savvy or you can hire a web developer to go in and fix the site. If you’re doing it yourself, or even if you’re hiring someone to do it for you, take a look at these common mistakes people make when trying to upgrade their mobile-friendliness.

It is important to keep things in perspective, however. With approximately 200 factors that go into the Google algorithm that decides where your website falls in the search results, this one on its own is not going to make or break your success. This latest change is taken into consideration along with all of the other factors. If your site is the best answer to a search query, it’s likely that it will still show up on the first page of mobile search results; at the same time, if it’s not the best answer, but one of a dozen or a hundred, that’s where mobile-friendliness is going to be an issue.

If you have questions about Mobilegeddon or about anything else pertaining to SEO, digital marketing or local search results, the gurus at Most Optimal can help. Please sign up for your 14-day free trial to claim your free site audit and analysis.