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In this week’s update, learn about a business in El Paso literally called “Dentist Near Me”; the increasing concerns of social media users over privacy; a poll suggesting the Vicinity Update hit multi-location businesses the hardest; Google’s new GBP overlay in Search; and the purchase behavior of social media users.


“Dentist Near Me” Takes Keyword Spam to Logical Conclusion


By the time I saw the “Dentist Near Me” photo on Twitter, shared by another user, it apparently was already going viral on LinkedIn, in what is purportedly the original post by Christian Arriola on January 20. It has supposedly been shared widely on other platforms as well, gaining attention wherever it appears. This is likely because the photo humorously captures the well-known fact that stuffing keywords into the business name of a Google Business Profile gives a ranking advantage that many consider to be one of the worst forms of local search spam. For a few years now, examples of egregiously overstuffed business names have been frequently shared by local SEOs on Twitter and elsewhere, accompanied by the hashtag #StopCrapontheMap.


In a somewhat unexpected development, however, actually changing one’s business name to a more keyword-rich alternative has become a common recommendation for SEOs in some verticals such as law – a fact that was mentioned by more than one contributor to the 2021 edition of Local Search Ranking Factors. 


Though it looks like it might have been photoshopped, Arriola claimed the “Dentist Near Me” photo showed a real business in El Paso, Texas. Cyrus Shephard shared a screenshot on Twitter of the office’s Google profile, and others responded with examples of their own, including “ER Near Me” (supposedly elsewhere in Texas) and “Sushi Near Me” (which I was able to locate in Los Angeles). Note however that the recent Vicinity Update, which is supposed to have reduced the ranking impact of keyword stuffing, may have made this daring strategy less likely to succeed.




The “Dentist Near Me” photo, courtesy (I think) of Christian Arriola

Social Media Users Increasingly Concerned About Privacy


A new survey from Go Verizon asked 1,000 people in the U.S. about their attitudes toward social media and privacy, finding that a huge majority of respondents, 81%, are more concerned about privacy than they were last year, with 69% having deleted or considered deleting at least one of their social media accounts due to reports of data breaches. 


On the opposite end of the privacy spectrum, many users see social media as a way to gain greater exposure, with 42% saying they keep their accounts public out of a desire to become influencers, compared with only 1 in 10 users who say they keep their accounts private out of a fear of hacking. Some 66% of respondents say they pay close attention to news of data breaches, and 62% make use of two- or three-factor authentication. 


Also rather surprisingly, a full half of respondents say their personal or business account has been impersonated by a fake account, with 58% reporting that at least one of their social media accounts was either hacked or the target of an attempted hacking in the past year. 


As for social media companies making money from user data, 90% of respondents say they find such monetization either very or somewhat concerning, and 79% say they would rather have the right to sell their own data than to have it monetized by a social platform.



Courtesy Social Media Today / Go Verizon

Poll Suggests Multi-Location Businesses Were Most Affected by Vicinity Update


Bright Local recently asked 500 customers about the impact of the Vicinity Update on the business locations they manage. Respondents varied from small business owners to consultants, agencies, and multi-location businesses. (The Vicinity Update is the Google local algorithm update that occurred in late November and early December of 2021.)


By relatively small margins, the poll found that those representing multi-location businesses felt their locations had experienced the most significant impact, whether positive or negative. Whereas 35% of multi-location respondents felt the Vicinity Update did not affect them at all, some 27% said the update led to greatly improved or slightly improved rankings, while 38% said it caused rankings to be either slightly or greatly impaired. Those who felt their multi-location business was greatly impacted either positively or negatively made up 25% of the responses in that sector. 


The report speculates that multi-location brands may have suffered to some degree in terms of decreased geographic reach, one of the hallmarks of the update, a change which may have given a comparative benefit to smaller businesses competing for the same keywords. 



Courtesy Bright Local

Review Snippets Displayed in Google Map


Allie Margeson from Whitespark has shared some screenshots on Twitter of review snippets appearing on Google’s map display alongside the business’s map pin and business name, commenting that these excerpts from reviews are “another reason to get keywords in your reviews.” I’ve been able to reproduce these pretty easily in searches on Google Maps for iPhone. Such snippets resemble somewhat the excerpting of review content for justifications, the text snippets that sometimes appear as part of listings in the local pack and local finder – and I’m seeing a few examples of justifications popping up in the map itself, for example “Their website mentions guided tours” in a search for “guided tours sedona az.” But as for the review snippets on the map, they don’t seem obviously tied to the intent of the search quite so closely as review justifications shown elsewhere.




Review snippets and website justification in Google Maps display

Google Shows Overlays in Search for Business Owners


Google has begun displaying a large overlay when an owner or manager visits their Google Business Profile in Search. This was first captured on Twitter by Andy Simpson and I’ve been able to reproduce it as well. The overlay consists of a few screens the user can page through that provide a simple tour of the features and capabilities of the Search interface for editing Google Business Profile information; promoting your business via updates, offers, and ads; and responding to messages and reviews. Google is clearly expending some effort on getting businesses to engage with the new interface.



Courtesy Search Engine Roundtable / Andy Simpson

82% of Users Make Purchases via Social Media


The Influencer Marketing Factory has released a new report showing that social commerce has become a significant force, with 82% of 1,000 survey respondents reporting that they’ve purchased something on their phone that they discovered via social media. Some 40% prefer online shopping to shopping in stores, that number skewing towards the younger population. Livestreams are a popular source of product recommendations, with 57% of respondents saying they’ve bought something while watching a livestream. Apparel/clothing and personal care/beauty were the most popular product categories, and 29% of respondents say they purchase something via social media once a week.




Preferences for online and in-store shopping, courtesy Business of Apps / Influencer Marketing Factory

Damian Rollison

With over a decade of local search experience, Damian Rollison, SOCI's Director of Market Insights, has focused his career on discovering innovative ways to help businesses large and small get noticed online. Damian's columns appear frequently at Street Fight, Search Engine Land, and other publications, and he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Localogy, Brand Innovators, State of Search, SMX, and more.

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