Improve server response time | Tips for a faster webserver

What is server response time?

A web browser requests something from your server.

Your web server responds to that request.

The time between those two events is known as the “Server Response Time”. No matter how optimized your web pages are for speed, if your server response time is slow your pages will display slow.

Google says 1 “You should reduce your server response time under 200ms”.

How to improve server response time

There are two basic ways to do this

Learning – use the hosting you have more efficiently (keep reading)

Paying – pay more for hosting and hardware ( skip to hosting options ).

This page can help you determine what is the best route for your situation. As with most things for a webmaster, this is a time vs money decision.

Server response time factors

Four main things come together to determine your server response time:

Website Traffic – More traffic, more problems.

Website Resource Usage – If each of your webpages used less resources, you could improve server response time and not spend money

Web Server Software – If you change your web server software or configuration you likely could improve server response time and not spend money

Web Hosting – If you improve the quality and scope of your web hosting you can improve your server response time, but you will have to spend money

Website Traffic

As a website gets more traffic, it uses more server resources. A website that once was quick, crisp and fast becomes slow and sluggish as traffic goes up.

How does traffic affect server response time?

Just like a restaurant serving cheeseburgers, a web server can only serve so many people at one time. The longer it takes to serve each person, the less people can be served. The more resources that are used to serve people the less resources there are for backend things like PHP or other things that may be needed to serve your users.

In terms of cheeseburgers, if more people are at the counter taking orders then there are less people cooking cheeseburgers.

Website Resource Usage

Each thing your webpage has to do to be displayed adds up to some pretty heavy server usage. The average WordPress theme it is likely loading several stylesheets, several scripts, and other resources from your own server like images.

That means that for each page view of your website you are likely using the webserver dozens of times. That adds up.

Here is an oversimplified example. Lets say that a webserver could handle exactly 100 requests per second. In that one second you could serve…

Four visitors a page that used 25 resources

Ten visitors a page that used 10 resources

Twenty five visitors a page that used 4 resources

One hundred visitors a page that used no additional resources

In that admittedly oversimplified example, the webmaster who uses page resources wisely can improve server capacity by enormous amounts. Not only will the server be able to serve more visitors, it will respond quicker because its load is reduced.

To find out how many requests your webpage is making you can use this tool which will display many things about your webpage including how many resources it is using.

Reduce the resources a page uses

The less resources like css, javascript, etc. your pages use, the faster your pages will load and the less stress you will put on your web server.

Combine external CSS files – Many themes and designs have separated all the CSS into several different files, but all CSS can be in one file so the page is calling less resources per page.

Combine external javascript files – Just like CSS, the javascripts your pages use can all be located in the html or in one combined external js file . Too often they are not and this creates wasteful external calls.

Lazy load / defer images – Deferring images lets the webpage to be displayed quickly without calling and downloading each image before showing the page.

Inline small CSS and Javascript – In some cases, you do not even need to have your CSS and Javascript in an external file. If you put them in the HTML file itself, then no additional calls would be required for them. I discuss how to do this with CSS here and with Javascript here .

Wise keep-alive usage – Make sure you know how your server is using keep-alive as it can truly affect how your server fulfills requests.

Following the page speed best practices will increase the amount of people your server can serve effectively. Reducing the amount of files each webpage needs to call also reduces the work the server needs to do.

Web hosting

Make sure you have the right web host for the job. The first step is to ensure you are not stretching the resources you have too thin.

If you are like me, you started out with the cheapest possible host.

If that is true, now that you have more traffic you will need to upgrade your hosting. Here are my general thoughts and recommendations on hosting.

WordPress hosting

The truth is if you are using WordPresss it would be wise to get WordPress specific web hosting. This type of hosting optimizes for the the inherit problems that come with WordPress and dynamic content in general. A good WordPress host will start out at about 20 to 30 dollars a month.

WP Engine

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the economical choice to start out with. My general thoughts on shared hosting is that good shared hosting is usually around 5 dollars a month. You can get it for less, but beware things like “99 cent hosting” or something unless it is a specific sale.

A trustable shared web host should have been in business for a several years and should have a phone number that you can call for help. The only low cost shared hosting I can truly recommend is…

Bluehost – I have used Bluehost for many years (In fact this website started on a Bluehost shared hosting plan way back in 2006)

VPS Hosting

Virtual Private Server – A VPS host is the next step after you outgrow shared hosting. It can require more knowledge for the more economical VPS hosting packages or you have to pay up for the “Managed VPS host”. VPS hosting ranges from 20 to 50 dollars a month for a typical service, more for higher features.

KnownHost – I use Knownhost SSD VPS for this site now. You won’t be wowed by their decidedly non fancy website, but they offer rock solid VPS hosting.

Dedicated Server

A dedicated server server is your own machine that only you are using. It is the next step after you outgrow VPS hosting. Like VPS hosting, dedicated servers have managed accounts and unmanaged accounts if you know your way around a server. Quality dedicated servers typically cost from 90 dollars to several hundred dollars a month.

Wired Tree

KnownHost

Cloud server / Advanced

If you don’t need a panel and you know your way around a box. These guys are great for just spinning up test servers or app servers. I have used them full time for some of my projects.

Digital Ocean

Content delivery networks

A CDN (content delivery network) will store your files all over the world. This allows users all over the world to see your pages faster because they are receiving files from closer to their physical location.

Content delivery networks are a good solution when your users are spread around the globe or a large country. For example, if your webpages are hosted on the east coast or west coast of America, you will have users from the other coast that may see improvements if you add a CDN.

Learn more about content delivery networks .

WordPress / PHP usage

Every WordPress site on the web uses PHP. Most of those pages have slow server response times because instead of just handing over a file, the server has to take other steps, gather additional resources and complete tasks prior to responding to the web browser requesting the webpage.

The more things your server has to do to serve a customer, the slower it must respond to others. So if you have a php script on your webpage you need to ensure that the thing that the PHP is doing is important enough to slow down your pages.

The way PHP works is basically it must complete the php stuff before your page can display. Even if you try to “push” content to the user, the server has to read and follow those PHP instructions. There are a surprising amount of websites that are ineffectively using PHP that they may not even need to be using.

Time to first byte (TTFB)

Time to first byte is the amount of time a browser waits to receive a response from your server after a request.

Caching and web server configuration are major factors in TTFB. Here is my in depth look at TTFB .

Caching

WordPress users should make sure they have a caching solution. This one step is likely the most effective single step a WordPress user can take to speed up their site and free their web server from unnessasary work. To improve performance try W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache .

Web Server Software Configuration and Selection

Are you sure you are using the right web server software? There are several choices, and most of them are free. Here are a few of the more popular ones that I have experience with.

Apache

Nginx

Litespeed

No matter what web server software you are using, it can likely be configured better for your own purposes. If you do not know enough about your web server to configure it, you should probably hire someone to help you. It can get pretty detailed.

Let’s go over some pros and cons of each server.

Apache

Apache is free and is the most used webserver on the web. Because it is so well used it also enjoys great documentation. A pretty good portion of tutorials on the web kinda assume you have Apache because it was used by just about every website not too long ago. The default install of Apache is not the best performer, but it has so many users and modules and add ons that it can be made to do just about anything.

Our goal for now is to improve server response time, and Apache is highly configurable and alot of people know how to do so. Apache is a safe bet for just about any website, but it has to be configured well by a knowlegeble person to do its best. Php runs at an average pace.

