60+ Need-to-Know Local Marketing Insights from LocalU Advanced Denver
Krystal Taing

Editor Note: For those of you who didn’t attend LocalU Advanced in Denver, Krystal Taing of Rio SEO was kind enough to put together a wrap up of tips, tactics, and thoughts from the event for our blog.  Thanks, Krystal!

I had the great pleasure of attending Local SEO’s most hands-on conference recently in Denver, Colorado. LocalU Advanced brought together dozens of top local search experts for an action- and information-packed day of networking, learning, and sharing the most advanced and up-to-date local knowledge.  

Photo Credit – Ben Wright @BWrightTLM on Twitter

If you missed it, you’ll find plenty of quick tips and highlights on the #LocalUAdvanced hashtag on Twitter. I’ve also put together over 60 of the insights I found most interesting and impactful from LocalU Advanced, from the brilliant minds of local marketers David Mihm, Joy Hawkins, Mike Blumenthal and more.

Ready? Grab a beverage, get comfortable, and dig into my personal collection of the latest local marketing tips and truths.

David Mihm: What we’ve learned from over 15,000 GMB profiles

A co-founder of LocalU, David Mihm is an experienced and respected voice in local. He runs an email software company for SMBs and also offers two exceptionally informative newsletters for marketers. In his presentation, Mihm shared the results of an analysis of over 15,000 GMB profiles. Here’s what we learned:

  • On average, under 20% of businesses are utilizing GMB Q&A.
  • 91% of questions posted to GMB business profiles have been not been answered.
  • 92% of businesses are displaying their URL on their GMB profile.
  • Very few businesses are using appointment URLS, menu URLs, and secondary categories.
  • Less than 40% of businesses are using Google Posts.

  • Of those businesses who are using Google Posts, on average they are publishing one post per month. 
  • Post views are still really small.
  • More photos correlate to more actions on GMB, yet only 16.5% of business owners are providing photos to GMB.
  • The average rating of businesses across all categories is 4.43, with an average of 34.6 reviews.
  • Businesses are receiving new reviews at a rate of three per month, up from less than one review per month in 2015.
  • Currently, just 40% of businesses are responding to their GMB reviews.
  • Higher review volume and more review responses mean more visibility and actions on Google.
  • Website actions on GMB account for 49% of clicks (zero-click searches).
  • Overall, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit in GMB!

Joy Hawkins: How to win at local search with Service Area Businesses

Just crowned the new CEO of LocalU, Joy Hawkins is a prolific author, speaker and local SEO expert. She’s the owner of the Local Search Forum and Sterling Sky local SEO agency, as well as the author of the Expert’s Guide to Local SEO. In her LocalU Advanced session, Joy shared the latest tactics that service area businesses (SABs) can use to dominate their space on Google.

(Sidenote: Joy joined Chad Klingensmith and me recently for an information-packed Local Search Association webinar on organic SEO and the Local Pack—you can get all the takeaways and find the recording here.)

  • SABs want to rank for the areas they service, not necessarily where they’re located.
  • SABs rank for their physical address, not their service area (and this hasn’t changed in a decade).
  • Physical address and mailing address both impact ranking, so be sure to look at the location of your pin.
  • Before creating your business address on GMB as an SMB, check how big the city’s market is.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords, where your market is bigger and competition is smaller. This can help you rank in surrounding towns, as well.

  • Kill that spam! You can report local spam to Google using this process.
  • Use schema to get Review snippets in Google. In the case shared, Joy saw clicks go up 19%, CTR improve 23%, and conversions increase 27%.

Mike Blumenthal on the evolution of reviews & the local algorithm

One of the pioneers of the web services industry, Mike has been focused on local search since 2004. He is the co-founder of LocalU and GatherUp.com (previously known as GetFiveStars) and when Mike speaks, local marketers listen! Here’s what he had to say at LocalU Advanced:

  • The volume of consumers leaving reviews seems to be leveling off.
  • Businesses with 5-stars tend to have below-average review volume.
  • A 3.5 to 4.5 review score is the sweet spot! Consumers prefer realistic views of a business.

  • The number of review sites businesses have to manage has diminished in the last decade. Today, the main players are Google, Yelp, and Facebook.
  • There was a pretty significant shift downwards in searches on Google for “yelp,” and an increase in searches on Google for “restaurants near me.”
  • Google places a great deal of importance on reviews. The search giant believes that reviews give a high-level view of the company’s reputation.

  • For positive reviews, Google uses words in the review to associate your business. Conversely, for negative reviews, Google disassociates words used from your business.
  • Use reviews for reach and the specific words that appear in your reviews for ads and keyword planning.
  • As an agency, move reviews management from tactical to strategic. Be proactive.
  • The goal isn’t to get reviews to increase your rank, but to expand your reach with relevant and unique content.

Will Scott: Lessons learned from 10,000 pieces of content per month

  • Asking clients for website content does not scale.
  • Leverage tools for management. There are quite a few on the market, find one that works for you.
  • As SEOs, we should be chasing the users, not Google.
  • Think of your content holistically – develop an entire authoritative piece of content that can be served across a number of mediums and eaten for months—like a turkey.

Dana DiTomaso: Ads, Ads, Everywhere! Local Ad Targeting

  • SEO & Paid Search together will expand your reach; you should do them big!
  • Local Service Ads (LSAs), while limited, are more cost-effective and can be run at the same time as Google Ads. Run them both and see what works! You can always come back to one.
  • LSAs pro: you pay per lead, not per click.
  • LSAs con:  you cannot manage keywords.
  • What works on search doesn’t necessarily work on display. Make two separate campaigns.
  • Don’t start with display! Work your way up to it.
  • Use descriptive campaign names.
  • For brand new campaigns, use ‘maximize clicks.’ For mature campaigns, use ‘maximize conversions.’ This is because Google needs data to learn for new campaigns.
  • Extensive keyword research and bucketed themes are critical.
  • Be careful with using exact match.
  • Negative keyword lists are important.
  • Keywords with lots of clicks but no conversions are killing your campaign. Turn them off.
  • Keep updated by checking the Google Ads Blog for new features and opportunities.

Cindy Krum: Mobile

  • GMB is a view of what Google understands about your business. Your GMB listing is the entity; your website, reviews, events, etc are relationships.
  • You rank either with hosted inclusions or blue links

  • Featured Snippets are growing at 6x.
  • When you’re in Position One, Featured Snippets can still steal your clicks.

Dan Leibson: Local SEO at Scale

  • Remember that product searches are local searches.
  • Build a process around rewriting your local pages. Optimize and build a content well by:
    • Utilizing store survey data
    • Utilizing nielsen location data to build out local and neighborhood elements 
  • Link to deep categories on the landing pages linked to your GMB to increase customers’ e-commerce spend.

There are a ton of resources on the Rio SEO Blog for multi-location businesses looking to improve and optimize their local SEO at scale. Don’t miss:

Krystal Taing is an expert in SEO and e-commerce with a specialization in local strategies. Over the past 10 years, she has helped multi-location brands overcome their marketing challenges by enhancing organic visibility, search rankings, and online-to-offline traffic. She is a highly respected authority in local search and a valuable resource for marketers and businesses.

Krystal is the Director of Pre-sales Solutions at Uberall and a Google Business Profile Product Expert.