Andrew Shotland – Local SEO Interview 5

Greetings from Inside the SEOigloo!

Andrew Shotland, everybody’s favorite Local SEO Guide, is chatting with us today from Pleasanton, California. Andrew offers SEO and SEM consulting, and his past work with Insider Pages makes him a fascinating fellow to speak with about Local Search. We feel very lucky to have this opportunity of interviewing him.

Miriam: Call out the first 3 adjectives that come to your mind to describe local search.

Andrew: Yellow, green, red

Miriam: What excites you about Local? Why are you putting such great efforts into this new facet of SEO?

Andrew: I don’t think Local SEO is particularly new. SEO is becoming more mainstream and therefore more smaller, local businesses are trying it. So it’s exciting because there are a lot of people who need help and want to learn.

Miriam: Describe an ideal local search client.

Andrew: An ideal SEO client understands the potential of SEO and is willing to prioritize it and take the time to get educated about it.

Miriam: Your Blog’s About Page mentions your previous position as head of product and business development for Insider Pages. In that capacity you engineered an SEO effort that resulted in some major traffic for the company. Is this something you are legally permitted to describe in greater detail? If not, just ignore this question…but I’d love to hear about it!

Andrew: InsiderPages is where I first got obsessed with SEO. When we rolled out our first SEO release our traffic went from about 30,000 uniques per month to about 1,000,000 practically overnight. That certainly caught my attention. We kept trying more and more ideas and the traffic kept cranking up, eventually reaching about 3.5 million uniques/month. Then I released something that destroyed our SEO – our traffic dropped in half over night. As we got bigger the number of variables that I and our team had to keep track of was getting out of control because we had just enough knowledge of SEO to be dangerous. I realized that I still had a lot to learn. It was then I really got into it – I certainly wasn’t getting a lot of sleep so I had some time to read up on it.

Miriam: It would currently appear that Google and the Insider Pages/City Search entity are still amicable partners, now that those missing reviews have finally reappeared in Maps after being lost for some months. However, Google is also now offering its own user review function within Maps. Your past work experience leads me to ask you, how do you feel entities like City Search, Trip Advisor and Yelp really feel about Google being ‘in on their game’? Is it contentious comptetition or is being trusted by Google so huge for any company, they are glad to have data being pulled from their review databases?

Andrew: My guess is that they are all cautiously optimistic. It’s one thing to put up a ‘write a review’ feature and another to actively promote and stimulate useful, high quality reviews.

Miriam: Some have called Local Search the inevitable death of traditional Yellow Pages. Do you feel this is accurate? Please explain your thoughts on this.

Andrew: It’s not the death of the traditional Yellow Pages, it’s more like the swine flu or beriberi. It’s forcing the industry to change. Just as YouTube is causing the TV networks to change. There will always be a need for a print Yellow Pages but I believe the big YP co’s are basically becoming marketing agencies for SMB’s and that’s not a bad business to be in.

Miriam: I know we’re all still learning about this stuff, but would you be willing to make a guess at the major factors currently determining local business’ A-J rankings in Google Maps and the 10-Pack?

Andrew: My take so far is location in relation to the centroid of the city (not necessarily the zip centroid) is numero uno. Then having your data in Google Local Business Center. Then all of the standard SEO measures – keyword targeting, links, reputation, etc.

Miriam: Are there any local industries you’d be particularly, personally interested in working with?

Andrew: I am looking into putting a painted glass backsplash in my kitchen so someone who can do that for me would be a good idea. I have been working with the world floor covering association on providing SEO and PPC services to flooring retailers around the country so that’s a good one. Anyone need some carpet?

Miriam: What else should I have asked you about? Tell me!

Andrew: What’s your favorite music to listen to when you are doing SEO work? www.littlestevensundergroundgarage.com, www.lounge-radio.com

Miriam: I’m all for working to music. In point of fact, I confess we built an entire website a couple of months ago while listening to the BeeGees! I can’t believe I’ve admitted that, but it kept us feeling breezy, energized and perpetually amused by the singing. Our typical soundtrack usually includes 70′s prog rock, Motown and early jazz. Thanks for the link, Andrew, and thank you so much for sharing what you know with us!

18 Responses to “Andrew Shotland – Local SEO Interview 5”

  1. on 28 Feb 2008 at 4:23 pm earlpearl

    Miriam:

    These are wonderful interviews.

    Of interest, I’m finding that optimizing in organic search for a small business is infinitely harder today than several years ago.

    I have one small business site optimized several years ago with relatively enormous backlink power. Consequently it receives enormous long tail search traffic. It is dramatically greater than any kind of traffic that Google maps, Y local or any variation can generate.

