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Dumbest Reasons to Hire a Local SEO Company or Person

Dumbest Reasons to Hire a Local SEO Company or Person

I’ll never say you need to hire me or anyone else.  If your goal is to reach more customers/clients/patients in the local search results, you may or may not benefit from a third party.  I often tell clients and others that they should farm out as little of their local SEO as possible.

Still, if you feel you must hire a third party to help on your local SEO, at least do it for the right reason.

You should trust them to do a few things: to sniff out problems, to fix them, and to find missed opportunities and help you take advantage of them – all in a way that doesn’t risk putting you in Google’s doghouse or scaring away customers.  To do that, you’ll have to work together long-term to do things like build a better and more informative site, create and fix your local listings, earn links that take a little work to get, and earn glowing reviews.

I trust them to help me plan the work and work the plan” is the right reason to pick one local SEO person or company over another

But that good reason is outnumbered by a mangy pack of bad reasons.

If you pick a local SEO-er chiefly because of any one of the following reasons, you’re doing your business a disservice:

“They’re near me.”

A “local SEO company” does not mean “an SEO company near you.”  Rather, it refers to what they should specialize in: helping improve your business’s visibility in the local search results.

Now, maybe both points are true of them; maybe they are a local local SEO company.  Fine, but who cares if you can sit in their office and shake their hands?  You can do that at the local used-car lot, too.  Does that mean you should buy a car from them?  Only pick an SEO company if you have a way to determine whether they’re any good.  If they’re good, it doesn’t matter whether they’re even in your country.

“I just don’t want to handle it anymore.”

Which do you care about more: convenience or good results?  Effective SEO takes teamwork – whether it’s time to write good content for your site, or to earn links, or to get more and better reviews.

If you’ve done your own SEO so far and have gotten poor results, you’ve set a low bar for your SEO company: now all they have to do is not make things even worse and not pester you!  If you’ve gotten good results by doing it in-house, you may be handing it over to shakier hands.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rikkis_refuge/15320584918/

I’m not saying you should micromanage whomever you hire.  Do your research, find someone you trust, give that person opportunities to earn (and to lose) your trust, and then let him or her work for you.

But you still need to be in the loop, and need to help on steps that may require you.  If you’re” too busy” to be bothered now, what makes you think you can handle more business if your SEO effort actually works?

“They can optimize the Google My Business thingy!”

That’s the easiest part of all.  There is no “optimization” to be done.  Years ago, arguably.  These days, no.  Your Google page has had all the sharp edges beveled and sanded off.  It’s been mostly childproofed.  Descriptions are gone.  Custom categories are long gone.  If you fail to “hide” your address when in fact you’re supposed to, Google will simply hide it for you.

As long as you remove or “mark as closed” any unnecessary Google My Business pages, enter a valid address, your real business name, and the most-accurate category (or a few of them), you’re all set on Google My Business.  Very quick and easy.  Hire outside help only if you need help on the real work.

 “They can optimize my meta tags!”

One sure would hope they can – though often the worst title tags and description tags I’ve seen were written by so-called SEOs.  Your metas need to be relevant to the guts of the page, of course, and they need to be compelling enough that searchers want to click on your page in the search results.  Still, it’s not hard to get them right, and getting them right doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll rank well.  Don’t have that be a major reason to hire an SEO company (though you should reconsider anyone who writes crappy title tags).

“I want them to handle all the link-building.”

Oh, they’ll handle it, all right.  They’ll build worthless links on worthless sites.  Either it won’t help your rankings a pinch, or it’ll help you temporarily – until Google drops its boot.  But hey, the company “built” links for you, which is what you wanted.  You need to be at least a little involved in planning the work and working the plan.

“I need help on my local listings.”

Real yeoman’s work.  Also, it’s one-time work, for the most part.  Only a few dozen listings seem to affect your local rankings and overall visibility in any way.  After your business (or each location of it) is listed on those sites with generally correct info on your business, you won’t get much or any benefit from creating listings on even more sites.  If you hire an average local SEO company chiefly for help on listings, they’ll bill you for busywork citation-building until you fire them.  If you hire a good local SEO company largely because you want “help on local listings,” you’ll overpay and not put their expertise to the highest and best use.

Citations should be part of what your local SEO-er can help you on, but not the focus.

“They handle my website and ads, and I just want one-stop shopping.”

They may do a great job on those other things, but what makes you confident they can help you on local SEO?

“I need someone to take care of my site.”

