2020 Local SEO Success: How to Feed, Fight, and Flip Google

Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: Migaspinto

If you own or market a business location that makes a real-world community more serviceable, diverse, and strong, I’m on your side.

I love interesting towns and cities, with a wide array of useful goods and services. Nothing in my career satisfies me more than advising any brand that’s determined to improve life quality in some spot on the map. It does my heart good to see it, but here’s my completely unsentimental take on the challenges you face:

The Internet, and Google’s local platforms in particular, are a complete mess.

Google is the biggest house on the local block; you can’t ignore it. Yet, the entries into the platform are poorly lit, the open-source concept is cluttered with spam, and growing litigation makes one wonder if there are bats in the belfry.

Google comprises both risk and tremendous opportunity for local businesses and their marketers. Succeeding in 2020 means becoming a clear-eyed surveyor of any structural issues as well as seeing the “good bones” potential, so that you can flip dilapidation into dollars. And something beyond dollar, too: civic satisfaction.

Grab your tools and get your teammates and clients together to build local success in the new year by sharing my 3-level plan and 4-quarter strategy.

Level 1: Feed Google

Image credit: Mcapdevila

Information about your business is going to exist on the Internet whether you put it there or not.

Google’s house may be structurally unsound, but it’s also huge, with a 90% search engine market share globally and over 2 trillion searches per year, 46% of which are for something local.

Residents, new neighbors, and travelers seeking what you offer will almost certainly find something about your company online, whether it’s a stray mention on social media, an unclaimed local business listing generated by a platform or the public, or a full set of website pages and claimed listings you’ve actively published.

Right now, running the most successful local business possible means acquiring the largest share you can of those estimated 1 trillion annual local searches. How do you do this? 

By feeding Google:

  • Website content about your business location, products, services, and attributes
  • Corroborating info about your company on other websites
  • Local business listing content
  • Image content
  • Video content
  • Social media content

Remember, without your content and the content of others, Google does not exist. Local business owners can often feel uncomfortably dependent on Google, but it’s really Google who is dependent on them.

Whether the business you’re marketing is small or large, declare 2020 the year you go to the drafting board to render a clear blueprint for a content architecture that spans your entire neighborhood of the Internet, including your website and relevant third-party sites, platforms, and apps. Your plans might look something like this:

Image detailing the architecture of local SEO, including what you should put on GMB, website, and via 3rd parties (all detailed in text below)

I recommend organizing your plan like this, making use of the links I’m including:

  1. Begin with a rock-solid foundation of business information on your website. Tell customers everything they could want to know to choose and transact with your business. Cover every location, service, product, and desirable attribute of your company. There’s no chance you won’t have enough to write about when you take into account everything your customers ask you on a daily basis + everything you believe makes your company the best choice in the local market. Be sure the site loads fast, is mobile-friendly, and as technically error-free as possible.
  2. Create a fully complete, accurate, guideline-abiding Google My Business listing for each location of your business.
  3. Build out your listings (aka structured citations) on the major platforms. Automate the work of both developing and monitoring them for sentiment and change via a product like Moz Local.
  4. Monitor and respond to all reviews as quickly as possible on all platforms. These equal your online reputation and are, perhaps, the most important content about your business on the Internet. Know that reviews are a two-way conversation and learn to inspire customers to edit negative reviews. Moz Local automates review monitoring and facilitates easy responses. If you need help earning reviews, check out Alpine Software Group’s two good products: GatherUp and Grade.Us.
  5. Audit your competition. In competitive markets, come check out our beta of Local Market Analytics for a multi-sampled understanding of who your competitors actually are for each location of your business, depending on searcher locale.
  6. Once you’ve found your competitors, audit them to understand the:
    1. quality, authority and rate of ongoing publication you need to surpass
    2. strength and number of linked unstructured citations you need to build
    3. number and quality of Google posts, videos, products, and other content you need to publish
    4. social engagement you need to create.
  7. As to the substance of your content, focus directly on your customers’ needs. Local Market Analytics is breaking ground in delivering actual local keyword volumes, and the end point of all of your research, whether via keyword tools, consumer surveys, or years of business experience, should be content that acts as customer service, turning seekers into shoppers.
  8. Use any leftover time to sketch in the finer details. For example, I’m less excited about schema for 2020 than I was in 2019 because of Google removing some of the benefits of review schema. Local business schema is still a good idea, though, if you have time for it. Meanwhile, pursuing relevant featured snippets could certainly be smart in the new year. I’d go strong on video this year, particularly YouTube, if there’s applicability and demand in your market.

The customer is the focus of everything you publish. Google is simply the conduit. Your content efforts may need to be modest or major to win the greatest possible share of the searches that matter to you. It depends entirely on the level of competition in your markets. Find that level, know your customers, and commit to feeding Google a steady, balanced diet of what they say they want so that it can be conveyed to the people you want to serve.

Level 2: Fight Google

Image credit: Scott Lewis

Let’s keep it real: ethical local companies which pride themselves on playing fair have good reason to be dubious about doing business with Google. Once you’ve put in the effort to feed Google all the right info to begin competing for rankings, you may well find yourself having to do online battle on an ongoing basis.

There are two fronts on which many people end up grappling with Google:

  • Problematic aspects within products
  • Litigation and protests against the brand.

Let’s break these down to prepare you:

Product issues

Google has taken on the scale of a public utility — one that’s replaced most of North America’s former reliance on telephone directories and directory assistance numbers.

Google has 5 main local interfaces: local packs, local finders, desktop maps, mobile maps and the Google Maps app. It’s been the company’s decision to allow these utilities to become polluted with misinformation in the form of listing and review spam, and irrelevant or harmful user-generated content. Google does remove spam, but not at the scale of the issue, which is so large that global networks of spammers are have sprung up to profit from the lack of quality control and failure to enforce product guidelines.

When you are marketing a local business, there’s a strong chance you will face one or more of the following issues while attempting to compete in Google’s local products:

  • Being outranked by businesses violating Google’s own guidelines with practices such as keyword-stuffed business titles and creating listings to represent non-existent locations or lead-gen companies. (Example)
  • Being the target of listing hijacking in which another company overtakes some aspect of your listing to populate it with their own details. (Example)
  • Being the target of a reputation attack by competitors or members of the public posting fake negative reviews of your business. (Example)
  • Being the target of negative images uploaded to your listing by competitors or the public. (Example)
  • Having Google display third-party lead-gen information on your listings, driving business away from you to others. (Example)
  • Having Google randomly experiment with local features with direct negative impacts on you, such as booking functions that reserve tables for your patrons without informing your business. (Example)
  • Being unable to access adequately trained Google staff or achieve timely resolution when things go wrong (Example)

These issues have real-world impacts. I’ve seen them misdirect and scam countless consumers including those having medical and mental health emergency needs, kill profits during holiday shopping seasons for companies, cause owners so much loss that they’ve had to lay off staff, and even drive small brands out of business.

Honest local business owners don’t operate this way. They don’t make money off of fooling the public, or maliciously attack neighboring shops, or give the cold shoulder to people in trouble. Only Google’s underregulated monopoly status has allowed them to stay in business while conducting their affairs this way.

