Hardcore Local SEO Tactics

June 8, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hey, hey! It’s the LAST session of SMX Advanced 2011! Can you believe it? Feels like just yesterday we were getting started and saying to hi to everyone, which, well, I guess it was just yesterday. Funny how that happens. The Vets session is going on down the hall but I thought it may be more actionable to sit in on the Hardcore Local SEO Tactics session with David Mihm, Mike Ramsey, and Will Scott.  Lets hear what these gentlemen have to say. I’m going to try and avoid making eye contact with David Mihm so that I do no turn bright red or turn into a pile of mush. He’s kind of my local SEO crush.

Matt McGee is moderating and thanks everyone for coming to this session instead of the big Vets session happening.  Everyone claps. Heh.

Up first is Mike. This is Mike’s first time speaking at SMX Advanced. Matt McGee says it will also be his last since there are said to be lots of Matt jokes in the deck. Pure comedy.

Mike loves Twitter profile pictures. It’s how he met everyone in the industry and he thinks its interesting to see how people represent themselves on Twitter.  He shows @MattMcGee’s profile picture.

It shows his amazing color contrast, his eye follows you wherever you go, he has a knock out smile, and half the face leaves you wondering what the other half looks like.  He’s always been jealous of Matt’s profile picture. He then shows a few Photoshopped versions of Matt’s profile picture including a vampire version, a pirate version and a perfect symmetry version.  I have no idea what this has to do with anything but Matt looks mortified so, I mean, there’s that. :)

Okay, he starts his real presentation.

Mike says he loves diving into data and dissecting local search results. He put together a study over four phrases:

  • Chicago personal injury lawyer
  • New York divorce lawyer
  • San Diego dentist
  • Dallas dentist

The results all showed integrated O-Pack results, NOT 7 Pack results. The two algorithms responsible for these are different.  They looked at the winners (ranking 1-7) and the losers (50-56).

Correlation is not causation and he’s not going to explain that. Probably because he doesn’t know what it means. Kidding!

Place Page Data: 22 of the 28 top listing businesses were claimed. People always say you have to claim your listing. The data here shows it may not necessarily be a ranking factor even if people say it is.  Claiming a listing will help you to secure your data and make sure it is correct. He does not believe it will help you rank better, it just gives you control over all your data.   Interesting.  You still have to do it.

Exact Categories: This is when the search phrases exactly matches the category you chose in Google Places. 20 of the high listings and 14 of the low listings had exact categories.  The data shows you don’t need to have an exact category. They must correlate and be close, but maybe not exact match.  IYP reviews: He didn’t think reviews were helping as much as they were becoming extremely strong citations. It’s hard to say reviews have a cause of ranking, when most places have your address/info so it also counts as a citation.

Citations: Over the past two years Google has shown less and less citations on the Places Page.  They’re not showing all that they know.  The average citations for the top ranked listing was only 36, that’s extremely low compared to the hundreds it used to show.  The average high ranking listing has 3,689 matches through custom search, the low ranking had 19. Citations still say, I”m kind of a big deal. A lot of the places people are pulling citations from, they’re also getting links from.

Offsite Data: 2.89 percent of total links have an exact keyword match.  That’s a really low number and it’s where it SHOULD be if you’re building natural links.  8.6 percent of total links have an Exact Keyword Match. If citations were the new links of 2009-2010, then links are the new citations for locals in 2011-12.

Business name in title tag: Fairly common – 17 out of 28 that were ranking were using it, 15 of the non-ranking.  Only one out of all 56 listings had their phone number or address in the title tag of the landing page.

City keywords in the title tag – 22 of the high ranking sites had them.

The Power of Landing Pages –by pointing to a page with a better Title tag, pages increased ranking from position F to D.

Exactness in Place- citations + categories + content

Authority in Web site – quality of links

Trust in Reviews – CTR + UGC

Next up is Will Scott. His mom lives in Commack, NY right near my parents. Now you know.

Community Edits

If you work in local, frequently you’ll find listings you don’t think should be there. Sometimes they’re people who used to work in the same location or overlap between people who work in the same office building. To get the map marker in the right place, you must physically move the map marker until Google fixes it, even if that means you have to do it EIGHT times in three months before Google finally merges them.   Cleaning up those mystery listings will help people get to the right place. It’s super important.

