Category: SEO

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal


*Updated Feb 2021 to talk about tracking competitors easily with Local Search Grid*

If you’re wondering who your competitors are, what their local SEO strategies are, and if there’s a gap in the market for you to exploit, then you’ve come to the right place. 

In this overview, we’re to show you how to use BrightLocal’s tools to map your competitive landscape and pinpoint opportunities for growth.

The five BrightLocal tools to help you crush your competitors are:

  1. Google My Business Audit
  2. Local Search Rank Checker report
  3. Citation Tracker report
  4. Local Search Audit 
  5. Local Search Grid

Let’s take a look at a Google My Business Audit first.

1. Tracking Your Competitors with a Google My Business Audit

A Google My Business Audit lets you quickly assess the status of your Google My Business profile and how it compares to your top online competitors.

It uses your business location and business type to identify the competitors which are ranking top in the local pack for the search terms and search the location you’ve chosen.

The audit is split into corresponding search terms based on your business type and reveals nuggets of information about your competitors such as:

  • the number of citations, links, and reviews they have
  • their star ratings and number of photos on Google
  • the primary business category they’re using
  • their website authority

This data is benchmarked against your own so you can see the areas that may be helping their search rankings that you may not have focused on, giving you some really actionable insights. 

For instance, in the Google My Business Audit report below, we can see that Sodoma Law is ranking in sixth position for the search term ‘divorce attorney’. We can also see that Arnold & Smith, Collins Family Law Group, and McIlveen Family Law Firm are their three main competitors because they rank in first, second, and third positions, respectively. 

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

Working our way across the table, we can see that Sodoma Law has more citations and website authority (a score that predicts your website’s ability to rank on search engine results pages) than the top three companies, but far fewer reviews. So, to try to rank higher for the search term divorce attorney, they need to gain more high-quality reviews (which our Reputation Manager tool is perfect for).

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

See the below Help Center articles for more information on setting up and understanding a Google My Business Audit report:

2. Tracking Your Competitors with a Local Search Rank Checker Report

Next on the list is a Local Search Rank Checker report. This is a great way to see how your rankings benchmark against your competitors.

To track your competitors in a Local Search Rank Checker report, you can add a maximum of four competitors to the section called ‘Monitor competitor search rankings’ when you set it up.

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

If your report is already set up, you can add competitors by going to ‘Actions’, selecting ‘Edit Report’ and then scrolling down to the Advanced Settings where you can click on the ‘Competitors’ tab.

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

Not sure who your competitors are? The best way to learn is to search for a term related to your business, such as ‘lawyers Charlotte NC’ and see who appears in the local pack or ahead of you in terms of their local positioning. 

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

When your report is finished, there will be an additional tab called ‘Competitors’ where you can see how your competitors rank for different keywords in the different search engines. 

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

For example, the image below shows where Sodoma Law ranks for certain keywords on Google. In the Rank column the letters A, B, and C indicate where the solicitor appears in the Local Pack and the numbers show their overall ranking position on Google. A dash means we didn’t find any mention of the business in the top 50 results. 

Sodoma Law currently ranks B for the keywords ‘Family Lawyer’, but doesn’t appear in the top 50 results for any of the other keywords. Two of their competitors rank in positions A and B for the keywords ‘Best Lawyers’. To bump the two competitors off their top spots they will need to include the keywords ‘Best Lawyers’ throughout their content.

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

See the below Help Center articles for more information on setting up and understanding a Local Search Rank Checker report:

3. Tracking Your Competitors with a Citation Tracker Report

Third on the list is the Citation Tracker report, which lets you monitor competitor citations and helps you to fill any gaps. We find the competitors by looking for what businesses are ranking top in Google Maps for the business type + location (e.g. plumbers in manhattan).

Once you’ve run your Citation Tracker report, you’ll see a tab called Competitor Citations. Here you’ll be able to see a list of citations and business mentions that your top five competitors in search have, excluding any that you already have. 

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

To discover who your competitors are, simply click on the red pins. 

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

For a better understanding of the citations that are worth you registering for, take a look at the Citation Authority and Citation Value columns. 

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

Citation Authority is based on Domain Authority, a metric calculated by Moz. It’s the SEO score for a website and a prediction of its ability to rank well in search engines. This is calculated out of 100. The higher the number, the more influence that site may have.

Citation Value is unique to BrightLocal. It’s determined using the frequency with which a website appears in citation records. The more a website is used as a citation source, the higher its value. These values are calculated from unique research conducted by BrightLocal.

If there are any citations in the table that have high Citation Value and/or Citation Authority scores, they would be good to go after first. 

To do that, in the column called ‘Actions’, click the ‘+’ icon and you’ll be taken straight to the citation site. Once there, you should be able to fill in your business details to register a citation request. Keep in mind that your citation may not be added to a directory immediately. 

Alternatively, check out Citation Builder, where we do the hard work for you by building citations on key sites, cleaning up your existing citations, and removing harmful duplicates.

See the below Help Center articles for more information on setting up and understanding a Citation Tracker report:

4. Tracking Your Competitors with a Local Search Audit

Another great source of competitor information in BrightLocal is a Local Search Audit

In a Local Search Audit, under the ‘Links & Website Authority’ heading, you’ll find the average score for your competitors, as well as your business scores on the following:

  • Google Index Count: the number of pages that Google has indexed on your site
  • Link Count: the number of links that lead from other websites through to yours
  • Linking Domains: the number of websites that link to your website
  • Majestic C Flow: a link-related score that’s calculated based on the number of inbound links your website has 
  • Domain Authority: a search engine ranking score that predicts your website’s ability to rank on search engine results pages

How to Track Your Competitors Using BrightLocal

Your aim should be to rank higher than the competitor average for each of these, so this table gives you great insight into where you might want to prioritize your efforts first and in the future.

For example, if your number of Linking Domains is below your competitor average, then reaching out to trusted websites and asking them to link back to yours would be a good place to start.

See the below Help Center articles for more information on setting up and understanding a Local Search Audit:

5. Tracking Your Competitors with a Local Search Grid Report

Local Search Grid tells you how well you’re ranking for specific keywords compared to your competitors, giving you an idea of who you’re actually competing against so you can start to build a strategy for improvement.

In the ‘Overall’ competitors table you will see:

  • Avg Rank: the competitor’s average ranking score
  • Reviews: the number of customer reviews the competitor has
  • Rating: the competitor’s average star rating
  • Category: the primary category a competitor is using in their Google My Business profile

So if, for example, if you saw that you had more reviews and a similar star rating to your top three competitors, but that your Category was different, then changing that within your Google My Business profile might help to improve your rankings.

