October 14

Episode 95 – How to Improve Small Business Local SEO

For many businesses, showing up for local searches is critical. But it takes work to accomplish this goal, and there are many ways to get burned. In this episode, we’ll discuss how to improve your local SEO the right way.

Ken: Hey everybody, it’s Ken Tucker with Changescape Web and today we are here to talk about, in episode 95, Local SE Ow! How do you get your local SEO house in order and not be burned?

There have been a semi funky things that have been happening lately in the world of SEO. I think Google’s doing some things in the overall scheme of things, I think is probably really good, especially Google Business Profile spam out there. But they’ve also been hitting some businesses and suspending some businesses, so that kind of got me thinking about this topic when that happens it’s a almost a showstopper for businesses. For many businesses showing up in those local searches when somebody types in a near me, or service, or a product plus a location, it’s absolutely critical. Google Maps is absolutely a must have for those businesses. In order to do that, you’ve gotta have a Google Business Profile.

But there are also a lot of other things that have been going on in the world of local SEO that I thought we could take a look at. We’re gonna go ahead and get started and talk about how you do this the right way and not get burned. Not set yourself up knowingly or unknowingly for failure. In this case, if your Google Business Profile suspended, it’s almost catastrophic.

So let’s go ahead and get started, and we are gonna get started with Google Business Profiles. A lot of businesses knowingly or unknowingly set these up incorrectly. They’re really at risk of being suspended. And we’ve seen Google cracking down on this more and more. Jen, let’s start with you. Google considers certain categories of businesses as already spammy or high risk.

Can you talk about what some of those categories are? Also, talk about this concept that a lot of businesses do, thinking that it’s really gonna help ’em out, whether it does or not, and that’s called keyword stuffing in your business name. 

Jen: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny because upon being assigned this, to prepare, I thought before I did the research, I bet you I know the categories of businesses that are considered spammy.

Those ones kinda on the edge, right? I was very surprised. I have a list here of 12. I’ll read ’em out because I was totally surprised that these were considered spammy by Google Business Profiles. So here’s the list. Garage door. So garage door, set up, repair companies. Plumbers, locksmith, real estate, insurance, lawyers, pest control, hvac, tree pruning services, tree planting services, landscapers and rehab centers.

So I was amazed at all those to be considered spammy because obviously a lot of these are services that people would think of are not on the gray area of society whatsoever. So unfortunately that is the list. They do have a catchall called and others, which I guess room for expansion on that.

We have had clients not in any of these categories, have a problem with their Google Business Profile as well. One of the, when you said earlier, it can be detrimental or panicking. One of the panicking things about it is there’s really not a 1-800 number to call with a customer service agent standing by to solve your problem.

You really have to email in. You first have to look at the FAQs and visit the forums of what could I have done wrong and try to figure that out, and then you can send in a note to Google to get some help. And we have done that and we have gotten a response for sure, but it doesn’t come quickly at all.

So that can be very frustrating on that. With respect to keyword stuffing in the name of a business. I was just gonna say a little sidebar here. I wish we could show some video sometimes, because this image I’ll do my best to describe. It’s the best visual of what keyword stuffing in a company name really is, cuz it might sound a little bit funny. So let me do my best to describe it for you. So in these profiles, what Google wants you to do with your business name is just put your business name in there. Are you ABC Roofing Company? Are you ABC Restaurant? Whatever the name of your company is, that’s what they want in that field.

They don’t want you describing a whole bunch of products and services that you do right after the name of your company, in hopes that you’re gonna come up in the rankings a lot better. So one of the best illustrations I have here is, ABC Construction, LLC, right? Their title, but as well, right after that, they call themselves a general home remodeler in Newark, New Jersey. Bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling, construction services, additional services.

Everything we do put right into the field of where your business name is supposed to only go. Google Business Profile considers that the keyword stuffing into your business name. So don’t be doing that. It’s not gonna help you. It’s a hundred percent gonna hurt you. 

Ken: That’s interesting because I know, gosh, I don’t know, it’s probably six to maybe even eight years ago, a lot of SEOs recommended to actually do that keyword stuffing.

Not to go crazy with it, but to say business name, primary category and set that up as your business name. That’s six to eight years old. I can’t remember how far back it goes, but I remember seeing that was a very prominent strategy for a lot of people who were trying to get Google My Business Pages optimized at that time.

