Local Search: From Fat to Lean


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Local search is constantly in flux. Google's rapidly changing the interface of Places/+ Local; a major Maps overhaul is currently in beta; and major local directories are going through massive restructuring or outright failing. How do you know what drives value for a SMB or multi-location national when the local search world is so unstable? How do you stay on the current with your tactics? The answer is Lean Startup methodologies. Join Dan Leibson, SEO Manager at Relevant Ads, to find out how to incorporate these strategies into your local search process and learn how to deal with some of the struggles that arise as a result.

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  • We want to be ranking in both organic and local results. The more of a SERP you can own, the greater amount of potential customers/prospects you are generating.
  • Here is an example of a holy grail local search result. As you can see, not only is there an authorship snippet, a local snippet and two reviews snippets, but this result is showing up in the organic and pack of a SERP. If I could make all my clients results look like this I would be much wealthy then I currently am.
  • For those of you that are ufamiliar with the term NAP it stands for name address and phone number. We use NAPw which includes the business website. Before we start any engagement we always engage in an audit like this. It has several benefits, you get an idea of what the parts of the NAP that the business is having problems with so you know what to look for when you do a deep dive, it sets expectations for a client or internal stakeholder and at the end you can show a comparison that you can correlate to increased business success.
  • This crushes my soul a little bit. If you have ever worked with a multi locational national company sites like this are probably pretty familiar to you. These companies made big investments in their website in past years without thinking of a rapid iteration and testing process. Which means their legacy systems are hurting their online marketing strategies. Lots of you have probably heard about this business, however they are lagging in search behind their enterprise competitors AND smaller local ad regional businesses.
  • Sometimes we can be very alone with no client support. It’s important to plan for these circumstances. Make sure when you are onboarding that you get all of the critical information that you need.
  • It’s important to note, that even more so than traditional search, local search is about competitive advantage. Metrics are only relevant in terms of two things at a high level, revenue driven and market share captured. The amount of links for a local business website is very low. A tool that is really good for this is whitespark citation finder. You can pull citation reports for two businesses and compare them against eachother to see where the holes are and then work to fill them so your citation profile has a competitive advantage. For links use open site explorer. To compare site architecture use screaming frog or another industrial strength crawler.
  • Local search has a very complicated ecosystem. Players come and go, change and adapt. There are some heroes and some villains and they are probably not the ones you expect.
  • In the begining there was Google places. Google established places and their local algo to get around the issue that most physical stores (SMBs) did not have websites. Lots of these online directories were outcropping of the telecoms and powerd by the two major data aggregators (infousa and acxiom)
  • Google changed their local product to + local, incorporated things like map maker, new data aggregators like localeze. As you can see some directories (openlist, citysquares) have faded from inportance.
  • Currently the local ecosystem is highly fractured. There are data aggregators that supply IYP and search engines with information, sites that scrape information inorder to grow their local database (google) and one stop shop solutions like yext and ubl. In an attempt to streamline this complicated ecosystem some people use things like UBL or Yext. While there is an ease of use to these products that are appealing be very careful.
  • One of the major problems with the ecosystem as it exists right now is that there is lots of duplicate and inaccurate content that has been created. Has a huge impact on your rankings and discoverability, but is incredibly convoluted and time consuming when it comes to scrubbing quickly. Rather then attempting to reinvent the wheel I am going to show you the best tactic and process I have seen for cleaning up local citations, from Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark from Searchlove West 2013.
  • Use the link prospector tool to crawl and discover various correct and incorrect listings and put them in a spreadsheet. Then an admin or intern can go over the list and filter out all the noise and at the end you are given a clear roadmap of the citation work that needs to be done.
  • Mobile has become a huge focal point for search marketing, however I feel that it is even more critical for local businesses.
  • Over 50% of mobile searches have mobile intent
  • Generally when people think mobile search they think of using search engines applications or web search in a browser, however mobile discovery goes well beyond that. Beyond these more generic discovery applications, the appification of businesses mobile strategy means there are thousands of mobile applications that are location based. This is one of the core reasons to make Factual a core part of your local search strategy. Their data is free to publish to as well as license and it is used in thousands of mobile applications. Also it’s critical to build out your citation information on these difrectories that are used for discovery. Not just about a citation, but now about discovery and user experiance.
