John Carcutt and Ross Dunn Interview Google Expert Mike Blumenthal (“Professor Maps”) About Local Search

This week on Webmaster Radio’s SEO 101,  John Carcutt and Ross Dunn did a great job interviewing Google Places and local search expert Mike Blumenthal, who talked all about recent changes in local SEO as well some of the top things local businesses need to know about local online visibility.  I definitely recommend you listen to the full interview here, but if you’re time challenged, below are some key nuggets taken from Mike’s comments…..

 On the new Google Place shift and its impact on local business

 “Google rolled out a radical redesign of the Places page.  As part of that they dramatically deemphasized 3rd party reviews both on the Places page but also on the main local search results.  So previously if you had a hundred reviews from 3rd party sources and only 2 from Google, it would have shown in the blended result or in the seven pack,  as having 102 reviews—now it shows you as having  2.  So for some people, it is going to be a huge visual impact, particularly in the main SERP’s which are the most important. They’re still including in the main search results links to the primary review sources and a sub-total.  One presumes they are counting this information.”

“As far as we can tell there’s been no change in ranking.  But they just dramatically reduced the visibility of 3rd party reviews.  So in terms of the small business that has not had a diversified review plan in place, they are going to see some skewing of the visual results.  And more importantly it will impact traffic to review sites, and also companies like Demand Force that are in the review management business, (since) the value of those services just plummeted.   Certainly Demand Force and similar services have a place- they formalize and systematize review requests of customers, and I think that is an important service.  But a small business should not rely on them exclusively, it should be part and parcel of a bigger plan.”

 Why reviews are important, and whether Google puts more weight on their own reviews versus 3rd parties

 “To me, a review is effective when a customer see’s it- and the impact on the algorithm is secondary.  The value of a review is in the credibility it provides and the call to action on the part of  somebody seeing your  listing.”

“In terms of ranking import, I don’t think Google evaluates their reviews more importantly then 3rd party reviews—Google is looking to return the most accurate local results, and (if you are Google) you deprecate your reviews or someone else’s reviews you’re not going to be seeing those (accurate results).  They always look at the sum total of information they have access to.  I don’t think from a ranking point of view Google’s are more important or 3rd parties are more important.  But I think with this recent change, 3rd party reviews have been deprecated visually, and thus some businesses who have had a lot of 3rd party reviews and not a lot of Google reviews, might lose some business as a result.”

 Google changes to come: they will be surfacing information from Places Pages and using it across their network

 “They did make mention in their Lat Long post, they were going to take information that was buried in their Places Page and make it more visible across their platforms. So that information could be reviews, photos, coupons, events and announcements, it could be in Google+, it could be in Mobile, it could be everyplace.  We think they are going to be leveraging this data much more aggressively through a much broader part of their network going forward.”

 The difference between the “Organic” search results and “Local” search results

 “…Most are familiar with the concept that there’s an algorithm driving the organic web page results based on relevance and prominence of that particular page, heavily focused on linking and various other things. Well, there’s  a certain mirror algorithm that focuses on location prominence (and) on attempting to ascertain the popularity of a given business in a given place, so it isn’t worried about a page, it’s worried about a place. So Google has historically looked at signals that would indicate online proxies (of) offline popularity of a given business.  So they have an algorithm that does just that, looks at the relevance of a given local Places listing and ranks it. This local ranking algorithm contributes currently to the map ranking that you see when you’re inside Google maps ….and it contributes directly to the ranking you see in what you used to be called the 7 pack.”

“Last October Google really mixed it up with the rollout of what they call ‘blended’ results, which are showing up intermixed on local queries, and the blended results takes this local algorithm and this local information- merges it with the organic results– and blends both visually from a user review point of view and we believe algorithmically, the results. So that now when people see these blended results, they’ll see a result that is part web result and part local results.  And we think it uses to a large extent the organic ranking algorithm, but it also uses some of the local algorithm in ascertaining the final results.”


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

One response to “John Carcutt and Ross Dunn Interview Google Expert Mike Blumenthal (“Professor Maps”) About Local Search

  1. Pingback: Review Management: Going On Offense With A Proactive Plan | John H. Denny

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