Outlook issues

Brilliant people work for Google and some of their innovations are truly visionary. But the Google brand, as a whole, can be troubling to anyone firmly tied to the idea of ethical business practices. I would best describe the future of Google, in its present underregulated state of monopoly, as uncertain.

In their very short history, Google has been:

I can’t predict where all this is headed. What I do know is that nearly every local business I’ve ever consulted with has been overwhelmingly reliant on Google for profits. Whether you personally favor strong regulation or not, I recommend that every local business owner and marketer keep apprised of the increasing calls by governing bodies, organizations, and even the company’s own staff to break Google up, tax it, end contracts on the basis of human rights, and prosecute it over privacy, antitrust, and a host of other concerns.

Pick your battles

With Google so deeply embedded in your company’s online visibility, traffic, reputation and transactions, concerns with the brand and products don’t exist in some far-off place; they are right on your own doorstep. Here’s how to fight well:

1. Fight the spam

To face off with Google’s local spam, earn/defend the rankings your business needs, and help clean polluted SERPs up for the communities you serve, here are my best links for you:

2. Stay informed

If you’re ready to move beyond your local premises to the larger, ongoing ethical debate surrounding Google, here are my best links for you:

Whether your degree of engagement goes no further than local business listings or extends to your community, state, nation, or the world, I recommend increased awareness of the whole picture of Google in 2020. Education is power.

Level 3: Flip Google

Image credit: Province of British Columbia

You’ve fed Google. You’ve fought Google. Now, I want you to flip this whole scenario to your advantage.

My 2020 local SEO blueprint has you working hard for every customer you win from the Internet. So far, the ball has been almost entirely in Google’s court, but when all of this effort culminates in a face-to-face meeting with another human being, we are finally at your party under your roof, where you have all the control. This is where you turn Internet-driven customers into in-store keepers.

I encourage you to make 2020 the year you draft a strategy for making a larger portion of your sales as Google-independent as possible, flipping their risky edifice into su casa, built of sturdy bricks like community, pride, service, and loyalty.

How can you do this? Here’s a four-quarter plan you can customize to fit your exact business scenario:

Q1: Listen & learn

Image credit: Chris Kiernan, Small Business Saturday

The foundation of all business success is giving the customer exactly what they want. Hoping and guessing are no substitute for a survey of your actual customers.

If you already have an email database, great. If not, you could start collecting one in Q1 and run your survey at the end of the quarter when you have enough addresses. Alternatively, you could ask each customer if they would kindly take a very short printed survey while you ring up their purchase.

Imagine you’re marketing an independent bookstore. Such a survey might look like this, whittled down to just the data points you most want to gather from customers to make business decisions:

Have pens ready and a drop box for each customer to deposit their card. Make it as convenient and anonymous as possible, for the customer’s comfort.

In this survey and listening phase of the new year, I also recommend that you:

  1. Spend more time as the business owner speaking directly to your customers, really listening to their needs and complaints and then logging them in a spreadsheet. Speak with determination to discover how your business could help each customer more.
  2. Have all phone staff log the questions/requests/complaints they receive.
  3. Have all floor/field staff log the questions/requests/complaints they receive.
  4. Audit your entire online review corpus to identify dominant sentiment, both positive and negative
  5. If the business you’re marketing is large and competitive, now is the time to go in for a full-fledged consumer analysis project with mobile surveys, customer personae, etc.

End of Q1 Goal: Know exactly what customers want so that they’ll come to us for repeat business without any reliance on Google.

Q2: Implement your ready welcome

Image credit: Small Business Week in BC

In this quarter, you’ll implement as many of the requests you’ve gleaned from Q1 as feasible. You’ll have put solutions in place to rectify any complaint themes, and will have upped your game wherever customers have called for it.

In addition to the fine details of your business, large or small, life as a local SEO has taught me that these six elements are basic requirements for local business longevity:

  1. A crystal-clear USP
  2. Consumer-centric policies
  3. Adequate, well-trained, personable staff
  4. An in-demand inventory of products/services
  5. Accessibility for complaint resolution
  6. Cleanliness/orderliness of premises/services

The lack of any of these six essentials results in negative experiences that can either cause the business to shed silent customers in person or erode online reputation to the point that the brand begins to fail.

With the bare minimums of customers’ requirements met, Q2 is where we get to the fun part. This is where you take your basic USP and add your special flourish to it that makes your brand unique, memorable, and desirable within the community you serve.

A short tale of two yarn shops in my neck of the woods: At shop A, the premises are dark and dusty. Customer projects are on display, but aren’t very inspiring. Staff sits at a table knitting, and doesn’t get up when customers enter. At shop B, the lighting and organization are inviting, displayed projects are mouthwatering, and though the staff here also sits at a table knitting, they leap up to meet, guide, and serve. Guess which shop now knows me by name? Guess which shop has staff so friendly that they have lent me their own knitting needles for a tough project? Guess which shop I gave a five-star review to? Guess where I’ve spent more money than I really should?

This quarter, seek vision for what going above-and-beyond would look like to your customers. What would bring them in again and again for years to come? Keep it in mind that computers are machines, but you and your staff are people serving people. Harness human connection.

End of Q2 Goal: Have implemented customers’ basic requests and gone beyond them to provide delightful human experiences Google cannot replicate.

Q3: Participate, educate, appreciate

Now you know your customers, are meeting their specified needs, and doing your best to become one of their favorite businesses. It’s time to walk out your front door into the greater community to see where you can make common cause with a neighborhood, town, or city, as a whole.

2020 is the year you become a joiner. Analyze all of the following sources at a local level:

  • Print and TV news
  • School newsletters and papers
  • Place of worship newsletters and bulletins
  • Local business organization newsletters
  • Any form of publication surrounding charity, non-profits, activism, and government

Create a list of the things your community worries about, cares about, and aspires to. For example, a city near me became deeply involved in a battle over putting an industrial plant in a wetland. Another town is fundraising for a no-kill animal shelter and a walk for Alzheimer’s. Another is hosting interfaith dinners between Christians and Muslims.

Pick the efforts that feel best to you and show up, donate, host, speak, sponsor, and support in any way you can. Build real relationships so that the customers coming through your door aren’t just the ones you sell to, but the ones you’ve manned a booth with on the 4th of July, attended a workshop with, or cheered with at their children’s soccer match. This is how community is made.

Once you’re participating in community life, it’s time to educate your customers about how supporting your business makes life better in the place they live (get a bunch of good stats on this here). Take the very best things that you do and promote awareness of them face-to-face with every person you transact with.

For my fictitious bookseller client, just 10 minutes spent on Canva (you have to try Canva!) helped me whip together this free flyer I could give to every customer, highlighting stats about how supporting independent businesses improve communities:

Example of a flyer to give to customers thanking them for shopping local

If you’re marketing a larger enterprise, a flyer like this could focus on green practices you’re implementing at scale, philanthropic endeavors, and positive community involvement.

