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Time for Marketing

Oct 2019

#26 - Greg Gifford - The Secret of Local Search Success in 2019

October 7, 2019

You can find Greg on Twitter or on Linkedin, here is his agency. Greg is the dude that knows about local SEO and if you have questions about it, you should talk to him. 

One of the best sources for local SEO knowledge, as mentioned by Greg is 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors.

Here is the transcript of the podcast:
Greg: Google uses multiple algorithms so SEO is not equal across the board.
Peter: This is Time for Marketing. The marketing podcast that will tell you everything you've missed when you didn't attend the marketing conference.
Peter: Hello and welcome to the Time for Marketing podcast. The podcast that tells you everything that you have missed when you didn't go to your best and favorite marketing conference. My name is Peter and I'll be your host for today. This is episode number 26 that is airing on the 7th of October 2019. Before I introduce you to our today's guest, I have something to ask you.
Could you take the time and open your slack, your Trello, whatever communication channel you have for your agency or for your company. The place where you send all of the interesting links that you read and could you just paste the link to this podcast and say, "I've learned something here." That'll be great. People should know about this podcast.
Now, today, with us the big, the great, Greg Gifford. Greg, hello and welcome to the podcast.
Greg: Hey, happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Peter: How are you doing up there in the hot state of Texas?
Greg: Still hot, unfortunately. We're hoping that now that we're getting down into the 80s, maybe we'll start to get colder but you never know in Texas. It could be up in the hundreds again next week but we're good.
Peter: All right. When you look outside your window, do you see cactuses? That's how I figure--
Greg: And tumbleweeds and we all ride horses to work. [laughs] Texas is massive. That's one of the funny things when talking to people from Europe about how big Texas is. We've got mountains, we've got deserts. Other than the fact that when I was in Sylvania it was a nicer part of the year and so everything was green but very similar looked with things. Texas is fairly flat compared to most of Europe. At least most of Texas is but the crazy thing is just the scale. I could get my car right now and drive 80 to 85 miles an hour and go west and it would take me 14 hours to get out of Texas.
Peter: It's a completely different scale because if I would do that I'll be changing five different countries probably.
Greg: Yes, it's pretty crazy.
Peter: Greg, you are the vice president of Search at the Wikimotive Agency. Tell us a bit about your agency and more what do you do as the vice president of Search?
Greg: I came on earlier this year with this agency. It's a small boutique agency and I came on because for the last, Jeez, years and years and years, I've been doing SEO exclusively for car dealers for probably 12 years and the place that I worked last time was approved by all of the car manufacturers. Not that that was a bad thing, but we had a very set SEO package that we had to offer which was great.
We still got results and did well but I wanted to branch out and expand my reach and do some other things so I came to Wikimotive. They do have a lot of automotive clients but they've got clients outside of automotive and we're making some big pushes into some other verticals. I'm able to stretch my wings here and do some fun things outside of automotives.
Peter: All right. What does that mean that the agency was approved by car manufacturers?
Greg: It's a weird thing in the US that if you were a car dealer you-- Let's use Ford or BMW as an example. You have a set number of website providers that you're allowed to use that are manufacturer-approved. BMW will say, "You can use one of these four companies to do your website, you can use one of these four or five companies to do your PPC and you can use one of these four or five companies to do your SEO."
For most of the manufacturers, you can choose to use a different company if you want but if you use the company that is approved by the manufacturer then the manufacturer will pay for it. There's a lot of benefit. The manufacturer will send all this co-op money out to dealers to use for various marketing things that they do. It works well for the dealerships because then they don't have to spend money on it. That's what the whole vendor-approved thing is. We were on the approved list for all of the major automotive [unintelligible 00:05:04].
Peter: You are doing weekly video on your website, tell us a bit about that.
Greg: We do a weekly video series called Tactical Tuesdays With Wiki where every Tuesday we do a short video. Most of the time there are three to five-minute videos on some digital marketing tactic. Every once in a while, though we will share a longer video. I just spoke at the Advanced Search Summit in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago and so this week's video basically I did a re-recording of my presentation and did it with the slide. Now, we've shared that entire presentation but most the time it's short, quick, easy to digest tips about current things going on in Search or specific tips that will help you show up better.
Peter: All right. If you've done a lot of SEO for automotive companies, that means local SEO was always a big part of what you do. Is that still a thing?
Greg: Yes, very much so. That's what I'm known for. I speak at conferences all over the world about local SEO and teaching people here's what to do to show up better in local searches.
Peter: This is also the presentation that I wanted to talk to you about. You spoke at the Advanced Search Summit in Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago. What the title of the presentation it's pretty long. The Dude's Guides to The Secret of Local Search Success in 2019 and Beyond. We will attach the presentation to the podcast show notes. I've checked the presentation, you like movies don't you?
Greg: I do. I'm a movie man. I was actually a movie major in college so I wanted to go to Hollywood and make movies but clearly that didn't end up happening. I ended up getting into computers instead but I have a full sleeve on my right arm of movie portrait tattoos from various movies and then I'm almost finished getting a sleeve on my right leg of all stuff from the Goonies. I really, really love movies and every time I do presentations I always have a movie theme.
Peter: Because as you say in one of the first slides bullet points are killing you, right?
