Hotels Lose against Google Local: Centroid Battle for Las Vegas

This is part 3 of my three-part series on Local Search in Google (The Centroid Battle for Las Vegas). In part one we dissected a Google 7 Pack page for hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada. In part two we took a close look at a major hotel property that had virtually disappeared from local hotel search results on that same ‘7 Pack’ page. In part 3 we are going to look at a variation of how a hotel property can ‘disappear’ even though its physical location suggests it is in one of the best possible locations for top rankings.

Our research again begins at the intersection of S. Las Vegas Blvd. and E. Flamingo Rd. in Clark County, Nevada. This time we’re going to take a look at the area from above, thanks to a digital orthophoto quadrangle (DOQ) provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), that I added some arrows and hotel names to.

Caesars Palace Flamingo Ballys BellagioCaesars Palace, Flamingo, Ballys, Paris, and Bellagio as viewed from above

You may recall from post one in this series that only Caesars Palace (position B) and the Flamingo Las Vegas (position C) appear in the 7 pack even though all four of the hotels listed above (Paris is for reference) are equal in distance to the city centroid. In post two we uncovered some likely reasons why the Bellagio Hotel had lost its place (position D) in the seven pack, which leaves us with one final hotel property.

Places Ballys Las VegasPlaces for Bally’s near Las Vegas

I’m actually a big fan of Bally’s Hotel Las Vegas (much in part due to its central location) but there is no shortage of errors to be found online that are quite likely to be keeping Bally’s Hotel (and possibly even Paris Hotel) off of the seven pack results page. Take a look at my edited screen grab above to spot some errors.

Just like the Bellagio (also not appearing), there are 3 place pages found when searching for Bally’s by brand-name. It’s an ugly mess no doubt. Position A has a title of Paris Las Vegas with the URL for a restaurant located in front of the hotel. Position B is for Bally’s but notice how the address is incorrectly posted? The address (which is correct for the hotel) is also duplicated as the address for the restaurant (incorrect). Position C also has a Bally’s URL (like in position B) but the title reads Paris Las Vegas and the toll-free 866 number listed isn’t even correct for the hotel (Paris toll-free reservation desk is 877-796-2096).

Every one of the listings shown above has at least one element of incorrect or inaccurate information, providing greater evidence that what was discussed in post two, offers strong credibility for reasons why a particular business may not be appearing in the seven pack.

Ballys Google Place PageBally’s Las Vegas Place page (click to view full size)

You would think large corporate hotel and casino operations would have a lockdown on their place pages (you would be wrong). As we can see on the upper right side of the above screen grab, this Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel page (which I believe is the real deal), has not been business owner verified. The address starts out good as 3645 South Las Vegas Boulevard (I prefer Las Vegas Boulevard South) but there are some obvious errors with the address after that.

The photos (provided by Panoramio) appear to be showing the Las Vegas area but they are quite poor in branding for this particular hotel. That’s been frequently the case in my research of relying on user generated photos that are placed algorithmically on the page. It’s a far better user experience in my opinion when the business owner provides at least six high quality photos that appropriately reflect that particular place page.

Paris Hotel Las Vegas Place PageParis Hotel Place page (click to view full size)

The place page for Paris Hotel isn’t any better than the one for Bally’s. Both hotels are under the same ownership, and likely the same management, but there’s no logical explanation for this mishmash of confusion. Paris has the URL for Bally’s listed even though they have their own site and reservation system. It’s also not a business owner verified place page. A user landing on the page and looking at the images would quite likely assume this was a page for Bally’s. Even the category information is incorrect (circled in red). While other (well ranking) hotel properties were listed in categories such as “Casino, Hotel/Casino” this one above for Paris is listed first under “Physician.” Somebody get me a Doctor.

Eiffel Tower Restaurant Page2 place pages aren’t always better than one

I’ve included a screen grab of the Eiffel Tower Restaurant (which is located in front of the Paris Hotel on the Las Vegas strip) because it’s likely not helping the situation when there is a restaurant place page using the address for Bally’s Hotel and a duplicate restaurant place page using the address for Paris Hotel. It’s bad for users, it’s bad for search engines, and it’s bad for business.