  • Facebook is the 600lb gorilla in the room when it comes to local discovery. This 469 million mobile DAU’s is 78% of Facebook’s audience.
  • Not only do you have multiple different style of clients with varying objectives and budgets (multi-location national vs. SMB and everything in between). Local search can cover a wide variety of customer/buyer personas. There are the users that are looking for expert advice or information, those who want to schedule services for sometime in the future, mobile customers that are looking for an immidiete service etc. Because of this it’s incredibyl important to segment your campaigns based on the personas that they will best suite. This will allow you to run multiple smaller campaigns that will have the ability to move the needle for a client across the board.
  • Even though as seo’s we have been robbed of important keyword level data through not provided, that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon using data to inform our decisions. There is lots of great data that can be gathered to help inform local stratagies. Some examples of these are looking at traffic by city which lets you understand where geographically your website traffic is coming from. When you segment this by channel i.e. Organic search by city you can see what your best performing channels are in terms of traffic acquisition or lead generation/conversion. It’s also important to start archiving your GWT and google places insights data. There is a simple python script for GWT that I will include in the bit.ly bundle. Not really any automated solution for places insights data that I am aware of right now. Some service providers may have access to it.
  • Big national brands have a major competitive advantage against SMBs. Things like financial and human resources and really important in succeeding in the digital marketing space. It’s important to leverage your ability to move fast and take more risks in over to overcome these benefits that larger companies have.
  • The local search community is very good at providing information and resource. If you know people who are experts, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for some advice or bounce an idea off someone. I have put togther a twitter list of people on the cutting edge of local search, again it will be in the bit.ly bundle at the end.
  • It’s critical to do research and investigate what tactics are successful and how other people are engaging in local search. There are lots of best practices out there and people speaking about what you should be doing, but it’s important to actually investigate what is successful. Store locator pages have been something I have been focusing on a lot lately.
  • Getlisted.org, whitespark citation finder, followerwonk, GWT/GA for keyword data, screaming frog. Trends and Keyword planner for local keyword research. There was a great YouMoz post about the keyword planner. It will be in the bit.ly bundle.
  • Lean startup technique. Critical to succesfully iterate on processes and procedures. Allows a true diagnotic of root causes that are either negatively impacting or helping current set of processes. For instance, imagine you have a client that you are in the middle of an local SEO engagement for, part of this engagement is doing a round of citation building. After the citation building has been accomplished, you notice that there are still lots of citation errors:
  • It’s important to embrace the early adopter advantage. With it comes seniority in the platform, experience, numerous success and failures and the ability to streamline processes. Sometimes you don’t get to take advantage of this as the platform flounders, but if it doesn’t you are in a better position then your competition. Also gives you the ability to be a thought leader in the space.
  • Voice search is moving to become a much more prominent form of search. Conversational search is one of the things that has been called out as a reason for hummingbird. Not just on google but on Siri. Right now Siri is powered by Apples data (Acxiom, Localeze, Factual, Yelp) while Google is powered by the same as powers other google services. You can specify different queries i.e. Best reviewed, closest, cheapest. Often breaks when chaining queries. Siri defaults to best reviewed or closest. Google defaults to places/maps rank.
  • 150 million monthly active users worldwide, growth rate of 100m per year. One of the long-term goals of Instagram as a company is that you’ll be able to visit any place in the world through Instagram photos and videos. The local associations are done via tagging and associating lat-long which locks content to a specific geo spacial location. This allows marketers to leverage their users to create high quality branded content that is associated with a physical location. A great strategy for instagram is to use content locked to a location on instagram to be a source of content for a branded facebook page. Through a create/curate, listen and respond feedback loop you can get quality assets while at the same time, helping get exposure for your users.
