Almost a year ago to the day (May 29, 2012), I wrote a column related to Google's Penguin (1.0) update and its impact on local search sites, Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) specifically. So I thought that with the announcement and implementation of Google Penguin 2.0, it would be interesting to revisit how the first algorithm change actually impacted IYPs and local search sites over the past year.
In the column last year I noted the fact that after years of the Google index featuring its own local listings and primarily local businesses, natural or organic links for the major IYPs and local search sites were starting to reappear on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP) for a number of the top local queries - e.g., plumbers, restaurants, etc.
Well, the results of the sixth annual 15miles/Localeze Local Search Study conducted by comScore may contain interesting insights into why Google would make this shift. It is all about consumer usage and preference.
As it turns out, consumers' satisfaction with local search on the portal search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) declined in 2012 while IYPs gained in terms of satisfaction with local business information.
Additionally, the likelihood of returning to either an IYP or search engine portal was impacted positively for IYPs and negatively for portals.
So it stands to reason that the Penguin 1.0 update did in fact help increase traffic to IYP and local search sites. In fact, when we analyzed the traffic to top IYPs over the last six months of 2012, we saw a rise in usage of the IYP sites that returned to first page position after declines or flat growth in traffic over the past few years.
Time to Shift Strategy?
While shifts in consumer satisfaction in this case have impacted the traffic of the IYP and local search sites, it is important to understand that this type of insight should be viewed in the proper context. Local searches on portal search engines still far outnumber the search volume of IYP and local search sites. So instead of viewing the opportunity as an "either or" consideration, view the impact as a potential to add additional advertising under the IYP portion of your local marketing portfolio.
The other point to keep in mind is that search engine algorithm changes can shift significant share of IYP traffic at any time. Given the fact that most subscription-type purchases of IYP advertising are based on longer terms, six to 12 months, make sure the potential benefit of increased traffic and potential sales leads are indeed great enough to offset the time/term you have to commit to the advertising.
Your Actual Results May Vary…
Increasing the complexity here is the fact that not all categories were impacted by the Penguin 1.0 or 2.0 updates in the same manner. For example, a category like "Plumbers" appears to have benefited by the algorithm shifts positively, while a category like "Hotels" had little or no impact for IYPs and local search sites. So a category-by-category review of usage trends across the three types of sites (local, IYPs, and portals) is necessary to balance advertising investment by consumer usage, and the ability of these media types to generate sales leads for both local business and national brands that market locally.
The table below shows a few of the categories ordered by their site type usage index, where rebalancing of your local media spend may be in order:
Numbers over 100 indicate higher than average usage of this media type by consumers searching locally.
In the Final Analysis
Understanding how changes in the local search landscape can impact your advertising and marketing plan requires continual monitoring and adjustment. Research like the Local Search Study can provide overview trends and clues to take advantage of opportunistic shifts in usage. And, when melded with data collected from your own analytics and reporting, these insights can help you understand where to balance your local marketing investments.
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Gregg Stewart is president of 15miles Local Marketing, a full-service marketing agency specializing in digital local solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 15miles is a local search agency supporting the offline, online, and mobile solutions for businesses of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. At the helm, Stewart applies his successful, tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his Clickz columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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