I was drinking some “Mint Mosaic” Tazo tea and wondering what I could do on a regular basis to give some additional value to my readers as well as increase engagement on this blog. The magical zen the tea provides allowed me to think of a “Why it’s ranking” topic where we do a random search, and dissect it to figure out the reason why it’s ranking.
This is a great way to identify a lot of correlation that will help you with your own clients. I also hope you will do your own analysis and pick up on things that I don’t!
So Let’s Analyze This 7 Pack
So for the first issue of “Why it’s Ranking” I decided to use a fairly common service industry in a pretty large city.
Search Term – Plumber in Atlanta
At first glance we know this field looks to be pretty competitive just based on the reviews. The number one spot, is Ridgeway Plumbing with a monster amount of reviews, adding up to 48.
The top rankings here, are against the rules that most people tell you to abide by, but in a large metro area like Atlanta, you can bet these businesses are raking in the dough, so why follow the rules?
The “A” Spot – Ridgeway Mechanical
The #1 Ranking spot is a company called Ridgeway Mechanical, but the business name used in Google My Business is Ridgeway Plumbing Atlanta and Drain Service. Clearly it is manipulating the title to include keywords and location which obviously is still giving them a large boost in rankings.
I believe they would still be ranking in the 7 pack, maybe in the B or C spot since they have a good amount of citations, a lot of pictures on their listing and 48 reviews.
This little exploit they are using is most likely the #1 reason why they are remaining in the A spot. I would bet once Google finds out, or someone reading this blog ends up reporting them, they will end up either getting hit or having their listing corrected.
According to Bright Local they have a total of 179 citations but have about 40 out of the top 50 sources claimed. Pretty excellent NAP consistency but there is room for improvement with their BBB listing. A slight change, instead of listing Ridgeway Mechanical Inc., they should probably remove the “inc” for consistency of citations.
Areas of improvement: This business has increased risk due to manipulation of GMB rules and guidelines. They also have some improvements they can make with on page optimization as well as setting up high powered citations like Facebook, Yellowpages, Factual, Axciom.
The website has a decent design but isn’t responsive. They have a mobile compatible website so should be able to survive the April 21st Algo change but should probably look into a responsive redesign in the future.
The largest risk they’re running is their backlink profile, but lucky for them local is a little immune. They have over 5,000 links and most are garbage. They’ve been extremely lucky so far.
Conclusion – While this business appears strong at the surface with full listing optimization, great reviews, and solid citations with no real consistency issues they’re jeopardizing their rankings by using an inappropriate business title. The mass spam backlinks are also an issue. If they’re smart, they will fix the business title, and improve some on page optimization to survive for the long haul.
The “B” Spot – Atlantis Plumbing
This is a really interesting one because this business should not be ranking in the 7 pack, period.
Atlantis Plumbing is the example of everything you shouldn’t do. However, it is still ranking #2.
They are using a strategy I have talked about, with city specific landing pages and it seems like it is working well for them, but they aren’t using it to the extent that they should. Their surrounding cities would pop up much better if they used the strategy I talked about.
Considering how thin their city specific landing pages are, I think Google might classify them as “Doorway pages” in the recently announced ranking adjustment.
It’s hard to point out what they’ve done right, but this isn’t about what they’ve done right, it’s about why they’re ranking I guess. They do have a somewhat optimized + Page so I guess that’s something they’ve done semi-right.
I have a theory that the business name has a lot to do with why they’re ranking. Atlantis Plumbing is very similar to Atlanta Plumbing. Could it be that Google is considering the business name as a near exact match business name for the search term? The “IS” at the end of Atlantis Plumbing is the only difference. I know Google uses partial match for city terms, and abbreviations so it isn’t far fetched to believe they may be placing too much importance on their business name as a ranking signal.
The citations they have are junk. Out of the top 50 citation sources they have only 6. Those 6 citations are ALL CONFLICTING! Seriously, they are 100% conflicting citations and no citation has a listing in Atlanta! The citations they have are listing a Dallas, GA address, and sometimes different business names, numbers and addresses. Citations are an absolute disaster.