Finally, with the holiday season fast approaching in the coming quarter, this is the time to let customers know how much you appreciate their business. Recently, I wrote about businesses turning kindness into a form of local currency. Brands are out there delivering surprise flowers and birthday cakes to customers, picking them up when they’re stranded on roadsides, washing town signage, and replacing “you will be towed” plaques with ones that read “you’re welcome to park here.” Loyalty programs, coupons, discounts, sales, free events, parties, freebies, and fun are all at your disposal to say “Thank you, please come again!” to your customers.

End of Q3 Goal: Have integrated more deeply into community life, motivated customers to choose our business for aspirational reasons beyond sales, and have offered memorable acts of gratitude for their business, completely independent of Google.

Q4: Share customers and sell

Every year, local consumer surveys indicate that 80–90% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family. But I’ve yet to see a survey poll how much people trust recommendations they receive from trustworthy business owners.

You spent all of Q3 becoming a true ally to your community, getting personally involved in the struggles and dreams of the people you serve. At this point, if you’ve done a good job, the people who make up your brand have come closer to deserving the word “friend” from customers. As we move into Q4, it’s time to deepen alliances — this time with related local businesses.

In the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street, the owners of Macy’s and Gimbel’s begin sending shoppers to one another when either business lacks what the customer wants. They even create catalogues of their competitors’ inventory to assist with these referrals. In Q3, I’m hoping you joined a local business alliance that’s begun to acquaint you with other brands that feature goods/service that relate to yours so that you can begin dedicated outreach.

Q4, with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, is traditionally the quarter in which local businesses expect to get out of the red, but how many more wedding cakes would you sell if all the caterers in town were referring to you, how many more tires would you vend if the muffler shops sent all their customers your way, how many more therapeutic massages might you book if every holistic medical center in your city confidently gave out your name?

Formalize B2B customer referrals in this quarter in seven easy steps:

  1. Create a spreadsheet headed with your contact information and an itemized list of the main goods, services, and brands you sell. Include specialties of your business. Create additional rows to be filled out with the information of other businesses.
  2. Create a list of every local business that could tie in with yours in any way for a customer’s needs.
  3. Invite the owners or qualified reps of each business on your list to a meeting at a neutral location, like a community center or restaurant.
  4. Bring your spreadsheet to the meeting.
  5. Discuss with your guests how a commitment to sharing customers will benefit all of you
  6. If others commit, have them fill out their column of the spreadsheet. Share print and digital copies with all participants.
  7. Whenever a customer asks for something you don’t offer, refer to the spreadsheet to make a recommendation. Encourage your colleagues to do likewise, and to train staff to use the spreadsheet to increase customer sharing and satisfaction.

Make a copy of my free Local Business Allies spreadsheet!

Q4 Goal: Make this the best final quarter yet by sharing customers with local business allies, decreasing dependence on Google for referrals.

Embrace truth and dare to draw the line

Image credit: TCDavis

House flipping is a runaway phenomenon in the US that has remodeled communities and sparked dozens of hit TV shows. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to the activity, as it can create negative gentrification, making life less good for residents.

You need have no fear of this when you flip Google, because turning their house into yours actually strengthens your real-world neighborhood, town, or city. It gives the residents who already live there more stable resources, more positive human contact, and a more closely knit community.

Truth: Google will remain dominant in the discovery-related phases of your consumers’ journeys for the foreseeable future. For new neighbors and travelers, Google will remain a valuable source of your business being found in the first place. Even if governing bodies break the company up at some point, the truth is that most local businesses need to utilize Google a search utility for discovery.

Dare: Draw a line on the pavement outside your front door this year, with transactional experiences on your side of the line. Google wants to own the transaction phase of your customers’ journey. Bookings, lead gen, local ads, and related features show where they are headed with this. If Google could, I’m sure they’d be glad to take a cut of every sale you make, and you’ll likely have to participate in their transactional aspirations to some degree. But…

In 2020, dare yourself to turn every customer you serve into a keeper, cutting out Google as the middleman wherever you can and building a truly local, regenerative base of loyalty, referrals, and community.

Wishing you a local 2020 of daring vision and self-made success!

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Reblogged 2 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

6 Local Search Marketing DIY Tips for the Crafting Industry

Posted by MiriamEllis

Think crafting is kids’ stuff? Think again. The owners of quilting, yarn, bead, fabric, woodworking, art supply, stationers, edible arts, and related shops know that:

  • The crafting industry generated $44 billion in 2016 in the US alone.
  • 63% of American households engage in at least one crafting project annually, while more than one in four participate in 5+ per year.
  • The top three craft store chains in the country (Michaels, JOANN, Hobby Lobby) operate nearly 3,000 locations, just among themselves.
  • There are an estimated 3,200 US storefronts devoted to quilting alone. Thousands more vend everything from the stuff of ancient arts (knitting, with a 1,000-year history) to the trendy and new (unicorn slime, which, yes, is really a thing).

Our local search marketing industry has devoted abundant time to advising major local business categories over the past couple of decades, but crafting is one substantial retail niche we may have overlooked. I’d like to rectify this today.

I feel personally inspired by craft store owners. Over the years, I’ve learned to sew, quilt, embroider, crochet, knit, and bead, and before I became a local search marketer, I was a working fine artist. I even drafted a sewing pattern once that was featured in a crafting magazine. Through my own exploration of arts and crafts, I’ve come to know so many independent business owners in this industry, and have marketed several of them. These are gutsy people who take risks, work extremely hard for their living, and often zestfully embrace any education they can access about marketing.

Today, I’m offering my six best marketing tips for craft retailers for a more successful and profitable 2020.

First, a quick definition of local search marketing

Your store is your location. Your market is made up of all of your customers’ locations. Anything you do to promote your location to the market you serve is considered local search marketing. Your market could be your neighborhood, your city, or a larger local region. Local search marketing can include both offline efforts, like hanging eye-catching signage or getting mentioned in local print news, and online efforts, like having a website, building listings on local business listing platforms, and managing customer reviews.

Whatever you do to increase local awareness about your location, interact online with customers, bring them through your front door, serve them in-store, and follow up with them afterwards in an ongoing relationship counts. You’re already doing some of this, and in the words of Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.” But with a little more attention and intention, these six tips can craft even greater success for your business:

1. Take a page from my Google scrapbook

To engage in local search marketing is to engage with Google. Since they first started mapping out communities and businesses in 2004, the search engine giant has come to dominate the online local scene. There are other important online platforms, but to be in front of the maximum number of potential customers and to compete for rankings in Google’s local search results, your crafting business needs to:

  1. Read the Guidelines for representing your business on Google and follow them to the letter. This set of rules tells you what you can and can’t do in the Google My Business product. Listing your business incorrectly or violating the guidelines in any way can result in listing suspension and other negative outcomes.
  2. Create your free Google My Business listing once you’ve read the guidelines. Here’s Moz’s cheat sheet to all of the different fields and features you can fill out in your listing. Fill out as many fields as you possibly can and then Google will take you through the steps of verifying your listing.
  3. Reckon with Google’s power. As our scrapbook says, Google owns your Google My Business listing, but you can take a lot of control over some of its contents. Even once you’ve verified your listing, it’s still open to suggested edits from the public, questions, reviews, user-uploaded photos and other activities. Main takeaway: your GMB listing is not a one-and-done project. It’s an interactive platform that you will be monitoring and managing from here on out.

