Video Deep Dive: Scoring Google as Your New Home page – an agency view
Mike Blumenthal


This is our Deep Dive Into Local from October 8, 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 Deep Dive. This week we have…besides Mary and myself, we have Andy Simpson from Digital Law Marketing. And we brought Andy because he loves Mary’s new (Find Your Google Homepage Brand Score) tool, and he uses it extensively in his practice. And maybe you can introduce yourself, Andy.

Andy: Yes. Thanks, Mike. Thank you for this invitation. It’s an honor to be on the show.

Mike: You’re our favorite Brit that lives in New Jersey. So this is why we invited you. And you’ve been to about 2,000 Local U Advances.

Andy: Thank you. Right. Now, obviously, you’ve said I’m not a local guy so I came over to the states in 2014. But prior, my knowledge is, I did my first website in 1996. I was doing SEO from then to about 2003, when I really started to do ecommerce SEO. I started my own web design company for 10 years, moved over here in 2014. So I had to stop that. Rebranded myself, looking for work. Started working for Martindale, the legal company. That’s where I started to really get to know you guys, started to follow you, Joy, Mary, the gang. And then moved from there about two years ago, I now work for Digital Law Marketing who are a high end agency offering the whole digital package to attorneys around the country. And I’m their SEO manager.

Mike: So the topic today we’re going to talk about is the Google as your homepage, and specifically around the tool that Mary built based on the conceptual framework that I provided a year and a half ago. Anyways, Mary, could you talk about the tool a little bit, just what you’re thinking is behind it and…

Mary: Okay, this tool lives on Local U. And the idea behind it is to see what searchers see if they search for your brand name. And it gives us an idea of all of the opportunities that Google presents us with, as far as having listings on third party sites, showing up, showing up with stars, how your reviews look in general on that page. And just, you know, kind of, it’s not really like there’s…you can’t get 100%. It’s not a percentage type tool. It’s more of a score, like a baseball game. You could get 400 runs in a baseball game, if you were really, really good. And on this tool, you can get lots and lots of points if you’re really, really good. But it’s a way to just look at what your brand looks like online to searchers, because I think a lot of people don’t pay very much attention to that. And Google has given us a lot of opportunities to really shine on that brand page.

Mike: So I have two comments here. One is the reason that I think this is important is because what you’re seeing in a brand search is essentially Google’s complete understanding of your business in terms of first party reviews, third party reviews, images, hours, menus, everything they know about you, they’re trying to summarize in this view. So in a sense, it is a reflection of your digital identity across the whole web. So in that sense, I think it’s an important view that goes beyond just when people look for your own brand, because these results inform all Google results. The second thing I would point out, though, is that while it does not have an absolute score, at this point, we are seeing a distribution of scores when we do an analysis of responses. So the highest score, I think, to date has been a 38 or…38?

Mary: Something like that. Yes.

Mike: And what we see is what’s called a normal curve, a bell-shaped curve with at the ends on, you know, every 0 to 5, and then 35 to 40, having a few, and 5 to 10 and 30 to 35 having a few more. But the peak of them is in the area around 20. So we see 15 to 20, 20 to 25 being the major bulk of where people are occurring. So it gives us a sense that even though it’s not an absolute score, typically, both the median, the mode, and the whatever are all running right around 20, which…

Mary: Average?

Mike: Average. That’s the median. The median, the mode, and the whatever. Anyways, they’re all running about 20. Half of them are greater than 20, half are less, and they average around 20. So if you’re getting 20 on this, you’re pretty much in the middle of the pack just as a reference point. So over to you, Andy. We just want to get a sense…we know you’re a big fan of Mary’s tool and we just want to get a sense of how you’re using it, where you’re using it in your practice, where you see the value, whether you use it repetitively for the same client issues as a starting point, all the nitty-gritty details that you can provide. And I’ll be sure to interrupt periodically just to…

Mary: Just to interrupt.

Mike: Just to interrupt. I have a big sign here that says…that I write to myself. Note, I say, “Number one, don’t interrupt. Two, don’t use my hands. Three, don’t do this to my lips. And four, don’t say, ‘Yeah.” I say, “Yeah,” all the time. So those are my instructions to myself.

