In this week’s episode, Greg shares his entire presentation about Local SEO from the recent Agents of Change conference in Maine (which was an amazing conference, by the way). Learn about website content, optimizing for the local algorithm, local link building, reputation management, and Google Business Profile optimization.
Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. This week, I’m sharing the slides from my recent keynote presentation at the agents of Change Conference in Maine.
It’s full conferences, and so I’m on the road just about every week speaking at various conferences. A few weeks ago, I hopped up to Maine to speak at the agents of Change Conference. And I wanted to share a recording of the presentation with you on this week’s episode. It’s a bit longer since it’s my entire presentation. So kick back and get comfy.
This is how to win the battle for visibility and local search results. You’re watching this on my video series level search Tuesday, so I don’t really have to tell you watch it. But, hey, if it’s your first time seeing this, it’s part of my weekly video series called local search Tuesdays where I share helpful information about how to show up better. In local searches, I am the chief operating officer at SearchLab, and I do have a pretty lucky life that I get to travel all over the world and speak at a ton of conferences helping businesses show up better in searches, but sometimes at some of these conferences, they just put sales guys on stage, and they’re not really that great at speaking, and they’re typically gonna stand behind podium and talk in a monotone and not be very engaging.
And even worse, they have like zero design elements in their slides. So it’s just a plain white background with black aerial font, and they’ll pack every side with bullet points and just read bullet points the entire time. And not only is that not very engaging and not fun to watch, scientists have actually proven the bullet points co kitten. So we’re gonna keep all the kitties safe today.
And just talk about SEO. And there’s always a movie reference every time I do a presentation because I am a ridiculous movie nut.
Today’s theme is superhero movies. We’ve got a hundred and five different references to superhero movies, including at least one movie for every year in the last fifty years. There is attribution to the side So if something looks cool and you haven’t seen it, you can go check it out later. And for all the Marvel nerds out there, just once I get past the beginning little jokey intro.
It’s all of the Marvel movies from the MCU in order of the timeline. So it’s setting. So let’s go.
Why in the long face?
Are you spending too much time looking up at the competition that ranks higher in searches?
You don’t have to have a huge brain to seen in SEO, even though sometimes it seems like it might be magic and voodoo, it’s really not.
Today, I’m gonna share a lot of hot tips with you so that you can crush the competition and kick ass in search results.
It’s important to start with the understanding that Google has multiple algorithms and the local algorithm It’s only gonna show results in a particular geographic area and it weights the traditional SEO factors differently and it includes additional factors that the normal algorithm doesn’t even pay attention to, which means if you’re optimizing to show up in a particular geographic area, you need to optimize differently. So how do you know if you need it? Well, it’s pretty simple. If you do face to face business with customers either at a brick and mortar location or at the customer’s location, like a plumber or an electrician, then you need local SEO.
Sometimes it gets a little bit more confusing because you may be an e commerce business that some of your queries may have local intent. So take a couple of your most important money keywords, do searches. If you see a map pack displayed, that means at least for those queries, you need to be doing local SEO.
And you should pay attention to the annual local search ranking factor study. They take the top fortieth people on the planet in local search, send them out a survey about positive factors, negative factors, competitive factors, foundational factors, they aggregate all the answers. And you get a pretty good handle on what matters for local visibility. So you get two pie charts.
One that shows you the factors that influence your visibility in the map pack or in searches in Google Maps And another that shows you the factors that influence your visibility in the organic listings below the map pack. It’s pretty much your guide to what signals you need to optimize if you wanna show up better in local searches. And I also like to boil things down to simple concepts. I know a lot of times people come back from conferences they need to drastically change their strategy or convince their boss that they need to do something differently or even convince clients that things need to be done differently in the easiest way to explain to a lay person how local SEO works is with pizza delivery.
So watch the video and explains how to do it. But basically, Think of it like if you’re doing a search from your office for the two words pizza delivery, you’d get a list of all the pizza delivery spots right there by your office. But if you were to do the same search from your home with the same two words, you’d get totally different results even though You didn’t type in a free as like a city or something like near me or nearby.
Google knows your physical location and your location is going to influence what you see in search results. So this is a really great way to illustrate how local SEO is different from traditional SEO. Because in traditional SEO, if you write number one, You rank number one everywhere.
