Video Deep Dive: Local Search is Haaaaard
Mike Blumenthal

This is the twelfth installment of our Deep Dive into Local series. For the week ending Friday, November 13th, Mary Bowling and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video 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 how the Google Local Algorithm has changed and how that changes what a Local SEO needs to do to succeed. David is playing golf and will return next week.

Mike: With that let’s transition into our deep dive and local this week. Mary, I think you wanted to lead off on that.

Mary: Yeah. Casey Meraz wrote a really good article at Moz this week, called Stop Local SEO Tunnel Vision – Think Beyond the Basics. And everybody who is working in the local space should read this article because he’s basically talking about how…well, he doesn’t talk about how local used to be easier, but those of us that have been in the business for a while — when local first came on the scene, it was very easy to do the right things to be able to rank in those local packs. And there were even —

Mike: You mean like title spam?

Mary: Yes.

Mike: Business title spam.

Mary: Yes!

Mike: Category spam.

Mary: Yes! And review spam, and every kind of spam you could think of. But…and there were even…

Mike: But I never did that stuff, Mary. I’m just saying.

Mary: Yeah. I know. But there were even a lot of companies that popped up and grew pretty large just on optimizing for the local search ranking factors.

Mike: Right.

Mary: But, over the past three to four years things have changed so much in the algorithms and so many people still think that local is easy. Whereas local is harder than organic. You have to rank well in organic plus you have to satisfy all of the local factors in order to get one of those coveted spots in the three packs.

Mike: Right. I…

Mary: I think a lot of…go ahead.

Mike: I would point out that the local patent has always looked at organic signals and website signals and the web being the proxy [for the actual location]. I remember in 2010 or ’11 talking to an Australian company like you talk about them as so focused on local and doing well. And I said, “You know you really have to get your businesses into websites because ultimately once all the other companies get websites and you don’t have them, you’re not going to be able to compete in local.” And so there’s always been an element of this algorithm stretching from the shoe store, the shoe repair guy in Kazakhstan — who’s never going to have a website — to the Park Plaza Hotel that has a website and there’s a lot of web information about it. And local is always scaled well so, as the Internet has caught up with Google’s local algorithm, in a sense, then Google has upped the reliance on web signals because they can. Right? Before they couldn’t because the web had not caught up to them —

Mary: Right.

Mike: — but now that they have, they have sort of shifted that emphasis from these local signals to web signals. Now interestingly, though, when you historically have looked at local results their are always two kinds of local results. Ones in which you could see a correlation to the web rank and others where those businesses like restaurants and hotels really couldn’t compete in the web against the big nationals like Yelp, etc. And in those Google has always and continues to use other types of signals beyond the web basis, because otherwise if they didn’t those local businesses wouldn’t show up. Right? Because the organic space is so crowded by national players who are so good at SEO like Yelp. So, in those cases Google has upped their algorithm to not just include things like reviews, but to include things like professional reviews. So, it’s interesting on both fronts that they have made it harder. If you’re a restaurant and you don’t get professional reviews, you’re a small fish, you may have difficulty competing with those people that are getting professional reviews.

Mary: Right.

Mike: And it’s the same in the web, if it’s a web driven result you’re going to have difficulty competing unless you’ve got a great website and are doing the web stuff like you say. The algorithm has always had that element, it’s just that they’ve amped it up in the last … well I guess since … well, Pigeon really made it obvious, Hummingbird and those sorts of things have made it clear that this is where it’s going, right? You got to buckle down, learn the basic web stuff as Casey points out. You have got to do the fundamentals — you know, title tags and meaningful content and good clean citations but then beyond that you’ve got to, as you’ve been saying right along, you’ve got to be doing stuff that makes your business stand out. He makes a point in there about tying your offline marketing with your online which is something that I’ve always, always thought is important. Real world marketing driving virtual results because Google is looking more and more at the real world for its feedback, right?

Mary: Exactly. It’s able to interpret more accurately what’s happening offline and transforming that into having an impact online. But I guess the point of all of this is that local SEO is not easy. If you think it’s an easy profession, you’re wrong. If you think you can just work on the local algorithms side of things, you are dead wrong. And it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do the work. Their aren’t very few tricks left in either organic or local SEO that are going to work very well for you for very long.

Mike: Well, I think with that we’ll call it a wrap with those words of wisdom. And say goodbye until next week when David is back. So, take care. Thanks for joining us.

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