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Local Hound Tim of Convert Offline – Local SEO Interview 3

Greetings from Inside the SEOigloo!
I first became aware of Local Hound Tim’s blog Convert Offline when it hosted one of the local search industry’s most interesting conversations of 2007. Since then, I’ve followed Tim’s writing with real interest, and I am gratified to have the chance of asking him some one-on-one questions.
Miriam: Call out the first 3 adjectives that come to your mind to describe local search.
Tim: How about I define what it means to me: Putting proven content in front of active shoppers who are going to make a buying decision based in part on location.
Miriam: Local Search Optimization involves a specific set of practices and skills. What was it that first got you interested in exploring this branch of SEO?
Tim: I came from the wonderful world of yellow pages. I started in the mid 90’s when YP owned nearly every last drop of it…so, I literally got to watch local search change one day at a time. The biggest change is how fragmented it has become. Consumers have a lot of options now to help them make their purchase decisions, so a business owner is going to have to be visible in many different spaces to reach them and SEO is a part of that.
Miriam: Describe an ideal local search client.
Tim: A service business with a high average customer worth who has just made a capital investment.
Miriam: When clients come to you and you begin to explain to them why local SEO is going to be important to their business, what, in summary, do you tell them?
Tim: The doors are not open just yet; but for that answer see number 2. Believe it or not…the local SEO story is very similar to the YP story. You need to be there to 1) complete referrals; in search that means coming up when someone types in your name…in YP that is an in-column listing. And 2) for new biz; In search that is coming up for “category” + “geography” … in YP it’s a display ad. Nothing has changed but the medium.
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?
Tim: If you want to rank on G Maps…the first thing you do is subscribe to Understanding Google Maps by Mike Blumenthal. But here are the factors that I think are most important:
1) Location
2) Links – In Google Maps a mention can be viewed as a “Link”
2) Business Line
3) Age of the business line
4) Reviews
5) How closely the name matches the search query
6) I believe categories are pulled first from allpages and then superpages.com (Thanks Mike).
My untested hypothesis is that allpages categories will carry more juice because they are hand-edited (by phone operators) and the age of the listing can be determined. That is, all things being equal, you will rank higher in a category if your info is pulled from allpages. But you will have to start with the Telco to get that done.
Miriam: What do you see as the important ramifications of the new Google 10-pack?
Tim: As human beings we are still only able to hold 3 things in our mind…that hasn’t changed. So, I think it is just as important to try and rank in the top 3. It is also significant that there is no copy or “snippet” as part of the listing. No one knows more than Google how important copy is…so I think this lack of copy drives adword usage…so make PPC a part of the whole thing. And look for opportunities to optimize naturally where the local onebox does not come up…for instance, county searches. (Also, be prepared for that to change.)
Miriam: If you could express one wish directly to Google or Yahoo about their local entities,
what would it be?

Tim: Sell local tracking numbers as part of Google analytics and let me track calls to the keyword level.
Miriam: Are there any local industries you’d be particularly, personally interested in working with?
Tim: Knowing both worlds; I could be of tremendous value to any business that traditionally got most of its business from YP and is looking to diversify.
Miriam: What else should I have asked you about? Tell me!
Tim: The most significant challenge over the last 10 years is probably that local search has moved from being a product to a service. But the people providing the service don’t own the brand. That’s still a radical notion for most small business owners.
Also, I’m still deciding whether I want to do this on my own or join a firm. I love the idea of how much I could learn as part of an established team. So, if your firm has a white hat and a big heart for small business owners…I would love to hear from you.
Miriam: Well, Tim, anyone I know mentions they are looking to bring a local SEO on board as part of an in-house team, I’ll certainly point them your way. Thank you so much for chatting with me!
This is Part 3 in our series of 5 Interviews With Local SEOs. Check back soon for our next interview.