Greg: Yes, because I think this year I'll end up speaking at 27 or 28 conferences by the end of the year and I see a lot of presenters. A lot of times you see presenters at conferences that may have really great information but they're just incredibly boring to watch. The background of their slides is just white background and black text and they just have a whole bunch of bullet points on their slides and they're just standing there on the stage and read their bullet points. It's just not a very entertaining presentation to watch.
Not that they have to be entertaining but it's just painful to sit there and watch somebody read their slides. I believe that bullet points kill kittens and I don't ever use bullet points in my presentations.
Peter: All right. We had enough of chitchat. Greg, here are your five minutes to sum up your marketing conference presentation.
Greg: One of the important things that people need to realize that I always like to talk about is that Google uses multiple algorithms. SEO is not equal across the board. It's important to understand with the business that you work with or the website that you're working with which algorithm is going to apply. If it's a business that has a physical location where customers come to that place of business to do business with the business or if it's a business that serves people in a particular area like a plumber or an electrician, then that website needs to be using the local SEO tactic so that you're including all of the additional things that matter to that local algorithm.
There's overlap between Google's traditional algorithm and the local algorithm so doing traditional SEO will still give you some benefit but if you've got that physical location or you're serving in a particular area then local is what's going to provide the best results to what you're doing. It's really important to pay attention to various experts in local so that you can stay up to date especially in the UK and Europe where you guys are just starting to catch on and really have people talk at conferences about local SEO where I've been talking about conferences about local SEO for like 10 years in the States.
It's just because I think people are really just now starting to understand, "My gosh, this can make a massive difference." You want to follow the right people on Twitter, you want to test your own stuff to make sure that you're doing things that actually work. There's a study that's conducted by a company called White Spark and then published on the Moz Blog. They're called The Local Search Ranking Factors.
That's important to pay attention to because it gives a playbook of, "These are the signals that matter the most for showing up in these local searches." You can see from year to year, what's changed, what's become more important, what's become less important and really the things that matter the most are links and content and then your Google my business listing.
Sure, links are important in regular SEO but the important thing with local SEO is you want to get local links. You want links from other businesses and other web sites that are in your particular geographic area because those are the links that Google's local algorithm is going to provide more weight to. The good thing about these local links, it doesn't matter if they're no-follow links, it doesn't matter if they don't have a lot of authority if you're using Moz, you're looking at the main authority or Majestic with Trust Flow.
It doesn't matter what those authority metrics are because they're still going to count and provide value. Then definitely check through the slides that are going to be attached to the podcast here because there's a lot of different ideas that I run through of things that you can use to get these local links. With local content, it's really important that it's conversational content. Everything that's on your website should sound like something that you would say face to face to a customer that just walked through your front door.
It's really helpful to read everything out loud because then you'll catch things that don't really sound conversational. Then with local SEO, you've probably heard about citations, that's basically directory listings where it's name, address, phone number listed on other websites. That used to be much more important so you can discount all the stuff that you'll read that says you have to get hundreds and hundreds of citations.
Really, the only ones that matter now are the ones that potential customers might see so you want to do a google search for the name of your business and run through the first three pages of Google search results. Those are the only citation sites that you need to worry about. Then the final thing that I always want to make sure to push the point across is that Google My Business is absolutely important now. Your Google My Business listing is basically your new homepage so if someone's wanting to get your phone number they don't have to go to your website anymore.
If someone wants to get your address they don't have to go to your website. If someone wants to see pictures or read reviews, they can get all of that right there in Google My Business. It's really important that you optimize your listing. Obviously, make sure you've claimed it, have the right categories chosen. The category that you choose and put in the primary slot actually carries a little bit more ranking value so you want to make sure you're strategic in which one you're putting there.
Make sure you've got a local phone number listed and then make sure you're using the new features that have been released. We've got Google posts which is basically--we call it just free advertising. It's an image and some text that show up as a thumbnail in your profile that people can then click and it blows up bigger and they can see more text and a bigger image, that really helps you stand out from competitors. Lots of businesses aren't using them yet, it's a way to drive pre-site conversions.
Then the most important thing is the new feature called Questions and Answers that shows up in the Google My Business profile. It's a community discussion feature where anyone in the community can ask a question and anyone in the community can answer the question for the business which is pretty scary because you don't really want other people answering questions that customers are intending for your business. It's important to monitor that and make sure that you're keeping an eye on when new questions pop in so that you can go and answer them.
Then each question can get multiple answers, so the answer that shows as the primary answer to the question is the one that has the most upvotes. You've got to make sure that you're not just answering questions but making sure that your answers have the most upvotes so that you can control that first impression. I know I went through that really quickly, that was a whole lot to try to squeeze into just a few minutes but definitely check out the slides, there's tons and tons of really helpful information in there.
Peter: This feels like we got another social network that we need to take care of, is that true?