If that’s the main thing you need, then hire a dedicated webmaster.  They’re out there.  Your local SEO pro should be able to sniff out problems on your site and fix most or all of them personally, but a crackerjack local SEO isn’t necessarily a development whiz.  (And if he/she is, then that person might – might – be too narrow and might not be good at helping you put all the pieces together, on-site and off-site.)  Largely separate disciplines.

“My friend recommended them.”

Sure, give more credence to what a friend says than to what a stranger says.  But you need to draw your own conclusions, too.  Who or what works for someone else may not work for you.

“We’re friends.”

What will they say at the country club when you fire him?

“I need more customers NOW!”

You can probably get them now, but probably not solely from the work of an SEO company – even a good one.  “Free” local visibility takes time – time not only to do the work, but also for Google to digest it and to rank you accordingly.  The time to dig the well is not when you’re parched, cross-eyed, and thought you just saw Elvis.

“They’re cheaper than my current company.”

And they may be even worse than your current company.

Can you think of other meaningless reasons to hire a local SEO-er?

What about good reasons?

Any points you disagree with?

Leave a comment!

Dumbest Reasons to Hire a Local SEO Company or Person
Source: Local Visibility System

I Wrote a Google Review of My Own Business. What Did Google Do?

I Wrote a Google Review of My Own Business. What Did Google Do?

So much for Google’s automatic review filters.

They used to be so uptight, man.  Then they tuned in, turned on, and dropped out.

I posted that review of my business yesterday (2/9/17).  I suppose it’s possible they’ll remove it tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but I doubt it.  I’ve seen too many business owners self-review and have the review stick around indefinitely.

I even wrote the review with the same Google account I use to manage my Google My Business page.  There’s no way Google could have mistaken me for a customer.  Google probably knows more about my life than I do.

It’s simply that Google doesn’t care if you review yourself.  Doesn’t care one pinch.  As with policing business names and addresses on “the local map,” Google’s policing of reviews doesn’t extend beyond the donut box.  Say what you want and do what you want, as long as you don’t make Google look bad.

Anyway, I’ve found that the only thing that will usually get your reviews filtered is if you ask for too many of them at once.  Google still looks askance (as they should) at big spikes in your review count.  Perhaps in time they’ll ease up on that, too.

One hanging chad in my little test: it’s possible that a self-review of a business with no reviews or few reviews would get filtered.  Google is used to seeing a trickle of reviews on my page.

I was about to say that another theoretical hole is that I’ve written a number of reviews over the years, so maybe Google “trusts” my account in that regard.  But I’m still reviewing my own business.

Google has pushed reviews hard for several years now, after a brief period of subjecting reputation-conscious business owners to a Spanish Inquisition.  They’re invaluable for data-mining and – mostly in indirect ways – for filling the AdWords cup.

What does Google’s seemingly relaxed attitude toward self-reviews mean to you, the business owner?  Mostly that you probably don’t need to hand-wring over details like whether you can ask 5 customers one week and 8 customers the next week, or whether it’s OK to send a direct link.

It also means that – now that someone can have your business show a 1-star average rating after a single negative review – you can probably take care of yourself with swagger.

What crazy Google reviews have you seen not get filtered?

What kinds of reviews has Google filtered?

Leave a comment!

P.S.  Want to flag down my self-review and see if and when Google will take it down?  Might be a neat experiment for a follow-up post.

I Wrote a Google Review of My Own Business. What Did Google Do?
Source: Local Visibility System

If You Rename/Rebrand Your Business, Will You Lose Your Google and Yelp Reviews?

If You Rename/Rebrand Your Business, Will You Lose Your Google and Yelp Reviews?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ornellas/10827668014/

Let’s say you’re considering renaming or re-branding your business.  Part of that will involve renaming your online “local” listings – including Google My Business and Yelp.  Easy enough, but what will happen to your reviews?  Google’s form doesn’t inspire confidence, nor does Yelp’s handling of reviews in general make it feel like anything but Russian roulette.

Will Google or Yelp see the new name as a “new business,” and not let you keep your reviews on your renamed page(s)?  Will you have to start over from zero?  Will all your hard work not amount to a hill of beans?

The short answer is if the only thing that’s changing is your name, you should be able to keep your reviews post-renaming.

I recently asked both Google My Business and Yelp HQ.  Here’s how I phrased it:

Let’s say I’ve got a business called “ABC Carpentry” and I rename it “ABC Bathrooms & Kitchens.”  I also rename the business legally, and rename it on other sites, too.  So totally new name, but nothing else changes (site, address, and phone number are the same).  Would I be able to keep my reviews?