Let’s Review: We started in the first post at the corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Blvd. because that is where Google says the current centroid for Las Vegas is located. Since there was a hotel property on each corner of the intersection we used ‘hotels’ as the keyword for our local research. It could be expected that each of the four adjacent properties would have shown up in 7 pack results, but that wasn’t the case. Two hotels (Bally’s and Bellagio – highlighted in post number two) are currently excluded from the seven pack, which provided excellent opportunity to study potential reasons why. We found many.

Also in the first post of this series I talked about ‘wildcards’ that typically appear in positions F and positions G (or 6 and 7) of a seven pack. The hotels appearing in those positions have already altered since last week. Here’s a fresh look at today’s results.

Las Vegas Hotels OctoberLas Vegas Hotel Results

Today’s newcomer is Casino Royale Las Vegas taking over wild-card position F. The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino has moved into wildcard position G and the Luxor is gone from the 7 pack mix. For now, the cluster has moved North of Flamingo Rd., and the battle for the centroid in Las Vegas continues.

Note: I will be addressing several “most important factors” from this three-part series in more detail (along with quite a bit of information about reviews and other local search signals) during my Local Search Rankings PubCon session in Las Vegas Nevada on November 8, say hi if you’re at the conference.

Battle Las Vegas: Disappearing Hotels in Local Search

This is the second of a three-part series on Local Search in Google (The Centroid Battle for Las Vegas). In the first post of this series (read it again), we dissected the ‘7 pack’ of results that appeared when searching for Las Vegas hotels. Seeing who is listed in the 7 pack is easy, discovering who is not, takes a little bit more research.

Las Vegas is known for magic shows that mystify audiences (it’s also legal to drink from open containers), so how about we look behind the curtain to see how a major hotel property in Las Vegas, vanished from the 7 pack. Grab yourself a beverage and let’s head to the intersection of S. Las Vegas Blvd. and E. Flamingo Rd. at the center of the Las Vegas strip.

Ballys Bellagio Center Las VegasBally’s Hotel and Casino & Bellagio Hotel in center of Vegas

X marks the spot, that according to Google local search, is the center of Las Vegas. There are four massive hotel properties at this intersection (one on each corner). We have Caesars Palace, The Flamingo, Bally’s, and the Bellagio. 3 of the properties (Bally’s, Caesars, Flamingo) are owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. The Bellagio is owned by MGM Grand Resorts International. There is also Bill’s Gambling Hall and Saloon which straddles The Flamingo (also owned by Caesars). Who’s got the edge if all of these properties are listed in the 7 pack? Let’s review that screen grab again.

Top Three Las Vegas HotelsTop Three Las Vegas Hotels – 7 Pack – Plus Corporations

While dissecting the 7-pack, something I did not highlight in the first post and marked by red rectangles, was the exact match domains to title tags for results A, B and C. Remember the 3 pack? Those are still the coveted positions in my opinion. I included who owns each property because it’s important when doing research to know that we’re not always dealing with 7 individual players jockeying for position. In this case there are 3 winners, and several unseen losers.

People oftentimes assume Google’s 7 pack results are based on proximity, but when viewing the map above, we clearly see that’s not the case. I imagine you’ve been to Las Vegas and you’ve walked the strip at least once. If results were proximal to who was physically located near the centroid we’d likely see the Bellagio Hotel, Bally’s Hotel, Imperial Palace, the Mirage, Paris Hotel (adjacent to Bally’s), and maybe even Planet Hollywood, the Palazzo, Treasure Island (TI) Hotel, and the Wynn. Yet none of those hotels are listed in the 7-pack. So, how do you make one of largest hotel properties in Las Vegas vanish?

3 Place pages Bellagio Hotel3 Place pages for Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas (like having 3 aces of spades hidden in the deck)

Google suggests not having three place pages for your business, local search experts suggest not having 3 place pages for your business, and yet when searching via keyword ‘bellagio’ we see 3 different place pages for one of the largest hotel casino properties in Las Vegas. It’s like someone slipped three aces of spades into the house deck, but who?