Andy: Okay. Thank you, Mike. I was going to say that, going back to what Mary and you are both saying that Google, the brand score about your brand is really, really relevant at the moment because Rand Fishkin of Brighton SEO a couple of weeks ago was saying control what appears for your brand. So I can’t think of really a better tool to use to try and highlight how you’re displaying on the search results.

Mike: You mean grand has finally caught up with us?

Andy: I knew it would be a… Anyway, like shall we move on?

Mike: We could move on, Yes. We could move on. You don’t have to acknowledge or accept that statement.

Andy: Yes, thank you. So when I’m using this tool, I’ve got two heads on. I do a lot of local work with my chamber of commerce. And I work closely with small SMBs in and around the town in New Jersey, Florham Park, Madison, and that area. And then I also use the tool as an SEO specialist. So when I’m presenting the tool or the idea to small businesses and you’ve probably seen this a lot, they’re…the businesses themselves when I’m showing them on an online example, they’re blown away, that you can actually take control of what they’re viewing on that page one. They don’t realize that they can take control of that Yelp listing, or they can know why their review’s there.

So it’s quite eye opening for both myself realizing that the businesses just don’t have any idea that they can control what they see. So for me that’s interesting. And then I can show them and say, “Look, this is how you can take control.” Even down to the Google My Business listing, you’ll probably see this all the time. You know, when you say, “Oh, you’re not posting enough.” They’ll go, “Well, what’s a post?” So you’ll have to then go into detail. Because we use the terminology all the time and we just use it expecting everybody else to understand what we’re saying.

So I love that factor, helping out with small businesses using the tool and getting a metric for their businesses. As an SEO specialist, I think the Google brand score, I think is a metric that’s…now I think, for me, going forward is a metric that’s as important as my domain authority for the website. It’s a score that I can set and see grow, improve…

Mary: You can compare it to your competitors.

Andy: Exactly. Sorry, that was another part of my feedback is. And usually, when you do competitor analysis, when you compare it to your competitors, you can see where they might be succeeding over you. And it might be down to simple as they’re posting more than you are or they’ve got videos on the homepage.

Mike: So it helps you develop a plan of attack.

Andy: Yes, exactly. And it can be as simple as that. I’ve seen changes by just doing more posts.

Mike: You’ve seen changes in…

Andy: In the 3 pack.

Mike: In the 3 pack, yes.

Andy: I’ve seen that change by doing the…

Mike: What’s interesting to me these days in the local algorithm is that one is, Google is bringing more and more content into their own knowledge graph, things like posts, Q&A, menus, and all that stuff is now existing within the knowledge graph. So they need to rely less on other sites, not that they don’t still rely on other sites. So what I typically see with Google posts is not this humongous jump, but a long tail jump of two positions, give or take, you know, so if you’re a five, you might be able to move to three. You’re not going to move to one on Google posts. But because Google is now keeping this stuff internally, and they’re seeing that you’re now writing about topic X, they, you know, give you some credit for that. Not a huge amount but enough that done with everything else can make a difference.

Andy: And so when I start, as a specialist, when I start doing…I’m calling it my local SEO audit tool, as well. So I’m getting the final figure for the client making a note of that. But as I’m going through the tool itself, I’m making side notes saying, “Oh, why is my review schema not showing?” And I think, “Well, okay, it should be showing.” So I’ll do a site, colon, domain name, .com, just to make sure that it’s appearing in the right places and if it isn’t, why not. So there might be something wrong with the plugin, what’s happened there.

So at the very start of what I’m calling my SEO audit using this tool, I’ll open three tabs. I’ll open the tool itself, and then I’ll have the desktop search on one tab. And on the third tab, I’ll have the mobile view of the branded search as well, because we…

Mary: A great idea.

Andy: Thank you. Because we know that the results look different on the mobile result, how dominant that Google My Business listing is at the top. And that obviously…other things like services, message the business, they appear in the mobile view but don’t appear on the desktop.