It’s now a bad idea. Bad idea. The other thing too, Jen, that’s interesting is the categories that you mentioned. Are some of the first categories, and now you know, they’ve started to add to this with the Google Guarantee program, which are the rectangular ads that display across the top when you type in plumber plus a city where these happen to run or realtor or attorney.

Google’s got this Google Guarantee program where they actually have businesses to certify, show their certificate of insurance. If they’re a locksmith they have to show their licenses and all kind of things, and just to be able to run those ads. So I’m not really surprised to hear that there’s a lot of overlap there because I think Google initially launched, they’ve been called local services ads, Google Guarantee, whatever, but they initially launched the first set of niches or industries based on what they consider to be some of those spammy categories.

Ian, some of the things that people might be doing in terms of the way that they put their address in for their Google Business Profile that may put them at risk of being suspended. Talk a little bit about that. 

Ian: Sure. Yeah, I think it’s important to first consider why this might be happening with Google. So Google sometimes penalizes locations because of the type of space that they’re in. Always remember why Google is doing what it’s doing. It’s trying to provide the most legitimate, relevant results to the searcher, and if they have found that businesses working out of certain types of locations tend to be scammers or misleading or maybe not even legitimate businesses. Then they sometimes penalize businesses that set them up that way or suspend them.

Remember when you, I don’t know if this is done as much because most businesses we interact with, they’ve already been verified on Google Business Profiles. Back in the day when there was more of a ramp up period Google would actually send out a verification postcard. To the location to determine if they were a legitimate business because there was lots of people creating profiles that were for non legitimate businesses.

So Google was trying to make sure that they were doing due diligence. They wanna make sure that quality and relevance is very high. And so that’s one of the key ways that they screened out posers. Some other areas where they have determined that they are usually more spam ridden and less relevant is PO boxes.

So if you try to submit a PO box, you shouldn’t do that. Google doesn’t like that. It says it right in there as you’re trying to do it, and one of the reasons is that, for many businesses, if you don’t have a legitimate address, then Google sees you as almost not a legitimate business. There are for sure some mail order businesses that use PO boxes and that kind of stuff, and it’s not to say there aren’t legitimate businesses, but it is a red flag for Google if your main address is a UPS store.

Again, it’s a red flag for Google. Even things like virtual offices, which often have real offices in them too or shared space, can be a red flag. One of the ones that’s surprising to a lot of us, especially with kind of flexible businesses for us in the agency world, we might not have a traditional office. Some don’t. But co-working spaces are big, right? Where you might have a dedicated office in a co-working space. Even those can be flagged sometimes. As a business, the very best way for you to determine how Google views these things is to actually look at the Google Business Profiles guidelines, because if you ever get suspended, that’s where Google directs you. As you’re setting up a business you can refer to those as well, but it’s almost like when you install new software and you accept the terms. Most people don’t do that. So it’s just a cautionary thing that, as you were talking about, Ken, it is amazing. Google Business Profile is a really key aspect of SEO, driving organic traffic to a business.

It’s not the only part, but it’s a big part because Google loves Google. If you can get your Google Business Profile working great, it’s gonna generate lots of traffic to your website and lots of leads, and if those were to dry up because your account gets suspended, that is bad news for anybody.

Ken: I think the key thing is one of the big things about ranking for your Google Business Profile is always gonna be proximity. Always a super critical factor. So a lot of people think if I’m on one side of my metro area and I do a lot of business on the other side of my metro area, I’m not gonna rank very well on my Google Business Profile.

And that’s probably very true. So there’s been a tremendous amount of spam. The people have done to try to game the system. That’s why Google has these terms of service that you need to pay attention to. I ask Ian, in his defense to specifically not talk about a type of business, which I want Paul to talk about, which is a service area of business.

So Ian really talked about those places of business where they set up camp and they have the ability to run their operations, at least conceptually, right? So Paul, what’s a service area business and what kind of mistakes do they make? Or maybe even some online stores or online only businesses make that put their Google Business Profile at risk?

Paul: First thing, there’s service area business, and there’s service area business. If you have a service area business, because Google tell you if you’re a service area business, you cannot put your address in your business profile. But that’s not completely true. If you were working out of your home and you don’t have a storefront that people can come to.