Thank you,

Phil

Here’s what Imran (who was very helpful) from Google support said:

Yes Google allows to keep the reviews.  Reviews will be there. He can [use] the name of any business if he is verified.

For an example Abc@gmail.com has got a verified location, and it has got reviews. If he wants to change name, then he certainly can change name of the business without losing the reviews.

Here’s what Autumn at Yelp support said:

Some changes to businesses do not have a substantial enough effect to render the current listing obsolete. We evaluate business transitions on a case-by-case basis in order to determine if a new listing is necessary or not.

For more on how we handle business changes, check out our Support Center: http://www.yelp-support.com/article/What-are-the-guidelines-for-substantial-business-changes?l=en_US

Lest Yelp changes the rules later, here’s the relevant blurb on “Rebranding” (as of this writing):

Businesses that change names but retain the same customer experience, we’ll generally update the name of the business rather than create a new business page. As such, name changes can be submitted as a general business information update.

If the new name is accompanied by changes in the location, ambiance, or other fundamental elements of the customer experience, a new business page may be created to help customers differentiate between the old and new experiences (see the sections for Renovations and Moves).

I hope that info makes it feel like less of a cliff dive.

Any questions?  First-hand experience?  Leave a comment!

If You Rename/Rebrand Your Business, Will You Lose Your Google and Yelp Reviews?
Source: Local Visibility System

Relationship between Local and Organic SEO: a Simple Diagram

Relationship between Local and Organic SEO: a Simple Diagram

Too few people realize that local SEO is mostly organic SEO plus a few other moving parts.  Without also doing what it takes to rank well in Google’s “10 blue links” results, you won’t grab as much visibility for your business on the local map.

Visibility in the search results isn’t a lovechild of a Google My Business page + local citations + “optimized” site (+ spamming when convenient).  Rather, it’s the result of a smart, labor-intensive organic SEO campaign with a couple of twists.

I’ve had to explain that concept enough that I thought it best just to whip up a graphic to show what I mean.  Here it is:

 

Basic explanation (very basic)

As you can probably tell, the idea I’m trying to get across is that your local rankings are hollow and fragile without that solid core of organic SEO work.

Having a website and local directory listings for a business with a keyword in its name is not a strategy.  Even if that low-effort approach seems to work, the rankings likely won’t last, and if they do, you still probably won’t rank for as many search terms as you otherwise could.

Google knows where your business is located and (probably) what you offer.  But how does Google know you’re any good?  In a semi-competitive market, Google will usually cherry-pick.  It does that, above all, by seeing how good your links are and how much good in-depth info you’ve got on your offerings.

Explanation of each “circle” and of some ranking factors

Most of the ranking factors in each circle should be clear, but a few I should explain a little.  While I’m at it, I should also define each of the 3 circles.

“Organic results” circle

Work on the things in the dark-blue, innermost circle and you’ll rank well, whether or not you’re a “local” business.

Organic results are often non-local.

But sometimes they show local businesses, and show different local businesses based on your location.

Now, a couple notes on a couple of the factors in the “Organic” circle:

Note on “Business name” factor: What your business is called has some influence on what search terms you rank for in the organic results.  But, sad to say, it’s even more of a factor in how you rank on the local map.

Now, an argument could be made that I should have “Business name” in all 3 circles, because it affects your rankings everywhere.  I’ve chosen not to do that.  For one thing, it’s messy.  Also, in my opinion you shouldn’t name your business differently just because at the moment it’s an inflated ranking factor in the Google Maps 3-pack.  To me, how you name your business is part of the core strategy.

Note on “User-behavior” factor: How searchers interact with your site – both when they see it in the search results and when they’re on it – seems to matter to Google.  “User-behavior” might include things like how many people click on you vs. on a competitor, what terms they typed in before clicking on you, and whether they hit the “back” button or dig deeper into your site.  In my experience, that can help your organic rankings.

But there’s also local user-behavior that may matter, like what customers’ mobile location-tracking data tells Google, lookups of driving directions, and which businesses in the 3-pack attract the most clicks.  Again, tough call as to which circle(s) to put “User-behavior” in, because it’s really common to all 3.

“Local-organic” results circle

Since 2012, Google has shown local-business results in the organic search results.  They’re mixed in with the other “10 blue links,” usually right below the local map.  Often businesses that rank in the map also rank in the localized organic results, and vice versa.

