If search engine optimization was a food, it would be hot sauce. That would make local SEODave’s Ultimate Insanity. Just two or three years ago, roughly 20 percent of searches were local (containing keywords like “near me,” “in Maryland,” “Gaithersburg 20879,” etc.). In October 2012, ad network Chitika produced a study suggesting that more than 40 percent of searches have local intent. Today, local SEO experts like David Mihm, believe the number may be as high as 50 percent!
So-called local searches are on the rise and, with the growing popularity of mobile devices, I see no sign of a slow down. With change comes opportunity. With local SEO, businesses have an incredible opportunity to cost-effectively put themselves directly in front of geographically qualified prospects at the exact moment of interest and intent.
On March 9, 2013, I had the opportunity to attend Local University in Baltimore, Maryland. If you’re not sure what Local U is and/or you haven’t read part 1 of this blog series, you can check it out and learn more here. In today’s post, I’m going to summerize, recap, and offer my own two cents on the Local U sessions delivered by Mike Blumenthal, Aaron Weiche, Mike Ramsey, and Will Scott.
If you own a local business and you want to get more leads and sales from the web, it’s important to manage and continually improve your company’s online reputation. A big part of the process is managing your online reviews—from encouraging people to provide you with positive reviews to preventing negative reviews from spiraling out of control.
Mike’s session touched on a variety of online review aspects—tips for getting reviews, where you should put them online, etc. What I found most compelling and insightful about Mike’s speech was how few local businesses take the time to integrate customer feedback and reviews into their overall business and service delivery process.
A lot of online reputation management and review companies focus on the number of reviews. According to Mike—and I wholeheartedly agree—this is the wrong way to approach things. It’s sort of like starting with the “what” when you should first be thinking about the “why.” Stop focusing on the number of reviews you have. Instead, focus on actuallyimproving the customer experience.
Mike’s Tips for Integrating Reviews into Your Business Process
Tip #1: Follow up immediately after the sale and ask for feedback
Part of ranking well organically is creating a business that is truly remarkable—online and off. Following up immediately after each sale gives you an excellent opportunity to engage new customers. If they’re happy, it may be a great time to direct them to a site to provide you with feedback. If they’re unhappy, you may be able to resolve the problem and turn a potentially negative review into a positive one.
Tip #2: Make complaining easy One way to do this (not necessarily suggested by Mike) is to direct people to a website you’ve created specifically for collecting feedback. This gives unhappy clients the ability to send negative feedback to you rather than post it on Yelp or your Google+ page.
Tip #3: When you get a complaint, follow up promptly and resolve it
Few things are as frustrating as not being heard. One of the easiest ways to nip negative reviews in the bud is to acknowledge the complaint and take action to address the issue. Nobody (editor’s note: except maybe Adam Levine) and no business is perfect. What separates great businesses from everyone else is the ability to use customer feedback—good and bad—to get into the mind of the customer and use this perspective to continually improve the customer experience.
Aaron’s presentation focused on the importance of—and how to better optimize your business for—mobile search. According to Aaron, it is predicted that mobile search will take over traditional search as early as 2015.
From a public speaking perspective, I’d rate Aaron as the best, and arguably funniest, of the day. Example: he said that he wanted to make sweet love to Google PPC sitelinks all night long, and then, just seconds later compared sitelinks to the friendly old man that helps you at your local home improvement store! As my five-year-old son Jack would say, “awkward!”
A few key takeaways from Aaron’s presentation:
Tip #1: Optimize for mobile the same way you optimize your regular website
According to Aaron, the ranking signals for mobile sites are, at present, the same (or very similar) to what they are for a standard website. Google claims that users still want to see the same content—just a better user experience—so chasing “mobile only” factors might be short sighted (I personally disagree, but that’s a blog for another time).
Tip #2: If mobile search is important to your business, invest in paid ads
On desktop computers, where the search results page is much larger, the organic listings capture the vast majority of available clicks. The top organic search result typically captures more clicks than all the PPC ads combined. On mobile, the opposite is true. When you search on a mobile device, PPC ads dominate the landscape and, according to Aaron, the clickthrough rate from the first listing (which is paid) to the fourth drops by 90 percent on mobile devices. If attracting mobile traffic to your website is important to your business, you should be investing in PPC advertising.
Tip #3: Don’t neglect the landing page
One of the most common mistakes local businesses make is fighting like mad to win the click and then failing to deliver once the visitor is on their website. According to Aaron, you should recognize that mobile landing pages have their own rules. Always create two versions and test. Aaron recommends one version be all about trust and the other be all about simplicity. Split test them and see which one wins for your target audience.
In Mike’s session, he indicated that, in the past, Google Panda targeted larger, national websites. In 2013, he predicts that Panda will crush reptetitive local content. For example, companies using largely duplicated pages to generate traffic for certain cities they serve should start working to make those pages unique now (before it’s too late).
Mike’s tips for reducing/eliminating duplicate content on geo-targeted pages:
Tip #1: Include two to three sentences of unique content per page
Mike cited a conversation between Eric Enge and Matt Cutts where Matt suggested that it doesn’t take more than two to three sentences of unique content to help Google see a page as unique. (This sounds a bit thin to me).
Tip #2: Leverage location specific assets to create additional unique content
To further differentiate geo-targeted pages, Mike suggested including directions, adding reviews from local clients/customers, and/or staff bios for every location. Another idea would be to include recaps of any recent projects your company has done in the area (this would be relevant to remodelers, roofers, etc.) and/or information that would be hyper-specific to one area vs. another. For example, let’s say you own a basement waterproofing company. Glen Echo, Maryland is down by the Potomac River and probably has some unique needs when compared to another city like Frederick, which is in the mountains.
One of the key topics Will covered is paying to promote your business on social media sites like Facebook. At one point, he showed a Power Point slide with a picture of some female exotic dancers (seen at right), and said, “just because you paid for it, doesn’t make it any less satisfying.”
I found this particularly humorous and true—about paid online advertising, of course. Will advises trying promoted posts rather than marketplace ads or sponsored stories—which he says aren’t that impactful. I agree—it’s stupid to buy followers on Twitter or random fans on Facebook, but there’s nothing wrong with using promoted posts on Facebook to increase impressions with members of your target demographic.
When Local U visits Chicago, I suggest the rest of the faculty keep Will away from Gibson’s (and Rush & Division in general) and lower Whacker Drive—too many temptations for our man Will.
Blue Corona left Local U Advanced excited to test the local SEO strategies discussed in the workshop. And because we track everything, we’ll make sure to let you know what works, what doesn’t, and what brings forth the wrath of the Google gods.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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