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Local Search Talk Series Part 7: Earlpearl Interview


For our seventh installment of the Local Search Talk Series we are going to be getting to know Eearlperl. This man brings a very unique perspective to local search, and has some of the best insights that you will read  (if you are lucky enough to catch up with him on some of the top local search blogs). So, as my good friend Nacho always says..”Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.”

How did you initially get involved with internet marketing and what were you wearing at the time?

Mike:  I like the last part of the question best.    It might have included one of those ultra plush robes borrowed for all time (stolen) from a luxury hotel.  (Mike Blumenthal should have seen me in all my robed glory.)  😉  Haha!  Probably wearing sneakers.  Definitely wasn’t naked!!!

I think I got started around 2003.  We owned/operated businesses at the time.  They had websites with contact forms developed by programmers/designers years earlier.  I started to notice two things that seemed very important and read a third thing that also seemed critical.

1.  We were getting more automated contact form responses, and callers were saying they found us on the web (which was all new).  It was a large increase.

2.   We primarily weren’t ranked highly in search engines.  Competitors were.  That got us nervous.

3.  I think the article I read was in the WSJ.  It referenced the importance of Google and how links were critical to high rankings.  We contacted our “webmaster” to discuss this.  He told us he could get high Search Engine rankings for us.  When we met he emphasized something totally different from the article.  We gave him the article.  He still emphasized other things.  We got nervous.

4.  I looked around for people who could help us, specifically with regard to this “magic” that related to google and possibly the other search engines.  I couldn’t find anybody locally.  At that time I scarcely accessed the internet and didn’t know anything about it.

5.  I started reading everywhere I could to learn about search engine rankings, google, and links.  I finally came to some SEO forums.  That is where I started learning about SEO.  I was learning SEO before local SEO.

What made you loco for local?

All our businesses are local Mike.  When I started I didn’t know about keywords, keyword phrases, the difference between generic industry phrases and ones with local modifiers, etc.  I was clueless.  But all the businesses are local/regional.  Necessity is a great teacher.

Do you have someone who has helped you along the way in learning local?

In the beginning I learned basic SEO in SEO forums.  I really didn’t know anything.   I gained a lot of valuable insights from very experienced SEO’s that would carry forward into Local.  Actually I’d say that around 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 there were very few people discussing local search.  I was one of the few commentators.  In early 2005, Google.com changed its algo in a manner that reflected a huge change with regard to how local businesses were or were not showing for search terms with a local geo modifier  such as St Louis electrician.  At that time most local business web sites weren’t showing in the top 10 for searches like that.  After the algo change, lots of businesses started showing.  It was an enormous improvement for Local and there was no commentary about it.

Two things about that change:  Bill Slawski wrote about the patent that affected the change here:  http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=26893&hl= and 😉  despite a crummy organic algo that kept local businesses from showing in the top ten for the most logical searches…;) my businesses and sites were strong enough to overcome the algo.  I have to thank the SEO experts from those earlier years that helped achieve that.

Once Google inserted Google Maps into organic results via Universal Search everything has changed and in my view, you need expertise in G Maps, organic and PPC to do a great and thorough job.

As I gravitated toward local I found others who were very helpful.  Once Maps became extremely important I found Mike Blumenthal at his blog  (http://www.blumenthals.com/blog ).  Nobody who publishes and discusses these things publicly is more knowledgable than Mike.  IMO there are 3 groups that know Google Maps best:

A.  Google Maps engineers  (they get surprised by things)

B.  Google Maps spammers  (there is a lot of money in effectively spamming Google Maps and it is probably currently easier than spamming google.com )

C.  Mike.  He sees more issues, is made aware of more issues, and studies them harder than anyone else.

What is the hardest type of listing you have had to deal with in local search i.e. What was the biggest issue?

A competitive site is simply the hardest.  Whether its regular SEO or local, if the topic is competitive its hard.  That is like anything.

What is your favorite, and least favorite, part about local seo?

I enjoy it when my sites are ranking high and I least like it when my sites fall behind those of competitors.  I also like that there is a comaraderie and a sharing of knowledge and experience from among a group of commentators in local SEO.

What do you do in your free time?

Ha ha.  As you’ve noted on twitter, under my twitter screen name;  twitter.com/localoptimizer I try and Razz and argue with @Skitzzo, somebody I got to know earlier at SEO forums.  He has a good sense of humor.  I enjoy family, cooking, and sports.

In your opinion what is Google doing wrong with local search and what are they doing right?

Google has a monopolistic position in search and in local search.  In local search the market share monopoly might be greater than in regular search.  By inputting 7pacs, 3pacs, and 1boxes in regular search Google dominates that landscape at probably a higher ratio than its share of basic search in that it gives 3 sets of responses:  PPC, organic search, and a highly visable Map that overwhelms the real estate of the search page.  With that monopolistic control over search volume it has large responsibility in getting things right.  When things aren’t right consumers get abused and the competitive nature of business is dramatically impacted.  A spammer can get away with murder in what has become the primary source for finding local businesses.

On the abuse side there is the prime example of locksmiths.  Certain locksmiths spammed Google Maps, yellow page sites, etc. It all resulted in high G Maps rankings. Ultimately some of those same locksmith spammers have been prosecuted for defrauding customers.  Google could have eliminated the locksmith spammers at an early stage.  It didn’t.  You could suggest that by inaction it might have enabled the spammers to engage in some of that fraud.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing local search?

I guess its all in the eyes of the user.  G Maps dominates local search currently.  I believe it uses algo’s that need lots of tweaking…not unlike Google.com has needed over the years to combat spamming/overt and significant manipulation.   G Maps needs to put more manpower into cleaning up these problems.

SMBS need to get a better handle on the power of local search.

Are you spending much time with Bing local? Do you think they have a shot at competing?

Not yet.  I have no idea if they will be a significant competitor to Google Maps.  I hope it occurs.  I don’t believe a monopoly is a healthy thing, especially for SMB’s.

Can you give us an idea of what you think 2010-2011 hold in store for local search?

I’m not good at predicting things, but I’d suspect that Facebook, because of its enormous traffic is going to figure out ways to monetize its opportunity in Local.  It recently started sending preliminary stats to owners of fan pages.  That is a start beyond ads.  I’d say, watch Facebook.

I hope Bing makes inroads.  As an advertiser it means more money.  On the other hand I think the dangers of a monopoly are worse though.

What is the best advice you would give someone that is wanting to learn about local seo?

I’d start by reading Mike Blumenthal’s blog from start to finish.  Now I’ll get in trouble if I don’t start referencing every other great piece of writing on local, especially from some excellent local SEO’s that I like and consider friends.

In reading Mike’s blog, pay attention to the sources he uses for information.  Then start following that trail.  Pretty soon one will start accessing most of the great writings and thinking on local search.

Thanks a ton EarlPearl for your insights and taking part in this series! You are one who I have looked up to from the get go and I have really enjoyed our conversations on all things local.

If you are new to the local search talk series make sure you check out these other great interviews!

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