You’ll probably show up prominently in the local-organic results if you’ve got at least some of the factors from the “Organic results” circle going for you, and you happen to be a local business – with or without a Google My Business page or other local listings.

Note on “Rough location” factor: Google’s organic results aren’t as location-sensitive as the Maps results are.  Even if your business isn’t located in or very near your target city, as long as it’s in the vicinity, it should be at least possible to rank in the localized organic results.

“Maps results” circle

Also known as the 3-pack, or Google Places results.  You’ll only appear there if you’ve got a Google My Business page and – in markets that are even a little competitive – if you’ve also got the factors from the other two circles working in your favor.

Note on “Exact location” factor: Sometimes your Maps rankings depend on whether your business is 1 mile or 1/4 mile from your customer.  Location (of customer relative to business) is usually less of a factor if you’re really dialed-in on your organic SEO (that is, if you’ve got enough good links to suggest to Google that you’re a prominent or authoritative business).

Does my diagram make sense to you?

Is it clear what each ranking factor refers to?

Any questions or suggestions?

Leave a comment!

Relationship between Local and Organic SEO: a Simple Diagram
Source: Local Visibility System

Breakdown of Page 1 of Google’s Local Organic Search Results: Who Dominates?

Breakdown of Page 1 of Google’s Local Organic Search Results: Who Dominates?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/11513424364/

Though the first page of Google’s local results usually consists of 3 “local map” results plus 10 organic results, that doesn’t mean your business has 13 chances to rank somewhere on page one.  Nor do all pages on your site have an equal chance at ranking.  Nor does having the most-dominant site necessarily mean you’ll get the most or best visibility in the local results.

How well your business ranks in the local “3-pack” depends on many factors, including where your business is, where the searcher is, who clicks on you and other behavior, the name of your business, and – above all – on how well you rank in the local organic results (the “10 blue links,” usually right below the local map).

Your organic rankings, in turn, depend mainly on how relevant your site is to what the customer searched for and (even more so) on how good your links are.

So what are your chances of getting your business’s site to rank somewhere on page 1 of the local organic results?

One way to answer that is to know how Google usually fills up the first page of local organic results – Google’s tendencies and quotas, you might say.

Google has a very specific way of carving up the local search results.  It’s not all local businesses, nor is it a grab-bag of “something for everyone” search results.

I’ve just done a study of 500 local markets – 500 first-pages of local search results – and have some numbers on which sites and pages typically rank on page one.

Here’s the pie-chart, which sums up my findings and the dozens of hours of research that went into it.

(click to enlarge)

You may not need to know any more.  Or you may want more detail on the pie, on my methodology, and on what it all means for your local SEO strategy.  In the latter case, just read on.

What does each slice of the pie represent, exactly?

“Business: homepages”

I’m referring to the homepage of a site that belongs to a specific business.

Homepages are the biggest slice of the pie, averaging 36.62% of Google’s local organic search results.  On average, 3-4 out of 10 of the organic results consist of one homepage or another.  The homepage typically has the most link-juice (which is one reason I usually suggest using it as your Google My Business landing page).  It’s no surprise to me so much of page one goes to various homepages.

“Business: subpages:

If homepages constitute more than 3 out of 10 spots on a typical first page of results, that must mean other pages usually grab the other 7 spots – right?

Wrong.  Subpages (like yourbusiness.com/city) and subdomains (like city.yourbusiness.com) only account for 12.68% of the 5000 individual search results I studied.  In a typical first page of results, only 1-2 results are for pages on a business’s website other than the homepage.

So 36.62% of the results are for businesses’ homepages, plus 12.68% are for other pages on businesses’ sites.  That’s about half of the pie.

Who gets the other half of Google’s local organic search results?

“Directories: category search”

It probably doesn’t surprise you that local-business directories take up a lot of real estate on page one.  I’m talking about Yelp, BBB, YellowPages, and so on, and industry-specific sites like Zillow, HealthGrades, TripAdvisor, etc.

Those directories’ internal search results show up more often than do other pages on their sites.  “Search results within search results” take up a whopping 36.62% of Google’s local organic results.

“Directories: business pages”

Sometimes a business’s Facebook or Yelp or BBB or YellowPages page will rank on page one for a popular search term.

Known as barnacle local SEO, it’s great if you can get an online property other than your site to rank for a main keyword.  But it’s tough to do.  Only 7.58% of Google’s search results go to directory results for specific businesses.

