In this week’s Monday Memo, learn about Google’s changes to its ranking guidelines; major fluctuations in local ranking; a fix for the Google Posts rejection bug; the risk of losing GMB verified status; Pinterest’s merchant badge; and Yelp’s new attribution tool.
Google removes description from ranking guidelines
In a series of events I’m tempted to call “Description-Gate,” last week Google changed its guidelines for local ranking three times after the first update caused a stir amongst local SEOs.
You may have seen the announcement, covered broadly on sites like Search Engine Land as well as here on the Brandify Blog, that Google had updated the help page called “Improve your local ranking on Google” to include a new section on business descriptions. The section suggested that descriptions could help with ranking, and that businesses should include keywords in those descriptions that they want to rank for.
Local SEOs quickly objected on two fronts. First, they disputed the idea that business description is a ranking signal; second, they suggested that Google’s advice would lead to keyword stuffing, a spam tactic that is already too common. The charge was led by Joy Hawkins who wrote a column about the controversy on Search Engine Land.
Google then modified the help documentation twice -- first, they removed the offending sentence about keywords in the business description; later, they removed the entire section. If you look today, you’ll see no new section on business descriptions, and you may notice that under “Enter complete data,” Google has even removed the phrase “brief description” from the sentence that used to read, “Provide information like (but not limited to) your physical address, phone number, category, brief description, and attributes.”
I’ve made some modifications to the blog post from last week (which is now a mess of strikethroughs and additions, sorry) and I offer some additional thoughts there.
Major local ranking fluctuations reported
Bright Local’s Local RankFlux tool, which monitors local ranking fluctuations across multiple industries, recorded fluctuations on February 14th greater than any previously reported, with continued major fluctuations on February 15th. Industries notably affected by the ranking changes include restaurants and cafes, hotels and B&Bs, bars and pubs, real estate and property businesses, and construction and roofing. Though the fluctuations have been confirmed by several local SEOs, there is as yet no confirmation from Google or any clear indication of the changes falling into a pattern.
Image courtesy Bright Local
Google Posts rejection bug fixed
A bug that was preventing a large number of Google Posts from being published has been confirmed and reportedly fixed. As I mentioned last week, it appeared that the Posts were being rejected due to violations of image quality guidelines, but many users pointed out that the supposedly offending images had no clear violations. Now Mike Blumenthal has reported on Twitter that Google has fixed the problem and will soon publish all Posts that were previously rejected.
Yes, Google listings can be unverified due to inactivity
It’s worth remembering that simply verifying your Google My Business listing is not enough. You should be sure to log in and make updates occasionally, or Google may flag your account as inactive and may even remove its verified status. Rest assured, though, that before they do this, Google typically sends an email warning you that your listing will be unverified in 30 days, plenty of time to log in and fix the problem.
Pinterest launches verified merchant program
Pinterest is launching a new program that displays a verified status for certain merchants by means of a red badge. Verified merchants will be able to offer their products for sale on Pinterest via features like “Shop the Look” pins. Product pins for verified merchants will display availability and price information. The new program represents the latest step in Pinterest’s bid to become an e-commerce powerhouse. Pinterest claims 83% of its users have made a purchase because of brand content viewed on the site.
Yelp unveils new attribution tool
Yelp has released a new product called Yelp Store Visits that helps multi-location advertisers measure foot traffic to stores as a result of Yelp ad campaigns. As a first-party attribution tool, Store Visits tracks Yelp users who have opted to share their location and who visit stores after seeing Yelp ads. Store visit data lets brands measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns in the form of a cost per visit. According to Yelp, one restaurant chain piloting the program saw a cost per visit of $1.17, with 91% of visits occurring within 24 hours.