Eating Google Places Mints helps you rank better. You should consume the entire bowl when it arrives.
It looks like the Google Adwords team may be testing a new ad extension. Today while I was checking position placement for a client, I noticed the following ad:
To prevent the advertiser from receiving a bunch of unnecessary “test calls,” I blurred out all the identifying information. As you can see there is a line under the ad copy stating that the user can “Request a phone call” from the business. It is a simple form where the searcher can input their phone number. I did not test it out. I am sure that it would be counted the same as a click, and “car accident attorney” clicks don’t come cheap even if you’re quality score is 10/10.
I could only find it referenced once in the Adwords help forum. A Google employee gave a link to the Phone Extensions topic, but it does not make any reference to this specific feature. I decided to call Adwords support and find out what the deal was. If this was something I could turn on immediately, I wanted to know how. The Googler i spoke with could not see it when she peformed the same query, so I had to send her the screenshot above. She informed me that she had not seen this feature, and that she would escalate it to a specialist. She stated that most likely it was a beta test. I will update this post when I get an answer back.
Last night I caught a tweet from Greg Flewelling about a new tool being launched today called the Local Citation Finder. This tool is a collaboration among Darren Shaw of Whitespark and both Garrett French and Ben Wills of Ontolo Link Building Services. They say it’s based on the Phone Number Co-Citation Analysis for Local Link Builders. It’s a well written method for identifying citation sources.
So I followed the link on Greg’s tweet, and signed up to be notified when it officially launched. I spent the rest of the night rocking out some new Adwords campaigns for a non-local client that runs a fantasy football contest. I was about to call it a night when an email from Darren came in. It gave me pre launch access to test the new tool out. I tested out a phrase where position A was held by a keyword in title/fake geocentric address spammer. 5 minutes later I received the report via email.
The report included the top seven listings, then a list of unique domains (243) ranked in number of instances found, and then gave a list of all the URLs it found (387). Awesome! A plethora of potential citation sources put together in less than 5 minutes from the time I requested them. I literally could have spent hours mining this data myself manually.
I found the top ranking spam listing did not fall into line with the results presented in the above mentioned analysis, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a useful tool. The spam listing recently appeared, and I doubt it will stay there. All it proves is that a geo-centric address and query matching titles still carry weight, EVEN THOUGH THEY SHOULDN’T!
I’m really happy this tool was created. It will definitely raise the bar in the world of Google Places optimization technique. Considering it will be used as a competitive intelligence tool, it will now be easier for people to see what you are doing and how you are getting citations. This means that anyone in this business that is worth a damn, will be thinking about and implementing ways to get citations that are difficult to duplicate… in case they are not doing so already .
I tip my hat to Darren, Garrett, and Ben. Well done, gentlemen!
Congratulations to Metrix4Media for winning the local internet marketing blunder of 2009 award. As you see to the left, their prize is the coveted “double facepalm” from Picard and Riker. Even though there are 22 days left in 2009, I feel comfortable going ahead and handing this one out. I’m pretty sure anyone in the industry would agree that it would require an extraordinary display of incompetence to beat this.
So last night I’m working late on some new ad groups for an attorney client. I’ve had this client for a little over 2 years now, so I’m very familiar with who his competitors are in this city’s ppc space. More importantly, I am quick to recognize when a new player steps on to the field. Anyways, I was running some queries on Google to see what position the new ads I had created were showing up. All of a sudden, the sponsored search results were flooded with ads I had never seen before. The first thing I noticed about all of these ads were that all the landing pages were various sub-domains of locaplacement.net.
I’d like to point out that I did not actually click on the ads to get this information. If you still haven’t downloaded Aaron Wall’s SEO Toolbar for Firefox, here is another reason to do so. The toolbar will display the actual destination URL below or to the side of the display URL. I generally use this information to see who is actually managing the ad. For example, if it’s Yodle you’ll see labs.natpal.com followed by some modifiers. If it’s Reach Local you’ll see something like <business name>.reachlocal.net.
Here is a screen shot of the top 3 sponsored ads I saw so you can see what I am talking about:
The above results were produced from the query “attorney” from a Raleigh NC IP address. I’m actually in Charlotte but Clear wireless was pulling an IP from Raleigh for whatever reason. The 3rd ad is obviously appropriate. The second one clearly is not. Can’t tell if the first one is without investigating the site.
The cool thing about the links produced by the SEO Toolbar is that YOU CAN click those links without Google charging the owner of the ad. This is simply because it calls the destination url and is not actually tracked by Google. So upon investigating the site of Bankruptcy Attorney Joel Jay Rogge, I found that he is a member of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Definitely not anywhere close to North Carolina. Now let me show you what the sponsored results on the sidebar were for the very same query.
This is not a joke! The other 7 ads ALL belonged to Metrix4Media! To save you time, I’ll go ahead and give you the results of the location checks:
- Position 4 – Hampton Roads Legal Services, Virginia Beach VA.
