This is our Deep Dive Into Local from November 20th, 2017. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Hi, welcome to Deep Dive. Mary and I just got back from LocalU Advanced in San Diego [Ed. note: the event was in Santa Monica], and we just wanted to give you a synopsis of what went on there. I think the first speaker was Darren who did a great talk about "getting to 100%" in your citation cleanup efforts. He detailed all the tips and ideas on how to maximize that. He pointed out difficulties in doing it if you're using an automated service quite frequently -- particularly Yext -- you might find that they leave a lot of duplicates and erroneous records out there, and that requires some clean up. He also had an interesting case study where he moved a location but neglected to do any of the offline cleanup -- in terms of the utility bills, phone bills, IRS addresses all sorts of things. And nhw in six months everything just popped back into the digital world, because they hadn't done the offline cleanup as well.
Mary: Right. So, I think the main takeaway that I got from that and I already knew this but...one of the best things about conferences and being around smart people is validating some of the things you think you know. And that it's really hard to do it completely through any automated system or even combination of automated systems. So you're going to have to do some manual work.
Mike: Right. And even then, likely to being a "100%," initially is very small. So, it's...
Mary: Yeah. And even if you get to 100% in six months, you may not be at 100% anymore. Some stuff may have gotten back in.
Mike: Joy did a good talk. Her talk was on 10 myths I think of...
Mary: Yeah, stop wasting your time.
Mike: Stop wasting your time. Right. So, stop worrying about things like suite numbers, which make no difference. Google ignores suite numbers in all ranking and merging and de-merging and all of those sorts of things. Remind me some of the other things that were in her talk, that was the one that stuck out.
Mary: One was, trying to get rid of name spam. Google really isn't doing much, if anything, about it. When they do something, it's easy to make it go back.
Mike: Right. And then she talked about review spam, flagging it and then following up with social after, I think, three days -- but with a great deal of documentation as to why, would work. And the same with name spam that if you're going to try to nuke it then follow up with documentation to the social channels. And one of the points that came up either in that or some point was just that, you might want to partner with several other local guides to report a common problem, so that the cumulative benefit of your authority applies.
Mary: Right. And I think, one of the things that came up multiple times during the day was, we should all be becoming local guides.
Mary: Because that gives you a little bit more authority, your edits, your reviews, that sort of thing.
Mike: Why don't you talk about Joel's talk?
Mary: So, Joel Headley, of PatientPop who was with Google Local for many, many years. He talked about how Schema drives features in the search engine results. And that that really should be your cue as to when you should be using Schema or not.
Mike: For a given feature set. If the feature can provide you with some additional SERP space, or some additional activity, then that's the feature you want to be sure you're using,
Mary: Right, like events in your local knowledge panel or a booking button or a reservation button.
Mike: Speaking of that, I just did a the search the other day, somebody pointed out to me on recipes and now in mobile -- at least, this might be a task I don't think I remember seeing it -- every result was a Schema recipe and it was an infinite scroll, like, you kept going and it gets... if you typed in "fried fish recipe" and then you had the building through facets, restrict them. But then it was an infinite scroll of recipes as a search result. So that was fascinating.
Mary: Yeah. And you really need to take a look at what Google is showing in the results of your top search terms, and make sure that you're taking advantage of those things. If you have multiple events, if you have events quite often, you can even get a carousel just for your business events, if you use Schema. So, it's a...I think a lot of us latched on to Schema as a way to hand Google our virtual business card, but it has expanded so far beyond that that it's just unbelievable. And I think one of the key things that Joel mentioned, too, is that sometimes you are going to need to partner up with a big platform that's already partnered up with Google and figured things out in order to take advantage of some of the Schema features.
Mike: Right. Their new appointment or booking feature that they rolled out in the GMB, in the spa industry reflects that. They picked whatever 15 of the largest appointment tools that allow to business that has those to choose that as your appointment strategy from the knowledge panel. So, I think that's the case. So I was tweaking my presentation at the last minute trying to get it down from 45 minutes to 30 while you were speaking, so I'm sorry to say I cannot, could not tell anybody one thing about what you said, so maybe you could summarize your own talk.
Mary: So, I didn't give a talk, mine was a panel discussion where Joel, who specializes in medical practices, and Mike Ramsey who has one of his specialties as legal practices talked about marketing professional services, and that pretty much applies to accountants and attorneys and every different type of medical provider, that sort of thing. Real estate agents, insurance agents...