Local Search Grid Table

For a side-by-side comparison and to see a competitor’s rankings on a grid, simply click on a competitor’s name in the table.

Local Search Grid

You can also view competitors by grid point. This is useful if you want to learn how you can outrank a competitor for that grid point.

Simply open the keyword tab and click the grid point that you want to investigate further. 

Locla Search Grid - Grid Points

A popup will appear showing a list of the competitors and where they are ranking for that keyword in that particular grid point, as well as the following information:

  • Proximity: the distance the competitor is from your business in meters
  • Reviews: the number of reviews the competitor has 
  • Rating: the competitor’s star rating
  • Category: the Google My Business category that they use

Local Search Grid

You can use this information to get ahead in a similar way to the information in the ‘Overall’ competitors table. 

See the below Help Center articles for more information on setting up and understanding a Local Search Grid report:

Your next steps

To get the edge on your competitors, set up these four reports to track their local SEO efforts and plan your next moves. 

The BrightLocal Help Center has information on how to create and read all of these reports, and the Bright Ideas section on our website has advice on how to improve all aspects of local SEO from link building and review generation to Google My Business optimization.



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Vlog Episode #103: Phillip Thune On Writing Content, Finding The Right Author & Google Panda Penguin Shifts In Content


In part one, Phillip Thune, the CEO of Textbroker, and I spoke about FindWhat Days In 2000 To Running Textbroker in 2020. Here is part two.

How To Prepare To Write:

In part two of my interview with Phillip Thune, we talk about tips on how to prepare to write content. It starts with an author briefing, including who your audience is, what does that audience want, do the keyword research, do the competitive analysis, and then how to convey that information to the author who will write this. Giving examples of what style you like, what phrases you like, to the author will help the author write the best article for you. In short, the more instruction you give to the author, the better off it will come out.

How Do You Find The Right Author For The Right Topic:

The way Textbroker is able to find the best author for the topic requested is a topic he gets a lot. So when you submit a request, you pick a topic. Each author defines which topics they like to write about and they can pick the content assignments by category – they can self select it. Clients can also search for specific authors if they want.

While many of his clients do not communicate the results of the content campaign back to Textbroker, Textbroker can measure their success other ways. Most importantly, his clients measure if the authors are producing quality and the results they want.

Google Panda & Penguin:

When Panda came, the overall volume of content requests spiked and continued big time. Then Penguin came out a couple of years later, and they saw a bit of a deep in content requests because those content requests were done for third-party content links. He saw a shift immediately to high quality authors where content quality shifted higher. So there was a shift from high quality but lower volume content after Panda and Penguin.

Content Quality Assurance & How To Write Better:
Part of this is that Textbroker does educate and help produce better quality from their authors. So getting a 3 star writer to be a 4 star writer can and does happen. But it is rare to see a 2 star writer turn into a 5 star writer. But at the same time, clients rate these authors manually and often these reviews are very subjective – so the ratings are a bit hard early on.

He said any author who writes something always goes into draft mode first. You always need someone to edit it. If it is not reviewed by an editor, it probably won’t be good. You really need to have an editorial review process in place.

Phillip Thune can be followed on LinkedIn or on Twitter @PhillipThune.


You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

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The Year in Local Search – 2020


2020 has nearly come to an end (cue sighs of relief!) 

While this year presented many challenges, especially for local businesses, it also created the opportunity for triumph. Google My Business introduced more new features than ever, and we saw the good side of many organizations that strived to provide extra resources and relief to those in need.

Although we may all be glad to see the back of what’s been a pretty hectic year, we’d be remiss not to look back on all the exciting things that have taken place. For us, it’s been a year filled with GMB news, updates, and changes, and we even had some laughs along the way too, (Four Season Total Landscaping anyone?)

So, before we say “so long” to 2020 for good, we invite you to join us in reflecting upon the year in local search.

What would a year in review be without GIFs? Keep your eyes peeled throughout and let us know how many TV shows or films you recognized in the comments below!

January

Suffice to say, the year started out strongly, if not a little stressfully (when isn’t that the case for local SEOs?) We saw the introduction of new features in Apple Maps, as one of Google Maps’ biggest rivals strived to achieve feature parity through the introduction of “Collections”, real-time transit information, and indoor maps.

Arguably, what shook the local SEO community more though, was news of a featured snippets shakeup

Originally spotted by Mark Barrera, it was later announced by Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan that sites ranking in a featured snippet position would no longer be able to rank with that same URL on the same page of SERPs. 

Sure, this is old news now (literally), but at the time it shook the local SEO community and raised a whole host of questions, such as “are featured snippets worth getting?

Here’s what local SEO Twitter had to say at the time:

February

The Year in Local Search - 2020

In the month of Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, and of course, National Ukulele Day (yep, it’s a thing apparently!) local SEO news was uncharacteristically quiet. Perhaps Google was recovering from the unprecedented excitement that the featured snippets shakeup caused?

What we did notice, however, was a big change in the local SERP display for users in Europe

On February 21st, what’s known as the “find results carousel” was spotted across European SERPs. This new feature saw third-party directories such as Yelp, Yell, and Tripadvisor appear front and center in local search results, like so: 

Dentists in Brighton EU SERP

At the time, there was some speculation that this update might have been Google’s response to the EU’s hefty antitrust fine

So far, this SERP feature has stayed firmly in Europe, but one BrightLocal reader did suggest they’d like to see it rolled out elsewhere:

It would be nice if they released this everywhere. A lot of people choose not to use directories, yet they take up a large portion of the SERPs. This way would allow them to be separated and other, more useful, websites to populate those positions.

Sarah, BrightLocal Reader (New Local SERP Display Puts Directories Front and Center)

March

The Year in Local Search - 2020

As Spring rolled around, so too did the first effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on local businesses.

While the month got off to a positive start with the launch of our very own Local Search Industry Survey, we were soon brought down to earth as Google announced the suspension of many of its most popular features.

In a post published on Friday, March 20th, Google announced that it was temporarily disabling and limiting some key features in Google My Business.

During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services. 

Google

Among the features suspended were: new reviews, review responses, Q&A, adding/claiming/verifying listings, and editing business information.

At first, it’s safe to say that this came as a huge blow to local businesses, many of which were relying on new reviews to help tide them over and keep them front of mind in hopes that they’d be a top choice to customers when they reopened. (See the #5starchallenge below…)

Additionally, GMB Product Expert Jason Brown noted at the time that Google Posts were also “failing”, due to being disabled. 

That said, GMB by no means left us high and dry. While some features were suspended, new ones were introduced, such as ‘mark this business as temporarily closed’.