“News”

Local-news sites and other sources of news take up a small piece of the search results (not as much as I thought they would).  News results made up 0.64% of the results I studied.

Good coverage can drive business.  A unfavorable piece can dog you.  News stories tend to have many backlinks, usually are on authoritative sites, and tend to get clicked on often.  Because of those things, news pieces can stick around for a while.  The news isn’t always “new.”

“Other”

Google throws other results onto page one, too.  The most-common “other” sites I ran across were Craigslist listings, Indeed.com (for jobs), weird directory results (e.g. Yelp forum threads), and government sites – usually local government.

Methodology & notes

When Sydney Marchuk (of Whitespark) and I did this research, we tried to be as methodical and scientific as possible.  As with most studies, there are limitations to this one, and I’m sure there are some holes.

You can look at our raw data here, but here are some lab notes:

  • We Googled 500 different search terms – 500 different combinations of cities and keywords
  • We searched for explicitly local search terms: “city + keyword.” As opposed to typing in “keyword” and seeing what local search results Google shows you.  (Yes, Google is watching you.)  In my experience, the results differ a little between when you type in the city and when you don’t.  To do a study on that would be more technically complicated and even more of a slog, but I’d love to do one or see one some time.
  • As I said at the start, we didn’t include the Google Maps “3-pack” rankings in this analysis. Again, we just looked at the localized organic results – which usually contain all the business that rank in the 3-pack.
  • Sydney lives in Canada, but searched at Google.com (not .ca), was signed out of Google, and used an incognito browser tab. The results weren’t biased by search history or anything like that.  In any case, I live in Massachusetts, and the searches I did matched up with what Sydney found.
  • We did the research in mid-December – about a month ago. Some of the SERPs surely have changed since then, but I doubt they’ve changed significantly.  To the extent I’ve had to spot-check some of the results in the past few days, I’ve found that they’ve changed very little.
  • Of course, the breakdown will change over time. It’s Google.  They like to twist the dials.

Conclusions (very general)

What does the breakdown of a typical page one mean – especially for your business?  Some things I’ve gleaned from looking at the data (and from doing local SEO for 8+ years):

  • On average, only about 5 of the results are for specific businesses. Your other competitors are directories.  Wherever you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  You’ll get some visibility either when people click on the directories’ “search results within search results,” or if you get your listing or page itself on the site to rank on page one of Google’s local results.  That’s often just a matter of piling on the reviews.
  • Homepages dominate, especially in markets where smaller, locally-based businesses duke it out mostly with each other, and not as much with Big Ugly Corporations that happen to have a nearby branch. Again, homepages tend to have most or all of the link juice.  Assuming you’ve got at leasta few decent links, if you have some good local content on your homepage it should have a good chance of ranking well.
  • Subpages (example.com/city) tend to be more dominant in markets where big businesses tend to congregate (e.g. car rentals). I have my theories as to why that is, but that’s for another day.
  • Your crappy keyword-stuffed blog post from 2 years ago probably won’t rank on page one for any semi-competitive term. (Maybe if it attracted some good links.)
  • Given how Google splits up the real estate between directories and businesses’ sites, dominance isn’t a matter of just getting your site to rank. As I’ve said, it’s not about site vs. site; it’s reputation vs. reputation.

Here’s the pie, once again:

Any questions on my findings?

Any conclusions you’ve drawn (that I didn’t mention)?

Leave a comment!

P.S.  If for some crazy reason you want to do an (unrelated) study of your own, consider hiring Sydney to help (schedule permitting).  You can email me, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Breakdown of Page 1 of Google’s Local Organic Search Results: Who Dominates?
Source: Local Visibility System

Should You Copy and Paste Your Online Reviews onto Your Site?

Should You Copy and Paste Your Online Reviews onto Your Site?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/myoplayer/7716993794/in/photolist-agJ3pc-6ooGDz-T6XH6-cKVBp9

You worked your tail off to get those reviews – on Google or Yelp or Facebook or another site – and want visitors to your site to see them.  But you might have refrained from putting them on your site, because of one fear or another.

I was gun-shy about it for several years, too, but have copied and pasted reviews on clients’ sites and even on my site, and have seen others do it without issues.  I’ve found that copying and pasting your online reviews is not only fine, but also smart to do.  (More on that in a second.)

