Winning at Local SEO With Boatloads of Data

October 31, 2011
By Michelle Lowery in Internet Marketing Conferences

I have to say, one thing I’m already loving about SearchLove is being able to set up camp in one room, and not have to lug my laptop from room to room to catch all the sessions I want to hear. SearchLove may not have aimed to be a metaphor for local SEO, but I’m diggin’ the similarity. Or is that just me being extra nerdy? Yeah, don’t answer that. In any case, no search conference is complete these days without at least one session that talks about local SEO. What makes the conference even better is if it’s David Minchala doing the talking.

We join this session already in progress as I missed the first couple of minutes while getting the last post published. Sorry ’bout that! I think I’m getting faster, though! Actually, if we got back on schedule and didn’t skip the Q&A, I’d have a little more time. [hint, hint, guys! ;-)]

So we’re jumping right into Local SEO.

Tracking is something we have unique challenges in that our colleagues don’t. Ecommerce, inbound marketing, and other stuff is very trackable. Most local business sites won’t get a lot of traffic, so you won’t have as much data to be able to make the decisions you need to make.

How are your client’s customers interacting with the website in addition to actually visiting it? That can be just as important:

  • Mobile search
  • Apps
  • Other services like Yelp that have reviews, etc.

David shared some very interesting statistics:

  • 35% of adults in the US have a smartphone
  • 58% of them use maps, fourquare, etc.
  • 90% of them esearvh for local info; 87% of them take action

If search is not happening on your site, how do you account for it? It’s a challenge because it’s data you can’t access.

So let’s talk about data. How do you get it?

  • Google has a really good tool—Insights. But on the surface, the data can be misleading, so you need to dig a little deeper to make sure you’re seeing the whole picture.
  • Build more content. Build it and people will come. Are you trying to sell a service, or are you Demand Media trying to get CPMs? Where is your data best spent?
  • Build a service page. It can equate to compelling linkbait, and become a traffic generator.
  • Video has fallen out of favor in SEO lately, but if you’re going to do it, it’s best for a branding and conversion tactic, not a visibility tactic.
  • Blogging and linkbait offer low to no ROI. He’s not saying if you’re doing them, you’re wasting your time. You just have to determine whether that’s the best option for the client. If it’s not going to get your client’s phone to ring, don’t waste your time.

If no one is looking for it, don’t waste your time trying to build it. He uses a flying car as an example. No one has private runways at home. No grocery store is going to build landing areas for them. No one nees a flying car, so they’re not going to look for it. Just because it’s avant garde doesn’t mean it’s useful.

What about…
The long tail? Usually converts pretty well, so it’s not a bad idea to go for it.
Universal search? Yes, it can’t hurt to use it.
Domain authority? There’s still some debate about this, but it doesn’t hurt to go for it.

Should organic be your number one priority? David’s not saying whether it should or shouldn’t be. You have to decide that based on your client’s needs.

The most essential research comes from talking to your clients. These are three questions you need to ask:

  • What makes the client money? What kinds of cases does a lawyer take? Where does a flooring guy make more money; laminate or wood?
  • What’s their customers’ financial commitment? How much are they willing to spend?
  • What are the implications?
  • The answers to these questions will immediately inform your methods. Once you know what kinds of customers your client wants to target, you’ll know how to go about it. Reviews are a big part of the fuel that’s going to get you there. Educate your client on how to reach out to happy customers to put get those reviews up.

    Keyword Research Filters

    When looking for keywords to target, there are a few things to keep in mind, and some questions to ask your client:

    • Who is their best customer? This is going to be your high value modifier
    • Who is their worst customer? Everyone has a template of a bad customer, but they don’t want to share it. Use this as a filter to avoid/remove if, for example, you’re running a paid search campaign.
    • Who is their typical customer? These are the people who call every day and actually keep the business running; they can’t be neglected; you need to strike a balance because they’re high volume modifiers
    • Where is the data? Go out and find it. Whatever space you’re in, the data is out there. He uses real estate sales statistics in one county as an example. Zillow is a great site for compiling data like this.

      When you find data, cross-check it. Finding one source is good, but make sure it’s accurate and comprehensive by finding at least a second source, if not more. For example, he looked at Google Insights for vehicle ownership data, and then cross-checked it with Census data.

      First, before you begin changing anything, you need a baseline. Find out where you are now. Go to Google, and search for the business name, then address, then phone. It can be a lot of data to wade through, but it’s worth it.


      Where is NAP (name, address, phone) not standardized? Where they deviate tend to not get aggregated. The more you can standardize your citations, the more authority you can build. If you ask Factual to tell you the preferred name for a business, it will provide aggregated data pulling from sites where the business is mentioned, and tell you how many mentions there are for every variation of the business name. It will also tell you where the citation is so you can go there, claim it, and fix it.

      Where are Your Competitors?

      Once you’ve done some keyword research, Local Search Toolkit will show you results over and above what you can get from Google. It will even show you the categories they’re using. It takes a lot of the work out of figuring out how your competitors are ranking.

      Local SEO Tools To Use

      • American Fact Finder – based on government demographic data
      • Local Search Toolkit – highly recommend
      • Factual
      • Whitespark
      • SEO Tools Plugin – a lot of things you can do with it: scrape Google; scrape URLs for certain data; set up a spreadsheet with the plugin and have it pull all the listings that come up when you Google the business phone number. Then you can check to see whether those listings also have the address, name, etc.

      Aaaand break for lunch! Whew! I’m going to give my fingers and wrists a rest. See you on the other side!

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