They’re not displaying their address in GMB because it’s a UPS store or some virtual office place.
Conclusion – This is a mess of a client for someone. Whoever they hired to do SEO should never be hired again. The best thing they have going for them is the on page optimization and reviews. Even the on page SEO is mediocre, so it’s amazing to see them ranking. I highly doubt they will be there for long. Interesting possibility of the business name being a BIG potential factor here.
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The “C” Spot – Davis Plumbing
I’m so glad to be at the C spot now, Atlantis Plumbing ruffled up my feathers a little bit.
Davis Plumbing looks promising. They have the highest website authority and citation authority of everyone in this 7 pack but are ranking third. Since it looks like the first two have future penalties or issues that will affect their rankings, it seems like Davis Plumbing is in a pretty good spot.
However, just because they have higher citation authority doesn’t mean that much, they also have a lot of conflicting data in their citations.
I’m not a big fan of their website and I think their on page optimization needs work. Overall, this is the type of business I’d expect to see in the 7 pack, but they need some clean up work on their citations.
Areas of improvement – Their Google + company page is inactive. It looks bad from a user standpoint. I think they could benefit from a redesign or at the very least implement better on page optimization. They have some reviews, but it looks like they place more importance on Yelp for reviews, which we all know that’s not a good long term strategy since they can disappear overnight. I would recommend to them that they start asking for a few reviews on Google instead of Yelp. They also need to clean up their citations.
Conclusion – If it weren’t for them thinking it was a good idea to use a data aggregator for citations and changing the business name to Davis Plumbing Atlanta for those conflicting citations, then they would be in very good shape. I bet it was a local SEO company that thought of that “great idea” and messed it up for them. There are areas of improvement that need attention but the citation issue is the higher priority.
The “D” Spot – Plumb Works Inc.
Another business with a lot of reviews, 2nd only to Ridgeway but in the 4th spot.
The first thing that sticks out I suppose, are the reviews. However, the second impression was when I visited the website and shook my head at the missing conversions they probably have. Look at that big space in the header, and it’s just blank. Awful. They should at the very least have a big phone number displayed right there. They probably have one of the more attractive websites but it’s kind of busy and I bet they’re missing out on a lot of leads.
The on page optimization is average at best. Everything from the URL structure, to the Title tags, it all needs improvement in my opinion. These are some quick wins that could make a difference in position almost immediately, assuming everything else is good.
Responsive design, that’s always a good thing but they should consider removing the slideshow from being loaded if the user has under a certain screen size, which would improve load time. Probably remove unnecessary modules as well since this will all factor in.
Areas of Improvement – Some better on page optimization would likely send this company to the A spot, but they also need to fix a couple high powered citations due to phone number inconsistencies and a couple with name issues but these seem to be minor. There are also other powerful citation sources they should be claiming.
Conclusion – Plumb Works looks pretty good for the most part. Minimal work and they will see some easy wins. Tons of reviews. I think their biggest weakness is the on page optimization but I also think some conflicting citations are holding them back.
The “E” Spot – Plumbing For Less
This is an interesting one because in the original search the domain being listed is atlantaplumberforless.com but it redirects to plumbingforless.biz. Now if you do another search using the company phone number as the search term, a duplicate listing pops up for plumbingforless.biz with the same NAP data but the atlantaplumberforless.com listing is the one that is ranking.
Also, the number being used in both listings they have, the duplicate and original, include a number that conflicts with the phone number being listed on the website.
It is also possible that they are located in a city outside of atlanta and using a fake address or a forwarding address. The “#16” suggests it is some sort of PO box or mailbox rental service and considering that their BBB listing shows a different city, this will eventually become a problem, all it takes is one person to report them and then they’re probably gone.
Their on page optimization is mediocre like everyone elses so far, but they do implement the city specific landing pages but instead of putting them in the footer or sidebar, they have it as a drop down menu item with sub menu items as well. URL structure is spotty, and definitely not done properly.
If the new algorithm update targeting doorway pages is implemented to impact local results, this will surely be a victim. We’ll have to come back and see.