By the way, I draw a distinction between online reviews – which customers write on sites like Google or Yelp – and testimonials, which only appear on your site.  Unless you’re in some super-regulated industry (like financial planning), there’s little or no debate as to whether it’s OK to put testimonials on your site – even though everyone knows you can cherry-pick and edit them.  (In my opinion, they can still be of value if you use them correctly.)

Anyway, back to whether you should showcase your online reviews on your site.  I say you should, for the following reasons:

1. They won’t get filtered because you copied and pasted them. I’ve tested that with Google reviews.  I’ve also tested it with Yelp reviews and reviews on other sites.  The reviews don’t get filtered.  You might get your reviews filtered for other reasons – like asking too many customers at once – but not because you put them on your site.

2.  I have never seen an issue with duplicate content: a page with third-party reviews not ranking well after reviews are added, or the wrong page ranking in the search results, etc. Now, your page with your review probably won’t outrank the review site with your review, because (for one thing) the review site probably has a bit more link juice than yours does.  But that’s got nothing to do with the review.

3.  The review sites seem fine with it. Google – ever the killjoy – doesn’t have a rule against showcasing your reviews.  Yelp has stated clearly that reusing your reviews is OK, as long as you attribute the review clearly.  I’ve never seen less-strict, more-hands-off review sites discourage it, either.

4.  Those reviews are relevant content you don’t have to write. They’ve naturally got “keywords,” and they may be “local” – especially if you cite where your reviewers are from.

5.  You’re letting other people talk about how great you are. That’s more compelling to would-be customers.  By the way, those reviews on your site don’t have to come across as cherry-picked.  You should link to the review site they’re from, and encourage visitors to Google your name and check out your reviews for themselves.

6.  You’re saving the text of the reviews. If they ever disappear for whatever reason, at least they won’t disappear for good.  You’ll have them on your site.

7.  More potential customers will see your reviews. You can’t assume everyone will see your reviews in the search results.

8.  It can condition customers to write reviews. Having great reviews on and off your site is how you’ll get customers to pick you specifically because of your reviews.  Later, after you’ve made them happy, they’re less likely to be surprised if you ask them for a review – and more likely to say yes and to follow through by writing you a good review.

A few notes:

You can excerpt your reviews, if you don’t want to copy and paste them in full.

You don’t need to take screenshots of your reviews.  As I’ve described, copying and pasting the text – which Google can crawl, of course – is not a problem, and having the text be crawlable by Google is half the reason you’d do it in the first place.

You shouldn’t mark up your third-party online reviews with Schema.org.  You should do that only for testimonials that appear exclusively on your site.

You can use review widgets or badges, too.

What’s your approach to using your online reviews?

Any reasons to do it – or not to do it – that I missed?

Leave a comment!

Should You Copy and Paste Your Online Reviews onto Your Site?
Source: Local Visibility System

Using “Suggest an Edit” to Change a Google My Business Landing Page URL: Too Easy and a Little Scary

Using “Suggest an Edit” to Change a Google My Business Landing Page URL: Too Easy and a Little Scary

Recently I used the public “Suggest an Edit” feature to propose changes to a couple Google My Business pages that had info I wanted to correct.  It’s a good thing I’m one of the good guys, because Google approved all too easily edits to pages that I didn’t control.

In both cases I wanted to change the landing page URL – the page visitors go to when they click the “Website” button in the search results – from pointing to a subpage to pointing to the homepage instead.

(As I’ve written, I tend to suggest using the homepage as your GMB landing page, because typically it’s got all the link juice and tends to help your Maps rankings more than would another page.  At least in my experience.)

Both cases were different, but both edits were approved by Google.  I don’t have a great track record of getting my edits approved – pretty hit-or-miss.  Also, though each edit made sense, neither was a no-brainer.

Edit 1

One of my newer clients – a chap in Australia – hadn’t claimed his Google My Business page.  Getting him to do it proved a pain.  In the meantime, I wanted to fix his GMB landing page URL, which pointed to his “About” page.  I wanted it to point to his homepage instead.  We’d claim his page another day.

I used “Suggest an Edit” to suggest the homepage as the landing page URL.  My edit was approved instantly (I got the email within about 2 minutes).

Edit 2

Another of my newer clients has two locations.  The high-ranking, “flagship” location has a Google page that points to the homepage, as it should.  The lower-ranking, satellite location pointed to a “Location” page on the site.  It was “SEO’d” just fine, but my general approach is the use the homepage unless there’s an unusually compelling reason not to do so.  In any case, her non-Google listings (i.e. citations) pointed to the homepage, not to the “Location” page, so we had to pick one URL or the other to use across all listings.  We agreed that using the homepage as the landing page URL would be the way to go.