Then absolutely you do not put your address in your business profile. But let’s say maybe you’re an HVAC company and you do have a storefront where people can come into, but generally they don’t because you go to them. In that case, you can put your address in your profile. Because you have a real storefront, you’re not working outta your house.

A lot of times with Google, it’s see subtle things that they don’t really talk about. And Ian touched on the virtual office. That’s completely different than, let’s say you have a building where you have five different professional, five different dentists. There is a way to set up your business profile, and Google does look at that differently.

So a lot of times it’s these subtleties that Google doesn’t make clear. If it is a virtual office, yes you can get suspended for that. If you are a service area business working outta your house and you put your address in there, yes, you will probably get suspended for that. Keep in mind, Google’s algorithm, despite what Google thinks, is not perfect, and just being in the wrong industry can put you at high risk of being suspended.

Little off topic, we have a, an automotive client that we’re doing some ad work for, and I noticed the other day that one of their ads was eligible but limited, and the reason was credit repair policy. So I sent Google an email saying, Why is an auto repair service business being limited because of credit repair policy?

They don’t do credit repair. I haven’t heard back yet. Maybe they haven’t figured it out. Is that kind of what you were looking for? 

Ken: Yeah. Yeah. A service area, business is a business where people do not go to that place of business at the company’s place of business. Instead, the company goes to where the customer is.

If you do that and you do not have somebody on staff available to meet in your office and you publish your address, you’re at risk. 

Paul: Yeah, that is key is do you have someone staffed at it? Hey, one thing I didn’t mention is if you’re an online only business, really, you don’t even qualify to have a Google Business Profile.

Now that’s different than if you’re a local business and you do have a location, but you sell all over the country online. That’s different. It goes back to these subtleties, then you can have a business profile. But yeah if you’re basically mail order and you have no location, you just sell products all over the country, don’t even try to set it up cuz, if you manage to get it set up, it will be quickly be suspended. Chances are you won’t even be able to get it set up in the first place. 

Ken: Yeah, and I think one of the reasons. Google doesn’t like PO boxes, coworking spaces, or virtual offices is because, again, the criteria in the Google terms of policy is that if you’re gonna publish your address, you need to be able to have the ability to have somebody meet somebody if they come to you.

And if you can’t do that, and Google finds out about, you will be suspended. You may be able to get away with it for a while. There are competitors and there are other marketing companies that are aggressively trying to find and weed out some of these spammy listings because it can be an SEO factor to help them with their client get an SEO win.

So it’s not just Google. It can be your competitors. It can be other marketing companies that aren’t working with you, but working for your competitors who are calling these things out and submitting that information to Google and then Google will investigate it. Jen, we’ve talked in the past about ranking a local business, but it is pretty hard. Why is the Google Map Pack so important? 

Jen: First of all, what it is when you search for any business, what Ken is referring to is the first bit that comes up with the maps and there’s the three pack as we call it. So the first three companies in that category that respond to those search terms that would come up.

What’s so important about it from the user point of view is in the person searching for that type of information, it’s above the fold. It’s right there. It’s really easy for them to see who are the top three businesses, who’s closest to me proximity wise, and then some key information, the phone number, the reviews, the hours of service.

So it just gives you all the very important information right there without having to click through and find out in any further information. So they just make it very easy to go, Here’s your top three, and away you go. All that is available without any of the user having to click through.

And if you think about that on the desktop, or if you think about that on your mobile phone, that can be really very handy. And right away you can probably discern between the three, what’s your first choice? And then click to call or whatever it is. Make your next choice without having to search further.

With this, it’s hard to rank as a local business because anything worthwhile. But it takes time and patience, inconsistency in order to do that. You have to have your website up. You have to be on different citations. You have to have your name, address, phone number correct.

You have to be publishing content. You have to make sure that you’re linking out to appropriate other websites. There’s just a lot of things of a lot of care and feeding, much like dealing with a garden that you are, you’ve gotta be doing and you’ve gotta be paying attention to in your local profile and your website in order to have local search really work for you.

That would be the toughest reason why. It just takes some time and consistency to get that. 

Ken: All right, Ian, it’s time for you to talk about reviews again. I think we always wind up letting you talk about reviews. I know it’s a topic you do love and I think you do good at it. Getting view strategy in place for your clients.

