Video Deep Dive: Localu advanced – themes and common threads
Mike Blumenthal


This is our Deep Dive Into Local from April 17th, 2018. 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 LocalU’s “Deep Dive In Local”. Mary and I just got back from two LocalU’s in Austin. Great city, great support for LocalU, great support from sponsors and we just want to provide an update of what we see as themes and trends from the event, from both the small business event that we did in conjunction with SCORE and Celia Bell. LocalU did that as a fundraiser to fund Celia Bell’s not-for-profit…

Mary: Entrepreneur.

Mike: Yes. Not-for-profit Entrepreneurial Awards in Austin. She’s played a huge role in creating a coalition of business training groups that help small businesses learn and perform better. And we helped her set up a foundation to do that. So, the first day was, I think, 120 small businesses were there, marketers as well. And the second day which was a LocalU Advanced, people flew in from all over the country. So, what are some of your thoughts about the themes?

Mary: And Australia.

Mike: Australia. And there were someplace else that they came from that was far away. But, Yes, Australia was there. Quite amazing, right?

Mary: Right. So, I think at the small business event the one thing that I kept having to say to people over and over again is if the information that you have about SEO is older than about three years old, you probably need to wipe your slate clean and relearn search engine optimization. Because I do think that things have changed incredibly drastically in the past three years, especially on local search.

Mike: Yes. Yes. Which speaks to that slide I did on the virtuous cycle of how optimization of your Google visual presence in terms of photos and reviews and your brand search led to an increase of conversion’s which leads to increased sales, hopefully, if you’re able to handle the increased calls. And that leads to more reviews and more reviews leads to more engagement. And that we think the engagement is driving local results as well which leads to higher visibility. And, again, further optimization of the whole brand search which, I’m seeing clients that aren’t doing any link building, not that link building doesn’t have value, not that, getting recognized on the web doesn’t add value. It does with link but I have clients that are doing no link building and still managing to increase their exposure through posts and photographs and reviews and engagement.

Mary: Right. And think about all the different and new ways that Google has provided us opportunities to engage with our searchers, the extra links on the knowledge panel, the Q&A, the posts, the description.

Mike: The service.

Mary: The services and menus. Yes.

Mike: Menus, right? Yes. I mean, they have opened up to both user-generated content and business generated content. And combo user-generated and business, for example, photos user-generated business, Google Q&A user-generated business, reviews, mostly user but some business in response. So, there’s this combination of user-generated and business content there that seems to be influencing outcomes, particularly in terms of conversions. But we think that Google is measuring other things as well, which speaks to Cindy’s talk at Advanced.

She was the keynote and she spoke about the role of the new mobile-first index being an effort by Google to not just be a mobile-first index. But to actually be an entity first index where her thinking is that Google is now looking to uncover via mobile the people, places, and things that are significantly driving outcomes across the whole range of searches, local being one of them, but any place where knowledge panel is delivered. And she thinks that mobile-first indexing is part and parcel of that push. She also spoke in terms of entity results in any search really driving IS free search which ends up being things like voice search and car searches in cars, etc., all being related to entity search because it’s easier to deliver an entity than 10 new links as the answer.

Mary: So, this brings us around to the thought that Will Scott said just a few weeks ago in a little interview he did where he says, “It’s never really been about optimizing our web pages. It’s been about optimizing the business.” And it’s taken a lot of the industry a really long time to get around to that thinking. It’s taken a while for Google to catch up with the real world and what’s going on there. And then it’s taken SEO’s a while to figure out that Google is figuring out the real world and figuring out ways to reward us for prominence in the real world.

Mike: Yes. In an article we did in last week in local this week about determining the ROI of reviews, there was reference to a Moss Research which showed the huge drop off of consumers based on the number of negative results on a brand search, that if you had one negative result that was inconsistent with the overarching story, maybe you lost 20% of your searchers. If you had 2 negative results it was 40% and 3 negative results it was 69%. That’s a large number. And It’s very difficult if you haven’t optimized your business to have a brand search that reflects broadly across the whole internet.

Google searches far and wide for that information. A/B tests bring the most salient, highlight reviews from all these places on their brand searches. So, the brand search effectively becomes, as I said in my talk, a mirror to the digital soul of the business where Google is servicing all of that. And it’s difficult if you haven’t optimized your business to have an optimal brand result which doesn’t create cognitive dissonance, i.e this conflict within a consumer as to whether they’re going to do business with you.