Now, my client had long since claimed both of her Google pages.  I easily could have edited the landing page URL in the Google My Business dashboard.  But I wanted to see whether this particular public edit would stick on a claimed Google page.

I requested that they change the Google My Business landing page URL from the “Location” page to the homepage.

7 days later it was approved.

Remember, that was an edit to an owner-verified Google My Business page.  It wasn’t one of those unclaimed pages on which Google isn’t sure whether it’s got the correct data, where edits seem to stick more easily (as they probably should).

So the landing page URL isn’t always hard to edit.  So what?

Mind you, I like when Google approves my edits.  They sure don’t always approve them, probably because often they’re not edits to landing pages, but proposed changes to an address or name.

My concern is Google is far more likely to approve edits to landing page URLs than to name, address, or phone info – which in general either is factually correct or factually incorrect.  What’s the correct landing page URL of a business?  As long as the site is one the business owner actually owns, the specific page used is a matter of preference.

That’s why I’m concerned that this presents a way for some unethical business owners to mess with their local competitors with relative ease.  Sometimes, if you’ve got a site with decent link-juice and clean citations, all it takes to “pop” into the Google Maps 3-pack is just to get your landing page URL right.  The reverse can happen, too.

I wonder how public edits will be affected when Google MapMaker is killed off in March of 2017.

Have you made public edits that get approved too easily?

Have your competitors been abusing public edits?

Were they edits to a landing page URL, or to some other bit of info?

Leave a comment!

Using “Suggest an Edit” to Change a Google My Business Landing Page URL: Too Easy and a Little Scary
Source: Local Visibility System

One-Time Work vs. Ongoing Work in Local SEO

One-Time Work vs. Ongoing Work in Local SEO

https://www.flickr.com/photos/75012107@N05/15823736068/

The nature of your work on a local SEO campaign should change over time, or you’re doing it wrong.  How you’ll make progress in week 3 differs from how you’ll make progress in year 3.

You’ll do fine if you know which steps can only help you once, versus which steps can help you for as long as you work on them.  More on those in a minute.

On the other hand, your local rankings will take a dirt nap if you never do more than the one-time work.  Steps like “optimizing your website” and building and correcting your local listings can deliver impressive results – once, at most.

If that yeoman’s work is what you think local SEO amounts to, you’ll wonder why you made such fast progress and then hit a wall.  You’ll figure you just need to do more of what gave you that initial bump, so you’ll tinker with your site and build 300 citations – and still won’t see results.  You’ll conclude local SEO “doesn’t work,” throw up your hands, and watch your competitors roll by.

I blame local SEO companies (or at least some of them).  They want their SEO packages to look good on paper, to be easy to charge for, to be easy to delegate to people who can work for cheap, and not to require clients’ personal involvement (beyond writing the check) so they avoid bottlenecks and can bill until the end of time.  That’s the charitable view, by the way.

You’ll get better results if you divide the work into one-time tasks and continuous tasks.  Here’s how I like to classify each of the main steps.

One-time, foundational work:

  • Create or claim your Google My Business page
  • Create listings on the “local” sites that matter (AKA citation-building)
  • Correct and de-dupe your listings (AKA citation cleanup)
  • Fill out incomplete listings (specify your hours, categories, etc.)
  • Make technical fixes to your site
  • Do basic optimization: title tags, NAP info on every page, a page for each service, etc.
  • Create a page for each specific service and/or product you offer

Ongoing work you should NEVER stop doing:

  • Continue to do whatever else got you your best links so far
  • Research new link opportunities
  • Get those links
  • Ask for reviews on a variety of sites
  • Mine your reviews
  • Re-audit your site for new problems
  • Add more helpful content to existing pages
  • Create a new page any time you’ve got a new offering
  • Update your listings any time your basic business info changes
  • Continue your blogging or other content-creation efforts IF you know them to be effective (if they’re not effective, get help)
  • Continue any non-Google, preferably offline marketing you do
  • Keep learning about local search, SEO, and other areas of online marketing

By the way, I haven’t laid out each step sequentially.  The order varies from to case.  In general, the one-time steps you do in the early parts of your local SEO effort.  But sometimes they drag on later than you’d like them to, or you have to revisit them for one reason or another.  Also, the ongoing steps you should start as early as possible, partly because it takes time to pile up good links and reviews and to reap the benefits.