2. Weave a strong web presence

Your Google My Business listing will likely be the biggest driver of traffic to your craft store, but you’ll want to cast your online net beyond this. Once you feel confident about the completeness and ongoing management of your GMB listing, there are 4 other strands of Internet activity for you to take firm hold of:

Your website

At bare minimum, your website should feature:

  • Your complete and accurate name, address, phone number, email, and fax number
  • Clear written driving directions to your place of business from all points of entry
  • A good text description of everything you sell and offer
  • An up-to-date list of all upcoming classes and events
  • Some high-quality photos of your storefront and merchandise

A more sophisticated website can also feature:

  • Articles and blog posts
  • Full inventory, including e-commerce shopping
  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Online classes, webinars and video tutorials
  • Customer-generated content, including photos, forums, etc.

The investment you make in your website should be based on how much you need to do to create a web presence that surpasses your local competitors. Depending on where your store is located, you may need only a modest site, or may need to go further to rank highly in Google’s search engine results and win the maximum number of customers.

Your other local listings

Beyond Google, your business listings on other online platforms like Yelp, Facebook, Bing, Apple Maps, Factual, Foursquare, and Infogroup can ensure that customers are encountering your business across a wide variety of sites and apps. Listings in these local business information indexes are sometimes referred to as “structured citations” and you have two main choices for building and maintaining them:

  • You can manually build a listing on each important platform and check back on it regularly to manage your reviews and other content on it, as well as to ensure that the basic contact info hasn’t been changed by the platform or the public in any way.
  • You can invest in local listings management software like Moz Local, which automates creation of these listings and gives you a simple dashboard that helps you respond to reviews, post new content, and be alerted to any emerging inaccuracies across key listing platforms, all in one place. This option can be a major time saver and deliver welcome peace of mind.

Structured citation management is critical to any local business for two key reasons. Firstly, it can be a source of valuable consumer discovery and new customers for your shop. Secondly, it ensures you aren’t losing customers to frustrating misinformation. One recent survey found that 22% of customers ended up at the wrong location of a business because online information about it was incorrect, and that 80% of them lost trust in the company when encountering such misinformation. Brick-and-mortar stores can’t afford to inconvenience or lose a single customer, and that’s why managing all your listings for accuracy is worth the investment of time/money.

Your unstructured citations

As we’ve just covered, a formal listing on a local business platform is called a “structured citation.” Unstructured citations, by contrast, are mentions of your business on any type of website: local online news, industry publications, a crafter’s blog, and lists of local attractions all count.

Anywhere your business can get mentioned on a relevant online publication can help customers discover you. And if trusted, authoritative websites link to yours when they mention your business, those links can directly improve your search engine rankings.

If you’re serving a market with little local competition, you may not need to invest a ton of time in seeking out unstructured citation opportunities. But if a nearby competitor is outranking you and you need to get ahead, earning high-quality mentions and links can be the best recipe for surpassing them. All of the following can be excellent sources of unstructured citations:

  • Sponsoring or participating in local events, organizations, teams, and causes
  • Hosting newsworthy happenings that get written up by local journalists
  • Holding contests and challenges that earn public mention
  • Joining local business organizations
  • Cross promoting with related local businesses
  • Getting featured/interviewed by online crafting magazines, fora, blogs, and videos

Read The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO for more information.

Your social media presence

YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, crafting forums…choices abound! How much time and where you invest in social media should be determined by two things:

  • What your local competition is doing
  • Where your potential customers spend social time

If your shop is literally the only game in town, you may not need to win at social to win business, but if you have multiple competitors, strategic social media investments can set you apart as the most helpful, most popular local option.

In your social efforts, emphasize sharing, showing and telling — not just selling. If you keep this basic principle in mind, the DIY revolution is at your fingertips, waiting to be engaged. One thing I’ve learned about crafters is that they will travel. Quilting retreats, knitting tours, and major craft expos prove this.

If you or a staff member happen to create one of the most-viewed videos on YouTube for the three-needle bind off or crafting felt succulents, it could inspire travelers to put your shop on their bucket list. One of my favorite knitters in the world films the English/Swedish language Kammebornia podcast which is so idyllic, it would certainly inspire me to visit the island of Gotland if I were ever anywhere nearby. Think what you can do via social media to make your shop an aspirational destination for even non-local customers.

3. Abandon fear of ripping out mistakes (and negative reviews)

As the old adage goes, “Good knitters are good rippers.” When you drop a stitch in an important project, you have to know how to see it, patiently rip out stitches back to it, and correct the mistake as skillfully as you can. This exact same technique applies to managing the reviews customers leave you online. When your business “drops the ball” for a customer and disappoints them, you can often go back and correct the error.

Reviews = your business’ reputation. It’s as simple (and maybe scary) as that. Consider these statistics about the power of local business reviews:

  • 87% of consumers read local business reviews (BrightLocal)
  • 27% of people who look for local information are actually seeking reviews about a particular store. (Streetfight Mag)
  • 30% of consumers say seeing business owners’ responses to reviews are key to them judging the company. (BrightLocal)
  • 73.8 percent of customers are either likely or extremely likely to continue doing business with a brand that resolves their complaints. (GatherUp)

To be competitive, your craft store must earn reviews. Many business owners feel apprehensive about negative reviews, but the good news is:

  • You can “rip out” some negative reviews simply by responding well to them. The owner response function actually makes reviews conversational, and a customer you’ve made things right with can edit their initial review to a more positive one.
  • Most consumers expect a business to receive some negative reviews. Multiple surveys find that a perfect 5 star rating can look suspicious to shoppers.
  • If you continuously monitor reviews, either manually or via convenient software like Moz Local that alerts you to incoming reviews, there is little to fear, because customers are more forgiving than you might have thought.

For a complete tutorial, read How to Get a Customer to Edit Their Negative Review. And be sure you are always doing what’s necessary to earn positive reviews by delivering excellent customer service, keeping your online listings accurate, and proactively asking customers to review you on Google and other eligible platforms.

4. Craft what online can’t — 5 senses engagement

Consider these three telling statistics:

  • Over half of consumers prefer to shop in-store to interact with products. (Local Search Association)
  • 80% of U.S. disposable income is spent within 20 miles of home (Access Development)
  • By 2021, mobile devices alone will influence $1.4 trillion in local sales. (Forrester)

There may be no retailer left in America who hasn’t felt the Amazon effect, but as a craft shop owner, you have an amazing advantage so many other industries lack. Crafters want to touch textiles and fibers before buying, to hold fabrics up to their faces, to see true colors, and handle highly tactile merchandise like beads and wood. When it comes to fulfilling the five senses, online shopping is miles behind what you can provide face-to-face.