    Users still don’t automatically migrate directly to maps. Most maps visability comes from its injection into organic searches.

    Today, trying to replicate that volume and power of links is infinitely more difficult. Google wiped out the power of directories and easy links. There are clearly opportunities to engage in link spamming that google isn’t able to pick up automatically. If they do catch it though, one can hope that they will devalue the sites.

    Meanwhile, link acquisition for a small business simply takes far more work.

    If one does manage to dominate an enormous volume of search phrases that are long tail and diverse the traffic is dramatically better than that which maps can provide.

    Its a different ball game.

    Dave

  2. on 28 Feb 2008 at 5:00 pm admin

    Hi Dave,
    Oh, yes, I would have to agree that, at least at this point, organic rankings are of chief importance to local businesses. I’m really glad you brought this up.

    This is why I feel it’s important to offer the whole 9 yards to SMBs. They need an appealing website, they need a usable website, they need an optimized website and crystal clear, optimized copy. The site needs to make efforts to gain both organic AND local rankings.

    I have often wondered if local rankings will, in future, outdistance organic rankings in terms of the power packed in the punch. The 10-pack seems to indicate that this could happen, but if it is category-based as opposed to longtail-friendly (how do you like my hyphenated words?) I’m left wondering how this will play out.

    For now, it’s absolutely important to work for organic rankings and make use of the type of keyword expansion that you are such a master of, Dave!

    Thank you so much for the kind remarks. I love having you stop by.
    Miriam

  3. on 28 Feb 2008 at 5:28 pm earlpearl

    Its not that I’m a master, it was simply easier. I have a site with a couple of thousand links from unique sites with targeted long tail phrases that was easier to obtain, and had value. Its not as easy today.

    But on a different basis, the long tail organic results are still more important IMHO. For instance, searches with state names don’t include maps inserted into the organic results. There are far more searches for state names than city names. I’m sure there are far more local/regional searches that include California, than Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego. I imagine there are more searches for Southern california businesses than San Diego or Los Angeles businesses. State name searches are a large quantity that don’t include maps.

  4. on 28 Feb 2008 at 5:56 pm admin

    To verify, Dave, when you say searches with state names, you mean:

    wild bird sanctuary, california

    -not-

    wild bird sanctuary vallejo, california

    right?

    The second type of search would bring up a map, but not the first? Is that what you meant?

    I want to be sure I’m following you.

    And, I reserve the right to think of you as a long-tail master!
    Miriam

  5. on 28 Feb 2008 at 6:42 pm earlpearl

    Yes. I recall some research Greg Sterling presented suggesting that approximately 50% of searches that were logically local, started as a generic search. Somebody might search for “dentist” when they really want a dentist in vallejo.

    Then they might search for dentist california. That is too broad also and it is an example of a “state” search They might finally search for dentist vallejo or dentist vallejo california, in which they finally hit the town name either way…and finally find some local dentists.

    In any case there will be lots more searches using the word california on its own than any city name within the state.

    None of the state name searches will generally have maps as part of universal search. At least in my experience to date.

    Those are prime examples where the long tail trumps visability of maps.

    Dave

  6. on 28 Feb 2008 at 7:12 pm admin

    Okay, Dave. I thank you for that explanation. Makes sense to me, and I have not seen service + state pull up local results, either.

    Good stuff!
    Miriam

  7. on 28 Feb 2008 at 8:29 pm Will Scott

    Dave,

    I may be missing something in your comments, but isn’t the long tail you argue for more likely to yield a map? Look at the best examples of map spam — they’re keyword / location (centroid helps).

    Certainly it doesn’t take the average user too many instances of “Plumber CA” -> “Plumber San Diego” -> “Plumber La Jolla” to figure out how to tailor their results.

    Certainly larger metro vs. sub-set (San Diego vs. La Jolla) makes sense given 6-9 * the search traffic and a logical self-identification.

    Even with the massive increase in search at the state / major metro area I would think you run too much risk of out of area searchers wasting your bandwidth (physically and metaphorically).

    I’ve always believed, and I welcome dissenting opinion, that the more specific the search the more likely the conversion.

    The yellow pages types always speak of “directional media” in other words, you message a consumer who’s looking for “where to buy” vs “what to buy”.

    It’s the end of the decision cycle where conversions explode.

    When fully baked I think maps become tremendously disruptive on a local/directional basis.

    Will

  8. on 28 Feb 2008 at 9:04 pm Interviews with Local Search Marketers

    [...]  Andrew Shotland – Local SEO Interview 5 [...]

