Last week, we packed up the DealerOn van and headed to San Jose to take in the glorious SMX West conference, programmed by our wonderful friends at Search Engine Land. There was a TON of great knowledge about SEO and SEM at the conference, but there were two things in particular that stuck out to me. So, naturally, I wrote a blog post explaining them. First, there was a helpful interpretation of 2017’s local search ranking factors, then an excellent talk about online reviews (which I’ve written about recently over at SEL).
Local Search Ranking Factors
Let’s dive in. SMX started things off strong with a presentation by Andrew Shotland and Dan Leibson of Local SEO Guide, and their focus was the local search ranking factors for 2017. Now, we all know that Moz puts out their official report each year, which is based on survey responses from about 40 Local SEO experts worldwide. For the past several years, of course, I’ve been in that group of 40 experts.
However, the guys at Local SEO Guide wanted to do their own research, and they came up with a few interesting points that I think are worth sharing.
1. You Don’t Have to Choose Between Locations and Locators
One of the tougher questions in the SEO world is whether or not businesses with multiple locations should use a giant landing page that lists out all the locations, or use a locator tool (like a zip code finder). Well, according to Shotland and Leibson’s study, including both may actually help your business rank in local searches. Most importantly, though, they determined that there was no cannibalization between the two, you’re free to choose either/or.
2. Proximity Can Be Secondary
This was an interesting observation: search engines use proximity to deliver relevant results for local searches – but only after they take into consideration which sites are the most relevant and prominent. Shotland and Leibson said that the search engines first evaluate which search results are relevant and are pushing out the strongest signals, then rank them based on proximity. That means if your small pizza shop has great SEO, you can beat the Domino’s Pizza across town in some of the local searches in your area. Pretty cool!
3. Map Pack Ranking Relies Heavily on GMB
Your Google My Business profile is important, but Shotland and Leibson really illustrated just how important in this session. According to their research, businesses that use a relevant keyword in the business name, have more photos uploaded, and have more reviews on their GMB are more likely to rank higher in the map pack. The even broke it down further, saying that content on your GMB landing page is a big ranking factor, as well as the number of images on that page.
Of course, off site signals are still relevant. Good link metrics tended to correlate with higher rankings, they found, as did sites with high Majestic Citation Flow and Trust Flow scores.
4. “Near Me”
If you really want to get clever, you can try to optimize for the “find ___ near me” searches, which are growing in popularity, especially in voice searches. The Local SEO Guide fellows said that carefully optimized anchor text and internalized linking can help your website get a little traction in local searches. A good example of this in action would be having “Find a Store Near Me” on your locator page, where your customers are trying to, you know, find a location by them.
5. Implicit vs. Explicit Searches
This last piece was of particular interest, I thought, because it dealt with geographic-specific searches vs. non geographic-specific searches. That is, the difference between searching for “used cars near me” and “used cars in Boston.” For explicit searches, where the user is looking for something in a specific area, Shotland and Leibson found that proximity was a major factor in delivering local results – while having the keyword in the business’s name was less important. For implicit searches, it was just the opposite.
To read the whole article over at Search Engine Land, click here.
Unleash The Power (of Online Reviews)
Thomas Ballantyne gave an amazing talk toward the end of the conference on using your online reviews to elevate your relevance in local searches. The sad truth is that a LOT of businesses simply don’t pay much attention to their Google reviews or their Yelp reviews.
Ballantyne, the Director of Marketing at Bulwark Pest Control, rehashed some of the studies that you’ve probably heard before. BrightLocal says that 92% of people will read an online review before they decide where they’ll shop, and 51% of people actually trust the online community of reviewers more than they trust the news or a business’s website. Ballantyne went on to observe that the millenial generation actually prefers peer-generated reviews over the advice of their friends & family. Perhaps it’s the sense of authenticity that’s so alluring? But Ballantyne and I agree wholeheartedly here: online reviews got there for a reason.
They’re the result of transactions, experiences, and interactions – and they’re valuable data for the tech-savvy shopper. Businesses would do well to remember that. Ballantyne said that trust is a type of currency, and that when businesses like Amazon decide to not filter out bad reviews (just let it all loose), they are counting on their customers to handle their brand.
Think about it. If your customers trust peer-generated content more than your own website, then your branding really is in their hands. They have the power to spread good or bad news about your business. Better hope your customers are happy, right?
Ballantyne had tons of great insights into how to manage your online reputation, starting with your reviews. To see his slides from the presentation, click here. To read the original post I wrote on Search Engine Land, click here.
See You in Tampa!
We’re headed to lovely Tampa this April for Digital Dealer 22, and we hope to see you there. If you’ve got any questions about online reviews, SEO best practices, or anything else on this blog, drop a comment below.