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 Jonathan Rolande.

Creative Commons image by Jonathan Rolande.

You might have heard that Google has announced their plan to ban payday loan ads. What this means is that companies offering loans with high annual percentage rates (36% or more in the USA) and repayment terms of less than 60 days will no longer be allowed to advertise those loans on the search engine giant. The new rule will go into effect in July, so payday loan companies have just a couple of months to come up with a new digital marketing strategy that does not include an AdWords campaign.

So, why did they make this move? One theory is that they’re doing it for moral reasons. After all, payday loans are known as predatory loans in most cases. They prey on the poor and downtrodden who have poor credit and can’t obtain a loan elsewhere. While this might sound noble, it might not be the reason that the ads are banned. Consider that other types of products that prey on the same type of consumer (such as rent-to-own furniture, for example) are still allowed. On the other hand, some progress in this area is better than no progress, and eliminating ads for payday loans is a step in the right direction, if the goal is to protect consumers.A� Other products currently banned from advertising are cigarettes, illegal drugs and explosives, so there is a precedent already set, and this might just be the next harmful product in line.

Another possibility is that some of the major players in the payday loan industry might not be opposed to this measure. Think about it: If you have a popular and busy payday loan company, your AdWords campaign is probably not (or is no longer) the reason for your current success. It would be a boon to know that your competitors are not allowed to advertise anymore. Similarly, if a particular company is ranking at the top of the first page of Google results, that company’s PPC ads are irrelevant, particularly if other PPC ads are banned. It means that the top results will end up on the top of the search page, which very well may boost business.

So, what do you think about this? Do you think that Google is doing the right thing for the right reason, or do you disagree with either the action or their desire to protect people from making poor financial decisions? There is some controversy about it: While many believe that the new rules will take a stand against predatory lending, others feel that the decision is discriminatory against these companies, who feel that they provide a necessary service to people who would otherwise miss a rent payment, go without groceries, or have their electricity shut off.

Whatever the reason and the public consensus, Google plans to go ahead with its plan to ban the ads beginning in mid-July. As it’s not the first time they’ve banned a product or service, the payday loan industry, just like the cigarette industry, will go on. Lenders might have to step up their SEO or other marketing strategies, though.


semalt.com are spammers

If you are even a casual user of Google Analytics, then you have probably noticed in referrals from strange sites with names like:

best-seo-offer.com
buttons-for-your-website.com
www.event-tracking.com
free-social-buttons.com

…and the list goes on.

Not content to just spam search results, the spammers are now polluting our data. This referral spam is a plague and the big G is seemingly unable or unwilling to filter it on their end so it is up to us to make sure we are giving the cleanest data possible to our clients. Granted, like all spam-blocking activities, it can be like a game of wack-a-mole. Luckily, it only takes a few seconds to add a filter to Google Analytics once you know how.

But first, let’s take a look at what these spammers are doing and why.

First, let’s drill down a bit. From the Reporting page go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. This shows all of the referrals from external sources. Now, let’s filter for referrers with 100% bounce rates. That is always a good indicator of bot traffic. Not all referral spam will be 100% bounce but this gives us a good starting point. From here, we can identify some obvious spam domains.

Google referral spam in the wild

 

Now, let’s drill down and see where these referrals are really coming from.
best-seo-offer referral spam

Hey look! It’s our old buddies from Semalt.com!

semalt.com are spammers

Now you can just wash, rinse, and repeat through your worst offenders and make sure that you are not blocking legitimate referrals. For this client, we had several that really needed to go.

Now is the fun part. Setting up our filters.

  1. First, as a best practice, I always like to create a virgin unfiltered view just in case I muck things up I can see what the raw data looks like.
  2. Next, I setup a custom Campaign Source filter with the following settings:
    1. Filter Type: Custom
    2. Exclude
    3. Filter Field: Campaign Source
  3. For the Filter Pattern, we are going to get fancy and use a regular expression. A regular expression will match variants of the domains. For this example, I used the following:
    .*(event\-tracking\.com|affiliate\.iqoption\.com|rankscanner\.com|datehookup\.com|guardlink\.org|websites\-reviews\.com|100dollars-seo\.com|semalt\.com|darodar\.com|buttons\-for\-website\.com|free\-social\-buttons\.com|sharebutton\.net)
    You can edit to fit your own referral spam domains, just remember to use the \ to escape out the dots and dashes in the domains.
  4. Next, check your regex by clicking verify this filter at the bottom of the page. If everything is working, you should see something like this:
    Filtering Referral Spam with Regex

And that is it! This should result in some much cleaner data and you can continue to add to the regex as you come across new referral spammers. If you serve mostly local customers, you may as well set up a custom filter by demographic and remove traffic from foreign countries as well since those are probably bots anyway.

Next, I will take you one step further and show you how to create an advanced segment so that you can have a completely spam free view of your data to feed to services like RavenTools.