Doing Your Best Local SEO in 2018

The discipline of local search engine optimization has grown to encompass so many factors, from on-site optimization, to local business data management, to in-store initiatives that grow online reputation. Whether your brand is large or small, 2018 is your opportunity to make your best-ever Local SEO efforts, and I’d like to highlight here some of my recent Moz Blog posts that will help you thrive in the modern omni-channel environment your business and your customers inhabit.

First, understand how both offline and organic influences act as tributaries feeding into your local business.

Protect against costly business mistakes by reading through my 45 Local SEO Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them.

Next, be sure your brand is founding its policies in empathy with the customer. This simple commitment may well spell out your lasting success.

Know that your content will be your most valuable asset in 2018, and understand how to build geo-topical authority with a clear vision of what you can write about. And don’t forget that not all local consumers are neighbors. Many will be newcomers to town or travelers passing through; create a warm and persuasive welcome for them.

Speaking of content, reviews may influence your customers more than anything you’ll ever write, so understand how to manage them well, including how to respond like a pro. Unfortunately, in 2018 you’ll still need to know how to fight review spam, unless Google surprises us all with a better filter for catching fake reviews. Here’s hoping!

And, if after all of your best Local SEO efforts, you’re still failing to get the rankings, traffic or conversions you need, here’s my thorough guide to performing a DIY competitive local business audit. No time to do all this on your own? Contact Solas Web Design in 2018, where we’re passionate about all the details and eager to make the new year your best yet.

Learn How To Troubleshoot Local Ranking Problems – My Newest Moz Post

Do you have a local business that has lost rankings or is failing to rank as highly as you think it should? Chances are, you’ve got hidden problems holding you back. Bring those issues to light by taking a few minutes to read my latest Moz blog post:

Troubleshooting Local Ranking Failures: A Beginner’s Guide.

In the above post, I’ve documented everything I know about the first steps you need to take to identify very common problems that can cause local ranking trouble. Whether you are a local business owner or a Local SEO, you can take each of the steps outlined in the article to discover if there is something preventing your business from achieving high local rankings. The post contains a great infographic, too, created by my awesome colleague, Trevor Klein. Maybe you can print it out and pin it to your office cork board as a reminder of the major troubleshooting techniques!

Thanks for taking the time to read the article, and I sincerely hope it helps you achieve and maintain excellent local rankings.

Does Google Think Your Brand Name Is A Local Search?

I’ve been wanting to document this for a some weeks, but between awesome clients, the awesomeness of Moz work and other engagements, I just haven’t been blogging here much. I’ve not seen this topic covered on any of my favorite Local SEO blogs, and wanted to jot it down here in case you should ever run into this situation.

The Scenario

So, you’ve founded your new company. Maybe you’re a media firm or a non-profit support group or a spiritual center. You’ve named your venture ‘New Doors’. Has a nice ring to it.

The Problem
When you search Google for your business, you are baffled to see results like these coming up:

example of local serps

The trouble is, none of these local pack results have anything to do with your business. Your business may, in fact, be local in nature, or it may be a completely virtual or national brand, and Google doesn’t seem to get this. Most worrisome, you realize that anybody doing a branded search in Google for ‘New Doors’ probably isn’t finding your company. In some cases, you may find an entry for your business thrown into the mix of the results, or you may be nowhere at all on the first page of results.

Why Is This Happening?

I first came across a case like this a couple of months ago, and while I can’t share the name of the business, I do want to share what I’ve learned in the ensuing time. If your business name is generic enough and could be mistaken for a query with local intent, you may find yourself in a situation like the above. Playing around with the SERPs, I’ve been able to surface other instances of this. Here are some more examples of business names that Google might confuse with local searches:

  • A national copywriting firm named ‘Ink Cartridge’ battling with local results for office supply stores
  • A local restaurant called ‘Hamburger Place’ battling with every hamburger restaurant in town, including national franchises
  • A national marketing firm called ‘Skylights’ at odds with local home remodelers
  • A self defense academy called ‘Boston Fencing’ at war with the city’s fence and deck contractors

The Moral of the Story
If you’re naming a new local or national business, be sure the name of it cannot be confused with some generic object Google might view as having a different intent. I have a personal weakness for clever business names, but I wouldn’t want to be in the position of having very weak branded search results for my name because Google thinks my customers are actually looking for ink cartridges or skylights.

If your business isn’t new and you’ve found yourself in a position similar to the one I’ve described, I’m not going to suggest that you re-brand. Rather, your best bet is going to be in the long haul of building as much authority as you can around your brand name so that Google feels increasingly certain that users are looking for your business.

After all, Google is so convinced when I am searching for a local toy store purveying the game of ‘dominoes’, that what I actually want is the national pizza chain, Domino’s, that it is auto-correcting my spelling.

local search example of domino's restaurant

Jack In The Box gets the same, confident treatment.