Mike: Yes, just to regress a little bit on the mobile view, I saw your post on Twitter the other day just about there’s a couple different ways to get the mobile view, one is you’ve got to be using Chrome. Two, you can either there’s in the Chrome Developer aspect, you can bring up a window and then Chrome Developer, set your viewport as a mobile device. So that’s a two-step process. Go into developer mode, set the viewport. There is an extension, which essentially calls that to the front called mobile view or something. But I’ve done the same testing environment where you can get side by side windows to light and get efficient at this, take screenshots, understand what’s going on. And Mary asked about it last week and I promised her I’ll get her the link for the extension, which I forgot to do. But anyways… So go ahead. Sorry, for the interjection.

Andy: Well, I was going to say to Mary that…not my idea because obviously, it’s part of Chrome. It’s a right-clicking…you right click inspect mobile view. And once you’ve chosen that option a couple of times within the browser, it will just remember the setting and it will go to it straight away. So it’s a very…although it sounds complicated, because it’s one of the developer tools, it’s a very easy feature to use.

Mike: And it shows the website code right under it so you can then…which is how I did my analysis of the images in the search results so that I could see the code to see if there were alt tags or whatever. So it helps for, like Andy said, to do a baseline analysis and develop a list of things you need to do.

Mary: I also have found that when you have somebody that it’s like, “Okay, we need to work on your Yelp reviews.” And they say, “I hate Yelp. I don’t want to do anything at Yelp.” You show them this brand page. You show them your competitors’ brand page and they understand why they need to be concerned with Yelp when they see Yelp stars on the pages and Yelp ranking. Yes. So that’s one of the ways that I have been able to use it to convince my clients that things that they didn’t even think about are important and we need to think about them. For example, let’s say, Yellow Pages is showing up in everybody’s search for a particular type of industry. Well, you might not be thinking of Yellow Pages at all but if it’s showing up there on that brand page, all of a sudden it becomes something that’s worth paying attention to.

Andy: Exactly. And this is to SEO specialists out there, if you go through the tool, you will be given most likely a list of five, six, seven points that you…action points, that can go back to your client or go back to your SEO manager and say, “We need to do this on this client’s website.” It’s a brilliant tool, to give me ideas what I should be doing on a client’s website or elsewhere on the web. So for example, we do attorney websites around the country. Now I’m falling into your average between 20, 24 per particular clients. I did it on a client a couple of weeks ago, and I scored seven. I was…

Mike: Wow.

Andy: Exactly, wow.

Mike: A lot of low hanging fruit on that one.

Andy: I’ve kept it quiet from the boss but now the boss is going to be watching this video so I’ve just put it out. But anyway, they do great locally. However, they scored seven. So if I improve their site even more so, then we’re going to have an even more dominant effect in the local area.

Mike: So the issue for me is also the idea of conversion optimization that…assuming you’re ranking well or doing the basics of ranking well, Google is going to show your site and your business X amount of times. You can convert Y percentage or Z percentage of that showing, right? And from where I sit, if you can increase the percentage of conversions, it’s the same as ranking better. It’s the same as showing up on broader searches. It doesn’t matter where you’re getting the new customers from. And it’s a trivial task to put good pictures up there so that somebody looks at you and says, “Oh, they look professional.”

Example of that, I was showing lawyer results to my son in law who works at Walmart. And interestingly, the picture that most attracted him was the one that showed the lawyer on television. Because he said, “Oh, this guy’s been on television. That’s impressive.” Boom. Click that. And so it just demonstrated to me the power that images have in this context to create a conversion. And so to some extent, the other way to look at the tool is optimizing conversion opportunities as well as potentially finding ranking opportunities. But I see it in every extra conversion that you get, if you’re already ranking well, is a win. So what else do we have here?

Andy: I’ve got my notes in front of me.

Mike: Good. That’ll be good.

Andy: Let me just…sorry, Mary. If you’ve got something to…

Mary: Oh, I can chat while you’re studying. But one thing I’d like to do is encourage everyone to use this on several of your clients. Because the more data we can get on it, the more industry-specific data you can look at, where we do intend to share this with everyone, and the better data we’ll have. So please help us out by going in there and running a few of your clients through this tool so that we have some more data.

Mike: Andy did suggest an upgrade to the tool, which I think is probably appropriate, which is to measure whether the brand search is showing an image on the organic results in mobile local.