April

The Year in Local Search - 2020

Sadly, we’re now firmly into the Covid-19 territory of the year. As the impact of March’s news and local business closures worldwide continued to be felt, we reached out to our customers to see how they had been impacted.

We don’t need to tell you, but at this point, the landscape was looking pretty bleak. 

How local businesses are handling covid-19

Additionally, local marketers were now feeling the effects of nationwide business closures, with many of our respondents reporting losing clients and revenue.

The impact of Covid-19 on local marketers

Despite these dark times, our poll respondents remained optimistic and full of insightful tips to help each other out. Just take a look at some of the responses we received:

In down markets the most successful companies do not stop marketing, they push it. When everyone else is cutting back, it’s the perfect opportunity to move forward.

We recommend keeping calm, kind, and in contact. The worst thing that could be done is panic. Everyone is scared and the future is murky at best, but if we stand strong and craft messages of acknowledgment and hope, then the customers and clients alike will bounce back from this time of uncertainty stronger and more profitable than ever.

Fortunately, things didn’t stay this way for too long. But it’s important to look back and see just how far we’ve all come despite the obstacles thrown our way. 

Here’s to the resilience that local businesses and marketers alike have shown this year!

May

The Year in Local Search - 2020

In the month that we saw Google reviews begin to return (hooray!) Google My Business rolled out three new attributes for local businesses to take advantage of.

Potentially another way to help local businesses bounce back amid difficult times, the attributes allowed local businesses to highlight how they were adapting and continuing to provide services with stay-at-home orders (and the like) in place.

As of May, businesses – namely restaurants – were able to specify whether or not they provided curbside pickup, no contact delivery, or dine-in. 

Sure, this may not have been the most exciting update of the year, but it provided a great deal of help to keep consumers informed and help to keep businesses in service!

Plus, we were kept busy with news of the second broad core algorithm update of the year and high flux caused by a bug with Google.

June

The Year in Local Search - 2020

As June rolled around, along came more features provided by Google to help local businesses in a continually challenging time.

In an attempt to help businesses speed up their recovery from the impact of Covid-19, several new features and support measures were introduced, including: 

  • Smart campaigners getting free promoted pins in Google Maps
  • ‘Grow My Store’ report providing tips to help local businesses improve visibility
  • New details on Google’s shopping tab
  • International Small Business Week

Since Google’s announcement in June, there hasn’t been a huge amount of chatter about these items.

That said, this change definitely did signify the start of Google’s big push in getting consumers to shop local (see: the ‘Shop Local’ adverts airing in the UK right now). 

July

july by GIF CALENDAR

Remember when local SEO expert and contributor Andrew Cock-Starkey predicted that Google My Business would introduce paid aspects in 2020? It may have seemed less likely to some at the time, but in July of this year we saw a pretty controversial test taking place on GMB profiles.

On July 22nd, GMB Product Expert Tom Waddington spotted that GMB was offering the opportunity to upgrade your listing for $50 per month and get a coveted Google Guaranteed badge.

In what was arguably the biggest news of the year thus far, this news did not come as a welcome surprise to many…

In fact, the controversial test sparked concern that this potential paid option would lead to businesses not worthy of ranking simply “buying” their way into the top slot.

Meanwhile, some thought that this option could give Google too much power:

That said, the reaction wasn’t all bad. This change did spark some thought that paid-for Google Guarantee profiles could help to reduce spam somewhat, which I’m sure we’d all agree would be welcome.

August

The Year in Local Search - 2020

After lots (and lots, and lots…) of Covid-19 related-local SEO news, August finally brought with it some good old fashioned Google My Business news in the form of GMB’s direct edit.

Interestingly though, this feature wasn’t entirely new.

In 2017, Google announced that users would have the ability to edit their GMB listing without leaving search. In August 2020, we simply saw an update to this existing functionality.

So now, without needing to login to the Google My Business site, GMB owners can do the following directly from search results:

  1. Update profile information
  2. Create posts
  3. Reply to reviews
  4. Add photos

While a version of this feature had existed for a while, news of the Direct Edit experience did seem to raise some concerns, such as “does the Direct Edit experience pose a threat to agencies?”

It seemed that some feared this could lead to clients trying to make edits to their listing more frequently, as well as blurring the agency/client relationship line.

Fortunately, any concerns were soon put to rest and seemed to blow over pretty quickly.

September

The Year in Local Search - 2020

September was yet another filled month for local SEO news, with the highly anticipated Local Search Ranking Factors survey being released by Whitespark. We also witnessed many changes to the fast-evolving Local Services Ads by Google.

Google’s Local Services Ads have been around for a while now, and they continue to be a popular choice for local businesses to gain more paid exposure in SERPs.

And if 2020 showed us anything, it’s that LSAs are showing no signs of slowing down. During September we saw two major changes to Google feature…

Firstly, bidding was introduced to a select few beta testers. While LSAs had previously been available at flat sums — making them an affordable and accessible option to many SMBs — this news meant that LSAs became even more competitive.

It’s safe to say that this news wasn’t welcomed with open arms by the local SEO community, who often found LSAs to be an affordable, low-maintenance way to help local businesses gain visibility.

By some, the move to auction-based bidding seemed like Google prioritizing profit over user experience:

Soon after, LSAs were finally rolled out across Europe. Previously, the ad option had only been available to the US but as of September 2020 LSAs are now available to 10 countries throughout Europe: Germany, UK, France, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain. 

In 2020, it’s clear that Google’s been placing even more emphasis on LSAs, so keep your eyes peeled for yet more changes in 2021.

October

The Year in Local Search - 2020

In the spookiest month of the year, yet more exciting GMB news emerged.

Spotted by Sterling Sky’s Colan Nielsen, Google began beta testing ‘Preview Call History’ in the GMB dashboard.

In the past year, call tracking has become even more popular and encouraged, with services like CallRail fast gaining popularity.

And, although call tracking is important, it’s definitely a function that has caused some confusion in the past (Where does the call tracking go? Does it interfere with NAP? And so on.)

So, the introduction of native call tracking (even if it does have limited reach) could be very much welcome. 

Regardless, it seems like this is very much early doors right now, but watch out for call history previews next year.

November

The Year in Local Search - 2020

As if 2020 hadn’t been stressful enough, in November we had elections, holidays, and lots and lots of local ranking fluctuation.

While November might have been a pretty quiet month for local SEO, there was one local business that took center stage, occupying headlines globally…

Enter: Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

The unsuspecting gardening firm based in Philadelphia made headlines when it was chosen to host a press conference by Donald Trump and his team on November 7th. 

Naturally, that’s not where the press conference was supposed to be hosted – but somewhere along the line, it had gotten mixed up for the Four Seasons premier hotel chain.