In the first post of this series I pointed out that the Mandalay Bay Hotel was incorrectly being listed on the map location of the Bellagio (both hotels owned by MGM) and that was potentially creating a bad user experience. Looking at the screen grab above we see several potential reasons why the Bellagio is currently nonexistent in the 7 pack. To make matters worse, users are leaving reviews on all three Place pages. Will the real Bellagio place page please stand up?

Via Bellagio Hotel Las VegasVia Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas Non-Owner Verified (place page A)

Someone into conspiracy theories could suggest this is hotel ranking local search sabotage. It’s not an owner verified business listing, the address only says ‘Paradise, Nevada’, and all the photos are provided by a Google User. However, the toll-free number listed is the room reservation assistance number for the hotel. It gets worse.

Bellagio 3600 Las Vegas BlvdBellagio at 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. – Place page position C

Place position C looks like the real deal until we take a closer look. Again, we see the page has not been business owner verified (a red flag). However, the address is correct and the phone number listed is the Clark County local calling area code (702) for the Bellagio hotel operator, even the appropriate domain is listed. But those images are coming from a third-party hotel aggregating website, with none of the photos being business owner verified. There is a pearl of wisdom in this oyster: the Bellagio is getting screwed.

Bellagio Hotel Casino Las Vegas 89158Bellagio Hotel & Casino Las Vegas Place Page – Owner Verified

Place page position B is the real deal, and it’s marked as an owner-verified listing. The address is correct, the toll-free contact number is correct, but the images could use some improvement (more on that in part 3 of this series). Think this is all circumstantial evidence and perhaps maybe having owner verified place pages, proper phone numbers, and correct address data isn’t as important as the experts suggest? Good thing I save my screenshots, take a look at position D.

Position D Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas NevadaBellagio Hotel in Position D for Las Vegas Nevada Hotels

Oh, the mystery of the disappearing hotel. In part 3 of this series we’re going to look at another hotel that happens to share the same intersection as the Bellagio, along with some examples explaining why it also is a no-show in the 7-pack, hopefully providing you with a better understanding of what’s going on in the local search world.

Las Vegas Hotels: 7 Pack Place Page Review

This is the first of a three-part series on Local Search in Google (The Centroid Battle for Las Vegas). In this post we’re going to look at the ‘7 pack’ of results that appear when searching for hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I do much of my research for local in the city of Las Vegas, primarily because there is more of everything that one might be searching for. For example, there are scenarios where a hotel can be found on every corner, which makes it easier to study how one business location is ranking versus the others. Our research today begins at the intersection of S Las Vegas Blvd & E Flamingo Road in Clark County, Nevada.

E Flamingo Road at S Las Vegas BlvdE Flamingo Road at S Las Vegas Blvd

I chose this intersection because this is where Google has determined to place the centroid for the city of Las Vegas. The location differs from what’s considered the center of Las Vegas according to US geological survey maps and some other government map data, but I think in this case Google made the right call, let’s seek to understand why.

Ask your friends or family who have been to Las Vegas to name a hotel that’s located in the center of all the action. Chances are, they will name one of the major hotel properties located near the center of the strip (S. Las Vegas Blvd.), versus downtown Las Vegas (a more accurate geographical center of the city). This goes against the wisdom that Google places centroids near city municipalities (like in downtown Los Angeles).

To know where we were starting, I simply did a search for the city name [las vegas] to determine Google’s preference for placing the centroid. You can typically do this for any town or city you’d like to locate a centroid for. I then set my browser’s default location to Las Vegas, NV (you can also disable local search by selecting United States) and typed in my keyword of interest.

Hotels near Las Vegas 7 packHotels near Las Vegas – 2011

For the image above, I moved the map so I can refer to corresponding letters, results will appear differently on your screen when doing searches. It’s important to know that the screen grab was made in Oct 2011 and live results will vary.

I’m assuming you’ve been to Las Vegas and walked the strip at least once. You may have been in a drunken stupor but now you can tell people you were conducting research. Take a look at the map and count through the 7 letters from A to G. Notice results A, B, C and E are north of the centroid (Flamingo Road) and results D, F, and G are south? Do you see how five of the letters are clustered and two are quite a distance away from the center. That’s not at all uncommon and I’ll refer to those scattered individual results as wildcards.