Backlink profile is crap.
Areas of Improvement – Pretty much everything. They need to fix their on page optimization as well as their city specific landing pages, those aren’t going to work. The duplicate listing is just like powdering the hand of Google before they slap you senseless. The conflicting number on the site itself, is a big issue. This is likely the result of another SEO company doing what they think will work. (Still think you’re not ready to get these types of clients? If you’ve been reading this blog and have gone through the Local SEO Training you’ll be ahead of 95% of the people out there)
Conclusion – Besides conflicting citations, duplicate listings, conflicting phone number from the duplicate and original listings to the website, different websites, crappy on page optimization…ugh.. nevermind, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is nothing they can do to improve their rankings, they should be counting their blessings that they’re ranking in a large city like Atlanta instead of their actual location in East Point GA. I’m not sure there’s any amount of money they could offer me to take them on as a client. This company is a goner from the SERPs, it’s only a matter of time.
The “F” Spot – Royal Flush Plumbing
Cool name, lots of play on words we could use with that. So let’s see how the cards are dealt and how much is in the pot.
Cross referencing the phone number, I found their yelp page which appears to have some decent reviews, and also links to a site that is different than the one listed in the 7 pack. Apparently it is the same site, almost 100% duplicate on different domains.
Site listed in 7 pack: Plumber-atlanta-ga.com
Site listed on yelp: PlumbAtlanta.com
The website, both of them are awful.
The number listed in the 7 pack is conflicting with the number on the website (both of them).
It seems that Royal Flush is quickly going down the drain.
Of course a little more digging finds Royal Flush in a big sea of sewage with an address outside of Atlanta, in Lilburn, GA but they must be another one using a UPS store, or mailbox rental service.
I’m not even going into the shit storm of citations.
Areas of Improvement – These guys are only ranking temporarily, they will be gone soon enough I bet. I actually find it rather surprising that most of these businesses are getting away with these tactics. Most of the time, other SEO companies will report the shit out of each other to reduce the competition. Areas of improvement? Why bother? They don’t have a legitimate long term chance.
Conclusion – Royal Flush would be a royal pain in the ass to work with for SEO. They should be counting their blessings and enjoy every day they’re ranking because it won’t last much longer.
The “G” Spot – Quik Action Plumbing
I’ll avoid any jokes and punchlines but if this becomes a regular thing I may not be able to.
When I saw Quik Action Plumbing in the G spot, I was hoping for some good news, I was hoping that they would actually be located in Atlanta and have an actual long term shot at ranking and moving on up the list due to the other common mistakes made.
The unique thing about Quik Action Plumbing is they didn’t completely lie about their address. Their address is correct, with the exception of the city but because of the zip code being correct they were able to use the postcard verification system and end up with their listing in Atlanta. The address listed is in Brookhaven, GA but somehow they were able to show up in ATL.
Really interesting to see that.
The problem they have though, is a massive amount of conflicting citation data. Other issues related to On page SEO could be fixed relatively easy for some quick wins but the citation problem is one that needs to be addressed since there are citations that list multiple as in 3 or more different sets of data.
Areas of Improvement – The biggest problem is the lack of NAP consistency. I don’t hold a LOT of stock in NAP consistency but usually in situations like this it is an issue that needs to be addressed. The other area that should be focused in on is on page optimization, they can implement better on page and probably move on up relatively easily. A few more reviews wouldn’t hurt.
Conclusion – I give them props on the address thing, looks like it has worked rather well for them but I can’t say for certainty if it will be a long term success. If it is going to be there for the long term, it’s time to focus on cleaning up those citations, especially if they’re going to link to citation sources from their website with conflicting information. Getting additional reviews and working on the on page optimization of the site can easily propel them to the C, or D spot, especially if they start reporting the other businesses for “foul play”.
A lot of research I do is using Bright Local, I’m a big fan of their platform, awesome reports, great data, necessary for anyone offering local SEO.
So what’s your take on this? Have you noticed anything that could contribute to rankings, any advice you would give those businesses? Leave your comments below, and also let me know if you would like to see these types of posts more often!