Nginx

The Nginx web server is free and it is the darling of most high traffic websites and for web developers because it performs like a dream even at its default install. Nginx uses less resources and can therefore handle much more traffic than just about any other webserver out there. Nginx typically has the fastest server response time in my experience. PHP runs fast with Nginx.

Litespeed

Litespeed webserver has free versions and paid versions. It is much faster and performs better that Apache, with the added benefit of being completely compatible with Apache. Any configurations you make to Apache are respected by Litespeed and it uses the same .htaccess file as Apache. This means that moving to Litespeed is pretty painless for Apache users. PHP runs six times faster with Litespeed.

How can I use this to improve my server response time?

In a nutshell… You can significantly improve the server response time by changing your web server software or by configuring it better.

If you have money, pay someone to configure what you have or to decide what to use. If you do not have money then you should study them and decide for yourself. In fact I would say one of the main advantages that someone with no money has over large companies is the ability to learn, change and experiment.

Choosing the right webserver can trump many other pagespeed issues in one step and can dramatically improve you server response time. It means you have to learn and research. But you can do it.

What server to study / use?

In general I recommend Nginx (free). It is a great skill to have. It also performs incredibly. I can’t think of many situations where a WordPress install on Apache wouldn’t be drastically improved by just installing Nginx. I have had great results with it and it seems to be taking over the top sites on the web.

by Patrick Sexton

Outlaws, Lovers or Sages: What Archetypes are Connecting Your Brand & Audience? | ZN Consulting

Outlaws, Lovers or Sages: What Archetypes are Connecting Your Brand & Audience?

What makes a brand sticky ? What makes one product a thing that you own or buy and another something that you identify with, something you almost make a part of yourself?

It has to do with the emotional connection we feel for some brands, and not with others. Some brands make us feel like heroes or rebels; or make us feel comforted or included. These are the brands that have a direct appeal to something deep in our psyches, and one way they appeal so deeply is through their use of archetypes.

An archetype is a kind of basic character that appears in mythology, fairy stories, and even dreams. Carl Jung identified archetypes as the way the subconscious speaks to us. It is no wonder, then, that these figures, which form the building blocks of our identity, can have such power.

A brand that capitalizes on a Jungian archetype has an instant shortcut to your imagination, loyalty, and inner soul. It’s the difference between Dell and Apple, between Coca-Cola and a million other sodas, the difference between something with function and something with meaning.

This graphic from Allegory Studios shows the twelve basic archetypes.

Some archetypes relate to individual brands in ways that are more obvious than others.

Superman is obviously a hero. So, just as obviously, is Mr. Clean (whose aliases include Monsieur Propre, Mastro Lindo and Don Limpio!). But if you take a look at both Mr. Clean and Superman (who seem to be 100% pure hero at first glance), both contain a strong element of the nurturer too.

mages from Superman Homepage & Neatorama

Other brands – just as other fictional characters – embody elements of more than one archetype. Here’s a breakdown showing the different archetypal elements that go to make up one of the world’s strongest brands, Ikea.

Image from zeke

Classifying brands according to their archetypes is not an exact science. One analysis identifies IKEA as being a Jester, while this one declares it predominantly a Creator, just like Apple.

Image from Business Insider

However, this article and this slideshow discuss how Apple’s brand (or at least Steve Jobs’) was carefully constructed around the Magician archetype.

The lesson here is that although there is no single archetype that embodies all the qualities of an individual brand, archetypes are a useful way to consider the emotional impact of your brand .

For example, Jack Daniels has the independence of the Rebel (or Outlaw) and the authenticity of the Creator, and Starbucks appeals to the explorer, youthful, adventurous and those looking for experiences.

Now: think about your own business. What archetypes could help you connect to your customers? Are you a decisive leader? Or a jester who promises fun?

Because whether you are a sage, a lover, an outlaw – or all three – figuring out what archetypes your brand embodies can be a big step towards connecting to your public .

By: Fintan O’Higgins | August 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments | Tags: effective engagement , Marketing , media

Share this story

Local Search Ranking Factors 2015 – Local SEO and How to Rank in Google – Moz

Introduction

From year to year, the only thing you can count on in local search results is change.

Last year’s survey  corresponded almost simultaneously with the Pigeon algorithm update . We’re now one year in, and although no significant algorithmic changes have been reported since Pigeon, the Local Stack / Snack Pack results were fully rolled-out worldwide just prior to this year’s edition. Given that context, I asked respondents this year not only to rate ranking factors across pack and localized organic results, as in previous years, but also the specfic factors to which they were paying more (and less) attention to since the release of this interface.

As with last year’s survey, the individual factors listed in the results are consolidated to just the top 50 in each category.

The Survey

As in recent years, the 2015 edition of this survey was divided into four parts.

I. General Ranking Factors

In this section, I asked participants to identify the influence of eight thematic clusters of ranking factors across the two primary types of Local results (localized organic, pack). In each case, they assigned a percentage of influence to all eight thematic clusters, totaling 100%. Businesses consistently ranked behind their competition in each of these types of results can use this section to prioritize their marketing efforts by theme.

II. Specific Ranking Factors

In part A of this section, I asked the experts to rank the top 20 individual ranking factors (out of a total list of 114) that have the biggest impact on pack/carousel rankings.

In part B of this section, I asked them to rank the top 20 factors from the same list, only this time to rank them based on impact on localized organic rankings.

In part C of this section, I asked them to rank the top 20 factors from the same list based on biggest impact in a competitive market, across both result types (pack and localized organic).

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the #1 ranked factor received the most “points” for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. (The factors ranking outside the top 20 for all respondents ended up with zero points.)

III. Relative Change in Importance since Snack Pack / Local Stack

Here, I asked the experts to rank the five factors they were paying more attention to since the introduction of the Local Stack, and the five factors they were paying less attention to since that introduction.

Results were then tabulated via inverse scoring, where the #1 ranked factor received the most “points” for that question, and the lowest-ranked factor received the fewest points. (The factors ranking outside the top 5 for all respondents ended up with zero points.)

IV. Negative Ranking Factors

In this section, I asked the experts to rank 27 negative factors in order of most damaging to most benign.

Discussion

My initial reaction to the results of this survey can be found  here on the Moz blog . If you would like to comment on this project, please  join the discussion here .

David Mihm

Portland, Oregon

September 24, 2015

Overall Ranking Factors

Created with Highcharts 4.0.4Google My Business Signals: 14.7%

My Business Signals (14.7%)

(Categories, Keyword in Business Title, Proximity, etc.)

External Loc. Signals (13.6%)

(IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, Citation Volume, etc.)

On-page Signals (20.3%)

(Presence of NAP, Keywords in Titles, Domain authority, etc.)

Link Signals (20.0%)

(Inbound anchor text, Linking domain authority, Linking domain quantity, etc.)

Review Signals (8.4%)

(Review quantity, Review velocity, Review diversity, etc.)

Social Signals (5.0%)

(Google+ authority, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, etc.)

Behavioral/Mob. Signals (9.5%)

(Clickthrough rate, Mobile clicks to call, Check-ins, Offers, etc.)