As long as you don’t fall into busywork, don’t obsess over things that are good enough (e.g. citations), and do work on hard things that your lazy competitors won’t bother with (namely earning links and reviews), you’ll continue to climb.  If you plan to get outside help, don’t hire a local SEO just to help on your listings and website.

Are you working on tasks where you think you might have hit the point of diminishing return?

Any ongoing steps I forgot?

Leave a comment!

One-Time Work vs. Ongoing Work in Local SEO
Source: Local Visibility System

BBB Dips a Toe in Answer-Box SEO, Highlighting Accredited Businesses

BBB Dips a Toe in Answer-Box SEO, Highlighting Accredited Businesses

Love it or hate it, the Better Business Bureau has long been an SEO powerhouse.  Though not splattered all over the local search results the way Yelp has been, the BBB often ranks well – both for broad search terms and when you search for a specific company by name.  It’s also become a prominent review site.

Now the BBB may piggyback off of Google’s increasing tendency to show “answer boxes”:

I find it interesting that that category page on the BBB doesn’t even rank #1.  It’s #4.  (Sometimes that’s the case with these answer-box results.)

No particularly fancy footwork in the source code, either.

The answer box + BBB lovechild doesn’t rank for many search terms yet (that I’ve seen), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t start popping up for more. The BBB recently redesigned its business pages, no doubt with local visibility in mind. Perhaps they also made tweaks to their category pages, too, which is what’s returning an answer box in Google in the above example.

As I’ve written before, there are several good reasons to consider holding your nose and getting accredited by the BBB.  This is another one.  Classic barnacle SEO.

For more on Google’s answer boxes, see the excellent post by Dr. Pete at Moz.

Are you seeing the BBB show up in Google with answer boxes?  How about answer boxes for other local directories?

Leave a comment!

BBB Dips a Toe in Answer-Box SEO, Highlighting Accredited Businesses
Source: Local Visibility System

If Nobody in Your Area Cares about Yelp, Should You Still Bother Getting Reviews There?

If Nobody in Your Area Cares about Yelp, Should You Still Bother Getting Reviews There?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/crouch/5965207074/

“My customers don’t care about Yelp.  Nobody around here cares about Yelp.  Why should I even try to get reviews there?”

That’s a valid concern of business owners in most of the US – and in most of the world.  Yelp, the Billion Dollar Bully, makes itself hard to avoid and even harder to like.  The site is only powerful because of all the reviews.  They’re its lifeblood.  So why on earth would you want to ask your hard-earned customers to review you there – when they probably don’t value it any more than you do?

A few reasons to hold your nose and work to get at least a few good reviews on Yelp:

1. Even people who don’t give a rip about Yelp still see your average rating in the search results when they Google you by name. They can tell that it’s a review site, even though they may not care that the review site is Yelp.  If nothing else, it’s a voice in the chorus.

2.  Yelp feeds reviews to Apple Maps, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local. So if you have a 1-star or a 5-star average on Yelp, that’s what people who check out your listings on those 3 local search engines will see.

3.  It’s worth having a couple positive reviews on Yelp just in case someone does a hatchet job on you there. It’s a defensive move, at the very least.  The time to start trying to get good reviews is not when you’re in a hole.

4.  Even though most people in the great State of _____ have the good sense not to care much about Yelp, some small segment of the population may pay attention to it. Throw them a bone.

5.  Maybe Yelp will broaden its appeal one day.

6.  It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Yelp doesn’t need to become your main squeeze, or a major time-commitment.  The goal is to get at least a couple good reviews on the board.

7.  It’s great practice for you, in the name of getting dialed-in on your review strategy. You’ll get a little better at knowing whom to ask, when to ask, how to ask, etc.  If it proves too tough to get a given customer to review you on Yelp, ask him or her to review you somewhere else instead.

How to get at least a few reviews on Yelp?  These posts may help:

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps – me

20+ Depressing Observations about Yelp Reviews – me

8 Reasons Why Your Business Should Use Yelp’s Check-In Offers – Joy Hawkins

3 Next-Level Yelp Tricks for Business Owners – Brian Patterson

Do people in your area give a hoot about Yelp?  How do you approach it?

Leave a comment!

P.S.  Thanks to Lisa Moon of Paper Moon Painting for asking me a thought-provoking question last year that made me want to write about this.

If Nobody in Your Area Cares about Yelp, Should You Still Bother Getting Reviews There?
Source: Local Visibility System