  • 63% of iphone users use apple maps. It’s the default mapping and location application for iOS maps. iOS activation continues to grow, apple maps has been integrated into OSX. Not really much to do other then maintain your data, in my bit.ly bundle you will find a walkthrough for how to report a problem with your data. Keep an eye on loctionary since apples purchase, hopefully turns into some type of portal to deal directly with local database
  • 688 million daily active users. Goal is to lock you in the Facebook ecosystem and be the “homepage” of the internet. They are betting big on discovery through nearby and graph search.
  • It’s important to embrace and try these new technologies, however you need to make numerous little bets in order to properly diversify your process. When you place little bets it minimizes the risk involved in betting on an incorrect technology or process while at the same time allows you to discover if it is something you should invest more time and energy on. The best seo’s are the experimental ones that make lots of little bets.
  • Lean startup technique. Helps hone the system itself rather then the workers workflow process.
  • Like most digital marketing discussions the focus is generally on tactics and tools rather then strategy. What are the competitive difference makes when everyone is using the same tactics and the same tools?
  • This is a model that David Mihm debuted at MozCon that I feel really help facilitates a grander strategic understanding around local search, especially moving forward as search engines more from strings to things. Focus on sending signals to search engines that link together an entity with locational relevance with both authority and prominence.
  • Reviews are becoming incredibly critical for online customers. [insert review metrics]. As such you need to develop a reviews strategy instead of just deploying review generation tactics. The more ingrained in your process reviews are, the more potential reviews you can get. This chart breaks down the local review ecosystem in a way that allows a more strategic understanding of reviews.
  • 25 million active small business pages.
    When performing local searches in Graph Search, Facebook surfaces places that my friends and connections have liked and visited. You can easily see this displayed in the SERPs when the listing includes "liked by {friend name here}". Now, this is only one factor out of many, but it's a strong one. If Graph Search takes off, and you don't have an official page, then you will be left in the dust. Think about it… if you don't have a page, then nobody can like your official page. If users can't like your page, then social connections of people searching Facebook cannot help lift your business in the Graph Search rankings.
    After heavily testing Local Graph Search, it's pretty clear that likes are a factor. Facebook also measures engagement, so don’t waste your time with zombie followers/likes. Start figuring out your social strategy. If you need a quick boost, Facebook Ads are quite effective.
  • Check-ins are critical, both for ranking and reviews. Facebook solicits reviews only after someone has checked in, so the more check-ins you have the more potential reviews you have. Make sure you are classified as a local business or you won’t get check in functionality. It’s important to fuel check ins by letting your customers know how and potentially rewarding them for check ins.
    You control the data. Similar to traditional SEO, make sure you thoroughly complete the pertinent fields in your about page. Understand what users are searching for, and then make sure you provide high quality and useful information that matches what they are searching for. Sounds very traditional SEO-like, right? It is, and you can change this today.
  • Local Search: From Fat to Lean

    1. 1. Local Search: From Fat to Lean By Dan Leibson Join us on Twitter at #Mozinar Questions or problems? Email community@moz.com
    2. 2. A Framework Words and sentences must, by necessity, come only one at a time in linear, logical order. Systems happen all at once. They are connected not just in one direction, but in many directions simultaneously. To discuss them properly, it is necessary somehow to use a language that shares some of the same properties as the phenomena under discussion. • Donella H. Meadows – Thinking in Systems Twitter: @ danleibson danleibson@ gmail.com
    3. 3. Twitter: @ danleibson danleibson@ gmail.com
    4. 4. Twitter: @ danleibson danleibson@ gmail.com
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    45. 45. Store Locator, KML, Site Architecture WEBSITE LOCATION Google Places For Business Google Plus Authorship, Publisher BRAND Twitter: @ danleibson Source danleibson@ gmail.com
    46. 46. Twitter: @ danleibson danleibson@ gmail.com
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    48. 48. Twitter: @ danleibson danleibson@ gmail.com
    49. 49. Twitter: @ danleibson bit.ly/HZTIf4 danleibson@ gmail.com
    50. 50. Email: danleibson@gmail.com Twitter: @danleibson Website: www.relevantads.com Find this recorded #Mozinar and slide deck at http://moz.com/webinars very soon!