When Search Engine Optimization first became a recognizable industry, Google was pushing out search engine and browser changes a few times a year. Fast forward 20 years, and algorithm changes and tweaks are happening every couple of months. This requires any SEO to stay ready to implement and tweak strategies that help their clients gain more and higher quality leads. In light of this, Uptick’s SEO department attended the LocalU conference in June to learn about new tactics that top local SEO experts are implementing in the wake of Google algorithm updates and COVID-19 adjustments.
The conference hosted a number of recognizable leaders in the world of Search Engine Optimization including Marie Haynes, who has been known for her talks on algorithm updates Forbes, Moz, and Search Engine Journal. The conference was emceed by Darren Shaw, the founder of Whitespark and leader in understanding the local search ecosystem, and also boasted seminars by the likes of Joy Hawkins, founder of SterlingSky and Martha Van Berkel, CEO of Schema App. Each speaker had topics geared towards helping local businesses outperform competitors in a way that highlights their stories and the services they offer. We compiled the highlights in hopes of offering some quick wins that you can implement for your business.
EAT and The Implementation of Local Schema
As previously mentioned, Google is often pushing out updates to their search engine. Google rolled out implementation of “Core Web Vitals” two weeks ago, which will impact ranking in the coming year. One of Google’s updates that has gained a lot of traction in the realm of SEO has been the E-A-T update. This update hopes to give more ranking to websites that have evidence that they are Experts, Authoritative, and Trustworthy in their respective fields. Every Google update aims to help their crawlers understand websites the way we do, as well as provide a better overall user-experience and this update is one that outlines those goals clearly. If you’d like to learn in detail about the EAT update, check out our recent blog.
Marie Haynes hosted this session, speaking in detail about strategies that can be immediately implemented to help Google interpret each facet of EAT.
We’ll hit the high points here.
- Create strong “About” pages with author bios
We all know potential customers love to have information on the About page that highlights the folks they are working with. It shows a great deal of expertise to have author/team bios that are, yes, fun and unique to your brand, but also strategically showcase what qualifies your team to speak on a specific subject. When in doubt, think of things you’d like to see when you’d hire a contractor, professional, lawyer, or whatever your field is.
Think of things like:
Publications, interviews, features, awards, certifications, education, or years of experience.
- Connect author bios to blog posts
If you are consistent in blogging (as you should be) ensure that all posts are authored by a real person, not an admin, or anything of the like.
This one is simple. A blog written by an admin or unnamed writer doesn’t do much for your customers. They want to know the real person behind the pen.
- Showcase reviews with positive feedback
More on that later
- Leverage case studies
If you can show your readers you have went through the trouble of analyzing and putting together a case study for a client who has had a positive experience with you, then it will show Google you know your stuff
- Ensure you have quality links (and disavow toxic links)
This is by far the most difficult and lengthy process to gaining traction for rankings, but is definitely worth it. Ensure you have done all of the above as you do this.
What this involves is getting other experts in your industry to mention you online and link back to your website. While we have talked about link building in the past (link to article) it is clear that quality links have changed with this EAT update.
Gone are the days when an SEO or business owner can pay for links on questionable sites to get “link juice” or boost traffic. If you write a guest article for the sake of getting a link, you may be barking up the wrong tree. Google is getting better and better at determining those who deploy questionable tactics to get ahead.
You may be asking yourself, “should I guest blog at all, if I don’t get a link?”
Yes. You should.
You should always be looking to spread brand awareness and share insights for other audiences. Google is trying to prevent spammers from trying to get links on websites that are in industries that are irrelevant and completely different than the industry they serve.
In short, where it makes sense to be a feature, interviewee, or guest—pursue it.
If you’re reaching out to plumbers when you’re a professional butterfly catcher, maybe reconsider. Save that blog for your friend who sells butterfly nets instead.
Schema and Structured Data
When Google or any other search engine crawls a website, they use what’s called a spider. The spider crawls your site to determine what it’s about and then determines how to rank it and display it in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs). Our goal as SEOs, or your goal as a business owner, is to show search engines as much quality data as possible to help them rank higher. Schema is still a one-of-a-kind, but not new, way to tell Google how to classify and categorize your site.
Effective schema markup can help your site rank and display in the SERPS with what are called “snippets.”
The table we see above with the questions are snippets. All of the information you see here is on the web page above. Because these questions and answers are ‘marked up” with schema, Google is able to crawl them and add them to the SERPs.
Let’s look at another.
If you were a butterfly net salesman and had schema markup with all necessary parameters, you have a chance to show your product and price in the boxes. Schema is still very important for non-ecommerce sites as well, but it may display differently. Haynes spoke about the importance of referencing to Google where important info across different pages is stored. Schema can help information in your own site maximize its EAT potential.
