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Although I suspect we're not seeing the finished product which makes it a little early to draw any final conclusions, it's clear that making sure that we get everything right for local search is going to play a huge part in overall SEO success in Google - although, as we deal with a lot of local businesses, we've been saying this for years anyway.
One thing I keep reading elsewhere, however, has me particularly concerned about the relationship between Google's new algorithm and the way we monitor the success of our work. Namely: using different phone numbers for tracking purposes is bad. This is because Google needs to see the same address and phone number every time they see a citation relating to your business in order to ensure they have the right data to associate a business, to a website, to a location on the map, to a means of contact.
If we can't track conversions, we can't measure ROI.More and more we're using unique phone numbers to determine which aspect of a campaign drove a conversion. Sometimes this is a unique number on a particular ad campaign, a directory listing or even a Facebook promotion, but just as often this is a phone number shown on a client's site which changes depending on the referrer and the search term.
We need to be able to demonstrate to clients that their investment in SEO is delivering good return on investment - when dealing with clients for whom a conversion involves either an email or a phone call, this means having tracking numbers in place. It is imperative that those phone calls which began with a Google search are associated with SEO and those phone calls that originated from another online source are associated with that spend instead.
Is this issue being overlooked so they can drive businesses to Adwords and other Google properties by making it easy to track Google-based advertising and difficult to track anything else?
Paranoid, I know, but not entirely far-fetched as Google is now running paid ads on Place listings, moving into TV advertising and offering video and banner ads as well. Why not try and get as big a piece of the pie as they can?
Google, stop being greedy and evil!It seems from our end, that Google's recent changes to the SERPs are entirely for Google's benefit, and not remotely for the user. They're forcing local results on searchers who may not want local results (we've been compiling a list of issues, that'll be in a follow-up post); they're potentially forcing web-based businesses who serve the whole country but who have no shopfront to find some way to demonstrate a full UK presence when there's no physical location for customers to visit; and they're also making it difficult for businesses to track ROI on campaigns that don't originate with Google if they want to rank well organically.
While I realise the issue with tracking is down to getting the local search right for the user by making sure that business listings and map results are correct, surely there's a better way to verify this information? Maybe they should enable webmasters to attach the website to the Google Places verification process in some way, just like with Webmaster Tools so varying phone numbers matter less, or perhaps by joining up Webmaster Tools to Google Places?
Hopefully a fix is coming which does not involve some sort of ritual sacrifice to the Google money gods in the name of a Googopoly because surely that would be a Googocalypse for free trade on the internet.