This is the 3rd installment of of 2016 of our Deep Dive Into Local series in 2016. For the week ending Monday, January 25th, Mike Ramsey and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video, including links and commentary on critical happenings of the previous week is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.
In this discussion, we look at the role of links in Local SEO.
Mike B: Let me just interject here and say that why don't we start here, going into the deep dive. So we'll segue right from your summary of the article into the deep dive. Okay?
Mike R: Sounds good. Okay, I'll just talk about two articles in conjunction, one from BackLinko and the other from AHRefs. They both looked at results and basically did similar to what Moz does, which is a correlation study of what's driving rankings across search engines. Both studies showed that links were the number one most undisputed correlation factor, and the AHRef studies went on to talk about the type of links, keyword in links, if it was a partial match, exact match. So no surprise here, exact match had a really high correlation. Partial match a little less. Referring domains was massive in positions one and two as far as the amount. And then it really dropped out after that. The thing that I thought was interesting from the BackLinko study was they talked, where the AH Refs was focused mainly on links, the BackLinko talked also about content, and they showed as far as content links, and one of the things that I thought was interesting was the total word count that they came up with. That was around, the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words, that was ranked in first position. Second position was a little higher than that, and then it started to drop from there.
Mike B: So what kind of searches were these? Informational type searches? Part of the issue, too, is search type, right?
Mike R: Yeah. I think it's going to be a mix. Across 1 million keywords there was going to be a really big mix of different types. Now the one thing I can't tell you from the data that I've looked through at least, and maybe we could get access to a little more data, is how many local businesses or potentially local intent searches were part of this, but they had things like...it wasn't just like a news search or just informational searches. It was a pretty big mix of different things.
Mike B: So how do you think this, in light of our deep dive, why don't we talk about that and how you think this should affect behavior in terms of marketing for small businesses.
Mike R: This goes back to probably the other survey as well that's saying that they're focusing on social media. That's where they're putting energy and efforts. I think that there overall is becoming a shift where Google has effectively scared people to the point that they're scared of links. But they're not just scared of links in going out and trying to build black hat links, they're scared of any link, and almost to the point where it's out of the conversation for businesses. And I think they need to bring that conversation back in and really look at their marketing efforts, and instead of saying, "Well, I don't care about marketing, I just care about links," they need to figure out a way to to get their marketing efforts to bring links that they're actively pursuing. So as part of the outreach efforts, whether you're doing activities in a small town or something like that, you should think, "Well, how can we get this mentioned on websites? And more importantly, how can we have some type of control over how they're talking about us, potentially how they're linking to us?" And that conversation should never go away. Until the day that there is a totally different metric in place, which might not ever come, people still need to care and understand how to generate links through their marketing efforts.
Mike B: Right. I think the failure of the SEO business has always been to focus on tactics rather than processes, right? So an example being the 1,893 words correlates with the highest ranking pages. In the past SEO's would go out and write 1,893 word articles. And so the same has always held true with link building. Link building became an end in and of itself instead of you earning a link and participating in the process of encouraging somebody to link to you, when you should be involved in the process of somebody linking to you linking became the tactic in and of itself. So I think the idea of good content marketed through traditional means, i.e. through outreach, through reaching out to media people who might be interested in your article, might be interested in your content, leads to good links in general that are surrounded by the topic, and hopefully to better matching links. And if you can influence them in terms of anchor texts, great, but it has to come from an organic process. It has to be sort of the outcome, not the goal, right?
Mike R: Yeah, and one other thing that I've been thinking about a lot, I'm getting ready to do a link building presentation at MozCon Local. The way that people think about link building is on a per page basis. And that's technically the way that Google thinks about it as well because they're saying, "Write great content and the links will come," and that's largely true from a blog perspective. If you publish something, Mike, if I publish something, if Ed does, or a small business, that's really amazing, then chances are that could get some attention as long as they're doing outreach, etc., to this one piece. The problem becomes the local landing page, and that is where you need the authority to go, but largely speaking there's nothing on these local landing pages that could justify getting really high authority mentions to that specific page, and that's a huge problem because in the small business world there's, in some businesses, there are very few keywords that truly do bring a lot of business to their customers.
And so it's very hard for the small business compared to other potential businesses that have an endless amount of options, an endless amount of content options that can bring business because of the local intent of these terms. So if you're doing a lot of how-to pieces for your audience, that might work socially, but from a search engine perspective, let's say you're an electrician, people still are searching for, "Burley, Idaho electrician. Burley, Idaho electric fix," and a few of these different things, and creating a ton of content doesn't solve that problem of the yellow page directory style searches that are still taking place for a lot of these small businesses. So that location page, that one page that's ultimately centered on Burley, Idaho electrician, there has to be a way to do better marketing to that specific page.
Mike B: Or as Adam Dorfman pointed out I think a year ago after one of the algorithms changed, he saw that domain authority, if you could take a strong domain authority and pass it down to your location pages-
Mike R: Yeah, for big brands
Mike B: That would be an alternative. But again it means the same thing, it means locally relevant or topically relevant content that gets referenced in the local press, right? So I know I've worked with you on Moses and Rooth in Florida, and you know that it was a local business, but we did some interesting survey work around legal issues, and those links came in and those were referenced back up. So it is possible, it's just much harder, and it shouldn't be content for content's sake, right? I mean part of the problem is there's so much, "Blech," coming out of our industry that it's totally irrelevant. I mean, you're better off with a solid piece per quarter than a piece every week that's just rehashing this stuff, right?
Mike R: Yeah, definitely. I think that just content fatigue's really taking over, and the real inherent problem for the small business is that they don't have that big website, and I think lawyers somewhat have an exception because they do have budget to put in there, but when you're talking a small business, it's hard, like a true little restaurant or a small, little mom and pop business, it's hard for them to be able to come up with that content idea and put the energy and efforts and resources into that. And that's going to be an inherent problem for the long haul. I do think that the one thing they can try to do, if they can't really put out these pieces on a blog or something, is focus on, if they have control, get links to their homepage, branded links compared to specific blog posts or specific things like that or other pages because it's easier for a small business website to basically scope that authority to the correct location page if it starts from the homepage than if it's actually a deep link somewhere else on the site, and then you're trying to bring it back and around. The bigger the site, the easier it is to do those things, but many SMB's have an eight page website, and that's probably going to be the case.
Mike B: And their homepage is their location page.
Mike R: Exactly. So that's why it's like, hey, if you're getting mentioned in the news, try to get it back to that even if maybe you did something that's on a different page, a scholarship or something, get the brand mention focused on the homepage if you have control over that.
Mike B: Great. Well, I think with that we'll call it a wrap, and I wanted to thank you guys for joining me. Hopefully one or both of you will be here next week.
Mike R: Thanks, Mike.