Talk about the importance of reviews, maybe not as much as we have in some of the past episodes, but also closely tied to that is this idea of directories, which some people say aren’t very important anymore. Some people say they are still, so what’s going on there?

Ian: Let me start with, let’s do reviews cuz Ian’s passionate about reviews and why is Ian passionate about reviews?

Because Google is passionate about reviews, but even more prospective clients and customers are passionate about reviews. I’m not gonna go into lots of detail. The stats prove it. Everybody treats reviews. Sure, there’s skeptics out there, but the vast majority, we’re talking, 90 something percent of people view reviews as a quality way to determine if a business is good or if a business is bad.

So it’s, it really is a powerhouse, especially for local rankings. Google uses these to look for the best and most relevant businesses to showcase. One of the ranking factors, Google was very clear about this when they redid, and they’re always redoing their algorithm, but a few years ago there was a big local business algorithm change where reviews became a very prominent part of that. Reviews prove to you that a business delivers on their promises.

And again, Google’s trying to send you to the best, most relevant options. I’ll go into some of the other details in a second, but they play a big part and Google sees it as a relevant piece of the puzzle to send you to the best place. Google cares about customer experience. Even the algorithmic changes about what a person’s experience on a website is now that Google change with Google Core Web Vitals, which doesn’t touch reviews, but it just shows that they care about user experience.

Again, all Google’s trying to do is send the best, most relevant results to you because that’s what will make you come back for more search results, which will help feed the ad engine of paid ads, and so on. Your overall ranking is really important, so are you a 4.9, a 4.8, a 3, a 2 star business?

The overall ranking’s really important. The number of reviews is important as well. There are exceptions, but you’ll more often see a dentist with 350 reviews outrank a dentist that has 50, right? Because, there’s value in that. Recency. When was the last time you got a review? Was it four years ago or was it yesterday?

That’s important as well. And it should be noted that Google looks at reviews on other websites too. So this kind of leads into the directory question that you. If you typed in dentist near me or a specific dentist in your area, and the knowledge panel comes up. If I typed in Bradford Family Dentistry, which is actually my dentist, it’ll show you a knowledge panel.

There are many Bradfords though so, I wish it was the one in Florida. There’s a knowledge panel. The knowledge panel will say it’s actually the information directly pulled from Google Business Profiles. It’ll say, this is the business name. This is a number of reviews. This is the ranking. Here’s the latest photos they have. Here’s their hours of being open.

It’ll also often show you, and this changes fairly often, I’ve noticed, it might pull in Facebook recommendations the number of those and the rating it might pull in Yelp. It pulls this information cuz Google’s got its tentacles everywhere, right? So it’s drawing information again, it’s presenting information it thinks is valuable to people.

Before we move on, did I miss anything related to reviews that you were hoping I’d cover, Ken? 

Ken: Responding to reviews. 

Ian: Responding. I can’t believe I forgot it. It was actually in my bullet points. Yes. A business that responds to reviews again, is a ranking factor. Google wants to see that you’re actively involved, whether it’s a negative review, a positive review, you as a business should be interacting and responding. Could call there Ken. 

Directories. You’re right. They’re in the SEO nerd world that we all live in as marketing agencies that focus on SEO. There’s definitely been some contention whether online directories, which I’ll explain a bit in a second, have value still in our ecosystem, our SEO ecosystem, or whether they don’t.

My take is actually that they still do. There’s still enough data to show that if you do this work, it helps your results. It helps legitimize your business in Google’s eyes because again, Google’s got its tentacles. I shouldn’t make it like an octopus. I need a better, it’s roots, it’s guts, roots. So some examples so directory listings are things like Apple Maps, The Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Four Square, Yahoo, Angie, Manta, Next Door, Yield Quality, Yellow Pages.

The list goes on and on. But the really important thing as a business is to get yourself on as many of those. But be consistent with your NAP. Your name, address, and phone number. Any inconsistencies, raises red flags for Google, but consistency reinforces what Google knows about you. So I think that’s where the value is.

It’s almost in my mind anyways of how Google works and it’s a guess, but I think it’s a double check for Google. It keeps its roots out in order to go, Here’s the information that Changescape Web has out on the internet about who they are, and then it knows because it’s in all of these places. It knows that in this marketing association, Changescape Web has put in the same information.