The Flamingo Hotel & Casino (in position C) is located nearest the centroid and Caesers Palace (position B) is located directly across the street, giving us the feeling perhaps that everything appears normal, but it’s not the case. To spot the misfit take a look at the address for The Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South) and see which addresses are the furthest away. Notice any?

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. (position A) to 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. (position D) is a 3 mile one way walk and so we can see THEHotel at Mandalay Bay (in position D) is marked in the wrong location. It should be south of the Luxor (position G) and adjacent to McCarran Airport. It could be happening intentionally or Google is accidentally marking this hotel property next to Caesars Palace. Imagine the disappointment of a first time tourist in Vegas booking a stay at Mandalay Bay based on this map and discovering it’s at the near absolute end of the strip. Also, the hotel expected in position D has had its place hijacked and/or sabotaged (more on that in post 2 of this series). We can see the 7 pack isn’t perfect, even for a highly visible search term like hotels.

Las Vegas Hotels 702 area codeHotels using local area code 702

Viewing the image above, we see that only three hotels use a local 702 area code phone number, while the other four use either a toll-free 800-number (Luxor and Harrah’s), a toll-free 877 number (Mandalay Bay), or a toll-free 888 number (Flamingo). One of the original Nevada area codes, established in October of 1947, was area code 702. Due to growth in the Las Vegas area, nearly all areas outside of the city rely on other area codes. There is disagreement in the local search community on the value of phone numbers, but it is my feeling that if you have a number that signals location, make use of it.

Las Vegas Boulevard SouthLas Vegas Boulevard South

Five out of the seven hotels listed include ‘Las Vegas Boulevard South’ in their address. One location (Caesars Palace) uses the abbreviated 3570 Las Vegas Blvd S address, and the MGM Grand lists its address as 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard without identification of North or South.

Las Vegas Brand vs HotelBrand vs Las Vegas Hotel

Remember, my location was set to Las Vegas, Nevada and my keyword searched was hotels. Four out of the seven locations (technically 3 of 7) use the keyword in their listing, but positions A, B and C (the top 3) do not. Think any of the bottom four could be positioned better relying on their brand name alone?

Some would argue that all of this granular attention to detail doesn’t really matter when it comes to getting listed in the 7 pack, I’m perfectly content with them thinking that way. If you don’t think the city centroid matters (more importantly in the mind of the consumer versus just Google) take a look at this.

Center of Las Vegas ShiftedAria hotel advertising suggesting center of Las Vegas has moved

The largest privately funded construction project in the history of the United States was the construction of CityCenter in Las Vegas. Construction costs totaled over $9 billion and the project was started by MGM Resorts International. Take a peek back at the map above to locate this area of recently constructed hotels. CityCenter is south of position D, north of position G, and east of the 15 interstate. It’s positioned nicely between the cluster of five hotels and the two wild cards.

It may interest those deeply into local search to know that Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, and Luxor, are all owned by MGM Resorts International (along with hotels in the CityCenter). Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, and Harrah’s (positions B, C and E) are all owned by Caesars Entertainment Corporation.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. owns other hotels near the current city centroid and MGM Resorts International owns hotels near the current wildcards. It’s a virtual poker showdown on the streets of the Las Vegas strip, and Google is the house.

In part two (now posted) we will look at who’s not listed in the 7 pack (even though they share the same streetcorners as those that were) and identify a few of the likely reasons why. The centroid battle of Las Vegas has just begun.

Drunken Batman Spotted on Las Vegas Strip

Taking photos in Las Vegas: is that a drunken batman in the background? While walking along the Las Vegas Strip I spotted this local wearing a not so welcoming t-shirt and enjoying a 24oz Pabst Blue Ribbon. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed someone else was in this photo. Take a look.

Pabst Blue Ribbon on Las Vegas Stripaka Welcome to Las Vegas

Not the most friendly t-shirt but I thought it was funny so I asked permission to take this guys picture. What I didn’t see was the man in tights leaning against the railing while polishing off what was likely an alcoholic beverage left behind by a passing tourist. Holy Uggs Batman!

wtf batman las vegasWTF Batman? That’s just plain ugly.

Walking the Las Vegas Strip (and even from the airport) you sometimes see the oddest things, but this photo’s got me checking others to see what I may have missed.