And it’s not just customers’ desire to interact with products that sets you apart — it’s their desire to interact with experts. As pattern designer Amy Barickman of Indygo Junction perfectly sums it up:

“To survive and thrive, brick-and-mortar stores must now provide experiences that cannot be replicated online.”

The expertise of your staff, the classes you hold, and tie-in services you offer, the sensory appeal of your storefront, the time you take to build relationships with customers all contribute to creating valued interactions which the Internet just can’t replace.

This advantage ties in deeply with the quality of your staff hiring and training practices. One respected survey found that 57% of customer complaints stem from employee behavior and poor service. Specifically in the crafting industry, staff who are expert with the materials being sold are worth their weight in gold. Be prepared to assist both seasoned crafters and the new generations of customers who are just now embracing the creative industries.

Play to your strengths. In every way that you market your business, emphasize hands-on experiences to draw people off their computers and into your store. In every ad you run, blog post you write, phone call you answer, listing you build, invite people to come in to engage all five senses at your place of business. Soft lighting and music, a tea kiosk, fragrant fresh flowers, some comfy chairs, and plenty of tactile merchandise are all within your reach, making shopping a pleasure which customers will want to enjoy again and again.

5. Learn to read your competitors’ patterns

Need to know: there are no #1 rankings on Google. Google customizes the search engine results they show to each person, based on where that person is physically located at the time they look something up on their phone or computer. You can walk or drive around your city, performing the identical search, and watch the rankings change in the:

Local Packs

Maps

Organic results

If you’re doing business in an area with few competitors, you may only need to be aware of one or two other companies. But when competition is more dense and diverse, or you operate multiple locations, the need for competitive analysis can grow exponentially. And for each potential customer, the set of businesses you’re competing with changes, based on that customer’s location. 

How can you visualize and strategize for this? You have two options:

  1. If competition is quite low, you can manually find your true local competitors with this tutorial. It includes a free spreadsheet for helping you figure out which businesses are ranking for your most desired searches for the customers nearest you. This is a basic, doable approach for very small businesses.
  2. If your environment is competitive or you are marketing a large, enterprise craft store brand, you can automate analysis with software. Local Market Analytics from Moz, for example, is designed to do all the work of finding true competitors for you. This groundbreaking product multi-samples searchers’ locations and helps you analyze your strongest and weakest markets. Currently, Local Market Analytics focuses on organic results, and it will soon include data on local pack results, too.

Once you’ve completed this first task, you have one more step ahead if you find that some of your competitors are outranking you. You’ll want to stack up your metrics against theirs to analyze why they are surpassing you. Good news: we’ve got another tutorial and free spreadsheet for this project! What emerges from the work is a pattern of strengths and weaknesses that signal why Google is ranking some businesses ahead of others.

Knowing who your competitors are and gathering metrics about why they may be outranking you is what empowers you to create a winning local search marketing strategy. Whether you find you need more reviews, a stronger website, or some other improvement, you’ll be working from data instead of making random guesses about how to grow your business.

6. Open your grab bag

Every craft store and craft fair has its grab bags, and who can resist them? I’d like to close out this article by spilling a trove of marketing goodies into your hands. Sort through them and see if there’s a fresh idea in here that could really work for your business to take it to the next level.

  • Be more! This year, Michaels has partnered with UPS at 1,100 locations in a convenience experiment. You run a craft store, but could it be more? Is there something lacking in your local market that your shop could double as? A meeting house, a lending library, an adult classroom, a tea shop, a Wi-Fi spot, a holiday boutique, a place for live music?
  • Tie in! Your quilt shop can support apparel sewers with a few extra solids, textiles, and some fun patterns. Your yarn shop can find a nook for needle arts. Your woodshop could offer wooden needles for knitting and crochet, wooden hoops for embroidery, wood buttons, stamps, and a variety of wood boxes for crafters. You may sell everything needed for beading jewelry, but do you have the necessary supplies to bead clothing? Crafters are hungry for local resources for every kind of project, especially in rural areas, suburbs, and other communities where there are few businesses.
  • Teach! There are so many arts and crafts that are incredibly challenging to learn without being shown, face-to-face. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a grandparent or parent to demo exactly how you do a long tail cast on or master the dovetail joint. If you want to sell merchandise, show how to use it. Look at JOANN, which just unveiled its new concept store in Columbus, Ohio, centered on a “Creators Studio”. One independent fabric shop near me devotes half its floorspace to classes for children — the next generation of customers!
  • Email! Don’t make the mistake of thinking email is old school. Statistics say that 47% of marketers point to email marketing as delivering the highest ROI and 69% of consumers prefer to receive local business communications via email. If you’re one of the 50% of small business owners who hasn’t yet taken the leap of creating an email newsletter, do it!
  • Survey! Don’t guess what to stock or how to do business. Directly ask your customers via email, social media, and in-store surveys what they really want. I’ve seen businesses abandon scented products because they found they were deterring migraine-prone shoppers. I’ve seen others implement special ordering services to source hard-to-access items in-store instead of letting consumer drift away to the online world. Giving the customer what they want is the absolute key to your store’s success.
  • Go green! Whether it’s powering your shop with solar, supporting upcycling crafts, or stocking organic and sustainable inventory, embrace and promote every green practice you can engage in. Numerous studies cite the younger generations as being particularly defined by responsible consumption. Demonstrate solidarity with their aspirations in the way you operate and market.

Doers, makers, creators, crafters, artisans, artists… your business exists to support their drive to embellish personal and public life. When you need to grow your business, you’ll be drawing from the same source of inspiration that all creative people do: the ability to imagine, to envision a plan, to color outside the lines, to gather the materials you need to make something great.

Local search marketing is a template for ensuring that your business is ready to serve every crafter at every stage of their journey, from the first spark of an idea, to discovery of local resources, to transaction, and beyond. I hope you’ll take the template I’ve sketched out for you today and make it your own for a truly rewarding 2020.

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Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Becoming an Industry Thought Leader: Advanced Techniques for Finding the Best Places to Pitch Guest Posts

Posted by KristinTynski

If you’re involved in any kind of digital PR — or pitching content to writers to expand your brand awareness and build strong links — then you know how hard it can be to find a good home for your content.

I’m about to share the process you can use to identify the best, highest ROI publishers for building consistent, mutually beneficial guest posting relationships with.

This knowledge has been invaluable in understanding which publications have the best reach and authority to other known vertical/niche experts, allowing you to share your own authority within these readership communities.

Before we get started, there’s a caveat: If you aren’t willing to develop true thought leadership, this process won’t work for you. The prerequisite for success here is having a piece of content that is new, newsworthy, and most likely data-driven.

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Not all publications are equal

Guest posting can increase awareness of your brand, create link authority, and ultimately generate qualified leads. However, that only happens if you pick publishers that have:

  • The trust of your target audience.
  • Topical relevance and authority.
  • Sufficiently large penetration in readership amongst existing authorities in your niche/vertical.

A big trap many fall into is not properly prioritizing their guest posting strategy along these three important metrics.