Therefore, it confirms the information we have. If there’s different information, red flags. I think it’s an easy way, not so much for the business owner, but for an SEO agency supporting a business owner to create legitimacy very quickly in the eyes of Google, and it’s pretty low hanging fruit, so why not do it?

Ken: You look at the three things that Google says that you need to do for your Google Business Profile. It’s relevancy, proximity and prominence. So relevancy is all of the data that Google can find out about your business online. Not only your Google Business Profile, but your website and all these directories and all of the content that you have out there.

That’s a the relevance thing, and that’s something that you have a lot of control over, a lot more control over. You don’t have control over proximity. You are where you are. The other thing that you talked about is prominence, and that’s really the idea of reviews, the number of reviews, the review velocity, how many new reviews you’re getting, all those kinds of things that you talked about.

Great points. I still think directories are pretty darn important because they send signals to Google to just say, Hey, yeah, Google’s looking for trustworthy information, and a directory can provide that or provide contradictory trustworthy information. 

Ian: And Ken, one of the things I didn’t mention was that on some of these sites, the reviews on them are not nearly as important as on Google, right?

Cuz Google is where people are searching. So you wanna make sure you’ve got that part down really well for generating reviews. But there are some of these directories or association sites, or Guild Quality or Yelp, because Google’s looking at those and because they might come up in Google rankings. 

It’s important to have a good set of reviews on there as well. So just close the door on that, cuz I didn’t mention that before. 

Ken: The other thing too is Google is not the only search engine. If you’re doing Apple Maps as opposed to Google Maps or you’re using Bing as your search engine, they’re not gonna pull necessarily from Google reviews.

They pull from other sources and display those on their search results or they can. Yeah. So you need to have a well rounded strategy and directories and reviews feed the search engines, whether it’s Google or other platforms or apps for that matter. Paul, I don’t want you to get too deep here, but can you talk more about some of the technical aspects of getting some of these local SEO signals?

Paul: You trying to tell me something when you said, don’t go too deep into weed zone? 

Ken: You don’t have to go into some hardcore stuff. If nothing else, arm our viewers and listeners with the information that they know they need to be asking. The people they are hiring, whether in house or externally.

Paul: I’ll start with structured data and I won’t get all techie. It’s structured data, basically, it helps search engines know what your website is about. Like hours, address, menu, phone number. Because, these aren’t real people from Google looking at your website, it’s a bot. Google sends their internet bots out there and they crawl your website and try to make sense of it, and structured data helps it understand what that’s about.

One thing that’s been discussed lately is whether or not GPS coordinates help. And I think within the address part of structure data it does, but there’s been, in the past, people would use GPS coordinates on images and upload those to their website and their Google Business Profile. There’s some debate on whether or not that is effective.

I think it’s not because I can take any picture, throw it in Photoshop, and put in whatever geo coordinates I want. So I think Google tends to dismiss the GPS data in images, but if it’s in the structured data as it relates to your address, I think they do use it. Click through rates from search results.

You don’t have a lot of control over that, not direct control. Indirectly, you can control that from your quality or content, your headlines, your title tags, because that helps Google determine whether or not your content is relevant to a search result. So indirectly, you have some control over that. Localized content is really important because if you wanna rank locally, Google wants to know if you’re a part of that community, if you’re involved.

They can’t know that directly, but they can look at your website and say, Okay, they understand this area. And having a local page as opposed to a service page, it’s two different things. You can put ’em together, but having pages, you can mention your services and things you do, but where you really talk about the area that you serve and what’s great about this area and things to do and upcoming events that lets Google know that you’re involved in that area and you know what’s going on.

And on page location, keyword optimization, meta descriptions, I talked about that a little bit. Inbound links, and I think we’re gonna talk about that a little bit later, but inbound links are important. One thing I’ll mention is that having a bunch of links from one website doesn’t help as much because if you have one link from an authority site, Google will give that a fair amount of weight.

Having 20 more, Google doesn’t give those as much weight. Because it’s from the same website. That’s pretty important. Anchor text, I don’t wanna get too deep into this either, but anchor text, which is if you’re linking internally, and internal links are something else that’s important, but anchor texts help Google understand what that link is going to.

Ken: So Paul, just a real quick example, the words that you decide to make clickable, that’s anchor text.

Paul: Correct. And one thing that you don’t have any control over is important from a local ranking perspective. And this has become even more important with what has been called the vicinity update is proximity to the searcher.

