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5 Things to Do in Local SEO 2019


Brodie's slides

Nik's slides



Peter Mead: It's Peter Mead. Welcome to a very exciting and special episode of Australian Search Marketing Academy. Today we're focusing on local SEO to coincide with the release of the local listing management tool that SEMrush has released. It's very special because we have two of the very best experts with us... Brodie Clark and Nik Ranger.

Hey, how are you? Brodie is an SEO consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. Works with mid to large-size companies both locally and internationally. He writes about ideas and happenings on Google through his blog, along with his column at Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal. Welcome, Brodie. How are you today? What's happening in SEO for you right now?

Brodie Clark: Hey, Peter. Thanks for having me, it's great to be here. What's happening at SEO at the moment? That's a good question. I guess my area of SEO is that I tend to write about local developments quite a bit.

The latest thing I've written about is I have an article coming out, actually tonight in Australia on Search Engine Journal about how you should approach a client who is violating Google's guidelines. If you've got a new client who had spammy keywords in their business name or they're using product review, structured data incorrectly, I've just written an article about that. That's the latest in there.

Peter Mead: Terrific, it sounds very interesting. It's a challenge that will come across in the SEO world for sure.  

Let's introduce Nik. So, Nik is an SEO specialist focus on digital strategy, data analysis, content, site architecture for large enterprise, small business, and startups in Australia. She's focused on data-driven results. She has a knack for local video audits and really loves focusing on researching the user intent, finding opportunities in competitive industries. Nik. How are you? What's happening in SEO for you right now? What's going on?

Nik Ranger: Thanks so much for having me, SEMrush and Peter and, of course, with Brodie. What's happening for us at the moment is we're just still having a look at what is quite possibly one of the busiest months following the algorithm updates.

As so many of you might've seen the big core update, confirmed by Google, on March, 12th. They keep dropping new features from the old search console, adding new ones. We're just trying to think okay, how does one plan for that kind of contingency? Especially with the rel, prev, and next canonical tags being dropped.

Peter Mead: Yeah, right. So you're right in thick of it by the sound of it.

Nik Ranger: 100% but I'm excited to get into local SEO.

Peter Mead: Yeah, absolutely, of course. There was some other news that I saw today. Google has finally finished fixing up, updating all the data in the Google Search Console. So it's no longer lagging now. It seems to supposedly only two days behind now.

We're here to talk about local SEO. Of course, if we've kind of done optimizing for any small business or any local business, straight away, we start discovering that we need to understand local SEO. If we want that business to be competitive and to be found, we're in the business of optimizing. We want more traffic, more inquiries, more conversions for those businesses.

We obviously discover pretty quickly about Google My Business, the locations, why they're so important. The NAP, the name, address, and phone number. Also, obviously, the citations and the reviews, a bunch of things.

Today, Brodie is going to explain a lot of this to us and then Nik will also give us a rundown on how this new listing management tool works and a bunch of things. But first, Brodie wants to talk us through...five important areas, which is effectively utilizing Google My Business features. I'll be pretty keen to hear what you've got to say, Brodie. You've prepared some slides for us?

Brodie Clark: Yeah, I've got a little presentation already so yeah. I'll just share my screen. Just let me know when you can see.

Peter Mead: Yes, we can see it.

Local SEO Overview: Google My Business

Brodie Clark: I wanted to put together five key areas to focus on because obviously, so many things that you needed to and you need to make sure you have all those boxes ticked to get positive rankings in Google.

I take a pretty holistic approach to SEO. I speak and write about local SEO and technical SEO quite a bit. But also I've interest in the link building side and not so condensed strategy.

Okay. When you think of local SEO, there are essentially two primary tools that we focus on here in Australia. The main one is Google My Business and also Places. This is just the local tool used for two of the major search engines in Australia.

In terms of Places, there's not a great deal you can do with respect to that, aside from filling out your listing. Completely making sure that you have engaging images on there and all your information is up-to-date. But the focus of this, our presentation will be on Google My Business because that's where the eyeballs are. People using Google, so we want to make sure that our Google business listing is in tip-top shape.