Personalization (8.5%)

Top 50 Localized Organic Factors

1

Domain Authority of Website

2

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain

3

City,State in GMB Landing Page Title

4

Click-Through Rate from Search Results

5

Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

6

Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain

7

Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

8

Physical Address in City of Search

9

Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

10

City, State in Most/All Website Title Tags

11

Consistency of Structured Citations

12

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

13

Product/Service Keyword in GMB Landing Page Title

14

Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

15

Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)

16

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

17

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains

18

Geographic Keyword in Domain

19

Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

20

Page Authority of GMB Landing Page URL

21

City, State in GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags

22

HTML NAP Matching GMB Location NAP

23

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains

24

Product / Service Keyword in Domain

25

NAP in hCard / Schema.org on GMB Landing Page URL

26

Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)

27

Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL from Locally-Relevant Domains

28

Quantity of Citations from Locally-Relevant Domains

29

Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

30

Volume of Searches for Business Name

31

Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains

32

Loadtime of GMB Landing Page URL

33

Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

34

Proper GMB Category Associations

35

Product/Service Keyword in GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags

36

Proximity of Address to Centroid

37

Diversity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

38

Velocity of New Inbound Links to Domain

39

Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

40

City, State in Most/All GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags

41

Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

42

Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present

43

Individually Owner-verified GMB Location

44

Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)

45

Age of GMB Location

46

Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present

47

High Numerical Ratings by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Google Local Guides, etc)

48

Velocity of Searches for Business Name

49

Bulk Owner-verified GMB Location

50

High Numerical Ratings of Business by Google Users (e.g. 4-5)

Top 50 Local Stack / Snack Pack Factors

1

Physical Address in City of Search

2

Consistency of Structured Citations

3

Proper GMB Category Associations

4

Proximity of Address to the Point of Search

5

Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

6

Domain Authority of Website

7

Product / Service Keyword in GMB Business Title

8

City, State in GMB Landing Page Title

9

HTML NAP Matching GMB Location NAP

10

Click-Through Rate from Search Results

11

Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)

12

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain

13

Individually Owner-verified GMB Location

14

Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)

15

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

16

Proximity of Address to Centroid

17

Location Keyword in GMB Business Title or Title Modifier

18

Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)

19

Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains

20

Proximity of Address to Centroid of Other Businesses in Industry

21

Quantity of Citations from Locally-Relevant Domains

22

GMB Primary category matches a broader category of the search category (e.g. primary category=restaurant & search=pizza)

23

Age of GMB Location

24

Page Authority of GMB Landing Page URL

25

Product/Service Keywords in Reviews

26

Product/Service Keyword in GMB Landing Page Title

27

Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain

28

Authority of third-party sites on which reviews are present

29

Driving Directions to Business Clicks

30

High Numerical Ratings of Business by Google Users (e.g. 4-5)

31

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains

32

Bulk Owner-verified GMB Location

33

Local Area Code on GMB Location

34

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

35

City, State in GMB Landing Page H1/H2 Tags

36

Matching Google Account Domain to GMB Landing Page Domain

37

Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews

38

Clicks to Call Business

39

Quantity of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)

40

NAP in hCard / Schema.org on GMB Landing Page URL

41

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains

42

Quantity of Reviews by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Google Local Guides, etc)

43

Product / Service Keyword in Domain

44

Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

45

Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

46

Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

47

Positive Sentiment in Reviews

48

Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native + Third-Party)

49

High Numerical Ratings by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Google Local Guides, etc)

Negative Ranking Factors

1

Incorrect business category

2

Listing detected at false business address

3

Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Numbers Across Data Ecosystem

4

Presence of malware on site

5

Reports of Violations on your GMB location

6

Mis-match NAP / Tracking Phone Number on GMB Landing Page

7

Mis-match Address on GMB Landing Page

8

Presence of Multiple GMB locations with Same Phone Number

9

Absence of Crawlable NAP on Website

10

Address includes suite number similar to UPS Mail Store or other false addresses

11

Association of GMB account with other suppressed listings

12

Incorrectly-placed map marker in GMB

13

Presence of Multiple GMB locations with Same/Similar Business Title and Address

14

Keyword stuffing in business name

15

Absence of Crawlable NAP on GMB Landing Page

16

Listing 800 Number as Only Phone Number in GMB

17

Keyword-Stuffing in Title Tag of GMB Landing Page

18

Low Numerical Ratings of GMB location by Google Users (e.g. 1-2)

19

Keyword/city stuffed GMB Descriptions

20

Choosing to Hide GMB Address

21

Presence of Multiple Crawlable NAP on GMB Landing Page

22

Low Numerical Ratings of GMB location by Third-Party Users (e.g. 1-2)

23

Negative Sentiment in Google Reviews

24

Choosing Service Area for Business in GMB (as opposed to in-location visits)

25

Negative Sentiment in Third-Party Reviews

26

Multi-lingual GMB listings for the same place

27

Mis-Matched or Private WHOIS Information

Top 30 Difference-Making Factors in Competitive Markets

1

Consistency of Structured Citations

2

Domain Authority of Website

3

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain

4

Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

5

Proper GMB Category Associations

6

Physical Address in City of Search

7

Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)

8

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

9

Click-Through Rate from Search Results

10

Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)

11

City, State in GMB Landing Page Title

12

HTML NAP Matching GMB Location NAP

13

Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains

14

Diversity of Inbound Links to Domain

15

Quantity of Citations from Locally-Relevant Domains

16

Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)

17

Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

18

Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)

19

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains

20

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

21

Product/Service Keyword in GMB Landing Page Title

22

City, State in Most/All Website Title Tags

23

Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

24

Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

25

Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews

26

Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain

27

NAP in hCard / Schema.org on GMB Landing Page URL

28

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Industry-Relevant Domains

29

Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present

30

Individually Owner-verified GMB Location

10 Factors Experts Are Focusing on More Since the Snack Pack Rollout

1

Quality/Authority of Structured Citations

2

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain

3

Quantity of Native Google Reviews (w/text)

4

Consistency of Structured Citations

5

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

6

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains

7

Domain Authority of Website

8

Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (Searcher-Business Distance)

9

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL

10

Topical (Product/Service) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content

10 Factors Experts Are Focusing on Less Since the Snack Pack Rollout

1

Proximity of Address to Centroid

2

Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)

3

Authority of +1’s on Website

4

Number of Shares on Google+

5

Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains

6

Quantity of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)

7

Number of circles in which GMB location is contained

8

Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

9

Authority of Shares on Google+

10

Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present

General Commentary

Phil Rozek

Local Visibility System

In the past year or so, “local” seems to have come full-circle: it’s mostly organic SEO (read: links), Google local listings are primitive, and Google still won’t do anything about mapspam.  What’s really changed in 10 years?

It’s nearly impossible for people to see your Google+ posts unless they search for your business by name.  Google doesn’t include a link to your “Plus” page in the local pack.  Google doesn’t even call it a “Plus” page anymore.  Do you still believe being active on Google+ is a local ranking factor?

Linda Buquet

Local Search Forum

I don’t think what it takes to rank has really changed much – best practices still apply. The algo did not change IMO, mainly just the display and the fact there are fewer spots.

From what I’ve seen, in most cases whoever ranked in the top 3 in the old 7 pack is still in the same order at the top of the new 3 pack.

I know SOME consultants that even see this as an opportunity. If you are really good and usually get your clients in the top 3 (which should always be the goal anyway) then this update just knocked out 42% of your competition!