Google has given that a lot more weight and you can’t control that even if you’re a service area business and your address doesn’t show. When you set up your business profile, you have to put in an address so Google knows where you are. Let’s say you’re a plumber and someone searches for plumber near me.

And Ken, you alluded to this if you’re, if they’re on the other side of the city? Depending on how big the city is, obviously Los Angeles is gonna be different than Collinsville, Illinois. The chances of you ranking in that search is very slim. Because there’s a lot of plumbers between you and that person 25 miles away, even though the plumber’s gonna go to them, when the searcher starts putting in a geo coordinate, whether it’s near me, especially if they’re on a mobile device, Google is gonna use the GPS data from their mobile device and they’re going to show the closest search results.

You don’t have any control over that, but it’s important to understand, because I’m sure all of you see this, we see it where we have clients that wanna rank 25 miles away and they wanna know why they’re not showing in that Map Pack. It’s because you’re 25 miles away and we can’t tell Google what to show in the Map Pack.

All we can do is follow their guidelines, and if Google decides that other businesses closer to the searcher are more relevant. There’s nothing you can do about that. 

Ken: One word I didn’t hear you say, I think it’s the word schema or schema markup you talked about. 

Paul: That’s structured data.

Ken: Right? Yeah. I just wanted to make sure that those are pretty synonymous, so you might hear people talk about it, either one of those two ways.

Paul: Schema is the language used to implement structured data. 

Ken: The other thing that you talked about is regard to the locations. If you’re a service area business, you can define the locations that you work in and you can define that service area, and Google gives you a lot of different options on how you can do that.

You can do it by neighborhoods, you could do it by suburbs or cities. Several political jurisdictions actually like school districts and things like. But if you tell your Google Business Profile, Hey, here’s the area I serve, and then you don’t have any of that content on your website talking about the locations, that’s a huge missed opportunity. Big time. 

Paul: Oh yeah, definitely. 

Ken: All right, Jen, let’s talk about local links. We talk a lot about getting links from high authority websites where that have a strong domain authority, and some of those are gonna be like newspaper sites and media sites and things like that. But talk about the whole idea of local links is really different. What are local links and why are they important? 

Jen: The local links would be websites, publications, events that are applicable to your local area. So just like you said, typical publications with high domain authority, these national newspapers, that kind of thing. National publications, they have a lot of domain authority. But if you are a company in a small town, or if you’re even in a big city with a small, relatively small service area, linking to those sites aren’t really going to benefit you from a local point of view. So the local links would be, so instead of trying to get a link to the New York Times, you should be trying to get a link to your local newspaper, or even better, your local community newspaper.

Get links there. Think about having links to local bloggers, to local event pages. One of the things throughout North America, there’s meetups, but those meetups are concentrated locally. There’s local events there that are local meetups that have topic areas that would make sense to be connected with.

Your local Chamber of Commerce, local business directories, local charities that you’re either involved with or donate to. Those are the type of local links that is what is meant by local links. So local businesses, local events, things that are happening in your neighborhood and your region and your service area.

So even if the New York, let’s pick on the New York Times, if their website has, I think it’s the 99 domain authority or 98 or something like that out of a 100. Even if your local paper has domain authority of 25, right? There’s no comparison there, but as far as Google is concerned, you having a link from your local newspaper online makes a lot more sense than to a huge national newspaper.

So that’s what local links are. They are very important and within your service area, those are the kind of things you want to go for. They’re very relevant to your local business. And if you’re thinking right now how on earth do I find them? What you can do is go search on websites of other local businesses.

They don’t necessarily have to be competitors, but you can get a lot of ideas of who they are linking to, who they are involved with locally, and that may give a good idea of how to start up your local link strategy and even how to get more involved in your local business or in local community area.

Ken: Yeah. Again, I think it comes back to context and relevance. Local links help with those things. Sure those strong national links, you have an article that is picked up and maybe you build a link from like This Old House as a local plumber or electrician or something like that. Sure. That’s always gonna be important.

It also is important because it has the relevance, but you still need to get locality and local based kinds of things. Ian, what other ideas do you have to help build local links? 

Ian: Jen covered it really well. There’s some of the shop local websites where communities are trying to gather local businesses to try to support them.