What might have begun as an awkward scheduling snafu was an absolute success story for this small business. 

Sure, it might have resulted in some negative GMB reviews (which have since been dealt with) but the press that Four Seasons Total Landscaping received was priceless.

And, as we know, press pays! According to Business Insider, the small gardening firm has made a whopping $1.3 million in merch sales alone.

In what’s been a testing year, this piece of lighthearted news among tense times can surely be seen as a triumph for SMBs.

December

The Year in Local Search - 2020

With the holiday season upon us and the end of year in sight (cue more sighs of relief) you’d think that local SEO news would take a day off and give us a rest, but alas!

Always trying to keep us on our toes, Google rolled out its third and final broad core algorithm update of the year on December 3rd, leading to rankings flux and all-around stress from the local SEO community.

Although the dust hasn’t quite settled yet, we can expect that (as always) there will be winners and losers from this algorithm update.

In the meantime, all we can do is hold on to our hats and not make any drastic decisions before we know what’s changed (however tempted we may be!)

Here’s to 2021!

So, among everything else, it’s been yet another busy year for local SEO. But importantly, it’s heartening to know that in testing times the local SEO community, agencies and SMBs alike, are able to overcome the hurdles thrown their way.

From all of us at BrightLocal, we sincerely hope that 2021 brings with it a brighter, better year for local businesses and marketers. No matter what, we’ll be here bringing you the latest news, guides, and support through it all. 

What was your favorite news item of the year? Let us know in the comments below!

P.S. Want to test your local SEO news know-how from each month? Check out our Local Quizness series – the ultimate challenge for local SEO news lovers.

Stephanie Newton

Stephanie is responsible for managing BrightLocal’s community outreach and engagement, as well as producing and managing content to help inform and educate the local SEO community.





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Elie Orgel On Data For Creating Link Bait Pages (Part One)


Elie Orgel has been doing SEO for about ten years and I actually have some connections that go way back. He currently works at the Rosenblum Law firm as the director of marketing there. He got into SEO by making web sites for local businesses and then started to learn about SEO over time. He then got a part time job at Rosenblum Law firm and then moved to Search Interactions for a while, then he went to the American Kennel Club (which was founded in 1884) and then came back to Rosenblum Law firm.

We then started talking about how to get links by creating link bait pages. He said you can use really good data to create pages that people will want to link to and reference in their web pages. He gave some examples of types of data that worked for the Rosenblum Law firm. Specifically he said you can find data that is available online but yet not indexed, if you can leverage that data, you can achieve a lot of success in creating link bait pages. Elie added that he believes unlinked citations can help you rank better into Google.

You can learn more about Elie Orgel on LinkedIn or ElieOrgel.com.

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

Forum discussion at YouTube.



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The Beginner’s Guide to Local Marketing


Local marketing can be simply described as any marketing activity which puts your business in front of consumers within a certain radius of your location. While that’s straightforward enough, there are lots of different types of activity that fall under this neat umbrella.

Local marketing is especially important for small and medium businesses which rely on clients physically visiting a brick-and-mortar location to make a sale or access a service: dentists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors for example or retail stores without an e-commerce presence, bars, and restaurants, locksmiths, plumbers, a builder’s yard or car dealership. Our research confirms that within the last 12 months, 90% of consumers have used the internet to find a local business. Local marketing is therefore vital to connect your offering with those in need of a local service provider or retailer.

By its nature, local marketing is highly geographically specific. This means it’s important to carefully consider your strategy as you need to be sure that all of your efforts are being directed at exactly the right person within what could well be a small geographic area. The danger with local marketing is that you think too big and waste budget on incorrect location and consumer targeting.

Casting too wide a net means your precious funds (and time) will likely be spent trying to gain the attention of people who are too far away to ever convert – 93% of consumers say they won’t travel more than 20 minutes from home to make an everyday purchase, so if you are targeting too big an area with any of your local marketing tactics, anything outside of that 20-minute radius represents a waste of time and money. Likewise, it’s also pointless targeting absolutely everyone within your locality because some just won’t need or want your products or services.

As mentioned, local marketing can take multiple different forms. We’ve outlined the main categories for you, and broken each down into its own individual tactics. You’ll find a clear example of each action and an outline of how it can benefit your local business. Feel free to use the jump links below to head straight to a section that interests you!

Local SEO

Advertising

Content Marketing


Local SEO

Build citations for your business

The mention of the word ‘citation’ may bring back nightmares of essays and term papers but in local SEO terms, it simply means that your business name, address, and phone number is referenced online.

Citations are beneficial to your local marketing in a number of ways. First and foremost, they provide a local SEO boost which means, if you build enough citations, you could start to see an increase in local search visibility. This in turn means that you’re more prominent when local consumers take to their chosen search engine to find a specific product or service.

Citations can also help consumers to find your business on other websites, aiding discovery. If you create a directory listing for example in order to create a new citation, users of that directory could easily come across your business address or website and then proceed to your store or website. In this way, they function as new pathways to your actual or virtual door.

Finally, citations can be used to confirm a key detail about your business, such as your address, before the local consumer jumps in their car and sets out to visit you. If they come across the same name and address in a few different locations, they can feel confident that the information is accurate and trust that they’ll end up in the right place.

Optimize your Google My Business listing

Google My Business feeds information about local businesses to the search engine results pages and search engine users – optimizing this listing means confirming your information is up to date, the correct category selected and that all settings and data fields are accurate and relevant.

The information that you provide in your Google My Business listing is known to impact on where your website ranks for appropriate keywords. The actions that you perform during optimization determine what information is presented to search users and how your business is perceived. Creating an optimized description for example gives Google a clue as to what to rank you for, and can entice search users to visit your store or give you a call.

Selecting a main category and sub-category is also part and parcel of optimization and is known to strongly influence where your site ranks in Google search. That alone can impact your overall local visibility and generate more traffic.

The process of optimizing your listing also includes uploading appropriate images to your profile, which can immediately make your business stand out and capture the eye of local consumers.

Generating reviews and responding to them naturally comes under Google My Business optimization activity. Online reviews strongly influence the consumer decision-making process and can actively determine whether a local consumer chooses your business or a competitor.

Monitor local search rankings

Monitoring local search rankings as part of your local SEO campaign is as straightforward as it sounds; it’s simply the process of tracking where your keywords appear in the search engine results pages. This doesn’t have to be done manually and there are lots of affordable tools available that automate this process for you.

While monitoring changes in your ranking position can be hands-off, the insight that this data offers is invaluable. The most obvious advantage of tracking any changes in your search position is that you can determine whether your local SEO activity is generating ranking improvements or causing positions to stagnate or worse, decline. In the latter two scenarios, just having that data to hand gives you concrete proof that you need to revisit your strategy. In turn, this means you aren’t wasting precious time and resources on actions that aren’t working.