With Google My Business, there are two different areas where your listing can show up. One of those is the Map Pack as you can see on the left there. When you do a search for a generic search query, you have the Map Pack results, which is just three different results that show up. You want to get your listing in that top-three.

Also, the Local Finder on the right. That's when you click on one of the results from the Map Pack, you'll then transfer it over to the Local Finder. That's where this particular listing is ranking for that keyword. In Google’s support documentation, they actually give you some recommendations on the different areas that go into local rankings. One of the top areas is relevance.

Relevance comes into play when you do a search on Google. Google is just trying to match up a business, which is as relevant as possible to that search query, within the local results.

The way that you build relevance with your Google My Business listing is to fill it out completely and make sure that you have sections filled out effectively. Like your primary category and also your secondary category.

The other area is distance. The proximity you are to a particular business is going to change what the local results are. For instance, do a search for a dietitian as opposed to dietitian Melbourne, you're going to get very different results because, with dietician Melbourne, you're prompting Google to give you a result based on location. Whereas dietitian, there is no prompt on location so Google is just going to figure out how far away you are from that business.

The final one is prominence. That's what the focus of many of my recommendations that I'll make in this presentation is on. It's about building the prominence of your Google My Business listing. That can be done in ways of creating links for your website. Creating high-quality relevant links back to your website, and also reviews.


In terms of new features with Google My Business, I wrote an article early this year, which is still relevant, called 10 new local search features you should be using. We won't have time to go through all of those in this webinar, but I recommend checking that out.

Five Tips to Improve Local Search Rankings in 2019

There are some recommendations in there, like adding products to your listing, adding services, making the most of Google Search query insights. That's the query that customers are searching for and your Google My Business listing is showing. That's all really important information.

Since I wrote that article, one of the new features that I've seen rolling out is the product's data within Google My Business. Previously, this feature was just showing on mobile. It was kind of hidden within a tab on your Google My Business listing on mobile. But now on desktop, it's now really prominent.

The example that I've given you on this slide is that you should be looking for brand mentions as regularly as possible for your website. If you have a business name that isn't just a keyword if your business name is Dietitian Melbourne. Then this would obviously be a pretty difficult task to be able to find brand mentions. But if your business name was Great Ideas In Nutrition, then that's obviously more unique.


What I've done in this example is that you can actually use Google's search results to find your brand mentions pretty effectively. The first step here is to do an exact match search for your brand name, and mine is Set Up Your Website.


Then the second step is to go to tools, then just show results from the past month. If you do this say once a month, just a few brand mentions during this technique, finding websites that had mentioned your business name. Then that's going to be a worthwhile task if you can follow those up.


Another one is gathering reviews. Reviews are pretty important on listings conversions and also for rankings as well with respect to prominence. Create a landing page on your website so you can explain any guidelines for industries specific for how you want your customers to leave reviews.


Give some instructions on there for actually leaving the review as well. With this example, I've just added three links to the review links on Google My Business. So we can email that out to clients after they've come in for a consultation.

For this point here, this is just talking about the content that's on your actual website. Is going to help Google create more relevance for your listing? The high-quality content you have on your website is obviously going to help your SEO.


The final one, which is the focus of this webinar, is citation consistency. This is just with respect to the name, address, and phone number of the listing. Previously, what I've done is I've just had a spreadsheet where I would just have my business details on there. Have all login details for lots of different directories.


But now SEMrush has created this tool in partnership with Yext. Nik, we'll go into that further, how this tool is used and feedback from Australia. That's everything.

Nik Ranger: I really, really liked the idea of having a landing page that just clearly outlines a direction for customers to be able to give adequate feedback. That just kind of herds them towards that five-star review. I think that's absolutely phenomenal.

Google My Business Listing Website Link

Peter Mead: I've got a couple of questions here that may actually kind of follow on from that idea of the landing page. Andy Simpson, he's asked, "Brodie, how important do you think the page is? How important do you think the page, your Google My Business listing links to has to be? Does it always have to be your homepage?"