That’s a great spot. Jen talked about other businesses. One of the things you can do is reciprocal links between businesses that believe in each other. Obviously, if you’re involved in a business network international or something where you’re referring business to other businesses because they’ve earned your trust that’s a great thing that you can do as a gift to them.

And they can do it as a gift back. It doesn’t mean they have super high domain authority. They might not, but that’s okay. It’s just about how can we help each other. One of the things you mentioned, Jen, was charities. I’ve seen this work extremely well for some of my local clients, whether they’re sponsoring a specific charity event or they’re a long time provider, and so they actually get highlighted as a platinum sponsor.

Charities, usually excellent domain authority. And so those back links have been super, super powerful for some of those local dentists or other businesses. Even if you can write an article for a local publication, oftentimes feature the business at the bottom of it, who you are, right? You can get a link back on that, which will be of course in print, but it will be digital as well.

Those are just some of the other ones I would say, and of course, directories. We talked about directories. If there’s local directories, you might as well get on them, right? They may not have garnered great demand authority as of yet. I should mention too, this is more like an insider’s technique, but you guys might use this.

I certainly do. When we’re always doing competitive analysis of local SEO for our clients, and one of the things that we look at is if we’re the dominant player, and they’re starting to encroach on us, or if they started out as the dominant player and we wanna learn how to displace them, we do what’s called like a backlink report on their website so that we can actually see who with a high domain authority is linking to that competitor’s website.

Because sometimes that can be like a real shortcut for the business to go, Oh, they support this charity, or they’re involved in this local directory we can do that as well. Why not? So that’s a really often low hanging fruit that a business can jump on. But again we have access to tools that a lot of businesses don’t, but that’s a really quick way that someone can help you start to get some good back links. 

Ken: Yeah. So Paul, Ian talked about one of the ways that you can find local link opportunities. Do you have any other thoughts? 

Paul: There’s a lot of, obviously start with the directories and citations. If you’re a member of your local chamber or multiple chambers getting links from them.

If you can get a local newspaper to do an article, maybe you sponsor a charity event and it’s in the local newspaper, does an article on that. If you can get a link from them back to your website, that’s pretty powerful. Local bloggers that blog about different events in the city, maybe the local food scene or if you’re a restaurant or different local events that maybe you’re a part of, if they can link back to you.

Cuz again, we’re talking about local SEO as opposed to your organic search results. Outside of that, which is two different things, and a lot of times, like we lose sight of that. Let’s say you have a business in a historic part of the city getting a link from the local tourism board back to your website because you’re in that historic district, that can help.

Like I said, local charities, if you sponsor a charity event, getting a link from that charity back to your website, any local organization that you’re involved in, you can even have a local partners page. This takes a little bit of work, but it can be done through things like BNI or the Chamber. But having a local partners page.

Let’s say you’re in the home services industry and you’re a painter. People need plumbers too. A painter isn’t a plumber and a plumber isn’t a painter, but you could have a local partners page where you link between those websites and that helps build your local authority. So there are opportunities and it does take work.

Ken: One thing that I know, we know this guy, his name’s Phil Singleton. He was one of the fathers of the Marketing Guides Concept actually with Ray Perry when they started writing some of the earlier books. When you look at local sites that carry the strongest domain authorities, you’ve got some very localized directories, but don’t forget about local .EDU domains or .gov domains because those typically are seen as very high trustworthy websites. And so if you can find a way to get a link from a local school district, a community college, a local university, a local city government. It takes some work and you have to be creative, and I think we all have some ideas on how to do that.

When you can get those, those can be really good as well. So don’t forget about those opportunities and there are some really good ways that you can go about that. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. Most of it has been really focused ultimately around this idea of local SEO and obviously the Google Business Profile is critical for that.

You guys have any other thoughts that you want to share? Maybe something we really didn’t go into depth on or you want to elaborate on? 

Jen: As probably the least technical of the group. I just wanna say that don’t let any of the technical bits scare you with this. Just think about it as just the same as you go out and you’re doing the networking and you’re saying that word of mouth and referrals are the way I get business.

Having your SEO all set up properly and paying attention to it frequently can really help with those referrals as well. So don’t be scared of it. Just take it step by step and just keep an eye on it at the outset every month and just make sure that you’re really paying attention to it for your own business.