Dave Oremland

Local Optimizer

Oh my!!!! WTF!!!!!! The situation in local is changing very fast with massive changes. It’s overwhelming. The pack shrunk from a 7 pack to a 3 pack on August 6 and 7th this summer. As I’ve called it for a while, its a crap pack. No addresses. No links. No phone numbers in the desktop. A click to call in mobile. These results are non-informative. They simply don’t offer what consumers MOST want.

Google knows that. Its what Google wants. Its about Pay to Play.

And then on 8/30 a more explicit Pay to Play move by Google. Home services in San Francisco and other select cities in the Home Services Industry. NOT EVEN A CRAP Pack. Google replaced local results with a paid set of results. Google is killing or stripping, or making LOCAL far far far less important. But more critically from a rankings and visibility factor its about pushing all local businesses to be aware its a pay to play environment.

Google is eliminating all elements of a directory as we humans know it. Its an amazingly different environment. It is tough on small businesses, and I think its a rip off of consumers, who have been trusting in some type of non advertising directory for so many years. Its simply not that. Consumers have to realize that.

Thomas Ballantyne

Bulwark Pest Control

On page signal is a funny thing when it comes to local search. Domain authority, in the traditional sense of power house top 100 domains, gets trumped by local relevance. Combine that factor with a couple of years of search user behavior and the resulting cocktail is hard to swallow for veteran SEOs. How does this local website with no SEO, no backlinks, crappy title tags beat us? Aggregate user data. Historical citation data. Hyper local signals. Forget being a small fish in the world wide waters, be a big fish in a local search pond.

Gib Olander

SIM Partners

The one concept which I felt was under represented is the importance of publishing fresh content both on your GMB Landing page and on your GMB page.

I think if you look at the re-emergence of the Twitter / Google partnership it’s clear that Google is thirsty for fresh content and trying to find it anyway it can.

Making it easy for Google by publishing new content gives Google two vital things. A signal that the page is still representing an “open” location and topical content it can apply in geographically relevant way to meet with it’s increased focus of personalized or context aware results.

Conrad Saam

Mockingbird Marketing

I’m continuing my 5 year incorrect streak of where local search is headed… with the evolution of SERPS increasingly dominated by the large directories like Yelp and now Thumbtack. Snack Pack is another step away from the small businesses – concentrating even more SERP results on the middle man directories which frequently add little more than a slew of dubiously authentic reviews. In a hyper competitive market like legal, claiming the few remaining spots relegated to the actual businesses requires exorbitant retainers with sophisticated agencies Good for me, but bad for the industry as a whole – especially the smaller firms who can’t possibly afford to keep up.

Mary Bowling

Ignitor Digital

In general, businesses that have been optimizing only for Maps results have been losing traction for quite a while, now. Recent changes in the Google algorithms may put the final nail in that coffin, especially if 3 packs do become sponsored ad positions.

It’s ironic that links have become increasingly important for local business websites over the past couple of years just when so many marketers have become afraid to build links. Those who gain meaningful local links and couple it with strong on-page optimization, good site structure and useful content will thrive.

I believe that some behavioral signals are effecting rankings – click-thorough rates from the SERPs, in particular, and probably bounce rates and time on page, too.

There are some signals that can help in local rankings, but only if they are not overdone – things like location and product terms in anchor text and review text, for example. The challenge for many is having the restraint to not overdo something that works.

Garrett Mehrguth

Directive Consulting

I believe that the future for local marketing is about SEP (search engine positioning) not simply SEO. No longer is it sufficient to be #1 on organic, in reality that’s the 7th result on the page (3 ad spots, 3 local spots). Instead, it is essential to think of all your SERP marketing positions. There are only so many searches for a service a month, the surest way to increase lead volume is to have as many spots in the SERP landscape as possible.

So that means that to drastically change lead volume it is essential to be positioned on sites like Yelp, which rank very well organically, so that when someone clicks through to a “Best plumber in Irvine, CA – Yelp” link in the SERPs you’re positioned in the top 3 and maybe even a Yelp ad spot (if Yelp referral traffic converts well).

The key for local search in 2015 is a full understanding of the SERP for your industry and positioning yourself amongst every possible position. So if you were a high end restaurant that means you need to be testing a marketing mix where you allocate an ad buy across: Adwords, Yelp, and Trip Advisor (maybe even FB local awareness ads, running different offers for lunch, happy hour, and dinner). On the SEO side it crucial to focus your local search efforts on consistent top 3 position within the local pack and ranking well organically as well.

If done correctly, you can move away from reporting on keyword rankings and move towards reporting on Search Engine Positions (SEPs), cost per acquisition, and ROI.

Miriam Ellis

Solas Web Design

With only 3 results in in the local stack, Google is making even the largest metropolis look like a one horse town. This steady move toward ever-fewer local results doesn’t properly represent the diversity of businesses in most cities. We’ve gone from 10, to 7, to 3 businesses in the past few years. With the rollout of paid iHome Service Ad inclusion Google just debuted, I think the writing is now on the wall.

Local business owners will need to prepare to pay to play, while at the same time, diversifying their marketing outreach to be less Google-dependent. Reviews have become a major competitive difference maker, so you’ll want to be earning as many good ones as possible, particularly on prominent platforms like Yelp, and the basis of these reviews is right in your own store, in your interactions with customers. I would not be surprised to see digital-happy marketers taking a second look at more traditional marketing techniques to try to regain relationships that have just vanished with the universal introduction of the highly limited Local Stack. Diversify, diversify, diversify!

Matthew Hunt

Powered by Search

Google understands intent very well and only cares about two things. What users want and ad revenue. We need to learn to read in between the lines. Notice on the desktop search results they provide two CTA options. Directions and website. Then on mobile search results they provide

a CTA of ‘Call’. This tells you that location matters most to users. Users only care about location and phone numbers when location is a factor. What else is common in both mobile and desktop…? Reviews! Reviews matter to users when trying to make a snap decision on what local business they will call or visit.

Don’t only count on Google and Local SEO for your traffic. I learned a couple years ago how important diversification is. We had some clients who got hit badly by penguin penalties and we had to learn how to find alternative traffic sources that produced quality leads fast. Paid traffic is an excellent way to develop a predictable lead generation system and don’t just think PPC because paid traffic sources like Facebook is killing for many of our local clients now.

Nick Neels

Location3 Media

Google’s upgrade to Google My Business, was simultaneously the best and worst thing to ever happen for bulk-managed local listings.

It is wonderful to now have a more central data source for Google’s local listings, but with the new product has come a growing list of bugs. Google My Business is still a very new product, and while overall it is much better than its predecessors, Google Places and Google+ Local, its bulk features need to be improved, so the data can be managed at scale more effectively.

The new Google My Business product is moving in the right direction, but still needs a considerable amount of work when it comes to bulk management for multi-unit and franchise systems.

For instance, the centralization and merging of databases were foundational improvements, but it also revealed thousands of data and ownership conflicts, each needing its own resolution. Updates to listings are now publishing much faster, but at the same time, Google has limited the number of fields a manager is able to update in bulk, most notably the profile and cover photos. Google Insights reporting has improved aesthetically, but the data continues to be unstable.

And the list goes on, leaving SEOs thanking Google for the updates while questioning functional aspects that seem missing.

