KeyRelevance’s Chris Silver Smith to Present at DFW Marketing Association

If you have a company that targets local business, you might want to attend the next Dallas Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) meeting. On April 22, 2009, Chris Silver Smith will be presenting tips on optimizing websites for local search results to the members of the DFW search community in North Texas.

Chris Silver Smith, Director of Optimization for KeyRelevance, will cover the basic elements of optimizing websites to be found in local search results, along with a select few advanced local optimization techniques.

This presentation will be of interest to companies and marketers who provide natural search optimization to large and small businesses which have geographic, location-specific presence.
“Chris is one of the industry thought-leaders on local search optimization,” says Tony Wright, president of the DFW Search Marketing Association. Tony continues, “We are excited that he will be covering a very important part of search engine optimization – local search.”

According to a recent study by comScore, the surge in annual growth of local search has far outpaced growth of overall web search.

“The study found that local search — the practice of using online search tools to find local businesses, products, or services — grew 58 percent in 2008, reaching an annual total of 15.7 billion searches. By comparison, overall U.S. Web core searches grew at a much smaller rate of 21 percent year-over-year, nearing 137 billion searches by the end of 2008. Local searches stand at 12 percent of core searches on the top 5 portals.”

Businesses and search marketing professionals that want to learn more about this fast growing area of search marketing should attend the DFW SEM event on April 22, 2009. To register online, go to for more details.

Twitter Uses Microformats

While using Twitter this week, I realized their programmers had incorporated Microformats in the design! I noticed that my Operator Toolbar was responding to the Microformat content in the page, and making it available for me to export.

As you can see from my Twitter profile page, Operator has found Contacts and an Address available in the page. Note the “Contacts” and “Addresses” buttons in the browser toolbar are not grayed out, but are showing as clickable.

The Contacts is returning hCard Microformat info not just for me, but also for all of the 36 twitterers that I follow and whose icons appear on my profile page.

The Address is apparently supposed to be my personal profile’s address data, but it’s not interpreting quite right for me. I think this is because it places the entire Twitterer’s location content in the “adr” value, without breaking the content out into the street address, locality, region and country. Also, the hCard profile attribute isn’t included in the page’s tag.

Still, Twitter’s incorporation of the Microformats in the page code is exciting to me! Why? Well, I’ve written before about how incorporating Microformats can potentially be advantageous for the purposes of Local Search Optimization here and here. Essentially, this can help search engines to more easily interpret the address info on webpages and associate business information with webpages.

Yahoo! has been the fastest at adoption of Microformat content, with Google following close behind. Yahoo’s Search Monkey platform (which allows both Yahoo engineers and all other web developers to create applications which deliver up special webpage listing representations in Yahoo search results) has shown very clearly that Yahoo’s bot has been tooled to particularly harvest Microformat data from webpages in order to make special use of that amongst the various signals they get from sites.

Does Google use Microformats? Yes and no. Google Maps has incorporated Microformats in the display of their search results so that users can access, export and use business and address data easily. However, it’s not yet entirely clear if they spider that same data from local web pages as part of the info they collect in categorizing and ranking pages. Google Maps engineers have told me off the record that they watch all types of data like this, and if there’s a significant number of sites using it, then they will also make use of it in their ranking “secret sauce”. With a high-profile site like Twitter incorporating Microformats, there’s yet more incentive for Google to adjust their data collection algos to incorporate hCard data if they have not already.

In the past week, I wrote an article on how small businesses can and are using Twitter for local marketing. Twitter’s incorporation of Microformats further underscores the value of the service as a component of Local SEO.

Local SEO Tip: Leveraging Categorizations To Promote Your Small Business

Many small businesses still rely upon their yellow pages listings to some degree for business referrals. A business’s listing data is not only found online in the internet yellow pages, but that same data feeds into the local search engines like Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, Live Local Search, and a myriad of other directory sites and local info sites.

A really simple way to increase your small or medium business’s (“SMB”s) exposure on the internet is to insure that your business listings are associated with as many apropos categories in online directories as possible.

While it seems a no-brainer, many SMBs neglect to check how various online sites have categorized them, and as a result get ineffectively and insufficiently displayed throughout the internet.

Back when I worked for a major online yellow pages company, I recall how one of our data aggregators had attempted to automatically categorize a great many non-classified establishments by using words in the business name. While this worked to some degree, a bunch of businesses were put into the wrong category. For instance, they’d shoved all businesses with the word “garden” in the name into “Garden & Lawn Supply” categories, but there are a lot of restaurants with names like “China Garden” that got lumped in with them!

So, today’s Local Search Engine Optimization Tip is easy: go out to the top online directory sites such as,,, Google Maps,,,, Yahoo!, and any others you’d expect to find your business in, claim your listing(s), and check to see if they’re in the proper business categories!

Choosing Categories in Google Local Business CenterMany internet yellow pages allow you somewhere on the order of five category associations for free, so you should be able to update and enhance your listing in these services for free.

Try not to limit yourself to just two categories — if the directory site has a rich taxonomy, you may be able to find a number of categories that are exactly right for you business.

Imagine, if your company is only in one category and/or a wrong category, just by fixing this business categorization you could increase your referral rate by a few times over!

Google (Finally) Sets Rules for Local Business Listings

Google Maps has been dealing with spam in its business listings for well over a year now. The problem has gotten so bad that Google recently invited users to help report spam found inside the Google Maps business listings.

In many cases, the spam is obvious; when Company XYZ has listings with the same address and phone number showing up for every zip code in the U.S., there’s no doubt about the intent behind the company’s actions. But in other situations, it’s not as clear. Imagine a lawyer whose office is in Minneapolis, but who serves Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding suburbs. Is it spam when that lawyer rents a mailbox address in nearby St. Paul so s/he can submit an extra listing to Google and be found for “St. Paul lawyer” searches?

Google has finally taken steps to help clear up what’s spam and what isn’t where Google Maps business listings are concerned. Today they published a set of Business Listing Quality Guidelines, and warned that ignoring these rules “could result in your business listings being permanently removed from Google Maps.”

Here’s what Google wants you to do when listing your business in Google Maps:

  1. Represent your business exactly as it appears in real life.
  2. List information that provides as direct a path to the business as you can.
  3. Only include listings for businesses that you represent.
  4. Don’t participate in any behavior with the intention or result of listing your business more times than it exists.
  5. Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing.

There’s some additional information on the guidelines page, including a specific warning to local service providers not to create listings for every city you serve.

The guidelines seem to me to be right on the money, and are a good first step in cleaning up a problem that’s gone on too long.

What are your thoughts on the new Google Maps business listing guidelines?