This episode of the #Authority HoA was originally broadcast on July 8th with featured guests Loren Baker from Foundation Digital and Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide,and hosted by Melissa Fach, produced by Michelle Stinson Ross, and color commentary from AuthorityLabs CEO, Chase Granberry. Below we a have a quick written recap, the video and a podcast from the hangout, but first we want to introduce you to our guests.
Loren is the founder of Search Engine Journal and VP of Business Development/Co-founder of Foundation Digital.Over the last decade, Loren has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, universities, financial institutions and startups.
Andrew is the founder of Local SEO Guide. With 15+ years experience in TV and Internet, Andrew specializes in Search Engine Optimization, Local Search, fund raising, business development, and strategy. Clients include major media co’s, social networks, start-ups and ecommerce sites.
Melissa Fach: What Changes have you seen in local in 2015 and what do businesses need to be aware of?
For Andrew, the changes to local search have been very small and gradual over the last year and a half. What is having the greatest impact is Google’s obvious commitment to developing everything mobile. It is that infiltration of mobile into all other aspects of search that is having a greater impact than anything specific to local search optimization.
Loren commented that although Google has made small incremental changes to local search, there is a much greater awareness of local not just on the part of SMBs and brick and mortar businesses, but also large enterprise and web based companies. He points out that local used to be available only in major metropolitan areas. Now with the high degree of mobile use, every zip code will give local results.
Andrew furthered the discussion by adding that many companies are getting pushed out of page one organic search results by the local pack and local related services like Yelp and TripAdvisor. In order to win at SEO these companies need to find a way to tie into local even though they may not have a physical presence.
MF: What impact does the increased use of mobile devices have on local search?
Loren adds that apps are a part of this game. For example, Uber has built out local directories within it’s app to cover the geographic areas it serves even though it does not have a local office or dispatch center.
Mobile is also starting to train search users to leave off local qualifiers and expect that local results for a particular key phrase will appear at the top of the results.
What Andrew finds interesting is that since there is now so much competition in the app stores, mobile first companies are now discovering that they need to develop an SEO strategy. It’s not just enough to build a great app, mobile companies are finding they need to aid the discovery process by showing up in search for their website.
MF: Do you think that small businesses are going to have a shot to rank on page one organically, or will they have to pay for that placement?
Andrew confidently confirms that small local businesses still have a huge advantage over large national companies because they have a well established physical presence in their community. The big companies like TripAdvisor don’t have the ability to focus on a very specific set of keywords like a local business will. When you don’t have to rank for millions of permutations of keywords over large geographic areas, it’s much easier to own the handful of keywords that really matter to your local business.
Loren pointed out that competition for placement still varies greatly by location. While some areas like Los Angles get results for OpenTable, Yelp, and LA Times listings of restaurants other locations will present specific restaurants in the top results. What is important is that local businesses really understand the landscape of their local area and either work to build their SEO or work to get listed in the top ranking directories.
MF: Are there any instances where carousels or snack packs negatively impacting local placement?
Andrew has noticed a trend particularly for directory sites. Since January they have found their organic rankings displaced by snack packs creating a loss in search traffic.
Loren notes that Siri and Google voice queries are shifting user behavior. More people are verbally asking their devices for recommendations and directions than performing an online search. With Google Now push notifications, the user can get a recommendation BEFORE they even take the step to search.
MF: What marketing/SEO strategies or techniques would you recommend moving into 2016?
Andrew is still a firm believer in getting the basics right. Large multi-location businesses in particular seem to struggle with keeping name, address, and phone information consistent across the web. It’s critical no matter how large or small a business is that every instance of contact information is current. Mixed signals at this basic level is a killer. Loren adds that social media is a contributor to this. A branded rule book is necessary so that each location properly sets up and maintains their social profiles in a way that is consistent with brand standards and guidelines. Brands also need to have a plan in place that eliminates the constant creation of new profiles with personnel turnover.
MF: What suggestions do you have for businesses to stop or avoid in the future?
Loren recommends passing up on bundled offers to create a webpage for your business. You are diluting the effectiveness of your brand online with multiple pages for your business. Andrew cautions to also beware of companies that offer to set up a subdomain on your site and earn based on their performance. Usually those kinds of offers lead to SEO nightmares that will take months to correct.
Loren and Andrew had some great answers to viewers questions as well, so make sure you watch and listen to the rest of the hangout at the bottom of this post to learn more about getting the most out of your Local SEO efforts.
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