Local Search and Mobile Optimization

November 8, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

And we’re back!  This time we’re going to talk about something near and dear to everyone’s heart – local search! Up on stage we have Michael Dorausch, Eric Bramlett, and William Leake. Tim Mayer is on moderating duties which means we’re all treated to his awesome accent. While the gentlemen get themselves ready, why don’t you go grab yourself a snack from home.  I’m currently mowing down some peanut M&Ms. I’ve already had one go rogue and bounce off my laptop.

Can we have a moment of silence for the lost M&M?

Thank you.

Okay. Lucky for you, I think we’re starting.

Up first is Eric Bramlett. He’s in the real estate space. I guess it doesn’t get more “local” than that.   He’s going to talk about local reviews.

What matters to local search? You have to understand the mindset. Searchers make their decision based on the quality of the location and where it’s located.  There’s not much you can do about your location.  But your perceived quality can deviate over time. In the local space, your perceived quality is your online reviews.

Some businesses are lucky enough to serve a ton of customers. We see this in restaurants, hotels, casinos, etc.  For casinos in Vegas, they each have thousands of reviews. They probably don’t have to worry too much about trying to generate them. They’re going to happen. But if you’re in a vertical where you don’t naturally have a lot of passionate customers, you need to create a review strategy to up your perceived quality.

Proactive Review Policy
Quality control/Customer Experience

Did they have a good experience?  Work in your review strategy.  If someone liked their experience, ask them to leave them a review about it. If they didn’t like their experience, you have to fix that first.   Most people don’t leave reviews about places, you need to be persistent.  Offer a reward if they do leave a review.

Where should you ask for a review?

  • Yelp has come across as the front runner. They’ve buried pretty much everyone else.
  • Google Places: 20 percent of all searches have local intent.  Google serves up their Places reviews whenever a search has that local intent.

Understand the policies for each review outlet. Yelp cares A LOT about quality.  If someone creates an account to write one review or if they’re stagnant but come back to life for one review, Yelp will filter the review.  You need to find past customers that you already know and you need to contact them and ask them for reviews.  The way you find past customers is you let Yelp scrape your email contact list. Friend every person they’ve identified and go through that and see whose active.  Contact the people who are active and ask them for a review.   If they’re not active on Yelp, ask them to leave a Google Place review instead. Google doesn’t care about quality. Google cares about quantity.

Negative Reviews
Is the review legitimate?  If it is, fix the experience. Once you’ve corrected the problem, ask the customer to update the review and post your own short, poignant response. I don’t know why that made me laugh, but it totally did.  Go be poignant, folks, be poignant.

If the review is not legitimate, help Google correct their mistake by flagging the review. He admits that probably won’t do anything. But flag it anyway. Then leave a poignant response. To help push it down, ask people to leave reviews to help push that negative one off the first page.

What shady tactics do my competitors use?

  • They might report you closed.  Two people reported Google Mountain View closed and it took Google months to fix it.
  • They might use Mechanical Turk spam.
  • Fiverr spam – People willing to leave positive or negative reviews for five dollars.
  • Online Yellow Page Review Spam

Closing Thoughts
Google will get better at quality control. If you can succeed on Yelp, you’ll always be able to succeed on Places. Reviews are an opportunity to recognize your strengths and your weaknesses.

Next up is Bill Leake.

He starts off by flashing us some stats. Stuff like:

  • Product research and comparison shopping happens online. But 67 percent of those purchases happen OFFLINE.
  • 90 percent of purchases are made within 50 miles of a person’s home
  • By 2013 most people will use their mobile phones rather than their PC to get online.
  • Mobile searches have grown by 4x since 2010
  • There will be one mobile devices for every person on earth by 2015
  • 60 percent of users expect a mobile site to load in three seconds or less
  • 71 percent of users expert a mobile site to load as fast as a desktop site [Dude! That’s not even fair!]
  • 78 percent will retry a site two times or less if it does not load initially.

Mobile users are impatient

  • 57 percent would not recommend a business with a bad mobile web site
  • 40 percent have turned to a competitor site after a bad mobile experience
  • 23 percent of adults have cursed at their phone when a site doesn’t work

Kids today [A kid is defined as anyone younger than Bill.  He doesn’t, however, say how old HE is]

  • 81 percent of users prefer mobile sites to apps for researching prices
  • 79 percent of users prefer mobile sites for product reviews
  • 63 percent prefer mobile sites for purchasing

Mobile isn’t just directions

  • 70 percent of mobile users have compared product prices on their cell phone
  • 95 percent of smartphones users have searched for local information
  • 61 percent of users call a business after searching and 59 percent visit the location

Okay, Bill is done stat’ing us to death.  I think.  Or…I hope.