Localized Organic Commentary

Andrew Shotland

Local SEO Guide

Localized organic rankings have almost nothing to do with GMB pages or GMB landing pages except in cases where the organic results get merged with pack listings which is not particularly common. I included items with “in GMB Landing Page…” because there were no options that were just “in URL”. You don’t need a GMB page or GMB landing page to rank in localized organic results.

Matthew Hunt

Powered by Search

Google is ‘all cards in’ on mobile, so make sure your website is mobile-friendly (ideally responsive).

Always invest in your own website. Organic listings and rankings are still alive and well. This is your number one asset. Remember Google ranks and indexes webpages and not websites. There are lots of great long tail keywords a local business can rank for with minimal on-page SEO. Build more pages of great local content and get more traffic. Bigger websites almost always bring in more traffic.

Linda Buquet

Local Search Forum

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be focus even more on good solid organic SEO. (Both onsite and offsite.) That will help boost your local ranking in the pack and/or Local Finder. PLUS even if you can’t make the 3 pack, it will help your organic ranking. Many consultants I work with say and some click tracking studies confirm, top organic beats top local ranking in some cases anyway.

Joy Hawkins

Imprezzio Marketing

One of the biggest things I see impacting organic ranking these days is the presence of content on your site that is semantically relevant to your industry. For example, I worked on a pediatric dentist who had no mention of things like “crowns” or “nitrous” or “invisalign” on their site even though they offer services relating to all those things. Adding more content related to the services a business provides has shown to have a positive impact their ranking and the amount of organic traffic they receive as a result.

When I get a business that is in a competitive market I almost always start by looking at what their competition has that they are missing. I specifically look at the content they have on their website and how Google might be using semantic keyword grouping.

I gave social signals 1% for organic impact because I do think it’s possible that they could impact ranking – I have just never seen a single case where they did. I always quote Matt Cutts where he indicated that when it comes to social signals it’s a correlation and not causation. Businesses that are active on Facebook also usually care about their ranking on Google and are actively trying to improve it. One doesn’t cause the other.

Pack Commentary

Thomas Ballantyne

Bulwark Pest Control

Historical citation data did not appear in the list of multiple choice factors provided. I wish it would. I’d easily rate the historical citation data as one of the top ranking factors today. In turn, I used the the Age of GMB Location. Although the age of the actual google listing is only part of historical citation data.

Casey Meraz

Juris Digital

Regarding Links:

for the top 20 snack pack rankings I added Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL as a primary factor.

After the Pigeon update last year Google started to take more organic signals into consideration. Domain authority is important but it appears the link authority is gained from the page that is linking to the Google My Business page. So when trying to build links you need to consider the website URL you have connected to your Google My Business Page.

Regarding Category Assignment:

Categories are always mentioned as important but not talked about too much. Make sure you’re using proper categories if you want a chance to rank for your industry. For the most part I find that being specific is best. It’s pretty basic but since it’s not talked about too much I wanted to mention it.

Regarding Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains:

One trick is to always do a search for your industry and see what websites Google is rewarding for your industry. If I’m looking for a personal injury lawyer and I see sites like Avvo.com, Lawyers.com, etc., rank in addition to other law firm websites, I will know that Google is putting a lot of authority in these sites. I want to get citations from them and they can vary depending on your geographic location or industry.

Regarding Physical Address in City of Search:

Like [David has] said about the user being the new centroid, you need to be located where the searchers are looking.

Regarding Reviews:

Based on some initial click test studies I did I found that users are very inclined to click on the results that have star ratings. More reviews seemed to correlate with more clicks. Now that there are only 3 listings displayed it makes sense to put an added focus on reviews. Even if you’re not ranking in the top 3, if the user selects the business title they’re taken to the map like listing page where more businesses are displayed. This gives you a chance to “steal” a click. So work on your reputation and you’ll likely see more click throughs.

Phil Rozek

Local Visibility System

For better or for worse, what’s in the “business name” field still matters to an absurd degree.

Google hasn’t even enforced its rule from last December about how you can’t add a “descriptor” to your business name (which was a reversal of its 2014 policy, which itself was a reversal of a years-long policy).

Matthew Hunt

Powered by Search

If you want to save time and only focus on the citations that matter most, then on section that under the snack pack that says “more ____” with the hamburger menu. Then you’ll see 20 of the top listings. Click on each and then scroll

down their listing until you see their “Web results”, those are the citations you want to acquire. Get those top ones first because Google is already sorting the best citations based on their algo of relevance.

Now that there [are] ONLY 3 spots, you need to make sure your citation info is clean and that you get more quality citations than your competitors. This has become more important than ever before.

Joy Hawkins

Imprezzio Marketing

I think it is really important that people know that the landing page URL they use on GMB is really crucial. Linking to an inner page or the home page is a decision you should make by checking to see which one ranks higher organically. Also for businesses that have multiple websites or domains, picking the right one can make a big difference in ranking. Provided it doesn’t break the guidelines in any way, I would say always go with the page that is ranking highest organically for the main term you are trying to rank for.

When it comes to reviews, I don’t believe it’s just the quantity of reviews that matters but also the age of them. If Google has 2 businesses that had 20 reviews but one of them had all 20 left in the last 6 months whereas the other had them spread over 4 years, I think the choice of which business to rank higher would be clear. I often see businesses with a few really old reviews ranking high without a ton of other important ranking factors in place. Staying 1 step ahead of your competition might be the best ranking factor you can look out for.

I chose quantity of inbound links to domain from locally & industry relevant domains over citations because a citation without a link is not as valuable.

The proximity of address to the point of search matters a lot more on mobile than it does if the person searched from a computer.

The new SnakPak has made the business description in GMB fairly useless. It doesn’t appear anywhere visibly now that it’s almost impossible to get to the G+ page. I’ve seen many businesses + marketing agencies spend considerable time creating a really long description with hyperlinks to social media profiles etc. I would say at this point that is a complete waste of time.

Photos are more prevalent now on the Local Finder. Many businesses have really bad quality photos or stock photos on their listing which doesn’t help their conversion rates at all.

The shrinking of the pack has really caused us to put more emphasis on organic SEO ranking factors like backlinks and onsite optimization. Now that there is more organic space above the fold I anticipate that businesses who have a good organic ranking will see a positive spike in traffic.

With Google getting rid of links to the G+ pages for most SERPs, the push for businesses to be more active on G+ has really died down.

Jim Rudnick

KKTI

Google My Business Location Commentary:

We, like I’m sure many other SEO firms have been testing against the claim by Google that keywords if used in the description field are NOT being considered as a ranking factor – and for us, in 2 out of 6 cases, that was untrue. Using tested and proven keywords for these 2 clients, we were able to gain ranks for those 2 single sites – and yes we used slight variations too! Why that did not work for the other 4 in our tests, at this point I’ve no idea, yet they should have done the same too. Of course this was for google.ca so your mileage may vary if you’re strictly a google.com firm…eh!

Competitive Commentary

Andrew Shotland

Local SEO Guide

Once you have the basics right, it’s all about links and anchor text!

Greg Gifford

DealerOn

The biggest tip I can give to the Local Search peeps out there is to get local links. After Penguin, pretty much everyone is just elephant hunting with their links – looking for the biggest, baddest DA sites and trying to get links from them. We’ve had crazy success going after what I like to call “the crappy little church websites” – small, hyper-local websites that carry tons of local relevance. Not only do the links carry a ton of local relevance, they’re unique because none of your competitors are going to go after them.