Mike: Any time there is a practice and practice potentially practitioners, right, both in terms of dealing with how the different directories deal with this, as well as how Google deals with this, whether you should market all of them, one of them, the practice and the practitioners, those kinda questions?
Mary: Those kinda questions and, everybody has different ideas on how to do it. And Joel in particular, he told me that they do try to promote both the practice and the practitioners.
Mike: Well, I mean, I think that makes sense if you have the budget. The budget goes up proportionately with every entity you add, and so if you've got five practitioners in a practice, then you could have six times the budget of just promoting one or the other.
Mary: Right. And if you have multiple practitioners, if you can...if they are specialists in different areas, you can have...start to rank in multiple categories that the practice itself may not be able to rank for, but, if you've got a real the great heart specialist, they may be able to rank for those heart specialist-type terms.
And then I went to one of the breakout sessions was Ramsey and Megan Hannay, talking about link building. And it's interesting because, you know it's like the business name spam thing, links that are not naturally earned can still help you a great deal. But you've got this balancing act going on between when is the hammer going to come down and how long can I get away with this type thing?
Mike: Joy and I did a talk on GMB issues, features, how to resolve GMB issues. On the side, we had a discussion with a company that came that's in the window repair business, mobile businesses in Miami. And she was showing me some spam which used the old trick of using high prominent websites that weren't there, for example, they used HomeAdvisor, YP.com websites for the listings. And then just wanted the phone call, right, so it was clearly lead gen, and the more I looked at it the more I realize this was a nationwide scam, and virtually every major market had this. So it was really, really widespread.
Mary: And you would think that Google could see that. I mean, that's not a hard thing to pinpoint.
Mike: Well, right.
Mary: HomeAdvisor links are showing up in the local pack.
Mike: YP.com, right. Any of those. Right.
Mary: Yeah. Go take a look at that. That's not supposed to be what's happening.
Mike: The only good news is, it'll be easy for Google to find them to take it down. But it used to be, we'd be able to find them by searching on the URL. We no longer can do that. So you have to discover it other ways but she was, once she showed it to us, she said, "Oh, and this happened in, whatever market is doing that." It became clear it was in every market. And so, for her, she was desperately trying to compete. I mean, one of the realities of GMB is that if you can't compete due to spam, you have no choice but to team up with other local guides, both to report the spam and then escalate it, particularly if it is large scale. But even if it's multiple iterations from a single business, escalate it to the forums, or through Google's social channels. For Google My business, you gotta take them down because sometimes it's the only way you can compete.
Mary: Right. And the onus of proving the spammy-ness is up to you. You really got to do your homework and present your case.
Mike: And then I was one of the last presentations of the day. My topic was the ark of Google Local and what we can learn from it. Google has invested massive resources in local over the last two or three years. It just started showing up this year in terms of the many, many features they rolled out. I delineated eight major features that either went through a significant upgrade or were new this year. And this just indicates Google's intense effort and focus on local because it's where they are going to be getting the bulk of their ad revenue increase. It's going to be in local and mobile. And I made the point that this idea of Google as your homepage, which it's a way for me to make the mnemonic for example, to allow people to understand that what you see when you see your brand search, is critical and controllable.
I don't mean it to mean that you shouldn't have a website. I mean it to mean that if most of the conversions are happening on Google -- which they are, for many, many industries, for many businesses -- then you need to be focusing on your brand search because Google tests those results so carefully, with all sorts of A/B testing and B/C testing and C/D testing and, etc., etc., etc. And because they escalate the stories about you from across the internet, that page really is a mirror into your brand identity from across the internet. And by focusing on it, and influencing the story that's told there, not only do you do better at Google, but you are likely to be doing better every place that customers see you. That Google as your new homepage is, perhaps maybe not the right phrasing, but I think it gets the point across that you need to be focusing on the story that you're telling there, and if you do a brand search in its many varieties, and you compare that to some of your competitors, it may be an equally good measurement of how well you're doing in your digital marketing as a ranking report, perhaps it's better than a ranking report.
Mary: Right. And so many of those things, maybe you can't totally control them, but as you said, you could definitely influence them and in good ways.
Mike: Right. So with that, I think we'll say goodbye, and thank you for joining us for Deep Dive in Local. Hopefully you can join us for our next LocalU Advanced. We will be announcing a date shortly.
Mary: Thank you.