Mary: Right. And I think that when we look at these brand searches, we can see what’s important to Google, what Google thinks is important to searchers. And we need to take the clues from that and figure out and make that important to ourselves and work on those things.

Mike: Another two topics that were popular at the LocalU Advanced were the agency asked me anything and then David Mim’s talk on what does the agency of 2020 look like in the light of this? Entity search with the increased number of ads. The reduced results are going to be showing. How do agencies provide services in that context? What was your takeaway? How would you summarize this?

Mary: basically he is saying that it’s very difficult for anyone to be great at everything anymore. We used to be able to be a generalist in SEO and you could do PPC and you could do a little bit of everything. And you could do it pretty damn well but you cannot these days and what really helps agencies is when they find the best of breed services to help them fulfill their marketing needs for particular clients.

Mike: Yes. So, he spoke a lot about marketing automation using these best of breed applications, example being Tidings, MailChimp, and GetFiveStars all integrate really quite smoothly and create a flow of data that can be leveraged over and over and over again, much like we do these Deep Dive’s where we will create blog posts, podcasts, emails, and transcribed sessions from all of the same content. You and I will spend maybe half hour or 45 minutes a day then use best of breed tests including Wistia, MailChimp, Tidings to create multiple pieces of content efficiently. I think that’s one of his points was that agencies can bundle these, find the best of breed, integrate them, and either provide them on a do-it-for-me, do-it-with-me, or do-it-yourself basis to their clients quite profitably.

Mary: Yes. And it’s very hard for the small businesses or in-house marketers themselves to be aware of what works together and what’s the best…what are the best things to use.

Mike: And getting them to work together, right? Creating the links between them and making sure it happens every week. And making sure that your reviews get responded to, making sure that your email newsletter goes out. But those sorts of things where small business really can’t hire the staff, dedicated staff. And she’s been coming to that space as well.

Mary: Right. And by automating it, you can do a lot of these things at a very profitable margin.

Mike: Right. Automating but then also testing the automation. Like, one of our most successful resources to get five stars is a company that value adds our product totally transparently to the end-user, to the business. But they continually are testing subject lines. We’ve got five stars, they’re testing workflows, they’re testing follow-ups and times of follow-up. And then they become efficient at it over time and are able to provide a super high level of service with their product in a relatively efficient profitable time every month.

Mary: Yes. And I think that whole idea of entities is one that we really need to embrace and that we need to be thinking about the business just not the online business just… not just being your website. But being everything online that Google can relate to your business.

Mike: Right. And as David previously points out, that your website becomes a data feed to the rest of the web and Google in particular. Which comes back to measurement which we talked about but in the small business session that, one, you need to identify your key performance indicators and be sure that you’re measuring them, right? The problem that people are still having is they say, “Oh, my website traffic is dropping but I’m still getting a lot of calls. What’s going on?” It’s because they’re not measuring calls coming in from places other than their website which they should be, which brings us back to UI and Tim. Tim Rees did a great session on how agencies should and can get involved with UX and UI testing for their clients. Maybe you could speak to that a little bit.

Mary: Yes, this is something that until I did it myself I thought, “Oh, this is complex. This is expensive.” , “They’re not going to pay me to do this.” But the truth is that you don’t need to do very much testing and it doesn’t need to be very extensive in order to get some really good feedback to help you improve your website. And, I think that was the main message that Tim was giving us is this isn’t that hard. Yes, you can do it and you can do it at a reasonable cost for your client.

Mike: Right. So, that pretty much covers. I think it does. Anything else about these last two events?

Mary: Well, no. I mean, of course, I could talk all day about either one of them but nobody wants to listen to that.

Mike: Yes. They were great events. They were a lot of fun. People seemed really engaged. We had a number of sponsors, CallRail, SOCI, PatientPop, ZipSprout, GetFiveStars, GPO in Austin were all sponsors. And really helped make it also a great event. They all contributed both time and energy as well.

Mary: And Google.

Mike: And Google. Yes.

Mary: Google. We usually have one or two Googlers at every one of our events and they’re there to help people solve problems that they might be having.

Mike: Yes. And there were a lot of those, and Google did a great job with that. All right. Well, with that, Mary, I’ll say goodbye and thank you for joining us for the “Deep Dive In Local.” We will talk again next week.

Mary: All right. Thanks, Mike.