To put this strategy into context, I’ll provide a detailed methodology for understanding the “thought leadership” space of two different verticals. I’ll also include actionable tips for developing a prioritized list of targets for winning guest spots or columns with your killer content.

It all starts with BuzzSumo

We use BuzzSumo data as the starting point for developing these interactive elements. For this piece, the focus will be on looking at data pulled from their Influencer and Shared Links APIs.

Let’s begin by looking at the data we’re after in the regular user interface. On the Influencers tab, we start by selecting a keyword most representative of the overall niche/industry/vertical we want to understand. We’ll start with “SEO.”

The list of influencers here should already be sorted, but feel free to narrow it down by applying filters. I recommend making sure your final list has 250-500 influencers as a minimum to be comprehensive.

Next, and most importantly, we want to get the links’ shared data for each of these influencers. This will be the data we use to build our network visualizations to truly understand the publishers in the space that are likely to be the highest ROI places for guest posting.

Below you can see the visual readout for one influencer.

Note the distribution of websites Gianluca Fiorelli (@gfiorelli1) most often links to on Twitter. These sites (and their percentages) will be the data we use for our visualization.

Pulling our data programmatically

Thankfully, BuzzSumo has an excellent and intuitive API, so it’s relatively easy to pull and aggregate all of the data we need. I’ve included a link to my script in Github for those who would like to do it themselves.

In general, it does the following:

  • Generates the first page of influencers for the given keyword, which is about 50. You can either update the script to iterate through pages or just update the page number it pulls from within the script and concatenate the output files after the fact.
  • For each influencer, it makes another API call and gets all of the aggregated Top Domains shared data for each influencer, which is the same as the data you see in the above pie chart visualization.
  • Aggregates all the data and exports to a CSV.

Learning from the data

Once we have our data in the format Gephi prefers for network visualizations (sample edge file), we are ready to start exploring. Let’s start with our data from the “SEO” search, for which I pulled the domain sharing data for the top 400 influencers.

A few notes:

  • The circles are called nodes. All black nodes are the influencer’s Twitter accounts. All other colored nodes are the websites.
  • The size of the nodes is based on Page Rank. This isn’t the Google Page Rank number, but instead the Page Rank within this graph alone. The larger the node, the more authoritative (and popular) that website is within the entire graph.
  • The colors of the nodes are based on a modularity algorithm in Gephi. Nodes with similar link graphs typically have the same color.

What can we learn from the SEO influencer graph?

Well, the graph is relatively evenly distributed and cohesive. This indicates that the websites and blogs that are shared most frequently are well known by the entire community.

Additionally, there are a few examples of clusters outside the primary cluster (the middle of the graph). For instance, we see a Local SEO cluster at the 10 p.m. position on the left hand side. We can also see a National Press cluster at the 6-7 p.m. position on the bottom and a French Language cluster at the 1-2 p.m. position at the top right.

Ultimately, Moz, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land are great bets when developing and fostering guest posting relationships.

Note that part of the complication with this data has to do with publishing volume. The three largest nodes are also some of the most prolific, meaning there are more overall chances for articles to earn Tweets and other social media mentions from industry influencers. You could refining of the data further by normalizing each site by content publishing volume to find publishers who publish much less frequently and still enjoy disproportionate visibility within the industry.

Webmasters.Googleblog.com is a good example of this. They publish 3 to 4 times per month, and yet because of their influence in the industry, they’re still one of the largest and most central nodes. Of course, this makes sense given it is the only public voice of Google for our industry.

Another important thing to notice is the prominence of both YouTube and SlideShare. If you haven’t yet realized the importance and reach of these platforms, perhaps this is the proof you need. Video content and slide decks are highly shared in the SEO community by top influencers.

Differences between SEO and content marketing influencer graphs

What can we learn from the Content Marketing influencer graph?

For starters, it looks somewhat different overall from the SEO influencer graph; it’s much less cohesive and seems to have many more separate clusters. This could indicate that the content publishing sphere for content marketing is perhaps less mature, with more fragmentation and fewer central sources for consuming content marketing related content. It could also be that content marketing is descriptive of more than SEO and that different clusters are publishers that focus more on one type of content marketing vs. another (similar to what we saw with the local SEO cluster in the previous example).

Instead of 3 to 5 similarly sized market leaders, here we see one behemoth, Content Marketing Institute, a testament to both the authority of that brand and the massive amount of content they publish.

We can also see several specific clusters. For instance, the “SEO blogs” cluster in blue at the 8-9 p.m. position and the more general marketing blogs like Hubspot, MarketingProfs, and Social Media Examiner in green and mauve at the 4-5 p.m. position.

The general business top-tier press sites appear quite influential in this space as well, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Adweek, Tech Crunch, Business Insider, Inc., which we didn’t see as much in the SEO example.

YouTube, again, is extremely important, even more so than in the SEO example.

Is it worth it?

If you’re already deep in an industry, the visualization results of this process are unlikely to shock you. As someone who’s been in the SEO/content marketing industry for 10 years, the graphs are roughly what I expected, but there certainly were some surprises.

This process will be most valuable to you when you are new to an industry or are working within a new vertical or niche. Using the python code I linked and BuzzSumo’s fantastic API and data offers the opportunity to gain a deep visual understanding of the favorite places of industry thought leaders. This knowledge acts as a basis for strategic planning toward identifying top publishers with your own guest content.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The Local Algorithm: Relevance, Proximity, and Prominence

Posted by MaryBowling

How does Google decide what goes into the local pack? It doesn’t have to be a black box — there’s logic behind the order. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, renowned local SEO expert Mary Bowling lays out the three factors that drive Google’s local algorithm and local rankings in a simple and concise way anyone can understand.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. This is Mary Bowling from Ignitor Digital, and today I want to talk to you about the local algorithm. I’d like to make this as simple as possible for people to understand, because I think it’s a very confusing thing for a lot of SEOs who don’t do this every day.

The local algorithm has always been based on relevance, prominence, and proximity

1. Relevance

For relevance, what the algorithm is asking is, “Does this business do or sell or have the attributes that the searcher is looking for?” That’s pretty simple. So that gives us all these businesses over here that might be relevant. For prominence, the algorithm is asking, “Which businesses are the most popular and the most well regarded in their local market area?”

2. Proximity

For proximity, the question really is, “Is the business close enough to the searcher to be considered to be a good answer for this query?” This is what trips people up. This is what really defines the local algorithm — proximity. So I’m going to try to explain that in very simple terms here today.

Let’s say we have a searcher in a particular location, and she’s really hungry today and she wants some egg rolls. So her query is egg rolls. If she were to ask for egg rolls near me, these businesses are the ones that the algorithm would favor.

3. Prominence

They are the closest to her, and Google would rank them most likely by their prominence. If she were to ask for something in a particular place, let’s say this is a downtown area and she asked for egg rolls downtown because she didn’t want to be away from work too long, then the algorithm is actually going to favor the businesses that sell egg rolls in the downtown area even though that’s further away from where the searcher is.