Brodie Clark: Previously, I actually thought that you could only get that snippet from linking to a page that had that content on there. But now I've realized that Google can actually pick up those website mentions from any page on your site, as long as you use good internal linking.

But I guess I would probably more so, think of that from a usability standpoint. If you have really targeted landing page that is useful for your listing.

Peter Mead: Nik, can I maybe rephrase the question a little bit with some of my thoughts to you? I sometimes think about this as if it's a very simple business with just one location. Then maybe linking to your homepage is fine from your Google My Business listing.

But if you've got a complex business with lots of mobile locations around different neighborhoods, then you may want to have like a whole structure set up. With your local landing pages and your locations in a structure that way. What works for you, Nik?

Nik Ranger: Well, I think when it's just one business that's in one central location, generally, I'll link it to their homepage. I think people get the best experience when they can see the front cover of the business.

But for I think for multi-locations in the past, I've definitely had landing pages that are specific to each location with content that is specific to that location with staff photos. It was a painful process to call up every single one of those stores and explain to them, "Hi, I'm not a telemarketer. You're about to receive a call from Google to say we want to verify your business. Please pay attention to that because that's extremely important. That's coming from us, our agency and from head office."

It's difficult but at the same time, I would argue that it yielded some actually fantastic results in that particular case.

Peter Mead: Jake Stanley says, "What do you guys think about Google sending out surveys for premium Google My Business subscriptions? Do you think businesses will see enough value in something like this survey stuff? Have you guys had much to do with that yet?"

Brodie Clark: A paid version of Google My Business. In terms of what we think about this at this stage, I mean it is a bit worrying. If they're trying to get our small business clients to pay money, then obviously that cuts into their margins quite a bit. But also a lot of people pointed out that there are quite a few flaws in that survey that they sent out. It did seem quite preliminary. We'll just have to wait and see.

Nik Ranger: I'm very curious as to whether they're going to expand on their promotions and postings. I think maybe they are looking for maybe an E-commerce opportunity there they did on the track. I don't know, it's interesting.

Peter Mead: Nik, you've prepared some slides for us. Of course, SEMrush has teamed up with Yext and have released this a phenomenal tool for listing management. Of course, I watched with envy when I saw it roll out in other countries. Then, of course, the guys from SEMrush came to Australia, visited us, which was terrific. They’ll be releasing it in Australia and lo and behold, they have released it. Thank you, SEMrush, thank you very much.

The Importance of Local Citations

Nik Ranger: So yeah, as a perfect segway, SEMrush have very recently launched their listing management tool, made exclusive for America and Australian websites. It is a one-stop shop, local citation checker and implementer.

I've just made this little infographic because I'm a very visual person and I just like to see how things fit together and map out. Of the core pillars of local SEO, you've got your content, technical SEO, user experience, schema markup, backlinks and, of course, local citations.


Your local citations are pretty much linked to your success. It is just kind of nothing without setting up your citations correctly. I've been trusted to run my fine tooth comb over many, many sites over in my SEO career. The one thing that's common amongst every site is that rarely is this part done correctly.

We're talking really basic stuff here, like name, address, phone number, the Map Pack, you might've seen that before. But I'd say about anywhere from 85% of every site I've audited have actually got this wrong either on their core citations or on supporting citations that are maybe a little bit like billing, things like that.

I'm using American data for context. What I found was shocking to realize was that 43% of business listings have an incorrect or missing address. 37 percent have an incorrect business name and up to 60% don't have a number you can call. About 25% or a quarter, don't have an email that you can just discreetly message. On all fronts, we're sort of doing kind of poor here.


A SEMrush and Yext Tool for Local Citations

To be able to save time and have peace of mind, this is where the SEMrush listing tool really does come in handy. What it does is it automatically checks all of your business listings and makes sure that they're correct and consistent. They distribute your business data to the most authoritative directories and easily edit information across directories simultaneously.


To show you how easy this is to set up let's take an example with Melbourne's most expensive and exclusive hotel, the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The first thing is I'm typing in is the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne because that's what's in Google My Business.