Ian: Something came to mind actually when Paul and Ken were wrapping up the link opportunities thing. We actually didn’t really talk about the elements within Google Business Profile posts and events and that kind of stuff. That can actually be, again, Google loves Google, so I would be remiss to leave that out.

There’s tools within Google Business Profiles that allow you to post things that would link back to your website that, of course are valuable as well. And I would just say all the guides here have felt this at one time or another when a hurt or burned person has come to them and said, I tried this, the SEO people were horrible.

They didn’t do what they said they would do. Or I tried to do this myself and I got suspended. Whatever it is, don’t give up on this. As a fellow business owner and a marketing guide, I would just say, this is a really important area for your business. Don’t ignore it. Don’t give up on it, and if you need help, seek help, cuz it’s out there.

Paul: I would say that right now that there’s a lot of volatility in local SEO because of Googles of vicinity update. Hopefully that will smooth out and level out over time, but right now they’ve caused a lot of disruptions in the local search market and the fact that they’ve put a lot more weight on proximity, that’s gonna affect a lot of service area businesses.

Even though you can define your service area and have local content, you can’t control how far away a searcher is from you, and Google is putting more weight on that. For whatever reason they decided to do that, it is gonna have an effect. So just know and understand that. 

Ken: And that’s a great point. We’ve seen a lot of volatility where people who ranked extremely well across entire metro areas. With the vicinity update, that recently happened, there definitely were some wrinkles where there was definitely a reordering of how people were ranking. It looks like it’s starting to settle itself out a little bit and nor normalize and things are getting back. Another key thing too is just do best practices.

There’s a lot of knowledge and expertise out there if you’re trying to play a shortcut game. You’re gonna get burned ultimately sooner rather than later. You may be able to win, you may be able to win at it for a number of years, but if you’re trying to set up fake Google My Business pages or fake Google profiles, it’s ultimately gonna come back and you’re gonna get those shut down eventually.

You can’t game the system. That’s the whole reason there continued to be algorithmic updates. Also, the reason why Google will not tell anybody else what the algorithm actually is and does, we all have to use our own best knowledge and expertise to figure that out. It’s a complicated world, but don’t expect that all of this stuff is gonna come super cheap.

Some of it is fairly inexpensive and pretty easy to do and win at, but always be suspicious if somebody’s coming in at a really low price too, because you’re gonna get what you pay for. 

Paul: Google is putting more weight on the geo modifiers because I’ve noticed, and a lot of times you have to do this in incognito tab to get rid of your own search history.

If I type in like a head term without a geo modifier, if I put in residential painter, a lot of times I’ll get completely different search results than if I put in residential painter St. Louis. So they are putting more weight on that geo modifier from a local search result. 

Ken: Yeah, it’s a different. It triggers a different algorithm, right?

Paul: Yeah, it does. That’s something we didn’t talk about that we should mention real quick is the local search algorithm is different than what we traditionally referred to as organic search algorithm. It is two completely  different algorithms and the geo modifier triggers that local search algorithm. 

Ken: And that geo modifier can be kicked off if you’re doing a search from your phone.

Paul: Yes. 

Ken: Yeah, because it’s using your GPS coordinates on your phone. 

Ian: Yep. Or even your home, because your IP address, who your internet is through will show up as well. 

Ken: Yeah, and that’s a great point, because the internet service providers report their IP address, which may not be where you’re at. It may be several miles away, and so it can influence your search results.

Paul: They buy those in blocks. Generally they use those blocks within certain geographic areas, but depending on how big that block is, that geographic area could cover 20 miles.

Ken: For certain businesses like chiropractors, dentists, places like that, people rarely go beyond a five to seven mile radius. That isn’t kilometers for you Canadians there, but what’s that? 

Ian: I said thanks. 

Jen: We know miles as well. 

Ian: Yeah, we drive. 

Ken: For businesses like that, even a two or three mile difference in the IP address reporting can throw off the search results for you. All right this is a great topic.

I hope you guys all enjoyed it. Hopefully we gave you some good ideas about how to not get burned. Some things maybe why you need to go back and take a look at and see if you’re at risk. Certainly go look and we’ll see if we can’t put in the show notes for this, maybe the the Google guidelines, how to set things up properly.

If you like this podcast, please, share it with your community and please consider writing a review for us. It just helps us get the word out to even more people. So with that, we will see you in the next episode. Thanks everybody. 


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