- Position 5 – Segel & Solymosi, Erie PA.
- Position 6 – Austin & Dick, High Point NC (96 miles from Raleigh).
- Position 7 – Carl W Potvin, Rochester NH.
- Position 8 – Justin C Caramagno, Portsmouth NH.
- Position 9 – Tom McGuire, Pensacola FL.
- Position 10 – Kenneth Hiller, Amherst NY.
So in summary, searching the word “attorney” from an IP address based in Raleigh NC produced 9 results managed by the same company which consisted of 6 different states and 8 different cities! This could not be a glitch on Google’s part due to the fact that 9 out of the 10 possible results belonged to the same company! To make sure it wasn’t a glitch, I waited an hour and checked again. The results were the same. After waking up this morning and checking again 5 hours later, the majority of the results belonged to Metrix4Media.
Based on what I know about how Google works, it was clear to me that all these ads were/are serving NATIONWIDE for the term “attorney” and even more expensive keywords like “personal injury attorney”, “workers compensation attorney”, etc.
Some of you professionals reading this may be thinking that there is another explanation for this. I had the same thoughts, so I will go ahead and share some other things I checked.
I went to the Google Adwords Preview tool and set the location to Honolulu Hawaii. Notice the ad in position 4 has the Honolulu, HI descriptor that signifies it is geo-targeted to that area.
The rest are Metrix4Media clients that are at least 1000 miles away.
There were more of their clients in the top 3 spot, but don’t feel it necessary to post it.
The last thing I did was get on my laptop, which I had not used all day. I put in my Sprint wireless card, and saw that it was pulling an IP address from New York.
I remembered in some of the screen shots I made, there were Metrix4Media clients in Raleigh, and that they were showing the Raleigh NC description under the display URL. This meant that these campaigns were definitely geo-targeted for the Raleigh NC area.
If it were ALSO targeted nationwide, then it would show with no description when I performed the “attorney” query from the NYC IP address. Sure enough, that is what happened!
Here is a screen shot for BarryWinston.com when I was using a Raleigh NC IP address, and right after it will be one from the New York City IP address.
So basically what happened is that some amateur set up these campaigns with the default set to nationwide, and then went in and added the geo-targeting. I’ve never heard of Metrix4Media before, but after doing a little research I see that they are owned by the Hearst Corporation. Could this be the epitome example of what happens when old media tries to enter a world they do not understand? The Metrix4Media website states that it was founded by a couple of “Pay Per Click industry pioneers” in the early 2000s. I’ve been doing ppc at least that long and don’t call myself a “pioneer.” If the people behind this company really did something of merit back in the day, then they’ve officially lost their status as far as I’m concerned. This was a JUNIOR mistake. I have a feeling they might try to blame it on a new guy or intern. I’ll go ahead and respond that it’s not an excuse. I know when I sell myself to a client, they get me and not someone else. I don’t farm it out to a college kid or some guy in Pakistan on RentACoder.com.
In the short time that I spent investigating this, I counted at least 35 Metrix4Media clients that were affected by this. I have a feeling that the actual number could be a lot higher, as I only investigated the attorney query. In this query, I came across client ads of theirs belonging to a couple of insurance companies. The sad thing is this wasn’t the only thing wrong. I checked out a few of the sites they were sending the pay traffic, and there was absolutely no tracking of any kind. No analytics, no phone call tracking, etc. Some didn’t even have a contact form, but rather just a link to an email address. I know the email harvesters out there are greatful to Metrix4Media for that.
Since I’ve gone this far, I might as well comment on the ads. THEY WERE HORRIBLE! The majority of them didn’t contain the keyword I searched anywhere! The display URLS were in all lowercase, and the ad titles were absolutely devoid of any marketing know how. I about fell out of my chair when I saw this one:
“Welcome To Our Website“? Come on really? SRSLY??? What did they save that one from 1998? Did they have an old Overture spreadsheet laying around and import it into Adwords?
I made a list of all the Metrix4Media clients I found that were affected by this. I should give them all a call and steal them away. It honestly wouldn’t be that hard. But I cannot do this because:
- a) I’m old school. I don’t cold call. Never have, never will.
- b) I’m pretty much slammed right now and have a waiting list lined up through March.
So what should I do with this list? I know! I’ll post it as a HOT LEADS list for my colleagues. Hell, I might even forward it to the only nice guy at Yodle (Jay Batton). I know they would do 100xs better than what Metrix4Media has done. If/when you officially take one (or more) away from Metrix4Media, let me know via a comment so I can update the list! So without further ado:
Decided to remove the list today. Hopefully some good people made use of it. I took it down because I didn’t want it to become a problem for the businesses mentioned. Point was made.
Doug Furney responded in a comment that the affected businesses will be getting a refund on the inappropriate clicks. I still think Mr Furney has more to address than this one incident.