If she were to ask for egg rolls open now, there might be a business here and a business here and a business here that are open now, and they would be the ones that the algorithm would consider. So relevance is kicking in on the query. If she were to ask for the cheapest egg rolls, that might be here and here.

If she were to ask for the best egg rolls, that might be very, very far away, or it could be a combination of all kinds of locations. So you really need to think of proximity as a fluid thing. It’s like a rubber band, and depending on… 

  • the query
  • the searcher’s location
  • the relevance to the query
  • and the prominence of the business 

….is what Google is going to show in that local pack.

I hope that makes it much clearer to those of you who haven’t understood the Local Algorithm. If you have some comments or suggestions, please make them below and thanks for listening.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Building a Local Marketing Strategy for Franchises [Guide Sneak Peek]

Posted by MiriamEllis

A roller is a good tool for painting a house in big, broad strokes. But creating a masterpiece of art requires finer brushes.

Franchises face a unique challenge here: they know how to market at the national level, but often lack the detailed tools for reaching their local customers at a granular level. Google has stated that localization of search results is the greatest form of personalization they currently engage in. For franchises, where local sensitivity is lacking in the marketing plan, opportunity is being lost.

Don’t settle for this. Know that less-motivated competitors are losing this opportunity, too. This creates a large, blank canvas for a franchise you’re marketing to paint a new picture which takes state, regional and community nuances into account.

One famous example of localized marketing is McDonald’s offering SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. For your franchise, it could revolve around customizing content for regional language differences (sub sandwich vs. po’ boy), or knowing when to promote seasonal merchandise at which locations (California vs. North Dakota weather).

What you need is marketing plan capable of scaling from national priorities to hyperlocal customers. Want the complete strategy now?

Get The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

From paint roller to sumi-e brush: A franchise marketing plan

Today, we’ll explore the basics of getting to know your local customers, so that your national franchise can customize how you serve them. Build a strategy around the following:



Your step-by-step guide to how to create a local marketing strategy

Finding your target audience

First, you need to understand who your customers are. If you have an existing franchise, you can do this fairly easily by simply observing or asking them. You might run an online survey, or you might do some quick spot interviews right in your place of business. What you want to work out is:

  • Demographics: What are the common ages, genders, income levels, and other relevant characteristics of your customers.
  • Psychographics: How do your customers think? What are their attitudes, behaviors and beliefs as they relate to your franchise?
  • Pain points: What problems do your customers have that you could potentially solve? Maybe they want to eat healthy but have no time. Maybe they want a gym that will help them become better athletes.
  • Consumption habits: How do your customers decide where to buy? Are they online? Do they have smartphones? Do they prioritize reviews/recommendations? Do they like video, or podcasts? Which social platforms do they frequent? What events do they attend?

Understanding the customer’s journey

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about what we call the “customer journey.” This is just another way of saying we want to understand what happens between us and customers before they know our brand exist, after they discover it, up until they buy, and then beyond.

The best way to do this is to divide that experience into steps, understanding that some people will drop out of the process at every stage. Most corporate franchisers will recognize this as the “sales funnel.”

Here’s a simplified version of a sales funnel. Take the time to determine what happens at each stage in your own customers’ experience, and you’ll be a long way toward understanding how you can influence and help customers from one step to the next. 

Mapping a sales funnel


  1. Awareness
    This is where a customer first discovers you exist and starts to form an opinion about you based on what they see. Often, this is managed by the activities being conducted by corporate franchisors (like a national TV ad campaign). But, it can also happen through franchisee-generated references and referrals (like a searcher discovering you via a Google Maps search on their phone).
  2. Discovery
    This is where a customer has already absorbed information about you and your product and begins to actively try to learn more about it. This stage often encompasses online research. It local word-of-mouth queries between potential customers and their friends and family.
  3. Evaluation
    This is where a customer has decided to probably purchase something similar to what you offer, but is trying to decide where to buy. They might stop by your business in this stage, or they may give you a call. They might visit your online website or listings to look at your hours, or menu or price list. This stage is influenced by both franchisor and franchisee activity.
  4. Intent
    Now the customer has decided to buy from you — which means they are your customer to lose. Franchisors can lose them at this stage through misinformation in the brand’s local business listings — like incorrect hours or bad directions that lead customers to the wrong place and cause them to give up. Franchisees could lose the business through poor on-premises experiences — like uncleanliness, long wait times, low inventory, pricing, or poor customer service.
  5. Purchase
    This is where the transaction takes place, and is generally entirely within the control of the franchisee.
  6. Loyalty
    This stage determines whether the customer will return to buy again, and whether or not they will become an advocate for your business, give you good reviews, or rate you poorly. Again, this is typically within the control of the franchisee unless the issue is a decision made at the franchisor level, such as product/menu, pricing or policy.

Sometimes this whole funnel can take place in the time it takes to spot a sign for ice cream and purchase a double scoop sundae. Sometimes it may take weeks, as your customers labor over the right financial advisor to choose.

Understanding how your customer is thinking and what goes into making the decision to use you is important and will guide decision-making and sales activity at both the franchisor and franchisee levels.

Scoping out the competition

Most brands have already worked out their positioning with regard to other national brands, so this one is mainly for franchisees. Take some time to figure out who your direct competitors are in your local market. They might be other big brands, but there will also probably be local SMBs that are not on the corporate franchisor’s radar.

Understand:

  • Where they are stronger or weaker, compared to you
  • Who they attract, compared to you
  • How they are marketing their business

Having this information should help you to position yourself to win a bigger piece of the local pie. Is your competitor a gym that has better weight training and machines than you? Are they marketing mainly to younger men and athletes? Are they advertising on local radio? Perhaps you should double down on your cardio and yoga classes and try to attract more women or older clientele. Maybe adding some nutrition classes will encourage people trying to lose weight. And so on.

Building your authority

Once you’ve figured out who your customers are, how they buy, and how you plan to position your franchise in the local market, it’s time to put that plan into action by creating some content to support it.

For franchisors at corporate this means putting in the time to create an informative, interesting brand website with dynamic, engaging content. Your content should aim to educate, inform and/or entertain, rather than only sell. The more points of engagement your website offers to customers, the more reason they have to read, share, and link to your content, building authority. Your most valuable content will, of course, be the elements or pages that directly convert visitors into customers.

The content you put out over social media should follow this same precept, and lead back to your site as often as possible. Experts suggest that “60% of your posts you create should be engaging, timely content, 30% should be shared content, and only 10% should be promoting your products & services.” (Medium)

Invest some time in link building, in order to show Google’s algorithm how influential your site is and boost your authority and ranking.

Here are a few tips:

    • Use Moz’s “Find Opportunities” feature to locate sites which are linking to your competitors and not you (yet).
    • Look for people who are already referencing your site and ask them to hyperlink to you.
    • Do a little PR or news-making and ask articles to link to your site. (This is something local franchisees can excel at.)
    • Ask for links from local trade organizations, community organizations or commerce groups.
    • Sponsor events and ask for a link.
    • Start a scholarship and post it on local .edu sites.

