Local SEO

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!

What Does Caring Customer Service Really Feel Like?

I don’t have any technical advice to share today. Instead, I want to share some stories. I’ve been thinking about how often we emphasize good customer service in the Local SEO world. We tell business owners that the possession or lack of caring customer service can make or break their reputations on the web, typically in the form of user reviews. I would like to share two anecdotes – one negative and one positive – about how my impression was formed of a company’s core values as a result of my interaction with their staff.


The Negative Experience
My husband and I are renters. We live in a small, timeworn house in the country with a big garden. We’re surrounded by beautiful old trees, including fruit trees that must have been planted before we were born. There are large, ranging hedges all over the multi-tenant property, filled with birds, and empty fields of grass that have mellowed to their summer gold just now. This is a rustic area where people ride horses down the road and wandering cows stop traffic. These peaceful qualities drew us to these quiet environs when we rented the house many years ago.

Then, a year or two back, the elderly owner gave over management of the property to a professional local property management company. Overnight, we and other tenants on the land felt the change. Suddenly our sagging row of mailboxes was filled with officious memos from the property management company about dumpster use, high weed mowing, on-site inspections.

Of course, this is the company’s job. They are supposed to manage the property, but the woman put in charge of tenant relations has managed to offend and aggravate many of my neighbors with her style of communication. In my own case, she became obsessed with a vine growing on our house that was growing here before we ever moved in. In attempting to resolve her concerns about the vine, I was the recipient of numerous ill-mannered, petulant and accusatory emails, phone calls and visits from this woefully unprofessional person.

We were willing to comply with her requests, but the disrespectful tone with which she communicated her goals made the transaction extremely unpleasant. I’m still considering whether I should bother to communicate my concerns about this woman’s lack of professionalism to her superiors. One of my neighbors made the effort to write a formal complaint about her own transactions with the property manager, but I’m not sure it would be worth my time to do the same. I am not at all convinced that anyone – the owner or the firm – would actually care about my experience, because my impression of the whole company has been set by my interactions with this person, and that impression is decidedly negative.

Should I ever be in a position to be a property owner who needs a property manager, I would absolutely not engage this company. I haven’t decided what to do about this. My options range from writing a negative review, to writing letters, to letting it go. Right now, I’m just mulling over the very bad taste in my mouth and thinking about what a lack of genuine caring feels like in a business transaction. This woman has signaled to me that:

- She doesn’t like tenants
- She doesn’t trust tenants
- She doesn’t like her work
- She doesn’t care if we have good feelings about the company she represents


The Positive Experience
Fortunately, I can compare and contrast my negative experience with a very positive one. I regularly visit a local farm to do my produce shopping. Over the years, we’ve come to know the farmers and staff there and one of the things that makes the experience of shopping with these people so positive is the way they show how much they appreciate our business. How do they do this?

- They smile and call out a greeting when we arrive.
- They chat about the weather with us (an old country custom).
- They put little extras in our bags, even just a couple of plums or a bouquet of herbs, or they give us a discount on a purchase from time to time, saying, “It’s you guys!”.
- The show us they trust us. Several times, their payment system has been broken and they’ve told us to pay them next time. We’ve even had to insist on writing them an IOU. They were perfectly willing to just let us pay some other time, believing that we would.
- The way they treat all of their customers shows that the staff really likes the work they do. A happy atmosphere pervades this humble, bountiful farm stand.

I don’t think the big difference between the two experiences has anything to do with free stuff or discounts. I think it has to do with the fact that we feel so human when we interact with the farmers. They care about their work and they care about their customers. They really get it that their business depends on a good product and good service and they have earned our loyalty. By contrast, the property management woman shows how little she cares about acting human with the people in her professional life – either she’s on some kind of an ego trip or simply has no social skills – with the result that she has created a cold and nasty atmosphere on a previously peaceful property.

So my thought for you, the local business owner, is that the warmth you genuinely feel for your work really shows. If you don’t feel genuine care, neither will your staff and neither will the customers who make your business possible. Can people be human in and around your business, or is there a sense of pressure to carry out business with impersonal efficiency that is actually harming your ability to build something good in the world?

For some years now, it has been my honor and pleasure to work as an Associate with the inbound marketing software company, Moz, where the tone of business is set by core values summed up in the acronym TAGFEE. The letters stand for transparent, authentic, generous, fun, exceptional and empathetic. I can absolutely attest to the fact that everyone involved with Moz works to live up to these ideals, and the environment they foster is the same as the one I encounter at the farm stand. I have to wonder what would happen to the property management company if they were ever introduced to TAGFEE. I have to wonder what would happen at any business where I’ve experienced bad customer service if they took a heartfelt look at TAGFEE.

My guess is that there would be a lot less negative reviews cluttering up the Internet and a rewarding move towards more human-to-human relations in the business world. I’d like that.

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