If you’re trying to show up in a nearby city that you’re not located in, start building local silos. Create little mini-silos of information in your site, all based around that city or neighborhood. Optimize the heck out of everything for that city, put blog posts out about that city, and get links from local businesses in that city – and make sure the links point to pages inside the silo. With just a little bit of work, you’ll see those silos start to rank in local searches.

Social Media is called social media – not buy crap from me media. Stop being a jack hole and trying to shove your products down your followers’ throats! Use social media to be social. Who cares if it actually helps your SEO – an active social media account and an engaged audience can do wonders for your bottom line.

Gyi Tsakalakis

AttorneySync

Factors that are working well for you right now:

With the recent snack pack-ization of local search results, particularly in legal, we have significantly increased our focus on improving our clients’ snack pack visibility. We remain acutely focused on acquiring quality/authoritative hyper-local & industry-specific links, as well as, consistency of both structured and unstructured citations.

We’ve also greatly increased our focus on helping our clients earn high numerical ratings of their businesses by Google users. It’s simply not enough to have great visibility in snack pack results. Businesses that want clicks, calls and customers must earn positive reviews. Not only do customers / clients expect them, competitors with lower positions, but better ratings are winning attention over businesses with higher positions that lack positive ratings.

Garrett Mehrguth

Directive Consulting

In competitive markets, unstructured citations/links from local newspapers, blogs, and magazines are essential (if you have all your ducks in a row). After doing the essentials (citation clean up, implementing JSON, on page SEO, site behavior), we focus on building local relevance and authority via high quality unstructured citations.

Reviews at Scale:

We talked about this in a blog post on our site, but for larger local businesses with established traffic a scalable review tactic is to implement a remarketing campaign to help improve review volume. You could even send them to a get five stars page landing page if you wanted to decrease review risk.

Behavioral / Mobile Commentary

I believe that this is only increasing in importance. It is not totally there yet, but it will be and it’s time to prepare. I think the lowest hanging fruit is to improve site speed. Under 2 seconds is a good goal for your website. If you are not technically savvy, we recommend using codeable.io. Expect a $200ish quote. Huge deal for the opportunity to increase conversion rates exponentially and decrease bounce rate.

Lastly, making sure you have a solid customer journey that guides them towards your desired action on both mobile and desktop is crucial. There is no point adding more water to a bucket if there is a hole in the bottom.

Phil Rozek

Local Visibility System

In competitive markets I focus on hard-to-earn links and piling on reviews.  That’s the ongoing struggle, and it’s where the most payoff is.

Links

You don’t always need that many good links to rank well, but you do need them.  They must be links that most competitors are unwilling to get.  That requires buy-in from the business owner.  Drive-thru local SEO will continue its decline.

Reviews

Magic happens when you get a steady little stream of reviews over time on a variety of sites.  It’s also perhaps the best way to get customers out of whatever rankings you have.  (On the other hand, if you fudge those reviews, it’s a great way to repel customers.)

Google Reviews

As I’ve written, Google reviews are huge.  When you get in-depth and obviously legitimate reviews from real customers, your rankings seem to benefit indirectly (I would guess as a result of higher click-through).  The non-rankings benefits are obvious.

But the future of Google reviews is hazy.  They seem to be the last vestige of Google+, at least in “local.”  Also, if it’s true that Google will remove the requirement that reviewers have a Plus page – if they go back to only requiring a Gmail account – then the flood of (even more) bogus reviews may be downright Biblical.

Meanwhile, Google seems to be ramping up its “Local Guides” program (which I thought they’d have killed off by now).  My guess is they’ll monetize it, as they seem to have started monetizing the local pack: I could see businesses paying Google for promotion and to encourage reviews in email blasts to Local Guides.

A two-tier system of Google reviews seems at least possible: the local results become mostly a cesspool of bogus reviews, but Google skims and vets the “power reviewers” and their reviews for use in the paid 3-pack.  I hope I’m wrong.

Matthew Hunt

Powered by Search

Lots of positive reviews matter. Make sure you have a review strategy system in place like using getfivestars.com to help you grow your Google listing reviews above 5, so you can have those golden stars next to your listing. It will make a big difference in your rankings and clicks.

Behavioral/Mobile Commentary

Thomas Ballantyne

Bulwark Pest Control

With the layers of factors that go into rankings, it is very difficult to rank in order of importance. For example, click-through rates (CTR) could out weigh all other ranking factors if the CTR = 0%. I don’t care how perfect the rest of the factors are, if you are given sufficient time on the first page and you consistantly get ZERO clicks, you are going to lose rankings. Does this mean I place CTRs as the number 1 ranking factor? Not necessarily, because in order to prove CTR you have to be in the running, and the rest of the factors get you into the race. So how do I rank what’s more important when it comes to the chicken and the egg?

Gyi Tsakalakis

AttorneySync

Generally speaking, I think we’re likely to see an increase in Google’s use of behavioral factors. And not just the ones that we commonly think of (i.e. organic CTR, pogo-sticking, etc). Google will continue to march toward delivering the results that they think satisfy their users’ intent. It just makes sense that the measurable signals provided by users play a role in that analysis.

Phil Rozek

Local Visibility System

I’m convinced that Google pays serious attention to what happens after the click.  And you can tell John Mueller I said that 🙂

Snack Pack / Local Stack Commentary

Mary Bowling

Ignitor Digital

Google gave us local packs (2004) in order to reserve a place in the search results for local businesses – most of which had no chance of ranking in the organic results at that time. With Venice, Pigeon and whatever we’re calling the recent snack pack update, I think Google has progressed to the point where it may feel its algorithm is refined enough that it no longer needs to separate the local results from the organic results by placing them together in a “pack”. I expect we’ll see more pinned results appearing among the organic results and I strongly suspect the 3 packs will all become positions where paid ads will appear in the not-too-distant future.

Dave Oremland

Local Optimizer

I see actual location as the overriding single most important factor. If you search on a basis wherein you describe a specific location ie city/service you will get one set of pack results with all the smb’s in that city. If you are in that city and search without a geo modifier you will get local smb’s within the city, but possibly a different group of 3. If you are searching from within a city and google has your local location within a section of the city, it will skew results for certain business types closer to where you are located. Search for pizza and you’ll get the pizza places in your section of the city. For other types of services or businesses. for an attorney or doctor Google will use a wider geo area….but it will be heavily weighted to the specific city. I have not seen that pattern broken.

I find consistent NAP as the major determinant. It rears its head most significantly when NAP is inconsistent. In other words, one cannot hope for a strong presence in the PACK vs other competitors without strong and consistent NAP.

To the extent that the top 3 smb’s are competitive and are impacted by both organic and citation type outside influences I still believe that organic rankings get pushed up with overall better links: with quality from other sites, and diversity of urls having great impact. Having said that, local businesses show in organic because of address.

Linda Buquet

Local Search Forum

I think this is going to eventually (gradually after several other small changes) turn into pay-to-play​. Something like the new Home Services ads, which by the way are not in addition to the pack, they have replaced it. But in other industries I don’t think it will be the competitive quote, pre-screened by Pinkerton model. Just pay to be listed or maybe per click and call.

I say “gradually after several other small changes” because remember a year ago or so when we started seeing a lot of packs being reduced from 7 to 3? Many freaked then. BUT there was not a display change too. Just one little change, to gradually get us used to reduced packs, in preparation for this!