And it’s not just putting keywords in a few spots. It’s about optimizing the user experience, how people experience your website, is important to SEO. And you gotta optimize for conversions because we know that people don’t typically sit down Google a solution and buy from the first thing that they find, especially if you skew towards the more expensive end of products or services people will do more research they’re gonna shop around before they submit a leader buy from you, which means they’re gonna see your competition whether you outrank your competition or not. So you wanna make sure that you stand out and that you’re memorable and you’re appealing.
You gotta give people a reason to come back when they’re ready to convert and they’re done with their research. Because if you’ve got the same generic BS content as all of your competitors, why would anyone care and why would anyone choose to buy from you? So use that website content to show everyone why you’re so amazing and why they should buy from you and not from anyone else. Make sure that the content is actually about your business and what makes unique and about the local area.
And I don’t mean about your business as in We treat customers like family because everybody says that. I’m talking about what’s truly unique about your business. And there’s a really easy way to test that. Take your homepage content or your about us page content.
Or even one of your major product or service pages, and change only two things. Anytime your business name appears, you would change that. And anytime the actual city that your mailing address is in, You change that. Don’t change anything else on the page.
Could you then take that content and put it on a similar business’s website on the other side of the country? And would that content still work? Because if it would, means it wasn’t really about you and wasn’t really about the local area. And another really great way to test your content to read it out loud because everything that’s on your site should sound like something that you would say face to face to a customer or over the phone to a customer.
And when we just read it in our head, you see those keywords and you think, oh, this is great. I’ve got all these keywords. But when you read it out loud, you catch those things that do not sound conversational.
So grab another person, have them sit next to you and read it out loud to them to test your content.
Another really important concept to remember If you wanna show up as a search result, when a potential customer’s gonna type something into Google, then you need a page of content on your website, a singular page about that singular concept. And that page needs to be the best answer in the local area to the question that the searcher is asking. You don’t have to write the best page on the internet. You just need the best page in your particular local area.
And if you’re writing the best answer. That probably means you’re gonna answer some of the subsequent questions that that potential customer would have as well. And then once you’ve written all of this amazing content, You gotta optimize it for the local algorithm. You should always write for humans, but then optimize for Google.
And you gotta optimize differently. So I’m gonna walk you through some of the little idiosyncratic things that you do slightly differently when you’re optimizing for local instead of for traditional.
So the most important most weighted element on the page is the title tag. That’s what shows up in the little tab above where you type in your URL. You don’t need to put your business name first. In fact, you should never put your business name first. You don’t even really need it at the end anymore because Google displays the name of the business above the link now. So get that important keyword phrase and the city that you’re targeting in there as well.
Now keep in mind, when I say keyword and city across these page elements, It’s the same one every time. Same keyword, same city.
Second most important element is the h one heading. That’s the big thick headline above the main body of text on the page. You should only have one h one heading on the page. It should be a little bit more conversational and have that same keyword phrase and location phrase.
You should also have it in your page content, but if you’ve written the best answering local area that answers subsequent questions, it’s all about you and all about the local area, you’re not really gonna have to optimize here. You’ll probably be fine.
You can move on. Alt text on images is another really important one. Back in the day, Google couldn’t tell what was in images, so alt text is a text descriptor that goes in the image embed code that causes the image to display on the page. Well, now machine learning allows Google to tell exactly what’s in images, but alt text is still part of the algorithm. So it’s a great way to outpace the competition because most people don’t do anything with it.
Plus, it’s an ADA compliance issue. ADA law says that websites have to be accessible to anyone with any level of ability. So anyone that is hearing impaired is going to use a browser that’s a screen reader. I’m sorry. Not hearing impaired. Anyone that is visually impaired will use a browser that’s a screen reader and it reads it out loud. And if there’s no alt text on the image, you’re out of compliance with ADA law and you can actually get sued by someone with a visual impairment. So do it to avoid the lawsuit as well.
You can also put the keyword and the city in the URL for the page. Now, I’m not telling you to go adjust and change URLs that already exist once a page has been indexed. You don’t really need to go back and change it because it won’t really affect anything by changing the URL. But as you move forward and create new content, Make sure you’ve got those phrases in there.