Ranking data can also help you to decide if you need to assign funds to other areas such as advertising to be visible to your target audience.

If you use a rank monitoring tool, you may additionally be able to add in competitor domains to keep an eye on how your rivals are performing. This should give you a clear picture of where your business stands in comparison with others in the local area.

Monitor and grow business reviews

Reputation is everything in business so you’ll want to ensure you’re proactive about monitoring what people are saying about you, and encouraging customers to share their experiences of working with or buying from you online for others to see.

One of the key benefits of monitoring your reviews as part of your local marketing activity is that they are a huge source of valuable customer feedback. Each review you read is an opportunity to pinpoint what customers appreciate about your product or service and identify any recurring issues that need to be addressed.

While no one likes to read a bad review about their businesses, monitoring means you know sooner rather than later when something negative appears. This gives you a chance to react quickly, respond to the reviewer, and take steps to put things right.

Many businesses hesitate to be proactive about growing reviews but, if you make this a regular part of your local marketing routine, you’ll be rewarded with better search engine rankings and increased consumer trust. The number of reviews you have along with how often new reviews are published all influence your search position therefore, the more you can grow your review profile, the better your local SEO visibility is likely to be.

Online reviews have replaced traditional word-of-mouth recommendations for modern consumers. They expect to see plenty of recent reviews, make a habit of reading around 10 reviews before developing a sense of trust, and tend to discount older reviews. You’ll, therefore, need a steady stream of fresh reviews to generate inquiries and sales.

Optimize your website for mobile

Given the popularity of mobile browsing and Google’s much-publicized mobile-first indexing, ensuring your website is quick to load and highly functional for visitors from a smartphone or other mobile device is a must in any local marketing strategy.

As with all optimization, making sure your site is optimized for mobile is no small undertaking but this investment does unlock a wealth of advantages for your business. It’s no secret that the majority of search users now go online from a mobile device. Traditional websites are optimized for desktop computers, often connected to high-speed broadband. The smaller size screen and often slower internet connection make navigating a desktop site frustrating and awkward. A site optimized for mobile gives the mobile user a seamless experience. Pages are quick to load and forms and shopping carts designed for ease of use by someone wanting to input information or checkout using the smaller screen of their phone.

Consumers expect a slick mobile experience as standard. If you fail to meet that expectation, in all likelihood that potential client will leave and go to a competitor who has taken the time to make their products and services accessible from a mobile device.

To put this into financial terms, last year’s Black Friday saw more than $2.9 billion of sales originating from mobile devices. Shoppers are spending money like never before on their smartphones and tablets – but you can only get in the running for that if your site is optimized to work well on a mobile device.

Keep in mind too that mobile optimization (ensuring pages are quick to load, that forms are easy to complete, that information is easily navigated, etc.) is also a core requirement for local search visibility. Google’s primary index is mobile-first, meaning your position in the local rankings is dependent on mobile optimization.


Advertising

Run a pay-per-click ad campaign in the local 3-pack

If your local marketing strategy calls for immediate visibility, a pay-per-click ad campaign allows you to buy advertising space within the organic search results.

For many businesses, the major benefit of running a local search PPC campaign is the speed with which you can get your products and services to the top of the search results pages. It is possible to set up a small ad campaign and see your adverts live in a matter of hours – in comparison with local SEO activity which could take several months to bear fruit.

Local pack search ads also give you targeted exposure which can lead to a rise in in-store visits and calls. If someone searches for ‘mechanic near me’ for example, they could see your advert at the very top of the search results just when they needed you most.

Local search ads can feature your business locations, which can lead to more foot traffic. They can also provide directions and offer call options.

Run Google Local Services ads

If your business is a service provider, you can run a Local Services ad that displays your business details at the top of the search results. The ad will show when a consumer in the local area searches for a service you offer.

There are several business benefits to running a Local Services ad campaign as part of your local marketing strategy. These ads immediately give you the opportunity to be found right at the top of Google search results, meaning local consumers don’t have to search too hard to find and book your services.

With these ads, you can also earn a Google Guarantee or Google Screened verification on your advert. This tells consumers that Google has verified your business licenses, insurance policies, and carried out employee background checks. This is an easy way to build trust and showcase the authenticity and quality of your service offering to win new business. Becoming Google Guaranteed also opens up the possibility of a free listing on voice search as a service provider.

Local Service advertisers can use an app to communicate with clients so you can reply to messages on the go, track the progress of leads, and manage bookings.

Local print advertising

You may decide to add an offline element to your local marketing efforts and if that’s the case, placing an advert in a print outlet such as a local newspaper is a tried-and-tested strategy.

Print advertising has been overlooked in the last few years as digital options have taken off but that’s not to say that investing some of your local marketing budget in a targeted ad campaign with a local newspaper or magazine should be discounted. In fact, adding a physical print dimension can bring you additional benefits.

One clear advantage of local print advertising is that your business is assured of visibility within a specific, relevant geographical area. Local print media is naturally highly targeted, meaning they often serve as important local hubs of information for households within that town or city.

Competition for local ad space is arguably less in print than online, with many businesses having migrated to digital options. This gives you a great chance to stand out, without as much competition as you may find on social media for example.

Because of their physical nature, your print ad may also endure longer than a digital equivalent. Whereas a PPC ad will disappear when your budget runs out, older copies of the local newspaper or magazine may stick around for weeks in the doctor’s surgery, library or nail salon.

If you have the budget for it, you could make a positive contribution to your local community while ticking off some of your local marketing tasks by signing up to sponsor a local event such as a high school football game or a charity like your nearby non-profit animal shelter.

There are a number of compelling arguments for sponsoring local events or charities. Being a shirt sponsor of a local youth team for example brings both brand recognition and a higher profile within the community – each time that team hits the field, all spectators can’t help but see your business represented.

Sponsorship of a local worthy cause or organization could also help to bolster your local SEO efforts by earning you a backlink (or several) in recognition of your donation. You can build on this further by creating press releases to announce your sponsorship and commemorate key events – such as reaching the playoffs in the case of the youth team of holding a family fundraiser in the case of the animal shelter. This adds to your local profile, can result in favorable local media coverage and earn you even more backlinks to propel your local SEO efforts.

Hyperlocal Facebook advertising

Just as the name suggests, hyperlocal Facebook advertising is a Facebook advert which is targeted at a small, specific local area. This could be as hyper-targeted as specifying your ads only be shown to people within a certain zip code.