For smaller businesses, without millions to sink into branding, this scenario is going to be more a problem.

I’d like to know: have you run into this dilemma with your business or with your clients? Have you overcome it? If so, how?

Need Help Visualizing The Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors?

Please pop over to Moz.com to read my article, published today: Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors – An Illustrated Guide.

I am so gratified by some of the comments I’m already receiving which state that this post will help marketers better explain to their local business clients what they need to do to compete for a place in Google’s local pack results!

My post takes the top twenty factors identified in Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 and provides an illustrated explanation of each key concept. If you are a new local business owner or just diving into the art of Local SEO, this piece will set your feet on firm ground. Getting this stuff right can mean the difference between success and failure for your local business on the web.

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the LSRF survey since it was first instituted by David Mihm in 2008. We’re six years deep into this peerless annual publication now, and for many industry players, our history working in Local goes back even further than this. But there are always newcomers to the game. There’s a first time each of us learned what NAP is, what a citation is, why reviews matter. My hope is that my post at Moz will help teach these basic and utterly vital concepts to recent arrivals on the doorstep of Local.

By my calculation, 2013 marks my 8th anniversary as a student and teacher of Local SEO and I still get a genuine charge out of introducing new clients to the good practices that can be put to work for their businesses with the goal of building a solid foundation on the web and earning new visibility with each new step taken. I’d be delighted if you’d check out my post and hope you find some inspiration there!

Minimize Bad Reviews And Earn Great Ones With The Feedback First Concept of Get Five Stars!

GetFiveStars.com

Feedback First!

To me, this is the gem of genius behind the recently-launched new review and rep management tool, GetFiveStars.com.

Imagine if you had a way to get feedback from your customers before they took steps to leave you a review on a third party platform like Google+ Local or Yelp.

Imagine if this customer feedback enabled you to:

  • Identify that a customer had a negative experience, allowing you to reach out to him personally to rectify this situation before he leaves a negative review about your company.
  • Identify that a customer had a very positive experience, allowing you to nudge him towards your chosen review profiles in hopes of earning an amazing review.
  • Publish positive feedback garnered from customers as Schema-encoded testimonials on a page of your website, all in a matter of seconds!
  • Gauge the ups and downs of public sentiment about your business over the course of a month, many months or years, providing you with unique insight into problematic areas of your business as well as your successes.
  • Automate the whole process of review acquisition so that a few minutes spent on your part could lead to years of excellent reviews!

If a tool could accomplish all of the above, your local business would be cooking with gas! You would have found a way to communicate with your customers that would minimize the potential for negative reviews while encouraging positive ones from customers who provide excellent initial feedback based on a 10 point rating system. User generated content in the form of testimonials would be automatically uploaded to a designated page on your website via a seamless process, increasing the valuable text content of your website and, possibly, earning you stars in the search engine results. And, you would be able to identify problematic patterns within your business, such as slow service, pricing complaints and other customer satisfaction issues that you could take steps to correct internally, thanks to the feedback you’ve received.

GetFiveStars.com will do all of this and more for your business and, without hesitation, I can say that it’s the most exciting new local business tool I’ve seen rolled out in 2013.

GetFiveStars.com was created by Don Campbell and Mike Blumenthal, two gentlemen who have put in years of hard labor in the trenches of Local SEO and who are widely respected for their expertise. Mike kindly gave me a tour of GetFiveStars.com last week and I’ve been playing with the tool since. The impression it has made on me is that the actual tasks performed by this product are things that local business owners and Local SEO agencies truly need.

Phil Rozek has written a very detailed post on some of the more technical aspects of the tool. What I want to share is that this is a tool created for local business owners and Local SEO agencies by two people who truly know Local. Local business owners need it to be easier to engage with their customers on the web. Local SEO agencies need resources for introducing review acquisition and reputation management to their clients in a way that won’t overwhelm them or scare them off. GetFiveStars accomplishes both goals, in my opinion, and I want to congratulate Campbell and Blumenthal for perceiving these real needs and creating an easy-to-use tool that resolves them.

Agencies will be interested to learn that GetFiveStars can even be white labeled for your company’s use. And I want to be sure to mention that all efforts have been made by the creators to minimize review loss by pushing reviews out to the web at a very modest pace. There are also ways to configure the review request page so as not to offend the Yelp gods with anything that smacks of solicitation.

According to Blumenthal and Campbell, this tool was years in the making, and honestly, I think the developers have thought of everything a user could need to get fast feedback by asking for customers to use the tool at or near the time of service, to identify positive sentiment, rectify negative sentiment and slowly earn great reviews over time.

If I could give GetFiveStars five of my own stars, I would!

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