And finally, the meta description. Now the meta description is behind the scenes, and it does not have any influence on ranking. But since it populates those couple of gray sentences that are below your blue link when you show up as a search result, you gotta write something compelling So you should definitely definitely make sure you’ve got those in the meta description as well.
You also need to have a blog you need to post on a regular basis. Because a blog’s not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity. There’s a huge difference between the kind of content that goes on the main section of your site and the kind of content that goes on your blog. Main website content is bottom of funnel content meant to drive conversions, blog content targets mid to upper funnel. So it is much better to target all areas of the funnel, and it would clutter up your menu if you put all of that content on the main body of the site.
So that’s what your blog’s for. In fact, you can talk about local information, interesting, useful, helpful things about the local area, performs really well, and it builds relevancy, and it helps you show up before people are looking to buy what you’re selling.
Almost like putting up a billboard. You don’t put the billboard up thinking that everyone that sees the billboard is gonna buy from you. You put the billboard up for brand awareness.
Same idea with local blog content. And if you need some help figuring out how to do that, I’ve got a great video here that walks you through ten different concepts that you can use as a springboard to come up with your own ideas of localized content.
And if you wanna expand and show up nearby, keep in mind you’ve gotta own your backyard first. What I mean by that? You’ve gotta have a solid enough SEO foundation to be dominating search results where you actually are located, your mailing address. If you don’t have enough optimization to rank well where you’re located, you’re not gonna be able to out optimize the competition.
Remember Google pays attention to where this searcher is, and you’re gonna be further away. So you’ve gotta have really good SEO.
If you wanna be able to start attempting to go after nearby cities. And watch this video. It explains exactly what you need to do there. Now if you’re in a more rural area with less competition, you can just create some city pages and do pretty well there. But if you’re in a metro area or somewhere where there’s a lot more competition, You’re gonna need to create local content silos and be more advanced.
Inbound links work differently as well. We don’t really care about the authority score and whatever link tool you’re using. We don’t even care if it’s a no follow link because it’s been proven that no follow links still work. With the local algorithm.
All you need to worry about is getting local links. Who cares if they’re low authority or no follow, they’re still gonna help And if you get involved in the local community, it’s really easy to get local links. And I’m gonna walk you through some pretty easy strategies that you can use. Local sponsorships are great.
Google doesn’t let you buy links, but Google’s totally okay with you buying the link that results or buying a sponsorship that results in a link. So go get those sponsorships, Little League, Peee football, Poee hockey, five ks, golf tournaments, marathons, anything like that. Awesome opportunities to get local links. Go to meetup dot com, look for groups that have regular monthly meetings, and offer them, you know, fifty, sixty bucks and it will help you get links.
Hey. I’ll give you stuff to buy your snacks and your soft drinks if you give me some links. Do that a couple times. You get some killer links from groups in the local area.
Find any way you can to get the local bloggers to write about you. Even if their blog is not related to the business that you’re in, it doesn’t matter. They’re local. And even if the blog post says they got a free widget for writing about your widget company, Who cares? You’ve got an awesome local link.
Talk to your staff about what they do in their free time outside of work. What are they passionate about? What hobbies do they have? If they belong to any local clubs or organizations, especially if they’re in the leadership group of that local club or organization, it’s gonna make it excessively easy for you to get a link from that organization’s website.
You can also use Google to do your work for you. So come up with your own seed list of keywords. Drop your city in there. Go do searches.
Google’s gonna spit out a list of places you can go get links from. I’m even sharing our onboarding questionnaire with you. This is a questionnaire that we send to all new clients. This will help you prioritize what you wanna do with link building, and it will even help you find some low hanging fruit where you can just kinda go mop up some opportunities of things that have already happened in the past that can get you some great links.
Review are also important, and they’re a weighted element in the local algorithm. In fact, they’ve gained weight every year for the last few years. But I’m not talking about your testimonials page. That’s pretty much worthless. People wanna read honest, unbiased reviews on third party sites. So watch this video.
Don’t really worry too much about that testimonials page. You’ve gotta be proactive. It is not human nature to leave a review if you’re happy. I’m gonna pull out some important elements, but you should definitely watch this video.