He talks about the Google 10 pack. And the 7 pack.  He refers to the 10 text listing version of Google as “Google Classic”, which I kind of like.   He shows how Google will infer local intent differently based on keyword.  For example, [auto parts] brings up local results but [performance parts] does not.

[Flooring] PubVeg 2010 vs [Flooring] PubVeg 2011
Things are shifting and changing in the results, so you need to be aware of it. For example, Mike compares the SERPs for the same keyword, 12 months apart.

  • 12 major page elements in left hand column vs 22 major page elements
  • Image search pubveg2010, no image search in 2011
  • Shopping search in 2011, not in 2010
  • News Search in 2011, not in 2010
  • Map started floating just before PubCon
  • PubConVeg2010 still had classic SEO listings blended into some of Places listings vs PubVeg2011 – classic @ top and bottom of page

It means if you have a business that sells locally, you can’t ignore this.  Google is not going into Android to beat Apple. They’re going in to get the data for AdWords Mobile. They want that piece of the market and to take over from Yellow Pages.  Google even has a toll free number manned by “pretty smart Google Humans” to talk to small business owners about their AdWords campaigns. That’s a big deal. Years ago, you could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and you STILL couldn’t speak to a Google Human.

He name drops GetListed.org. Says it’s a great overview.  He also mentions Google Local Business Center – Sign up and you can do a number of wonderful things. Add videos, add photos, etc.

Local SEO

  1. On Page Optimization
  2. Citations
  3. Link Building
  4. Reviews

On Page Optimization

  • Include City, State in Title tag
  • Include physical addresses to pages
  • Customize by page for multiple localities

Citations Explained

Mention of your business name and address on a Web site, even if it’s not linked. Search engines do not only look at incoming links to help determined local search rankings, but also citations. Citations help search engines validate information they have about a business. Improving the number of citations to your business’ website consists of submitting your site to a variety of websites.

Create a geo sitemap for your places

Service Areas – only for delivery, home service, etc. It may be possible to game this system, but it’s recommended only for businesses that serve customers at their homes or offices.

Mobile SEO

  • Forget Top 10, we’re talking Top Three
  • Use Google Places
  • No Flash

What’s on the Local Horizon?

If not Google, something else will win. Algorithms getting better, more accurate. Ever more results with local flavor. Reviews help filter the best local venues. Take advantage of blended search results. Develop a mobile version of your Web site.

Next up is Michael Dorausch.

He says we’re supposed to be talking about mobile and local convergence. He didn’t know what [convergence] meant so he had to look it up.  Convergence is the notion that a sequence of transformations come to the same conclusion, no matter what order they are performed in.

Desktop: We do research and make educated decisions as to what local businesses we want to interact with.   When seeking a new primary doctor, people are more likely to search at home, on their desktops.  If you’re looking for a hotel, you’re going to use your desktop.

Mobile: Here we put our research to work, using mobile devices to help us reach local destinations.  Optimize for Google, not Bing because according to real research (ie a question asked on Twitter), no one’s default is Bing.

If the search query originates from mobile, best (quality) may lose to nearby (location).  The best pizza may lose out to the fact that there’s a Papa Johns right across the street.  That’s ridiculous to me. No one should EVER eat Papa John’s pizza.   Michael says there’s no shortage of bad food in Vegas.  I’d argue there’s no shortage of bad ANYTHING in Vegas.

When searching for pizza from your mobile, do you seek best or closest? The closest pizza place with a name people recognize is often what wins out.   Location + Branding + Trust.   Aim for getting two of them. If you can get three, all the better. But start at two.

Centroid: The geographical center alternates when using desktop vs mobile, providing two different sets of results. Mike says there’s a lot of work to be done for businesses trying to show up in local search. You can be in a restaurant in Vegas searching for that restaurant and it won’t show up.

Best vs Local:  Mike asks if we’d prefer the best margarita or the closest margarita.  Someone in the audience yells “cheapest”. Hee!   Best can win out sometimes.  People will travel 50 miles for the best steak, for the best haircut or the best sushi place.

And that’s it!  Stay tuned. Michelle will be wrapping up Day 1 of PubCon with two more sessions.


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