Add your details in there. Then yeah, you can scroll down and check listings. Look, sweet. They've actually added the country area code for the phone number. This is all automated and for every location you own or manage, they regularly update this information for about $20 per month.

Now, that's just per location. If you have one store set up in Melbourne, they do all this for $20 a month. If you have one in Melbourne, one in Sydney, one in Perth, that's about $60 because that's three different locations.

Depending on the relevancy there are about 18 citations you can have updated. SEMrush works in close partnerships with Yext as Peter said before, who provide the citations. If you haven't heard of Yext, they're the leading digital knowledge management platform.

That all looked pretty simple just then. But I guess what kind of needs to be said or what I'm thinking about based on my experience in this area is it's actually quite a complex process behind that. All those moving pieces behind the scenes, especially things like the citations, just checking them. It's actually a bit more complicated than you think. Then also making sure that they're up to date or they're accurate, doing all that across multiple locations.


Nik Ranger: Absolutely. You can try and copy and paste that information. But taking into account that yes, you can just put in your business hours and you can put in your phone number and your address and business name, that's great.

But during a year you have holiday hours, you have promotions, you have maybe different products that you wanting to launch. Maybe you want to actually use that platform a lot more to be able to access that audience behind all those citations that are quite authoritative. So to be able to have something that automatically does it, that simply is such a game changer.

One thing that I really also want to draw a bit of attention to is you can have a featured message with your URL. You can also have a 50-character clickable message that appears in the listing. You can use it to highlight and promote special offers and services.

One of the things that is so fantastic, especially in Google My Business, is that you can post and you can add little popups, advertisements almost. Just that we've got a sale coming on. This is a one-time-only deal or this end of year stocktake sale.

You can have payment methods in there. I think from using other citation checkers and implementers and basically fill it in I find it a lot less easy to be able to do very detailed things like that over multiple platforms.

But being able to monitor your reviews from this one platform. Your reviews are so huge. 51 percent of customers use reviews for purchasing decisions.


Peter Mead: We want to make sure we're buying something good.

Nik Ranger: Absolutely. In an information-dense world, you want to cut the fats. You want to be able to just find exactly what you want. You have a really good idea of all the different specs that you're after to do with the widget, whatever you'd like to do.

I just want to make sure that if I am ever using the tool, here are my five tips. Keep Apple maps listing up-to-date, which is more than covered in this citation tool. Post regularly to Google My Business, set up Places. All these things are set up quite nicely. But that added caveat of structured data and use NPS to improve your reviews.

If anyone is seeing that and being like, I don't know what NPS is. It's by gatherup.com and it's a great way to get feedback from your customers and solve problems before they make it to Google.

Peter Mead: Absolutely you recommend to everyone doing local SEO to get a strategy for reviews.

Nik Ranger: I looked at the pricing of SEMrush, $20 per month and I looked at my other top competitors like True Local and Bright Local. If I'll be really honest this is actually the most cost-effective. I really appreciate what SEMrush is trying to do here. I actually do think that this is something that does tick all the boxes, is exceptionally easy and it's actually really quite cost-effective. That's all I have for today.

Peter Mead: Great. Thanks for walking us through. There's a question from Jason Payne: "We have one very successful location in San Francisco and are opening a second location in York City. I'd love for you to cover how to successfully open a new location to optimize for the SEO."

How to Optimize Local SEO for a New Business Location

Brodie Clark: You obviously want this information about the new location to be represented well on your actual website. Maybe you might make a dedicated page about that location. If you already have some reviews from customers there when it's opened, then that would be useful content to have on there.

Aside from that, yeah, it's just your Google My Business listing and all the things that we went through in our presentations. Making sure that you have your reviews on your actual Google My Business listings; that's going to help with your rankings there.

Having engaging photos on the listings themselves. I feel like that makes a big difference in a lot of cases. Get a photographer down on there. Take some really high-resolution photos. Upload those to Google My Business and also in your landing page.