  9. on 29 Feb 2008 at 9:28 am earlpearl

    Will:

    For many many items/products/services, capturing a few more customers via high rankings for searches that include “state name-service/product” or “service/product/-state” are well worth the bandwidth.

    On the other hand, I agree with you–the more specific the long tail phrase the likelier you hit the nail on the head with a customer already oriented to buying.

    Its an added benefit. I go back to Greg Sterling’s post that referenced how people search. Furthormore, I accessed the dumped AOL search data from several years ago. It was an incredible first hand look into how people searched. One phenomena was that you could see a progression in some cases. A searcher would begin a search with a very “broad phrase” such as “plumber”. They would review the alternatives and probably search again…possibly with something like California plumber or better yet La Jolla/San Diego plumber.

    Isn’t it great to capture the searcher for plumber before they get to the competitive detail offered in a 10 pack?

    In the meantime if they do search for California plumber there is no 10-pack map…and the alternatives are either high organic rankings or PPC.

    With the price of plumbers….heheh….it might be well worthwhile to capture that extra traffic and potential extra customers with a high ranking for California plumber.

    Its all a matter of degree though and willingness and financial ability to achieve high rankings.

    Dave

  10. on 29 Feb 2008 at 3:26 pm Will Scott

    Dave,

    Isn’t it great to capture the searcher for plumber before they get to the competitive detail offered in a 10 pack?

    SOLD!

  11. on 29 Feb 2008 at 5:33 pm admin

    Brilliant, Dave.
    I applaud this line of thinking!
    Miriam


  12. [...] Mike Blumenthal David Mihm Local Hound Tim Will Scott Andrew Shotland” [...]

  13. on 02 Mar 2008 at 6:32 am David Saunders

    I like Andrew’s blog

  14. on 03 Mar 2008 at 9:09 am Joe Pistell

    It is my opinion that different products or services -that qualify as local- have different “spheres of commerce potential”.

    2 extremes are Automobile dealers vs. Hair Salons.
    An automobile shopper deploys a large sphere where shoppers may drive 1-2 hours for the right product, as compared to the salon shopper who is (and always will be) a small sphere user.

    Local search may logically progress in ever shrinking geographic spheres, but I see it differently.

    IMO, as shoppers experience the magic of local Search the 1st time, a bright light goes on and they get it!

    So… to connect the dots as I see it, our ever-wiser local searchers start very close to home and if they want more choices they grow SERPs outward. Add to this, the dynamic of the “spheres of commerce potential” and we’ve got a SIC driven local search game plan.

    IMO, if you are an Auto Dealer webmaster (like I am) and my potential market place is upto 200 miles wide, and assuming that shoppers start very local and work outward, I would rather engineer my site to work very well in multiple local SERPs than in state wide SERPs (where the competition is far greater). This means I am looking for long tail results in my home market AND long tails in adjoining markets.

    Now that I am done rambling, my web team is doing a complete makeover. I am looking for a SEO local check list to make sure I don’t overlook a thing. Can anyone throw me a bone?

    Many thnx,
    Joe

  15. on 03 Mar 2008 at 1:24 pm Internet Marketing Joy

    Great interview! I learned a lot from this one. I agree with Earl..SEO nowadays is a lot harder compared to SEO several years ago. Probably because more sites are being put up now and also because there are so many SEO experts that are offering there services.

  16. on 03 Mar 2008 at 1:57 pm admin

    Hello Joe!
    What good observations! Yes, your business is a bit special in that, while local, people are absolutely willing to drive farther to find the perfect used car.

    My guess is that you need to engineer your organic results toward that wider area. Unfortunately, with the local search-oriented indexes (Google Maps, Yahoo Local, etc.) you don’t get to pick what you appear for. They take your address and decide how wide of an area it is suitable to display you for.

    So, a good website that is expanding, expanding, expanding its service reason via keyword expansion is doubtless going to be the smart route, as you point out.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to comment here, Joe. I really enjoy having local business owners share their real-world experiences on this blog. I hope you will stop by again.

    Miriam

  17. on 03 Mar 2008 at 2:01 pm admin

    I’m glad you found the interview useful, Internet Marketing Joy.

    Yes, when we think about the ease of SEO some 4, 5 years ago, we shake our heads over how the industry has evolved.

    In many ways, that’s a good thing, but it does make meeting goals more of a challenge, certainly.

    Thank you so much for stopping by the SEOigloo! I hope you’ll comment again.
    Miriam

  18. on 21 Aug 2008 at 8:22 am Hundreds of SEO Interviews | SEO Scoop

    [...] Andrew Shotland [...]

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