I think this new style 3 pack is a gradual progression toward some new pay-to-play model. (They kinda got us use to it gradually by starting with the food and lodging snack pack and then added hotels and other sponsored listings.)

“Only 3 precious spots – pay a premium if you want to be in one of them. If you can’t afford a 3 spot, then there is always Adwords.”

Search Influence Team

Search Influence

“Focusing on less since snack pack” was the toughest section. We included items that we feel may be potentially less important now, however, we have not taken anything out of our strategy since this release. Most are Google+ related factors because of the deemphasis on Google+ page in the results.

The biggest difference (aside from going from 7 to 3) is that we have seen less cluster-importance in some industries, but there is variance. For dentists, tires, car dealers, we see a business represented from 3 distinct neighborhoods. Restaurants & hotels, however, are still showing a downtown / cluster focus.

Andrew Shotland

Local SEO Guide

I don’t think we are focused on anything more since the snack pack update other than perhaps telling our clients that reviews are more prominently displayed so you’ll want to get more good reviews. We are still focused on doing the basics right and getting links.

The only thing we are focused on less is telling clients “hey look how great it is that we got you on page one ranked #4 in the pack!”

Darren Shaw

Whitespark

With the new local packs having only 3 spots, the local organic results have become much more important. We’re putting more effort into content, links, and unstructured citations for our clients these days. Media mentions appear to be particularly powerful. Even a single mention in a local paper seems to provide a significant boost to both local pack and local organic rankings.

Cathy Rulloda

Avante Gardens Florist

The ‘snack pack’ move by G has really had a serious negative impact on traffic to many local florists and it’s clear (at least to me) that better and diverse reputation signals have helped those who remain at the top. Yet, with the continual changes and weighting of signals, who knows what results will look like tomorrow, next week, next month or next year.

George Freitag

Portent, Inc.

My biggest response to the Snack Pack update has really been to just double down on the on-site SEO for the website. You only have 3 spots to fight for in that local pack so even if you are in there, it’s a short fall to the second page.

On top of that, if the searcher is on their phone (like most everyone is), if you’re not in the immediate vicinity, there’s often no way for you to get in the pack anyway. At the very least you can do your best to show up for those organic results below.

Caleb Donegan

Balihoo

The snack pack is only in its infancy, and it seems like items are changing daily. There does seem to be a confirmed emphasis on GMB and category associations, proximity of searcher, number of reviews and seeing some correlation with high ratings of reviews and rankings. What is more interesting around reviews is that there are many times where a business ranks high in the pack, with only a few Google reviews, but then we see that the quantity/quality of reviews in 3rd party sites (most notably Yelp) are abundant and positive. The reference to these citations seems to be stronger than in the past, wonder if this will remain the case or even increase.”

The snack pack, as it appears currently, is going to do for local site CTR what the change to Google images (not having to click through to the site) did for alt text. It is clear that Google is seeing more value in keeping searches within the SERP longer, and providing data that is inherent to GMB is what the are seeing as most pertinent. The new UI also pushes organic listings even further down the page, below the fold in most cases on mobile, which will further hurt the CTR. A bi-product of this could be businesses spending less time optimizing their site and more time in paid and GMB optimization.

Nick Neels

Location3 Media

Last year it was the Carousel SERP update, this year it is the Snack Pack, and next year we will no doubt be discussing the a new SERP layout and its prominent features. What remains the same for SEOs is the need to be flexible and react to these changes, while staying focused on their client’s long-term goals.

Negative Ranking Factor Commentary

Darren Shaw

Whitespark

Keyword Stuffing in Business Name: Sadly, it seems to help a great deal, and I’m not seeing anyone getting penalized for this.

Joy Hawkins

Imprezzio Marketing

I wish using a PO Box was a massive negative ranking factor but I still see many businesses showing up who are using fake locations. My hope is that Google or the MapMaker RLs will crack down on this in the near future.

I still see keyword stuffing in the business name help more than hurt, unfortunately.

I had a client (SMB) over a year ago that had a hidden address and when we opted to show it instead he saw a massive ranking spike. I haven’t been able to replicate it since there aren’t many businesses who hide their address but are eligible to show it according to the guidelines.

One of the biggest negative factors I’ve seen recently is the presence of a closed listing that exists for the same business name, address or phone number that you are using on your G+ listing. These often get overlooked because the Google Maps API doesn’t pick them up and you won’t see them as an option to claim/verify in GMB. The only place you can see them is on MapMaker. There are tons of different scenarios I’ve looked at but whenever it’s possible to either delete or merge the closed listing, I’ve seen a positive impact in ranking.

Nick Neels

Location3 Media

The worst-case scenario for multi-unit and franchise systems and their local listings, is when any of their listings are suddenly missing from Google’s results. Google constantly scrubs its listings, flagging duplicates and ownership conflicts along the way, which is great. Google has also integrated a notification system for these errors into the GMB platform, helping SEOs who manage clients with hundreds or thousands of locations to quickly identify the listings in question; again, this is a good thing.

The worst-case scenario arises when Google automatically suppresses any listings they deem to be “in question,” sometimes flagging them in the GMB account, sometimes not. The time it takes to resolve these Google-defined issues can vary, leading me to move Google Suppressed Listings to the top of my negative ranking factors. Successful brands are constantly monitoring their listing accounts and quickly allocating resources to resolve these conflicts, and that will remain the story until Google improves its data scrubbing and conflict-resolution processes. It will take time, but I am confident they will get to a better place.

SEO Pricing: 600+ Agencies Share Costs of Services & Pricing Models – Moz

Near the end of December 2011, we

ran a survey on this blog asking consultants and agencies of all sizes and geographies to contribute their pricing models and cost structures. I’m pleased to share the results of that survey in the hopes that it will give everyone in the search industry a better idea of the range of fees and the services provided.

Obviously, this data is imperfect – SEOmoz is not a professional data surveying firm and our only tool was a basic list of questions on

SurveyMonkey . That said, I’d be surprised if a professional surveyor found dramatically different data – there was enough participation to receive a trustworthy sample size and firms provided their personal/contact information (many of which I recognized while digging through the responses, but obviously will not be sharing identities publicly), which means we likely did not receive intentionally manipulative/misleading information. The data is provided below in three formats – first, some personal, high level takeaways from the survey, next an infographic from the great folks at AYTM Market Research and finally, a dump of the responses in CSV and Excel formats (without any personally identifiable info).

(via AYTM’s infographic)

Do note that while 600+ responses were received, we’ve elected to share data only from those regions with 10+ responses (490 total), which include:

United States – 287 respondents

United Kingdom – 76 respondents

Canada – 34 respondents

Australia/New Zealand – 28 respondents

Germany/France/Italy/Netherlands – 34 respondents

India – 31 respondents

Many countries had 1-3 respondents and while we certainly appreciate those contributions, it’s our feeling that sharing this data could actually be misleading/non-productive as a single firm/consultant could dramatically skew the results. All the information in this blog post, the infographic and the Excel data dump are split into those 6 regions.

Top 9 Takeaways

These are my personal takeaways from the data:

Hourly SEO Costs Vary Across Countries, but $76-$200/hour is Most Common

With the exception of India (the only developing region that was well-represented in our survey), hourly costs of $76-$200 (representing three responses) covered 50%+ of all firms. It was highest in Australia/New Zealand at 62%, followed by 58.1% in the US and 56% in Canada. Granted, this is a wide range, but it provides the answer to a frequently-asked question from those seeking SEO services for the first time.