Being able to narrowly define who sees your ads can make your budget go further and work harder – as you can be sure you aren’t wasting cash showing adverts to people who are outside of your catchment area. By the same token, hyperlocal ads are laser-focused on consumers within your immediate vicinity, which is ideal if you want to drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store.

Get listed on lead generation sites

Depending on your service or trade, it may be possible to get your business listed on lead generation sites such as HomeAdvisor or Angie’s List. This is often as simple as registering, creating a profile, listing your specialisms and then waiting for people interested in those services to get in touch to request a quote.

Adding a lead generation presence to your local marketing is a smart move as it puts you in a prime position in front of credible buyers and those actively looking for your specific service. Lead generation sites are attractive to consumers as they remove the need to research, contact and request quotes from dozens of different service providers. The consumer simply inputs details of their project, which is then sent to relevant service providers to quote. You have access to leads which you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

While you’ll typically have to pay a membership fee or commission to the lead generation platform, it’s a great way to get quick access to projects to quote on and build your local reputation and reviews.


Content Marketing

Email marketing

Email marketing involves sending an email (often with a special offer or deal) to a list of email contacts. This places your deal or news directly in the inbox of everyone who has opted in to hear from you, typically previous clients and leads.

Email marketing is a highly effective medium, loaded with business benefits. Studies show that for every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to generate $38. That’s a ROI of 3800%.

Email is especially effective for small businesses because it provides a fast, cost-effective way to communicate with customers and prospects. At the same time, it can directly generate visits to your website, calls, and foot traffic.

You can additionally use email marketing to deliver useful, informative content to your pipeline, which helps to cement your reputation as a trusted authority in your field.

Today’s email marketing platforms are very advanced and most offer automation. This makes light work of time-intensive sales tasks that you may not always be able to do yourself, such as emailing someone who has added items to their cart on your website but left without completing the order or, contacting someone who has enquired about your service but then never picked up the phone to your customer service team following up.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the practice of using social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to build your profile, engage with your audience, and drive traffic to your site or brick-and-mortar location.

When leveraged properly, social media marketing is a very effective local marketing tactic. Social media usage is prolific and today’s consumers, from baby boomers to millennials, are accustomed to using their preferred networks to look for deals, find businesses, source recommendations, and increasingly, shop.

No matter the size of your team, social media provides an accessible real-time forum to engage and communicate with prospects. You can use platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to have meaningful discussions with your audience, bring them closer to your brand, answer questions, and share local promotions.

If your local marketing budget is a little tight, social media marketing is also low-cost and at its most basic level, requires no investment at all. For those who want to go further, you can use the many paid advertising options offered by social networks to raise your visibility while also specifically targeting local consumers thanks to the wealth of demographic information social networks hold on their users.

Think of links as roads into your website – the greater the number of links you can convince third parties to share back to your site, the easier it is for consumers to find you online.

By their very nature, building links creates greater visibility for your site. If you write a press release for example about an award you’ve won and this is published on a local blog, all of the readers to that blog could click the link to be transported directly to your website.

If you partner with a local influencer and they offer a link back to your site within their post, you not only get the benefit of exposure to that influencer’s audience, you also get a direct way to draw that audience to your site.

Links remain a key currency for SEO because, in addition to aiding discoverability, they are also a signal of trust. Someone willing to share a link to your site is essentially giving your domain a vote of confidence. The more relevant links you have, the more traffic your site is likely to see and the better your search engine rankings.

Create relevant local content

Writing and sharing relevant local content is a targeted form of content marketing that can bring a range of benefits as part of your local marketing campaign.

As with the other tactics on this list, it is a tried-and-tested way to reach, engage with, and hopefully convert local consumers into confirmed clients. Focusing on community or local topics is a smart way to attract local readers and simultaneously reinforce your expertise or authority in a particular area. To ensure that your content really hits the mark, you can use tools such as Google Trends to research what people in your area are most commonly searching for on Google within your niche.

Creating original, useful content also adds a great deal of value to your own site. It provides optimization benefits to aid in search rankings but it can also make your website a destination in its own right and give visitors a reason to remain long after they may otherwise have flicked back to the search results. Marketers often refer to this as making the site ‘sticky’.

Over and above giving local consumers a reason to visit your website regularly, good quality local content is highly shareable, which can lead to more links (again helping SEO and overall visibility), an elevated social media profile and peer-to-peer recommendations.


Conclusion

Local marketing is a broad field and, as a local business owner, you have a wide and varied range of tactics at your disposal. Broadly speaking, the three core pillars of a local marketing campaign are local SEO, advertising and content and social media but, within those three categories, you’ll find multiple tactics and approaches which can be mixed, matched, and adapted to suit your budget, your objectives, and your audience.



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Google Not Showing Fresh Content In Search Results Again?


Something is off with Google search this morning. It seems Google is not showing some fresh content in the search results. Site commands for this site and Wall Street Journal, as well as many other sites show little to zero new content in Google’s search results in the past hour. Some content I search for on this site is showing up and some is not.

Here are some site commands restricted to show the past hour of results:

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I know I’ve published numerous stories here in the past hour but Google says no:

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Some other sites seem to show content but the content seems off, like here is NY Times:

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Even when you restrict it to Google News, Google is showing some but not all the stories in the past hour:

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Hat tip to @nishu_kadian on Twitter for the heads up.

I am not sure what is up but something seems off this morning with Google indexing or displaying fresh results in search.

Google had indexing or display issues in May 2020, April 2020, we saw it a several times last year with several cases of this last year but maybe one this year that was not serious.

Forum discussion at Twitter.





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Local Search Clinic with Jason Brown – Recap


On Wednesday, April 22, Sterling Sky’s resident spam fighter and GMB expert, Jason Brown, joined BrightLocal CEO Myles Anderson for another action-packed hour of Local Search Clinic.

This week our expert was tasked with answering your questions on Google My Business (GMB) — and boy, there were a lot of questions to get through!

Of course, our pro had to cover the current state of Google My Business support and reviews, given the Covid-19 situation, but he also deep-dived into broader topics surrounding GMB, such as identifying and reporting spam, setting categories, and raising rankings.

For those who missed out on the live Q&A, the full video recap is available to watch down below. And don’t forget to join us next week for Phil Rozek’s Local Search Clinic!

Recording

Resources


Our Expert Panelists

Jason Brown

Jason Brown

Jason Brown is known for his expert knowledge of spam and spam removal in GMB. Currently he holds the role of SEO Specialist and Spam Hunter at Sterling Sky.




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Marketers in a Car after JTank with Ari Zoldan


I was privileged to be asked to sit as a “mogul” on JTank, the Jewish version of SharkTank and this was a video throughout the day. I was not allowed to share information about the pitches, so that you will have to read about when that is published by Ami Magazine. But here is some footage throughout the day without revealing too much confidential information.