Most importantly, you’ve gotta ask every single customer and you’ve gotta make it easy for them You don’t wanna expect that they know where to go. So have a page with links to your review sites. Make sure you’re answering every review as well, not just the positives, just the negatives, but every review that you get. And remember when you’re responding to a bad review, that response is not for the reviewer.
It’s for every potential customer in the future that wants to see what happened in those bad situations. And it doesn’t actually matter how many reviews you have. The algorithm literally doesn’t care. All that matters is that you have more reviews than the local competition, which means regardless of the vertical, how many reviews you need is different based on your market.
Make sure that as you’re acquiring new reviews, you don’t wanna way, way, way outpace the local competition. So get reviews at the same rate or just slightly faster than your local competitors.
And here’s a really cool little bit of info that we’ve put together from recent research. If a review includes a photo, it stays in that default sort for longer. You know, when you first go to your business profile, and you see the default sort of your reviews before you click, I wanna see the newest ones or I wanna see the best or I wanna see the worst. If you have a bad review that shows up there, it can be problematic.
But if a review has a photo, it stays in the default sort for longer. If the review has more text, it stays in the default sort for longer. And you can upvote reviews by giving them a thumbs up. If a review has two or more up votes, it will stay in the default sort for longer.
So if you have a bad review that does show up in the default or you can get it buried fast. Just ask somebody who left a five star review recently to add a little bit more text and story to their review and to upload photo. And then once they’ve done so, have a couple of your team members go and upvote that review. And boom, that bad review gets buried really quickly.
And let’s finish up talking about your Google Business Profile, formerly called Google My Business. It’s your new home page. People don’t have to go to your website to get your phone number, to get your address, or to see or to ask questions or to read testimonials or reviews or even see your products in some cases. So you’ve gotta have an awesome Google business profile to make a better first impression.
Plus, a properly optimized business profile allows you to show up more often in the map So make sure you fill out everything that you can fill out. Make sure you’re using UTM tracking on your website links because attribution is broken in Google Analytics. You wanna make sure that All of those clicks on your business profile are correctly counted as organic clicks. So watch this video, and it explains how to do that.
Make sure that the page that you link to from your Google business profile, which is typically your home page unless you have a multi location business. In that case, it would be the location page for each location. But whichever page your business page or Google business profile points to needs to be optimized for your most important keyword phrase and city. Make sure you’ve got the correct hours listed.
Make sure you’ve got a lot of high quality professionally shot photos uploaded. Make sure you select all of the appropriate categories and be strategic with whichever category you choose first. That primary category carries more weight and in fact according to the local search ranking factor study this year, it’s the most influential factor for showing up in the map pack. So make sure you get that knocked out.
If you do have problems, you get suspended or something’s not working as expected.
Typically, you don’t wanna go to support, support, is all outsourced overseas. They can only follow scripts. They’re usually not very helpful.
So there’s a better option. There is a Google business profile community forum. And it is staffed by volunteers. But once volunteers have answered things consistently well, Google invites them into the product expert program. So if you see an answer from someone product expert badge, you know that person knows their stuff. Plus, anyone at gold or platinum level of the product expert program has the ability to escalate your issue or your thread directly to the Google business profile team and completely skip support. So it’s awesome.
Make sure you’re using Google posts. There are literally free ads that appear on your profile and help you stand out from the competition.
Get more click throughs. You can even get pre site conversion. So I did a Whiteboard Friday for Moz. Go watch it. It’s thirteen and a half minutes of densely packed information.
About how to succeed with Google Post. But the most important thing isn’t the content of the post. That’s what your thumbnail looks like. Google’s gonna automatically crop to a version of the image that’s smaller and you can’t control that crop.
And it’s just gonna show the first few lines of text. If what shows in the thumbnail isn’t compelling, nobody’s gonna click on it. The problem is image cropping is wonky, and it’s not really consistent. So it’s tough to control what’s gonna show up in that thumbnail.
So I created a Photoshop template You can download it at the link right there, and it looks like this. Anything in that white grid is considered safe and will show in the thumbnail, and the rest of the image will appear. Once they’ve clicked the thumbnail.