_

By-the-Project Pricing is Popular and Most Commonly $1,000-$7,500

70.1% of respondents said they offer project-based pricing (the most common pricing system selected in the survey). 43% of consultancies were represented by the four price ranges: $1,001-$1,500, $1,501-$2,500, $2501-$5,000 and $5,001-$7,500. Obviously, there’s a wide variety of prices here, not surprising given that the types of projects offered may be quite diverse.

_

Monthly Retainer Pricing Has the Widest Distribution

While both hourly and by-the-project rates do have a wide range of pricing, monthly retainers are certainly the most distributed of the price questions asked in our survey. The two most common were $251-$500/month (13.8%) and $2,501-$5,000/month (11.3%).

_

The Death of Hands-On SEO Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

There’s been plenty of hand-wringing over the past few years from both bloggers and SEO clients complaining that consulting firms don’t provide enough “hands-on” help. Yet, in the survey, 88.5% of respondents said they offer “hands-on SEO changes to sites” and 79.1% provide “hands-on link building.” Clearly, hands-on help is still very popular.

_

Inbound/Organic > Pure SEO

Pure “SEO” consultants/agencies may be fading as broader “inbound marketing” services firms (offering SEO, social, content, conversion, analytics, etc) rise. The data showed 150 respondents (25%) saying they were primarily focused on SEO while a slightly greater number, 160 (26.7%), offered a broader range.

_

Web Design/Development Agencies do a Lot of SEO

The third most popular type of respondent was a web design/development agency offering SEO services. In the UK, these types of firms were better represented than either SEO-focused providers or broader inbound/organic firms.

_

Employees:Clients/Month Ratio is Between 1-2

The screenshot below takes advantage of SurveyMonkey’s crosstab feature, which enabled me to look at the number of monthly active clients broken down by the quantity of employees a consulting firm has (you can only choose 5 responses at once, but the data’s still revealing).

_

Vast Majority of Consultants Service Small-Medium Businesses

This may seem mathematically obvious, but it’s not always top of mind at many of the marketing conferences I’ve attended, nor the blogosphere in general. A disproportionate amount of attention is often focused on top brands, but in the world of consulting, most firms service relatively small businesses. Even those who do serve larger businesses (perhaps aspirationally) often offer services to small and medium businesses. 41% of respondents offer consulting to small, hyperlocal businesses, e.g. the restaurant around the corner.

_

Though Project-Based Pricing is Most Popular, the Majority of Consultancies Also Offer Monthly Retainers and Hourly Rates

Early in my SEO career, project-based pricing seemed relatively rare (though quantifying this is hard since no formal surveys I’m aware of collected this info). Today, it was the top response, offered by 70% of the participating firms. Monthly retainer pricing was next, offered by 60%, followed closely by hourly rates (55%).

I’m certain others perusing the data will find other interesting takeaways (hope to read some of those in the comments).

Infographic from AYTM

Many thanks to the team at

AYTM for putting together the following graphic representing the data in the survey across the 6 regions with more than 10 respondents. The image below shows a sample of their work and links to a larger version here on Moz:

Use the code below to share this on your site:

seo pricing
Infographic by SEOmoz & AYTM Market Research

Feel free to use/embed the

larger, linked-to version , but please do provide credit back to AYTM and this post (nofollows are fine – just want to make sure folks are getting the right data source) 🙂

Data Dump Files

I’ve made two files available from the survey data for those interested in looking at the raw figures in more depth:

Excel file with responses broken out by the 6 regions – download

Unfiltered summary of responses to all questions – download

The individual results contain personally identifiable information, and even without the emails/company names, the details of location, services,  pricing, etc. could be used to determine an individual consulting firm’s identity. Given that we promised anonymity when launching the survey, I felt that providing this data, while valuable, wasn’t appropriate. If you have specific filters you’d like to see applied, please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to make that happen.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this survey. In the next few months, SEOmoz will be launching a redux of

our 2010 Industry Survey , which will hopefully provide even more detailed information across all parts of the search, social and inbound marketing fields. Stay tuned!

Outlaws, Lovers or Sages: What Archetypes are Connecting Your Brand & Audience? | ZN Consulting

Outlaws, Lovers or Sages: What Archetypes are Connecting Your Brand & Audience?

What makes a brand sticky ? What makes one product a thing that you own or buy and another something that you identify with, something you almost make a part of yourself?

It has to do with the emotional connection we feel for some brands, and not with others. Some brands make us feel like heroes or rebels; or make us feel comforted or included. These are the brands that have a direct appeal to something deep in our psyches, and one way they appeal so deeply is through their use of archetypes.

An archetype is a kind of basic character that appears in mythology, fairy stories, and even dreams. Carl Jung identified archetypes as the way the subconscious speaks to us. It is no wonder, then, that these figures, which form the building blocks of our identity, can have such power.

A brand that capitalizes on a Jungian archetype has an instant shortcut to your imagination, loyalty, and inner soul. It’s the difference between Dell and Apple, between Coca-Cola and a million other sodas, the difference between something with function and something with meaning.

This graphic from Allegory Studios shows the twelve basic archetypes.

Some archetypes relate to individual brands in ways that are more obvious than others.

Superman is obviously a hero. So, just as obviously, is Mr. Clean (whose aliases include Monsieur Propre, Mastro Lindo and Don Limpio!). But if you take a look at both Mr. Clean and Superman (who seem to be 100% pure hero at first glance), both contain a strong element of the nurturer too.

mages from Superman Homepage & Neatorama

Other brands – just as other fictional characters – embody elements of more than one archetype. Here’s a breakdown showing the different archetypal elements that go to make up one of the world’s strongest brands, Ikea.

Image from zeke

Classifying brands according to their archetypes is not an exact science. One analysis identifies IKEA as being a Jester, while this one declares it predominantly a Creator, just like Apple.

Image from Business Insider

However, this article and this slideshow discuss how Apple’s brand (or at least Steve Jobs’) was carefully constructed around the Magician archetype.

The lesson here is that although there is no single archetype that embodies all the qualities of an individual brand, archetypes are a useful way to consider the emotional impact of your brand .

For example, Jack Daniels has the independence of the Rebel (or Outlaw) and the authenticity of the Creator, and Starbucks appeals to the explorer, youthful, adventurous and those looking for experiences.

Now: think about your own business. What archetypes could help you connect to your customers? Are you a decisive leader? Or a jester who promises fun?

Because whether you are a sage, a lover, an outlaw – or all three – figuring out what archetypes your brand embodies can be a big step towards connecting to your public .

By: Fintan O’Higgins | August 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments | Tags: effective engagement , Marketing , media

Share this story

You may also like:

Case study: Identity & Branding

With identity and branding fit for young professionals, a global hygiene company was able to get top talents. Learn more

Insight: Outlaws, Lovers or Sages: What Archetypes are Connecting Your Brand & Audience?

What makes a brand sticky? What makes one product a thing that you own or buy and another something that Learn more

Masterclass: Introduction to the digital age

Get the right mindset to approach the rapidly changing digital world with our hyperthinking philosophy. Learn more

Leave a comment

Please enter an answer in digits:

4 × five =