Mary: Oh, that’s a good one.

Mike: Right? I think you did suggest that, Andy, a couple weeks ago to me. I think it’s a good upgrade. It’ll screw up our numbers but it’s a good upgrade. So what else you got in your notes, Andy?

Andy: No, because I do the…is one of the…a little side tip is do the testing Chrome in incognito mode so you don’t get in by search results.

Mike: I find too… I just…to note on the brand search is that, I mentioned this in one of my articles, but I find when doing brand searches that minor variations in the brand search will deliver dramatically different results, both in terms of reviews around the web. You might get two in one, three in another, you might get site links in one and first party reviews in another. So I think it’s also important to perhaps bracket your process with two of the brand searches that result in variation in the results.

Andy: Definitely. And the other, I do for one client, I’ll probably do two or three different searches and go through the test. And obviously, you know that… Once you’ve done two, three, four of these, you know exactly what to look for and you can almost start creating a score in your mind thinking this is… But the other thing I do…

Mike: And just as a note there, you want to focus on the lower score because if you’re getting three reviews on the web on one and only two on the other, it means that you might have to target a different review site to show up on the other, right?

Andy: Yes.

Mike: So you want to focus on the lower score. Anyways, go ahead. I did exactly what I said I wasn’t going to do, I interrupted. But you are a guy, I can interrupt a guy. That’s okay. Excuse me.

Mary: Another thing I’d like to mention is that the score is pretty arbitrary. You know, there’s nothing scientific about this thing is worth one point and this thing is worth two points. It’s just kind of my feelings, Mike’s feelings, Carry’s feelings. So don’t take the score itself too seriously but do look at it as a relative thing, and a thing that you can make better.

Mike: I would point out that every SEO tool in the world makes these same arbitrary assumptions. They’re just not transparent about them. We’re the only ones that say, “Oh, we guessed these numbers.” Everybody else says, “Oh, this is your domain score. Totally made up number, but we’re going to give it to you anyways.” So Mary, don’t apologize for the fact that we have made intuitive choices about what’s value. Any time right now we’re going to have to make those choices.

Andy: Okay. So there’s two things on what you’ve just said. Is it over two things? The thing is with all specialists, it’s not just a click of the button, “What’s my domain authority score?” Of which you say, “Oh, it’s 50,” whatever. You have to do some work in the process to get this result. And during that process, you’re going to learn so much of what you are doing well and what you’re not doing well. So it’s a fantastic… I love it. You know, I’m sold. Obviously, that’s one reason you put me on the show. And I think going back to…

Mary: Is it obvious?

Andy: I think the… My other tip is, I also fake my location to where my client is, whether they’d be in Phoenix, L.A., New Jersey, I know, obviously, where they… I fix my location to their address. So when my client is doing their own search, because, you know, they love searching, am I appearing on Google? What… They look… I can see exactly what they’re looking at when they do a search for their company.

Mary: That’s a good idea, too. Yes.

Andy: Again, I do it on Desktop. So fake the location. I’ve done a tweet about that just today, I think to validate what I’m saying right now. It’s very easy to do. I do it in Google Chrome, fake to the exact pinpoint where the office is, not zip code but the location or the office. So I can see as good as exactly what that client is seeing when they are there at their desk. How’s Andy doing with my SEO and they start searching for themselves.

Mary: Great idea.

Mike: All right. So we have like a minute. Do you want to summarize here, Andy?

Andy: Summarize. It’s a no brainer. The score that you get, you can improve. When you look at your competition, you can see where they’re getting links from, where you should be showing your website, use the tool. It’s a no brainer. It’s a new score, it’s a new metric. I call it the GBS, the Google Brand Score. You have to know your GBS, your Google Brand Score.

Mike: There we go. I love that.

Mary: All right. We got a name for it.

Mike: We got a name for it, GBS. Know your GBS. I think that’s a good closing statement. Thank you very much for joining us, Andy. It’s been a pleasure. I apologize for only having interrupted once or twice.

Andy: No problem. Thank you, guys.

Mike: Good bye.

Mary: Thank you, Andy. We’ll see you soon.

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