Make sure you don’t use stock images though because if you don’t use stock images, research has shown you’ll get up to five times more click throughs to your website. And let’s pay attention to the questions and answers element as well that widget allows anyone to ask you a question and it allows any random a hole in the area. To answer the question for you. The general public thinks it’s a chat widget, but it’s not.
It’s actually a community discussion widget. And because of that, Questions can receive multiple answers. So the answer that’s displayed as the primary answer is the answer that has the most up votes, the most thumbs up. You can even load your own questions in.
Nobody’s gonna go to an FAQ page on your site and read through the fifty questions to see if their question is there and may be answered. But they will go to something that they think is gonna give them an instant answer. So you wanna load in your common questions and answer your questions and keep your answers up voted so it’s a better pre site experience because The way it works, if someone is typing in a question and a similar question has been asked and answered already, Google will automatically display an answer to that question.
Now we’ve got a local SEO scoring matrix that we use for conferences and for demos with potential partners that we’re gonna work with. It’s basically a mini audit and scores the four major areas that influence visibility in local searches. The content on your site and how it’s optimized, the links pointed at your website, your Google business profile, and how it’s optimized and your reviews on Google and yelp and how you respond to those reviews. It’s important to point out that it scores on tactics, not on strategy.
Most people use those interchangeably, but strategy is which direction are you going and tactics or which steps do you take to get there? The reason that we score on tactics is it keeps it more helpful for everyone because if it was too much on the strategy side, it’d be very easy for that. In house SEO person or for the business to take it back to their other SEO agency and say, look at these horrible scores. And they could refute those and say, well, they don’t really know your business.
They don’t know the local area. They don’t know the competition. We know you. Our strategy is better.
You can just ignore it. But when it’s basic tactics that anyone that knows SEO would agree are important to be handled, and those tactics aren’t handled. That really uncovers opportunities because if they’re ignoring basic tactics, it doesn’t matter what their strategy is. So then those four areas are weighted to approximate the importance of each of the areas in Google’s local algorithm.
And when you add up all the scores, you end up with a score anywhere from zero to a hundred points. Although there are some things that you can do that are harmful And if you’re doing things that incorrectly, you can actually lose points. Pretty much impossible to get a hundred points though. The highest score we’ve ever seen was an eighty three six, and that was one of our own clients.
The highest non client score we’ve ever seen was a sixty five point two, and the lowest score we’ve seen so far was a negative seventy one point five. But out of a hundred points, the average that we see is only just below fifteen.
And if we look at the percentage of each area and how well people do in each area, it really shows that most people are missing basic SEO because Nothing else matters if you don’t have content that answers the questions that your potential customers are asking and optimizing that content correctly, And out of the possible forty four points, people are scoring so poorly. It’s only two percent of what they could have scored. For on-site and thirteen percent of what they could have scored for links and only twenty five percent on Google business profiles and thirty one percent on reviews. If you’d like to get a copy of this, I told this to the people live.
If you’d like a copy, I’m sharing my email address here shortly. Email me. I’m happy to share it with you. So you can check it out and use it for your own business or for your own clients.
And remember that SEO is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s not like paid search. The things that we’re doing today are influencing your visibility three or four months down the road.
So you should expect to start to see traction at about six to eight months, and you should see those bigger results at twelve to fourteen months.
Thank you so much for sitting through that fire hose of information.
Hopefully, now you won’t be down and depressed you’re thinking about how you’re showing up in search results because you got all those hot tips from me. I know, it’s not the same joke twice. This is Ghost Rider 2, thank you very much. You’ll no longer be the underdog and search results, and everyone will be super happy.
There’s my email address. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them and help you in any way I can. Or if you’d like a copy of that, scoring matrix, let me know. Or if you’d like me to score your business in the scoring matrix, let me know. Or if you’d like a copy of the slides, pop me an email.
And at the end, as always, there’s an extra bonus of all of the movies in order of release date. Thanks so much for watching.
Thanks for sticking around to check the whole thing out. That’s definitely all the time we’ve got left for this week’s episode, so you know what that means. Put your hand on the screen right here.
We totally just high-fived ’cause you learned something awesome. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you again next week for another episode of local search Tuesdays.