Greg: I wouldn't really call it a social network but a lot of people already pay attention to Google My Business because of the customer reviews. They know, "Hey, this is where people are going to leave us reviews, we need to go pay attention to the reviews, we need to ask for reviews, we need to answer those reviews." Now, it's almost like a new review section. Technically, you're not supposed to put reviews there but a lot of people do.
Something else that we see really often is people think it's a messaging system and that it goes directly to the business because the general public doesn't realize that it's just a community discussion feature. We'll see questions all the time where people will say, "Hey, what's your phone number? I've got something I want to buy from you. I need to call you or I need your service, what's your phone number?"
If you're not paying attention to that then you miss that sales opportunity or that service opportunity and even though the button that you have to click to ask that question is right next to the phone number in the Google My Business profile, it doesn't matter, people expect that it's messaging and you're paying attention. They're not going to take that extra step to go to your website and see your phone number because they think that if they put that in that's a message that pops up at the business somewhere.
We see that a ton. We've now seen too that Google is starting to autosuggest answers. If you go into a Question and Answer section and say that you want to ask a question and you start typing in a question, if it's similar to another question that's been asked in the past then Google will auto-suggest the answer to that question so you don't even actually have to submit the question anymore. It's really important to go in and preload your questions. You could actually ask questions as the business. You want to go in and ask those questions. We call it setting up a pre-site FAQ page.
Peter: Google My Business used to have a lot of spam and people using black hat tactics. Is 3 still this way? Do we still have to be careful what all the competition is going to do to us or is Google [inaudible 00:16:07] helping with that?
Greg: Very much so. It's awful and you guys are lucky over there and your app it's nowhere near as bad as what it is here in the States, it is just spamtastic. There are just all kinds of people faking listings and creating lead-gen opportunities with fake businesses to try to sell leads to businesses and it's just awful. There is a form that you can go report fake listings on but they pop up just as quickly as you cancel them.
I would expect that over in Europe, it's just going to continue to get worse and as everyone over there that's in the kind of shady or gray areas of business and they're trying to figure out ways to work, they're going start watching what we're doing here in the States and seeing how easy it is to fake stuff. I have friends that have local SEO agencies and most of what they do is just fight spam instead of-- You don't have to necessarily spend as much time optimizing your client site if you can get them to rank better by taking down all the cheaters that are spamming things.
Peter: You said in your presentation that the local listings are not really as important, on the other hand, I've just saw weeks ago that SEMrush, the SEO tool, added the listings tool into their tool. Is it still going to be important? Should people use such tools or you think not?
Greg: I think it's really going to become less and less important as far as the ranking algorithm goes. We won't have to worry so much about nap consistency in the future. I think what it really becomes and we're kind of moving in that direction already, it really just becomes what customers might see. You don't want to just concentrate on Google and say, "Hey, I'm on Google and it's correct." Let's say you have a business and that business moves and so you are now at a new address but you don't update any of your listing sites, then you may have all of these other listing sites that have your old address.
Even though that might not matter for the ranking algorithm, it matters for your customer experience because someone may do a Google search and not pay attention to Google My Business and they may pull you up on another device. I was actually talking to a friend of mine the other day that had a guy coming to install something in his house and the guy said that it wasn't showing up on MapQuest and he said, "Just use Google because it's on Google." The guy said, "I don't even have Google on my phone."
There are people out there that don't rely on Google and they may use MapQuest or they may use Yelp or they may use Apple maps or something else. It is important to pay attention to the citational location listing sites that are publicly visible which is why I said earlier, go through the top two or three pages of Google search results. Those ones that show up to the general public are probably always going to be important from a customer-facing standpoint even though they may not matter for the ranking algorithm.
Peter: All right. All in all, if you are in Europe, there's Google My Business that you should start using and if you are in the US, start using it more and stop the spam that is out there.
Greg: Definitely.
Peter: Something or somewhere like that. All right Greg, thank you very much for your presentation, your summation of the presentation. What are your future plans for the conferences? Where can people see you and if not on the conferences, where can people find you?
Greg: I am heading to PubCon in Las Vegas next week and the week after that I will be in London doing SearchLove London and then the first week of November I'm speaking at a conference called State of Search in Dallas. Later that week, I'm heading to Los Angeles to speak at UnGagged. The week after that I will be at SMX East in New York City.
Those five or six conferences are the last of my conference schedule for the year. Also, if you're out in Europe and not able to pop over here, pop over to London to see me there. I have a Fundamentals of SEO training video on SEMrush on their academy section. If you go to the SEMrush Academy pages, there is an entire training course that's about, I think, three and a half, four hours long on SEO basics.
If you're just getting started, or if you want a refresher on the basics, it's that SEO fundamentals course. Just last week, we released a new course that I did for them on keyword research. It's about an hour long. Over the next few months, I've got three other new courses coming out. The keyword research one just came out then we'll be doing one on link building, one on mobile SEO, and one on local SEO.
Peter: A lot of you everywhere. Well, you're an important guy, so you should be there. Thank you very much for being on the podcast and sharing your local search knowledge. I'll see you around. Have a great day.