The Biggest Themes for Enterprise Brands You Missed at LocalU Advanced
Krystal Taing

If you weren’t able to attend the most recent LocalU in beautiful Santa Monica, California, you missed out on more than just the sunshine. I was privileged to take in each of the talks in the intensive single-day event and want to share the highlights for those at home (or more likely, stuck in the office).

LocalU Santa Monica featured an epic lineup of local search expert speakers, among them:

  • Darren Shaw, Whitespark
  • Cindy Krum, Mobile Moxie
  • Greg Gifford, DealerOn
  • Marissa Nordahl and Andrew Heiderscheit, Google
  • Joy Hawkins, Sterling Sky
  • Mary Bowling, Ignitor Digital
  • Mike Blumenthal, Gather Up
  • Joel Headley, Patient Pop
  • Carrie Hill, Ignitor DIgital
  • Dana DiTomaso, Kickpoint
  • Will Scott, Search Influence

Needless to say, it was an information and insight-packed day that my company, Rio SEO, was proud to sponsor. Here are the top takeaways from LocalU Santa Monica and if you have any questions as you browse, feel free to fire those at me on Twitter.

3 Top Local SEO Themes Emerged at LocalU Santa Monica

From Cindy Krum’s opening session to the final Q&A of the day, three major themes became clear. Where should you focus your local efforts in 2019?

1. Think Beyond the Blue Link

In Cindy’s presentation on mobile-first and entities, she encouraged attendees to “think beyond the blue link.” Ranking for the first text-based position just doesn’t hold the same weight as it used to—not with all of the different types of Google-hosted inclusions in modern-day search results.

With videos, images, PLAs and other various types of ads, Instant Answers and more, that first organic search result can easily end up halfway down the page. These hosted inclusions contain all of the relationship-based information Google has about an entity, which they host and display directly on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It gives Google the ability to see how users interact with the information, which they can’t do on your site when a user clicks through from the blue link.

There’s a clear incentive there for Google to continue moving in this direction, so you can expect this deprioritization of plain blue links to continue.

This is why Google Analytics only shows you part of the story now. Always measure with GMB Insights, as well, for a more complete overview of your visibility and influence. Remember, too, that entities happen before keywords:

2. Highlight Local Opportunities

How does your business appear online, and on mobile? How does it stack up against competitors?

As Mike Blumenthal says, “It’s time to start treating your brand search results just like you do the homepage on your site. It needs to look as good as it can. It needs to contain compelling social proof and, within the constraints that Google imposes, it needs to tell the story of your business.”

At LocalU, Mary Bowling identified 36 different points to help you measure your local potential and successes more accurately and completely. Scoring your brand’s local presence in this way highlights opportunities and also serves as a baseline to monitor improvement.

Look at the first page of branded search results. Are competitors running ads on your brand name? Are you using locally-focused ad extensions to increase your presence in the SERPs?

Now look at your business profile in the Knowledge Panel. The most meaningful local traffic comes from Google. The features here are now built for mobile, so be sure to evaluate this result on both desktop and mobile. Some key items to review include

  • Is the business category being displayed the best one for your business?
  • How many links are you using in addition to the website link?
  • Do you have 10 or more Google Reviews, and is the average rating 4.0 or higher?
  • Are all 3 Google Review snippets a positive reflection of your brand?

One of my favorite tips was to use brand names when highlighting products in Product Posts or the Products Menu. Users are searching for products by brand name and you want to ensure you’re capturing these queries. You can find the full list here.

Mary advocates that you walk through your Photos, Q&A, Messaging, Posts, Products & Services, Events, Description and more in this way. Use every relevant field available to your business because searcher engagement will ultimately benefit you.

3. Think Differently About Measuring Local SEO

Repeat after me: results are more powerful than rankings. Measuring rankings really only gives you a glimpse of your standings at one point in time in what is an entirely dynamic, constantly shifting and increasingly personalized search landscape.

Focus on events-based goals, instead. How do you and/or your clients describe your goals? Are they measurable and realistic?

In her session on Google Data Studio for Local Business, Dana DiTomaso shared the value in using this free, interactive tool with built-in Google Analytics tracking.

It’s critical to define how are you measuring your local success. Is it by tracking phone calls, form fills, appointment bookings, reservations and other activities at the local level? After walking us through set-up, she shared a sample dashboard you can check out here.

For multi-location and enterprise brands, Rio SEO’s Local Reporting incorporates your rankings, reviews, citations and Google My Business Insights reporting into a single dashboard. Get a clear view of the brand interactions happening outside your website that are driving foot traffic into your locations across the chain. You can learn more about that here.

Other Major Updates of Interest to Local Marketers

Outside of the major trends affecting local marketers in measurement, search visibility and GMB optimizations, a few other major updates were hot topics at LocalU Santa Monica.

Google Can No Longer Understand Facebook Review Content

With this change, you’ll want to focus on generating 1st party reviews as well as reviews on Google and other niche sites in order to improve search visibility.

Review Removals Do NOT Impact Rankings

Review removals (i.e. businesses that are buying/spamming with fake reviews that get removed by Google) have no impact on ranking.

Joy Hawkins compared two law firms, one that had lost 27 reviews and the other 50. Three months after the reviews that violated Google’s guidelines were removed, there was no change in rankings. My personally theory is that Google is not truly removing the reviews, but hiding them from search view. What consumers see is affected, but there is no change to the data Google crawls or understands about the business. Of course, Google hasn’t weighed in on this topic.

Google Posts are STILL Worth Your Time:

I’m a huge proponent of using Google Posts to offer value to searchers and to add rich, important information to your Knowledge Panel. The effort required to produce this short-form content is minimal, and the expanded business listing is impactful. Learn more about improving your Google Posts strategy across multiple locations here.

Don’t Miss Out On Leads Generated by Questions & Answers

As David Mihm says above, the searchers who have taken the time to ask a question on your GMB profile are warm leads deserving of a prompt answer.

In closing, now everyone agrees:

For anyone in local, you won’t want to miss the next LocalU Advanced!


Guest Post by:

Krystal Taing
Listings Management Product Specialist at Rio SEO

Bio: Krystal Taing leads Local Product Strategy at Rio SEO for global enterprise brands across hundreds of thousands of locations in finance and insurance, retail, hospitality, healthcare, and more. Her extensive experience informing and crafting local strategy aids multi-location brands in solving their most persistent local marketing challenges to improve local organic visibility, search rankings, and online-to-offline traffic. A Gold Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum, Krystal is a respected local search authority and a resource for marketers and businesses of all types and sizes.

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.