Ari Zoldan, the CEO of Quantum Media Group, was a mogul also on the show, at least for half of the day (as well as previous JTanks), and he offered me a ride home from Brooklyn. It took about two hours to get home, so we decided to do our own version of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and named it Marketers in a Car after JTank. It was getting darker and darker as we drove, so the lighting did not work out too well but the content was fun.

In this video, you get to hear not just about digital marketing but also about some personal information about the two of us, since we are neighbors.

Ari Zoldan is the CEO of Quantum Media Group, a firm that focuses on business development – much through digital marketing campaigns and other business initiatives. You can learn more about Ari at AriZoldan.com.

Topics we discussed in the car include:

  • 3:20 – JTank – Jewish SharkTank
  • 4:34 – Secret Sauce In Media
  • 6:01 – Jack Of All Trades Or Industry Expert
  • 7:01 – Public Perception
  • 8:10 – How To Become An Industry Expert
  • 9:54 – Social Media Popularity
  • 11:35 – Hair & Confidence
  • 14:11 – Undandy & Hillel Fuld
  • 15:10 – Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld
  • 15:41 – Coming Up With A Creative Format
  • 16:50 – 368
  • 17:22 – #teamtrees
  • 19:32 – Tombstone
  • 21:13 – Is SEO A Sham
  • 21:50 – Black Hat SEO

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

Forum discussion at YouTube.



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Local Legends: Martha van Berkel on the Power of Schema for Local Businesses


When BrightLocal CEO Myles Anderson talked to Schema App‘s Martha van Berkel at BrightLocal HQ, they opened up a treasure trove of impactful information on the often mysterious schema markup (also known as structured data).

In this interview, Martha demystifies this important part of on-site optimization and clearly explains how local businesses should be using it to improve visibility, click-throughs and even conversions!

N.b. When this conversation was recorded in late 2019, Martha was about to speak at the Brighton SEO conference, so the talk discussed in this video is this one (rather than a talk at the next Brighton SEO in April 2020).

Myles Anderson, BrightLocal: Hello everyone, and welcome to this little video. I’m very lucky to be joined by Martha van Berkel from Schema App today. She happens to be in Brighton where she is talking at Brighton SEO, so, Martha, have you been to Brighton before?

Martha van Berkel, Schema App: I have not.

MA: This is your first time, but you did study in the UK? Is that right?

MvB: I did I spent a year at Strathclyde in Glasgow and I have done, like, a true Canadian tour with, like, my backpack with the flag and I did stop in Lyme Regis which isn’t too far away, so I’ve done lots of lots of train tours around the UK.

MA: Okay, so you’re not feeling completely at sea, then?

MvB: Absolutely not, no.

MA: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Schema App?

MvB: Sure, so Schema App’s really to help digital marketers do their schema markup, or as people know it, structured data, either page by page or at scale, but without having to write code and without having to depend on developers and IT.

This is really key because those are usually the things that get digital marketers stuck, right? It’s the complexity of having to get into the code and figure out where commas and quotes go, or actually find a developer who can do that in the way that they want it done.

So our tools allow them to do that at speed, with ease, and with the support of our expert team.

MA: So let’s roll back a little bit: schema’s obviously, or can be quite technical, so, to a layman… let’s say you’re describing it to my mother. What would you describe schema as to her?

MvB: So I usually start by saying, you know, when you go to Google and you search for a new pair of shoes, you’ll sometimes see stars and prices in the results, and then I say, you know, those stars and prices are there because Google has a lot of confidence about what content is on that page, and the reason they have that confidence is because there’s this, like, awesome code that you can’t see, and that code is given markup, right?

So, really, it’s, you know, when I try to describe it, it’s, you know, through that experience that they’re gonna see, they’re gonna see something different in the search results. But really it comes down to, like, a code that’s there specifically for the search engines and other machines.

And that doesn’t happen by chance, does it? In terms of Google and that information, absolutely not, no. So schema markup and structured data: same thing.

We like the words ‘schema markup’ because the whole point of it is to disambiguate or make something absolutely clear, and in the IT world ‘structured data’ can mean lots of things, so it seems like the wrong word to use to be evaluating.

It’s based on this language called schema.org and schema network was written, like, back in 2011. Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex got together and said, like, “let’s come up with a common open standard vocabulary.”

So think of the book cover as a language like English or French or German, but it’s really, like, so the search engines can understand the definitions of things. Now, it’s kind of brilliant, like, the search engines have now put the burden on all of us to do all the hard work of translating stuff so their machines can do it, so it’s easier for them to crawl our sites and do this understanding. So schema.org’s that language and schema markup and structured data is, like, the strategy within SEO.

MA: So for marketeers out there, or even local business owners, why should they be interested, why should they care, about schema? What can it do to help them?

MvB: So I think the first thing to understand is that it helps their content be understood. So whether it be implications or details about their business, about the services that they offer, about the content that they’re investing so much time to write.

So it’s going to help, like, overall understanding within the search engines, and what’s most important with the search engines is when they understand if they can better match it to people who are searching for those specific things. So think of this as helping make sure that all those things that you’re investing in on your website are then actually understood the way that you want them to be understood.

Now, Google takes it a step further and says “if you do this we’re also going to give you these extra features in search” and those features are everything from star ratings to answers that appear in blogs or in search results, to making sure your knowledge graph, if you actually can get a knowledge graph on the right, that that has the appropriate information, images, mobile search, like an AMP, there’s a ton of results specifically on those.

MA: So for all of us who have websites, our objective is to get Google to really understand what we do and, for local businesses, where we do it, so that we get returned in the search results for the right queries.

So this is a great way of really specifically telling the search engines exactly what we want them to know about us but also what they want to know about us in a way that doesn’t rely them necessarily kind of crawling all our code and trying to work it out. We’re clearly telling them, in the code, what they want to know, which is fantastic for us who are trying to communicate with Google so that they will rank us high for the right search terms. But then also the benefit is that they’ll start to show additional information in the search results, such as star rating, price points, FAQs.

MvB: Yeah so I call like it ‘search real estate’ it’s like one of the things, and how you, like, visually pop in the search results so that you can get those customers to engage with you.

MA: So potentially, if used correctly, it’s a really effective way of driving more visibility within search, and getting more information to the SERP so that click-through rate from search results can go up.

MvB: On click-through rate, we’re seeing the value come across that customer lifecycle, so where you’re getting more impressions therefore you’re getting more clicks. But then we also find that people are spending longer and engaging more with the content on your site, and I think this comes from if Google really understands it and they know who the searcher is, and their goal is to match that searcher’s intent, then the person who’s actually getting to your site is the right person. Therefore they engage more.