Google My Business Optimization
The cornerstone of local optimization in 2020 is the Google My Business page. If you have an SEO working on your business local presence and they haven’t mentioned GMB, you should find a new SEO fast. We often say, your business’ Google My Business page acts as the homepage of your website. Your Google My Business is often a new customer’s first impression of your business, since it’s the first thing they’ll see when they search for who you are or what you do. And we know that first impressions are crucial. While we won’t cover foundational SEO here, there are a few key talking points that are instrumental to your local SEO success.
At the LocalU conference, Google My Business was a central topic.
Let’s highlight three important tips that our speakers gave.
- If you’re in an industry that has a lot of fake business listings, report them as spam. We’ve gone into detail about why you should do this, but one thing you may not know: if you are a service area business (SAB) with only one storefront location, you are likely only eligible for one SAB listing. If you have multiple listings to try and get every suburb of say, Birmingham, then you are at risk for getting them all suspended.
- If you are a business owner with multiple locations or franchises there may be an opportunity to use photos to your advantage. We realize, it may be difficult to gather up unique photos for multiple locations, consider using the same ones across multiple locations! We’ve seen nothing so far about business being penalized for doing so.
- Google considers reviews, and the keywords in them to be a great signal of trust. If you are a local business and have very few reviews, it would be worthwhile to run a campaign to get reviews from happy clients. Ask them for specific information about what they enjoyed about the service and who they worked with.
Responding to Negative Reviews
Another key talking point was the approach to dealing with negative reviews.
We’ve all been there, right? We have seen a business with negative reviews from people who are less than satisfied with one thing or another that may or may not be related to the business. They have a review score that is somewhat low and immediately creates a hurdle for any of their potential customers to overcome.
We have to ask ourselves, what would we do if our business has negative reviews?
There is, surprisingly, more to do than you may think.
While we aren’t advocates for spending too much time trying to get faulty reviews removed, there are a few instances where it may be an option.
- Extortion – A spammer says “do xyz and I’ll remove the review”
- Public complaint – The reviewer has a personal issue unrelated to the business and has left a number of negative reviews.
- Ex-employee – Pretty self-explanatory.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, and have documentation, you may be able to get Google to remove the bad review.
If you aren’t, there is still hope.
Respond to the review ASAP to resolve any issues the customer may have. Most people expect a reply in 1-3 days and if you have waited longer, it may be a lost opportunity. Even if you happen to lose a customer and can’t get the issue resolved, you may be able to win future customers/clients because they can see how you handle situations that have turned sour.
I remember a few years back when I spent my freetime building computers and ordering all parts online, I had a great deal of angst about wondering if I was making a good buying decision.
There are a hundred different brands and suppliers when it comes to computer parts and I wanted to buy from the ones that I knew were quality. I found myself looking at reviews on every brand and immediately looking at the one star reviews.
I was looking for a few different things.
- I wanted to see what the people had to say and if they were legit buyers who had real issues.
- I wanted to see if all of the problems were the same, so I could know what to expect.
- If the first two were passed, then I wanted to see the brand reaching out to the disgruntled customer and trying to solve the problem at hand. Usually, the brand did. They would reach out, ask what is wrong, give contact info and usually give some sort of compensation.
If I saw this, I often trusted the brand even more than I would a brand with completely spotless reviews. This was real and more believable to me. After all, 82% of buyers read reviews, 97% read business responses, 71% say they are more likely to use a business that responds to reviews (and 100% of all statistics are made-up. Just kidding, these are real, we promise.)
If you have negative reviews on your GMB, facebook, or any other platform we urge you to take this approach.
Google Maps Places Labels
Near the end of the conference Joy Hawkins, founder of SterlingSky talked extensively about Google Maps pins, or Places Labels. These labels show whenever a Google Maps user zooms in and out of the map, often without having to input anything in the search bar.
Joy wanted to explore what determines the chance a business gets these pins. After all, the businesses that have them will likely get more foot traffic, or more business, simply because they’re more visible.
While there are a near endless number of factors that play into who gets them. Joy looked into 12 factors over the course of the year and revealed any correlation they may have found.
- Existing Website: Correlation
- Number of Google Reviews: Correlation
- Age of the Listing: It needs to have been around at least 3 years
- Editorial Summary (Googlers write an editorial): The Ones That Had Them, had Labels
- Verify Your Business
- If the Listings had Questions Posted: Correlation
- Popular times: Can be a Determining Factor
- Plan your visit feature: No Correlation
- Posting: No correlation
- Business Categories: Depends
- Personalization: Yes
- Presence of Located in Functionality: No Correlation
Your business needs a strong SEO initiative to stay up to date with all that is changing in the world of digital marketing. If you’re ready to implement these changes into your website, contact Uptick today to learn more about what we can do for your website traffic.