But yeah, you want to be working on building your prominence so that in your address that you're on the same page as what you'd have in your San Francisco location.

Multi-Location Local SEO Strategy

Peter Mead: Yeah, thanks for that. Nik, something that goes through my mind is especially if they're going from one location to now two locations and who knows what in the future. But you now got multiple locations. My first bit of advice that I'd be looking at would be you need to set up a location structure within your site.  

You want a page that has the name of that location in the URL. But also the name of the other location. How would you go about going from one location to multiple?

Nik Ranger: Yeah, I think definitely setting up everything that you guys said. Having staff photos on the pages as well, just to sort just introduce them. “Hi, this is the store manager.” Really make it feel like that they're wanting to engage and connect with the community that they're establishing themselves in. The last thing, structured data.

Structured data is so important. This is a subtle plug for all the hard work that the guys over at Yext have been doing. They've just launched a new plugin that specifically goes after structured data for WordPress sites. That is exceptionally easy.

Otherwise, there is schema.org to be able to help you. Even there are little templates on Google as well to be able to help you set up those correctly.

Peter Mead: I love especially the subtle hints, I guess the signals that Google's been saying to us. They're providing structured data to us for us to use as SEOs, as webmasters. They're putting lots of development, time, and energy into these kinds of things. Absolutely we should be using structured data.

What about creating landing pages for each service area? I guess the problem here is she has a home modeling company that services tri-state area but in five specific cities. Even if the company has only one office, this is obviously the age-old problem of you've got one office, you're servicing multiple areas. But it's not related to the geocentric area of your neighborhood, of where your business is. What was your take on that one, Nik?

Nik Ranger: I think what I have done in the past is look at the Geo-location. You can see the kilometer radius of how far out that business does provide that service. That's been like a way that you can indicate, hey, we are quite close to the epicenter of business.

Peter Mead: Yeah. What's your take, Brodie? Have you encountered this issue?

Brodie Clark: Yeah, definitely. Yes, my perspective with this is if you don't have a physical location in that suburb or that general region, then it's really hard to rank that. One thing you definitely want to avoid is spreading your efforts too finely. If you were wanting to target a particular set of suburbs but you're not physically located in there, then creating a whole heap of URLs on your site, just targeting not suburb, with lots of content on there.

That doesn't necessarily say that you have a physical location or anything. You just created those pages to rank that. Then you would be pretty unlikely to rank with that. You're going to be sending poor quality signals to Google that you have lots of low-quality pages on your site.

If you're wanting to rank in a suburb that you're not located in and not appearing naturally at all, then you might have to look for paid advertising methods.

Peter Mead: Yeah, okay. Jared Malcolm says, "Hi, guys. Do all the separate locations of a business require separate citations if they are all linking to the same website homepage and are linked in Google My Business?"

Brodie Clark: They're saying you've got different locations but the URL is the same. Maybe you're linking to a page that it's about three separate locations but it's the same link that you're using for each of your listings. I would approach that with saying that yeah, you would need to create different citations for those. Just keep the link the same. It's just citation consistency, it's not going to impact too much.

Peter Mead: Nik, what's your take on this so far as there are separate citations? Does it matter to your homepage? What do you think?

Nik Ranger: I would say look at maybe the sales of each of those locations. Is that something that you really wanted to build? Is that something that you wanted to invest in? I would start off with just the core of the business. Then work on my way and start to really build content.

I would build out citations to make each one of those locations unique. Really drive that local traffic towards those locations. Ultimately if expansion is the aim of the game here, then expanding out your strategy is the way to hand in hand go with that.

Peter Mead: I guess we're running out of time, we've just got one minute left. I think it's probably time for me to say thanks so much. Especially to SEMrush for what they do for the SEO community.

Thanks to everybody listening and thanks for all the questions. But everybody watching and as Nik said earlier, it'd be great to see more feedback, especially from people who are doing SEO work. See more feedback about the tool and about just general local SEO developments, in general, would be terrific as well.

Nik Ranger: Thank you and bye.

Brodie Clark: Thanks, guys, bye.

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