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Episode 4 - March 9, 2017

In this episode of Search News You Can Use there are some really good tips that you can implement right away. We'll talk briefly about the major algorithm changes that are happening right now. I'll also give you a bunch of actionable advice on ways in which you can improve your content. The tip on reviews for local businesses is my favorite this week.

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Possible big algorithm update March 8, 2017

Who is this important for?

Likely just Black/Grey Hats, but it's early to say for certain


Barry Schwartz wrote about a possible big algorithm update that appears to be happening now. He has noticed a lot more chatter than usual in Black Hat forums and thinks this has something to do with links. My own data is not showing anything obvious at this point.

The general consensus is that this seems to have something to do with links. I'm not sure if I completely agree though. I have seen a couple of examples of sites with spammy link profiles that have been hit...but I have also heard of massive drops in sites that have relatively clean link profiles.

The algorithm change has jokingly been called "Fred". This is because Gary Illyes from Google has been on vacation and has been posting pictures of a tropical fish he calls Fred.

I'll have more information in next week's episode about what we know when we have more data on this change.

Tip - Ask for reviews!

Who is this important for?

Businesses with a local presence who want to rank in Google maps listings.

Summary and Recommendations

If you are trying to rank locally, it is believed that the presence of reviews for your business is a ranking factor. I have heard some say that you need to have more than five reviews in order for them to start helping with your rankings, but I'm not sure if anyone has proven this.

I recently convinced a client of mine to start reaching out to their clients and ask for reviews. I crafted an email for him that he could send out to clients. It went something like this:

Hi Clientname,

Hope you are well! I'm writing to ask if it would be possible for you to leave a review for us on our Google Maps page. The more reviews we have, the more people are likely to choose us as their [profession name]. It doesn't have to be much...just a few paragraphs would be great.

Here are some instructions on how to do this. I've also included an image that should help:

1) Search Google for "[brand name + keyword]".
2) On the right hand side you should see a box with our business logo and information. Click on "Leave a review".

[Include a screenshot with arrows pointing to the search query and also the place where it says to leave a review.]

Thanks so much! 

The client sent out five emails and within two weeks three of those had added a great review:

ask for reviews

Now, we already held the number two position for this local keyword,  (We're working on getting to #1!), so those reviews didn't improve our rankings. I'll report back when we have a few more and see if this changes. However here is the really cool thing. Those reviews appear to have dramatically improved conversions. Unfortunately Google My Business data only goes back 90 days, but here is the information showing how many people clicked through to the client's website:

local reviews

Thirteen visitors may not seem like many, but I can tell you that several of those people converted and this is a business where one new client results in a huge sale. This business owner recently told me that they have not been this busy in a long time.

The point here is that having good reviews is good for business!


If you are a local business I would urge you to develop a strategy in which you ask clients for reviews. You will not break Google's TOS by doing so provided you don't offer an incentive. Just a word of warning though, you can't solicit reviews on Yelp.

Our plan for this business is to contact 3-4 past clients each week and ask if they can provide us with a review. I thoroughly believe that reviews are helpful for rankings, but only if you are getting them regularly. You don't want to have a big burst of 10 reviews and then never get another one.

The DMOZ Directory is closing down

Who is this important for?

It's not really important - but it's interesting news.


DMOZ is one of the most well known good directories out there. It is known for being a human edited directory that was actually really good to get listed in. Sadly, the directory is now shutting down. I found it funny this week to read all of the tweets from people who were still waiting after many years to get a listing approved in Dmoz. Personally, I had a great connection who was a DMoz editor and I was able to get businesses listed instantly. Well..there goes another easy to obtain link source!.


Want more?

Paid subscribers of my newsletter received lots of additional information this week including the following:

  • Some information on how Panda works along with step by step instructions on one way to find pages of your site that might be harming you.
  • Really cool information on how Google is changing the way they recommend local business recommendations to users.
  • Some information on problems with Google Analytics and AMP pages.
  • Step by step instructions on the process that I use to find internal link opportunities that will help boost your rankings.
  • Some interesting information on image optimization.
  • Information on the meta keywords tag and why it might be hurting your website.

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