This week at the Yellow Pages Association conference in Las Vegas, I will be leading a session on the state of search engine optimization and how local directories can benefit (or not) from using SEO strategically.
As of last week, the update has been rolled out internationally and is apparently (in certain situations) using data provided by searchers about what constitutes a spammy site.
In my view, big local directories have a number of issues that make them susceptible to being filtered by Panda, let’s explore a couple of those issues now, followed by five SEO tips for local directories.
In most cases, these URLs tend to have the exact same information as every other local directory (e.g. Google has said that Panda’s algorithm takes into account the experience of the searcher when they hit your site. Many local directories, particularly yellow pages sites, are known for cluttered design, an over-abundance of ads and high bounce rates. On the negative side of things, there are a handful of sites that most likely have significantly better user metrics (think Yelp) and therefore will have the edge in the SERPs.
Over the past year, the major search engines have started incorporating social signals into their ranking algorithms.
Most local directory sites (and most sites in general) tend to have fairly rudimentary social media strategies, if they have one at all.
Google clearly wants to promote the SMB website in as many local queries as possible (along with their Place Page of course).
As I said about four years ago in my Yellow Pages SEO 3.0 post, the SMB website is where the action will be in local.
Over the past year, Google has made a lot of noise about showing preferences to brands in its algorithm.


If you can’t add value to your content via reviews, editorial or some other way to make this stuff unique, you are not going to fare well with SEO. I know you pay lip service to your consumer product guy about this, but one of the things the Panda update did was give the voice of the consumer more of a voice inside organizations that rely on Google traffic.
A number of the major local search players have rolled out SMB website offerings in the past few years. Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Andrew Shotland is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a leading local search engine optimization blog and consultancy. SMX Advanced, the only conference designed for experienced search marketers, returns to Seattle June 22-23. MarTech: The Marketing Tech Conference is for marketers responsible for selecting marketing technologies and developing marketing technologists.
Melbourne, Australia - January 26, 2012: An iPad2 and iPhone running Yellow Pages applications, over printed Yellow Pages directory. Description UAE Yellowpages is an online business directory with local business listings, phone numbers classifieds. YellowPages.ae - Online yellow pages of the United Arab Emirates with phone numbers and addresses. In many cases, sites are licensing this content from third parties which also means that this content is showing up on many sites and is not unique. This could mean that any combination of factors such as page speed, ad density, user-interface design, average time on site, etc.


On the positive side, the entire industry suffers from high bounce rates, so if Google is judging you by your peers, you might be ok.
If there is little or no social activity around your URLs, then you will not benefit from this part of the algorithm. This makes sense in theory, because the SMB website should ultimately be the source of truth about the business (until they can get all of that data on the business’ Place Page of course). Local directories will still have a valuable place in the ecosystem, but the SMB website is a key piece to the puzzle.
The problem with most local directories is that they don’t have a brand, at least not a meaningful one.
The days of slapping a brand on a set of Localeze or InfoUSA listings and letting Google do its thing are long gone.
I would also argue that you are not going to fare well with attracting consumers to use your site in general.
The next time the consumer guy argues for a little less clutter, you may want to listen because it may be directly impacting revenue.



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