DoctorBase.com was a site a came across a while ago, but hadn’t used too much for local search marketing purposes. It had all the workings of a strong citation/review site, but I hadn’t seen it listed on any Google Place pages, so I figured I’d wait it out a bit and see what happened. Fast forward a few months and now a couple clients have touched base with us regarding DoctorBase because it would appear that the DoctorBase has been regularly reaching out to doctors.
The most recent contact from DoctorBase was simply alerting doctors to the recent Google Places update and suggesting that doctors claim their listings on DoctorBase to help improve their star rating in Google. This is a positive and by all means if DoctorBase is being picked up as a doctor review site the way Vitals and HealthGrades have, then doctors can definitely reap the benefits of these listings.
However, prior to the Google Places update, another client had been contacted by DoctorBase regarding negative reviews in Google Places. Some of these reviews have haunted the doctor for a number of years and DoctorBase offered to work with the doctor to remove the negative reviews being fed by third party sites like Vitals. However, the steps they wanted to take could have a drastic impact on the doctor’s organic SEO efforts.
DoctorBase asked the doctor to change the URL in his Google Places listing from his primary website to his profile on DoctorBase.com. In doing so DoctorBase hoped to force Google to pick up the more recent reviews on DoctorBase and rump the reviews being displayed on Vitals.com. They stressed to the doctor that this wouldn’t impact his Google Places listing or how it displayed in Google Places, however, what they failed to tell him was that it could and probably would impact his organic search rankings.
With the recent changes to reviews on Google Places this doctor’s concern is much less of a problem, however what DoctorBase was asking the doctor to do could have had a significant impact on his organic search engine rankings. By removing your website URL from your Google Places listing, Google Places no longer affiliates your Places Page with your website. Having your website associated with your Google Places listing is crucial, and was pointed out as an important ranking factor in the 2011 Local Search Ranking Factors survey conducted by David Mihm. As we pointed out when Google first launched blended local search results, the key to successful Google rankings for localized terms such as Beverly Hills plastic surgeon rely heavily on both website SEO and local search optimization. By removing your website from the equation, you can potentially cripple your localized rankings.
The goal of this post is not to say that DoctorBase is malicious, or a bad site to be a part of, by all means if their reviews are being picked up by Google then doctors should definitely get involved. However it is important to recognize that oftentimes the efforts you make to improve one aspect of your internet marketing can have a significant impact on other aspects. In this instance the doctor may have been able to clean up his negative reviews, but at what cost? As Google factors more and more information into it’s algorithm it’s more important than ever to be aware of how different online properties can impact one another. What helps one, may cripple another. Have you been contacted by DoctorBase? What has your experience been like?
Yesterday, on the Plastic Surgery Studios Facebook Page, we shared a screenshot of a new Place Page layout the was slowly rolling out to businesses. With it we shared that it appeared to make the push for users to leave reviews and post photos more prominent by adding large buttons to the page. We now know, thanks to an announcement from Google, that this in fact the case and with it came a handful of other changes to help keep emphasis on your Google Places Page.
Priority on Google Reviews
In the past reviews from various sites across the web dominated most Google Places pages, however as of yesterday’s change reviews from Google have been pushed to the top and now reviews from around the web are nothing more than a link on the page. For many this is a blessing, especially for those who have suffered from a significant number of negative reviews on sites like Yelp, RateMD’s, or Vitals. However, it is also a curse, since many businesses have not really received very many reviews on Google Places.
Goodbye Local Citations
A local SEO’s treasure trove, the local citations section helped to aid in the discovery of new local portals, directories, and websites that businesses could tap into in order to help drive stronger placement and visibility on the web. Yesterday this section was removed making finding citation opportunities a bit more cumbersome, however businesses should not think that this means the need for local citations is dead. Much like backlinks in organic SEO these are still a strong foundation for local search optimization, and most likely the reason for Google removing them from their Place pages.
In addition to the aesthetic changes to Google Places pages, Google briefly outlined their vision for the future of Places and local search.
“Beyond today’s transition, our long-term vision for local search includes:
Bringing you more personalized results when you search for local places — because we understand that information from the people you know is most meaningful;
Integrating some of the great information that’s been buried on Place pages into your web search experience across all Google platforms;
Giving you more ways to rate, discover and share places you love faster and easier than ever, wherever you are, and on whichever device you choose.”
As Google moves forward with advancement in local search, Places, and Google+ we are sure to see more enhancements. In fact, they concluded their post about the update stating, “…you can expect more changes to come.” But like anything with Google, your business will continue to thrive as long as you are focused on providing your users with the most up-to-date, relevant content possible. The basics still apply regardless of this change: Build your internet presence through citations; Keep your online business identity consistent; Fill out your local business listings completely with as much content (Information, Images, Video, etc.) as possible.
Google+ has been a hot topic over the last couple of weeks. If you’re unfamiliar with the project you can read some extensive posts about the service here, here, and here As a user that has been using it since the day it launched I can tell you that it is a strong contender against Facebook and Twitter and it has kept the attention of the internet marketing community far longer than I thought it would. With that sort of attention I am certain that many internet marketers are already focusing on ways to use Google+ for marketing, SEO and the like. Today I am here to inform you about Google’s long term plan for Google+ for business, as I feel it is only a short matter of time before the snake oil salesmen roll up in their wagons hocking the opportunity to setup a Google+ account for your business.
Google+ For Business Is Coming
Last night Christian Oestlien, the Ads Leads for the Google+ Project, posted a message along with a brief YouTube video about future plans for Google+ as it pertains to businesses.
In the video he states that:
“We have a great team of engineers building similarly optimized business experience for Google+. We’re very exited about it and hope to roll it out later on this year. It will include things like rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use on a daily basis, like AdWords…”
Existing Google+ Business Profiles
Early adopters such as our friends at Raven SEO Tools, and large media sites like Mashable and The Next Web took a stab at creating Google+ profiles to act as a Google equivalent to a Facebook Page early on. While their intent was well founded, their efforts were quickly halted when Google announced it’s future plans for the Google+ Business profile. Of the three mentioned only Raven Tools’ Google+ profile is still active at the time of this writing.
Oestlien made it clear in his message that “non-user entities” should hold off on creating profiles and announced that these sorts of users that are interested in getting involved with Google+ can submit themselves to be part of a test group that will be launching soon. “It can be a team, an organization, a business, a brand, an NGO, a university, etc,” he went on to say.
Businesses that have already setup profiles will likely see their accounts taken down in the coming days. “The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses. We just ask for your patience while we build it. In the meantime, we are discouraging businesses from using regular profiles to connect with Google+ users. Our policy team will actively work with profile owners to shut down non-user profiles.” said Oestlien.
Google’s Jim Prosser has also pointed out that even businesses that submit themselves as part of the test group may fall victim to a takedown. Advising that unless they are part of the experiment group their profiles will be shut down regardless of if they filled out the interest form.
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
Know that great things are bound to come from Google in regards to Google+ for business, that being said be aware of marketers offering to get you setup and established on this new network. I am already seeing posts flood twitter about the SEO benefits of Google+, marketing on Google+ and the like, when honestly it’s too soon to know any of these things. What Google has done has created a potential new marketing and communication channel for small business, the same way Facebook and Twitter have. We are still learning the best ways to market through these channels and they have been around for a number of years. If you’re excited about Google+ join it as a user, learn the system, pay attention to the conversations, learn more about the audience. Then, when they finally launch Google+ for business you’ll have a better understanding of your audience.