Earlier this month, Cori Shirk, Matt Hoff and myself attended LocalUp Advanced, a jam packed 1 day local SEO conference put on by Moz and Local University. By the end of the day our notebooks and our minds were overloaded with information from the 13 amazing presenters at the conference. The presentations can be found here, and I definitely recommend checking all of them out. Below are the main themes and key takeaways I gained from attending LocalUp.
Google Maps Evolution
During Mike Blumenthal’s presentation, he took us all the way from the early days of Google local up to present day. By the end of Mike’s presentation, it is was clear that over the years, Google has kept an extremely close eye on their competition, which has resulted in the creation of many of their products throughout the years. A great example of this is Google Chrome. With the creation of Chrome, Google no longer needed to worry about another company (like Microsoft with Internet Explorer) coming between Google and their users.
Looking back on the products that Google has acquired over the years you can start to connect the dots between what they bought and what direction they went in. For example, Google acquired Android back in 2005 and then later down the line began focusing on mobile. Based on some of Google’s recent acquisitions in the past six months, Jetpac in August, Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory in October, seems like artificial intelligence is one area where we will seem some attention going forward.
Major Takeaway: Throughout the years Google has aggressively stayed on top of their competition, which in turn has led to the creation of new products and strategies. By keeping an eye on what Google creates and acquires we are given a window into what direction they are heading in.
Local Search 2014 to 2015 What Happened and What We Can Expect
The Pigeon algorithm, which hit in July 2014, ended up causing a 25% drop in presence of local packs. In general, we began to see fewer 7-packs (almost half gone after July), with 3-packs gaining more prominence. The landscape of what type of results you may see really varies across the US. As Dr. Pete stated in his presentation “local entities are dynamic” meaning you may see a 7-pack, a 3-pack, box results for one business, or nothing besides organic results.
With the major changes we saw in 2014 where can you expect the focus to be in 2015? The answer is MOBILE! If there was one overarching theme that resonated with me throughout the day it was the importance of mobile. We are already starting to see new local packs specifically designed for mobile.
Another big change we will start seeing is the integration of paid advertising in Google’s Knowledge Graph. Up until this point Google has trained us to recognize the knowledge graph as organic results, but Google has begun testing adding ad’s into the knowledge graph.
With the marriage of paid and organic results, coming up with a strategy that can tie them together best for you business will be key in 2015.
Going forward it is important to focus on where in search results you perform the best. Rather than trying to appear first in the local pack AND first in the paid ads AND first in organic result, figure out where your business’s strengths are and focus your time there.
Make sure you business goals align with your strategies. More and more Google is providing users with the answers they are looking for without having to visit your site. For example, if the goals of your business are to get calls or in-store visits, increasing traffic to your site should not be your top priority. Making sure you phone number and address are visible in the SERPS should be.
Major Takeaway: During 2015 we can expect to see focus on mobile, paid ad integration, and should strive to have relevant business information appear in the SERPs.
How Local Differs on Mobile and Desktop
Cindy Krum started her presentation off with the amazing stat that “50% of people who search for a product on mobile visit a store within a day of their search compared to 34%” (from Cindy’s The Down-Low On LOMO (Local Mobile) SEO) of people who search for a product on their desktop. This speaks volumes to how crucial it is to focus on mobile.
Local rankings are different on mobile for a variety of reasons. Proximity and location settings impact the local algorithm, so results rank and display differently on mobile than on desktop. Search history and personalization settings also play a role in what type of results you will see on mobile as opposed to desktop.
Schema markup plays a much larger role on mobile than it does on desktop. Your click through rate will be impacted more by adding review markup to mobile rather than desktop pages, and CTR is a heavy influence on the mobile algorithm. Adding Schema to your mobile pages also aids in information like restaurant menus and other relevant information getting placed into the SERPs.
As your business information in the SERP results continue to grow, (address, phone number, menu, etc) your users will start finding all the information they need in the SERP results, potentially resulting in less users visiting your site. While less site visits may seem like a bad thing, it is important to keep in mind the goal of your business. If your goal is to drive people to your location and the information in the SERP results helps them to an in store conversion, decrease in site traffic is OK.
Major Takeaway: In the words of Cindy Krum, “If you mark up your site well, Google should steal elements from your site and display them in SERPs to keep people on Google. If you’re doing it right, your traffic from mobile should actually decline.”
Focus on Local Keyword Themes
When beginning the keyword research process for any type of business, Mary Bowling recommends making sure you have a clear understanding of the business goals. This will allow you to determine how your website can be optimized to achieve these goals.
Next step after you know the business goals is to research keyword themes. Why not specific keywords? Because we are no longer in the days of exact match keywords and can now focus on building relevant keyword themes, rather than focusing on specific words. There are a variety of ways you can build and research your keyword themes: Google+ categories, AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Moz’s local category tool.
Major Takeaway: Focus needs to be on building keyword themes, rather than dwelling on specific keywords.
Local Content Creation and Strategy
When it comes to creating local content it is important to think broader than just copy on the page. Local content can come in a variety of forms such as images, videos, maps, basically whatever will be serve your audience the information you are trying to deliver in the best possible way. By trying to figure out what content your user will find useful rather than just creating content around something that is local to the area, your users will have a better experience. Content that is typically found in directories like addresses, directions, maps, and event listings are all useful content items. When creating local content it is important to focus on what information would be useful to users and is not simply local to the area. In the words of Mike Ramsey, “think like a directory.”
Mike Ramsey shows how Air BnB does a great job with creating useful local content.
As Mike explained during his presentation, local content strategy is a continuous process that cannot just be implemented and then forgotten about. During the ongoing process it is important to identify your audience, determine what content is best suited for this audience, test different strategies and create goals to measure the outcome.
Major Takeaway: Local content strategy is an ongoing process, where you should strive to deliver useful content to your audience in the medium that makes most sense.
As we all know, obtaining reviews for your local business not only helps it rank better in local results- it helps to give new customers a glimpse into what they can expect from your business. So when trying to obtain reviews it is not surprising, your focus should be on obtaining quality reviews and not obtaining a large quantity of reviews.
In order to better your chances of having your customers leave reviews you want to give them a choice of how they can review your business. Mike Blumenthal tested this theory and received a higher reivew rate when he gave two options on how to leave a review, rather than only one.
In addition to giving your audience choice in how they review, try making reviews part of the user experience. You can help make it easy for your users to leave reviews and their feedback by providing surveys or comment pages after transactions or forms on your site. This information not only can be used to help in form your other customers but can also give you value insights into what questions and experiences your customers are having.
Major Takeaway: Focus on quality reviews, not the quality of reviews you're obtain. And ALWAYS remember to follow the legal guidelines for your industry when seeking reviews.
Hopefully this recap of LocalUp leaves you slightly less sad that you missed the conference. As I said above I would recommend reviewing all of the presentations for a more in-depth information. For those of you who attended the conference, any favorite points that I missed? Leave a comment below!