MA: So I can really understand how it affects visibility and therefore, if  you’ve got information like price points, people are going to click, but you’ve got evidence that shows that if you’ve inputted schema correctly, once you get to the site, their desire is more closely matched with the offering, and therefore you’ve got more time on site, a higher propensity to purchase. Lower bounce rate, those kinds of things.

So it’s not just about getting more visibility and just getting volume, it’s actually about getting really high-quality, high-intent users coming to your website.

MvB: Correct, yeah, and we’ve really seen that evolve over the years. In 2015, 2016, even early 2017, it was really about that: impressions and click-through rate. But over the last two years we’ve seen it sort of go throughout that process, and even Google’s case studies on their structured data guide starts calling out these, even to the point of increased revenue, increased engagement etc.

MA: So one of the questions I’ve got, which I think probably lots of people who work with local businesses is around how you schema correctly on local landing pages. So a typical local landing page, and let’s say it’s a cosmetic dentist who serves the Brighton area: on a landing page, which is a very important page for conversion for them, because they’re not an ecommerce business, they haven’t got product pages, they want to talk about what service they offer, where they offer it, any kinds of details or specifics about the service, reviews, and then also all those location details as well.

So there’s quite a lot of opportunities to put schema onto that page. Should there be a hierarchy for what you should have on there? And if you have it, if you try and schema everything up, does that kind of create confusion for the search engines?

MvB: So let’s break it down: so I think the first thing to know is that you shouldn’t have schema markup for locations on, like, every page right?

So you would have your your main page that you talked about, the location where you offer lots of services, right? So that would be your Brighton office that you have where you actually offer that cosmetic dentistry, and then you have your landing pages for those different boroughs or counties or cities that surround Brighton that you want to try to pull into the cosmetic dentistry.

So those would be what I would call service landing pages. The question we ask in schema is like, “What is this thing,” right? So those landing pages are talking about a service that’s offered in that specific area, but that’s actually performed or provided by that local business, right?

Now, so one of things actually I’m speaking about at Brighton SEO, is around connected schema markup and so that main page would talk about the service, the service would be provided by the local business, right? So you actually connect those dots for Google. That service itself would have a specific rating.

Now, the thing with the rating is it has to be about a specific service or about a specific location, so they would have to have collected ratings specifically for that service or for that specific location, and then that would actually be a rating about the service. So it ends up becoming lots of different ‘properties’ and connecting to other entities or data items on the site, so in this case we’d be connecting back to the local business.

And the other key one is ‘area served’. So ‘area served’ is another property that you can use to describe the area in which you’re going to provide that service, and for area served you can use a URL from Wikipedia to define that location.

So if you were wanting to define, I don’t know, is there a town close to Brighton which is right next door but far enough away that you wouldn’t appear in local results?

MA: Hove.

MvB: So you want to have your Hove cosmetic dentistry service page, you would then say ‘area served’ and actually put in the Wikipedia entry for Hove, and the reason Wikipedia is interesting is because it’s like a well-known kind of dictionary of entities if I already use the schema markup of, like, ‘things’ that Google knows really, really well. And so instead of you then trying to define Hove it’s actually already defined for them.

MA: Would you use that to say cosmetic dentistry as a subject? Would you use a Wikipedia entry for that?

MvB: Absolutely, yeah. So in schema.org, there’s 840 classes, so these are like the types of things, of which dentist is one of them, and then you could use this other great property that’s called ‘additional type’. It says, like, you want to kind of add to the fact that my dentist is one type but it’s actually a cosmetic dentistry so then you could do ‘additional type’ and again put the URL for the Wikipedia.

MA: Okay, interesting. And Google likes that?

MvB: They do, yeah.

MA: Why, because they understand Wikipedia structure and they recognize its authority? That’s one piece of it, I think. It’s also, like, schema org again is about disambiguating things, making things absolutely clear, and so with that, you know, without structure and by using those you’re making it absolutely clear.

So before you talk about time spent on site, you need to actually think about, like, well, what are the types of things that they should be optimizing? I like to start there, because it’s about the strategy for the schema markup and then that’s going to determine how much time and how far down the rabbit hole I need to go.

So really it’s like: what are the important things on the website that customers need to find? And then, secondarily, look at all the Google features that you can actually get, and it’s really a combination of those two things that you should markup.

Now, schema markup is, you know, additive to other SEO things you do, so it’s not a silver bullet that if you just do schema markup, everything else will be great. Nothing is, these days. It’s part of your toolkit. Now, if you’re asking me also, like, you know, how much time would you spend on it and it was 2015-2016, I’d be like I think the innovators are doing it, like the lead users today, though like since 2017 and all through 2018, and now it’s like 2019 almost 2020, like Google is being very very clear that you should do structured data, so I would say it should be on your must-do list.

And then really it’s about prioritizing those things that are important for the business, and so often with sites that are a bit more static, that maybe don’t have as many changes, they’ll do a setup and then at least look at how that’s performing on a monthly basis, and Google Search Console now has, like, specific reports to show, like, how you’re doing with regards to rich results.

And then, at least on a quarterly basis, be checking in. Not just a bit, like, what’s maybe changed in your content, like any time content changes you should be updating your schema. However, there’s also an element of, like, new features coming out, so it’s been really interesting since about March/April time, we’ve seen releases of schema.org as well as new features coming out from Google.

So FAQ and How-to is the really hot one right now. So in May they announced that FAQ and how-to, not only if you do the structured data that you’ll qualify for more sort of real estate on the search result, but also you’ll be voice-ready, which makes total sense, right? Because FAQ is question-answer, people are primarily engaging through voice, so when those kinds of opportunities come up, you know we’re seeing those search results happen really quickly.

So if, again, you want to sort of try to capture that for your local business, it’s just a matter of being, like, “oh well, we have FAQ/how-to information” or “well, we’ve been meeting to put sort of the feedback we’re getting from our receptionist on there on one page, let’s go after it and make that update, so at least when content changes, when there’s new results, like new features come out, and then at very least on a quarterly basis.

MA: So it’s one of those things you should always be aware of, and probably thinking as you’re adding new content, “does this affect schema?”  “Should I be thinking about schema with this?” And sometimes the answer will be, “yes, we absolutely must” and sometimes you’ll go “no, because we’ve already covered that off”  because it’s a similar template that we had.

It’s one of those things you have a sort of checklist: “Does this affect schema?” If it’s a ‘yes’, you tackle it. If not, you don’t necessarily need to invest any kind of time or effort.

Great, Martha, thank you so much for coming to Brighton but also explaining the the kind of detailed ins and outs of schema.

MvB: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.




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