The Google Map Maker

You go in and you validate other people’s edits. Editor connection to business matters – email address on domain helps.  This is one of those “give to get” things. He calls it a Pay It Forward Mechanical Turk and I start having flashbacks to the last session where all anyone did was mention Mechanical Turk. If you have a body of edits, your edits will get reviewed more quickly by building up your karma. May be worth dedicating resources to build Power Map Maker profile (think Digg). You’re providing a community service and you can also make your edits go more quickly.

Alternative Citation Sources

  • Article Engines: When you publish articles into article engines (admit it, we all do it…), if you’re publishing as the business owner, you can include your location. By putting a NAP (name, address, phone number) near that link, it works as a citation. BAM!
  • Facebook: This is starting to show up with great regularity, even Facebook Reviews. If you have a Facebook Page for your business and they don’t have an address associated with it, smack them now.

This made me laugh. Will says that if you use a service like Knowem.com, you COULD put your NAP in your profile to generate a few hundred citations however THIS IS SPAM and you should not do it. Hear me? Don’t be that guy, people.

Next up is local search golden boy David Mihm. He has 69 slides to run through, which means I’m basically crying over here.

What are your opportunities?

  1. What phrases are you behind your competition for organically?
  2. When does the map/blended results show up?
  3. How many businesses are listed if it shows up?
  4. …geotargeted vs generic queries

No automated tools to do 2-4, changes frequently.  David names Google Insights as a great keyword research tool for local to get a sense for relative search volume in particular markets.

Impact of Blended Results

Where is Google going with local search? They’re trying to keep as much traffic for themselves as they can. If you’re just tracking the people coming to your location page, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic you should rewarded for. People will be converting straight from the Place Page. These pages now include structured data, sentiment, you can book from the Place page, etc.  Mike Blumenthal thinks you’ll soon be able to make appointments from the Place page soon, as well. That’s both cool and kind of freaky.

Don’t forget about localized product search. Google’s really getting into offline purchasing from online searches. It’s showing nearby stores for particular devices.  Understand that local requires a different mindset from traditional SEO. Traditional SEO is about optimizing Web sites. Local is about optimizing for a location.

Multi Location

How do you optimize for local if you’re a big brand with many locations?

Use a flat site architecture beginning with a Store Locater page. You’ll want to give each location its own page so that it’s unique and indexable.  Cross-link nearby locations with geo-anchor text. You’ll also want to submit a KML sitemap in Google WMC. If you need help setting this up, GeoSitemapGenerator will happily do it for you. It’s really important, so do it.

When it comes to earning citations, the most important feature is consistency.  Your business name, address and phone number MUST be IDENTICAL all over the Web and you must get citations on places other than Google.

Things to do:

  • Decide on a consistent Corporate Business Name
  • Utilize Localeze’s Channel partner Offerings
  • Utilize Infogroup’s API
  • Clam all LBC listings in a corporate Google account. Get your bulk feed verified. Your Google Account must match the URLs of the Places you are submitting. Each location must have its own unique phone number or you won’t get approved.
  • Check the sites that Google pulls snippets from.
  • Check the sites that rank well in organic results.
  • Analyze representative market geographies and sizes.
  • Look at BOTH Place Page citations and organic results.

Reviews – Segments customers with Gmail/Yahoo email addresses and send them to those specific review portals since you know they have an account there (and they’re already signed in. WIN!). Consider the ease of leaving a review for someone without an account. Consider the syndication value of review sources. Getting feedback should be part of your every day business process. Know the rules, don’t fish with dynamite, review threshold.

Getting Buy In

Two stakeholders in Enterprise-level Local Search

  1. Store Managers
  2. Customers

Need to get both to buy into the importance of reviews. Educate managers about value in this and what they can do to improve. Potentially take the up front risk of SEO campaign. Work with franchise/brick and mortar communications team on both managers AND customer messaging.

Local in Competitive Markets

  • Get bulk feed verified
  • Make sure your Google account email TLD matches Place TLD
  • Clean up and consolidate old listings
  • Geographic inbound anchor text
  • Use custom categories for high volume, high conversion keywords.
  • Strong industry-relevant review volume.
  • Order of magnitude rule
  • Elite reviews
  • Strong geosocial media profile
  • At least one citation from a .gov or .edu.

And THAT was a lot of information. Hope you find this coverage useful and the coverage from the rest of the week. It’s time to head home. Thanks for hanging with us in Seattle!

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