Find out more about link building and unstructured citation and how to increase them in The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

Managing channels and budgets efficiently

Armed with good, authoritative content and an effective website, you’ll want to focus on how you manage all the channels available to you. This also includes managing your budget effectively. Most franchisor budgets are focused on the brand, and many franchisees don’t have a lot left over for local marketing, but here are some things to think about.

  • Listings first: Your listings aren’t expensive to manage, but they give your marketing it’s biggest overall value — in some cases literally guiding people to your registers. Make great local business listings your top priority.
  • Claim everything: Franchisors, be sure you are the one in control of your directory listings and social profiles. Complete your Google My Business profile and establish a presence on key social media and review platforms like Facebook and Yelp.
  • Budget wisely: Do the strategy work to understand who your customers are and how best to reach them before you allocate your franchisor or franchisee marketing dollars.


Pointillism for franchises

Adept franchise marketing requires the eye of Seurat: the ability to see life in hundreds of tiny points, making up a masterpiece. For you, franchise pointillism includes:

  • Points representing each customer
  • Points for the customer’s community, as a whole
  • Points representing your locations on the map
  • Points across the web where engagement happens
  • Points offline where engagement happens
  • Points of resource at all levels of the franchise, from franchisor to franchisee

Ready for expert help from Moz in seeing the finer points? Download your copy:

The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

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Have Your Agency’s Clients Considered a Local Product Kiosk? Google Has.

Posted by MiriamEllis

File this under fresh ideas for stagnant clients.

It’s 10:45 at night and I’m out of:

  • Tortillas
  • Avocados
  • Salsa

Maybe I just got off of work, like millions of other non-nine-to-fivers. Maybe I was running around with my family all day and didn’t get my errands done. Maybe I was feeling too sick to appear in a public grocery store wrapped in the ratty throw from my sofa.

And now, most of the local shops are closed for the night and I’m sitting here, taco-less and sad.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if I could search Google and find a kiosk just a couple of blocks away that would vend me solutions, no matter what time of night or day?

Something old is becoming new again, just like home delivery. And for your agency’s local business clients, the opportunity could become an amazing competitive advantage.

What’s up with kiosks?

Something old

The automat was invented in Germany in the late 19th century and took off in the US in the decades following, with industry leader Horn & Hardart’s last New York location only closing in 1991. These famous kiosks fed thousands of Americans on a daily basis with on-demand servings of macaroni, fish cakes, baked beans, and chicory coffee. The demise of the automat is largely blamed on the rise of the fast food industry, with Burger Kings even opening doors at former automat locations.

Something new

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of my favorite local SEO news roundup in which Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill mentioned a meat vending kiosk. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about this. What I learned sparked my imagination on behalf of local businesses which are always benefitted by at least considering fresh ideas, even if those ideas are actually just taking a page from history and editing it a bit.

Something inspirational

What I learned from my research is that the Applestone Meat Company is distinguishing itself from the competition by offering a 24/7 butcher shop via two vending installations in the state of New York. They also have a drive-up service window from 11am–6pm, but for the countless potential customers who are at work or elsewhere during so-called “normal business hours,” the meat kiosks are ever-ready to serve.

CEO Joshua Applestone says he was inspired by the memory of Horn & Hardart and he must be one smart local business owner to have taken this bold plunge. The company has already earned some pretty awesome unstructured citations from the likes of Bloomberg with this product marketing strategy and they’re planning to open ten more kiosks in the near future.

But Applestone isn’t alone. A kiosk can technically just be a fancy vending machine. Check out Chicago startup Farmer’s Fridge. They recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by one-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Their 200+ midwestern units provide granola, Greek yogurt, pasta, wraps, beverages, and similar on-the-go fare, and they donate leftovers to local food pantries.

Americans have long been accustomed to ATM machines. DVD and game rental stations are old news to us. We are nowhere near Japan, with its sixty-billion-dollar-a-year, national vending machine density of one machine per 23 citizens, and its automated sales of everything from ramen to socks to umbrellas. Geography and economics don’t point to the need to go to such a level in the US, but where convenience is truly absent, opportunity may reside. What might that look like?

Use your imagination

My corner of the world is famous for its sourdough bread. There are hundreds of regional bakeries competing with one another for the crustiest, lightest, most indulgent loaf. But, if you don’t make it to the local stores by early afternoon, your favorite brand is likely to have sold out. And if you’re working the 47-hour American work week, or gigging California night and day but don’t want to live on fast food, you’d likely be quite grateful to have your access to artisan baguettes restored.

Just imagine every bread bakery around the SF Bay Area installing a kiosk outside its front door, and you can hear the satisfied after-hours crunching, can’t you?

Applestone is selling unprepared meat, Farmer’s Fridge is selling prepared meals, and almost anything people nosh could be a candidate for a kiosk, but why should on-demand products be limited to food? I let my imagination meander and jotted down a quick list of things people might buy at various off-hours, if a machine existed outside the storefront:

  • Books/magazines
  • Weather-appropriate basic apparel (sweatshirts, socks, t-shirts)
  • First aid supplies
  • Baby care supplies
  • Emergency electronics (chargers, batteries, flashlights)
  • Basic auto repair supplies (headlight bulbs, wipers, puncture kits)
  • Personal care products (bathroom tissue, toiletries)
  • Office supplies (printer ink, paper, envelopes, stamps)
  • Household goods (lightbulbs, laundry soap, pantry basics)
  • Pet supplies
  • Travel/camping/athletic supplies
  • Basic craft supplies, small games, gifts, etc.

What if customers who do their morning bike ride at 5 AM knew they could stop by your client’s kiosk to fix a punctured tire? What if night workers knew they could pick up a box of light bulbs or bandages or cat food on their way to their shift? Think of the convenience — in some instances even life-saving help — that could be provided to travelers on the road at all hours, members of your community who are housing-insecure, or whole neighborhoods that lack access to basic goods?

Not every local business has the right model for a kiosk, but once I started to think about it, I realized just how many of them could. I’m initially envisioning these machines being installed at the place of business, but, where the scenario is right, a company with the right type of inventory could certainly place additional kiosks in strategic locations around the communities they wish to serve.

Kiosk Local SEO

Clearly, kiosks can generate revenue, but what could they do for clients’ online presence? The guidelines for representing your business on Google already support the creation of local business listings for ATMs, video rental stations, and express mail dropboxes. But I went straight to Google with the Applewood example to ask if this emerging type of kiosk would be permitted to create listings. They were kind enough to reply:

Twitter DM from Google rep: kiosks are able to create listings, as per guidelines

The link in the Twitter DM reply just pointed to the general guidelines, and I can find no reference to the term “Food Kiosk listing” in them. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard this terminology. But, clearly this representative is naming food kiosks as a “thing.” Google, it seems, is already quite aware of this business model. And the proof of their support is in the Maps pudding:

My, my! Talk about having the ability to hyperlocalize your local search marketing to fit Google’s extreme emphasis on user-to-business proximity. Enough to make any local SEO agency see conversions and dollar signs for clients.

Tip #1: Helpline phone numbers

I’ve written about ATM SEO in the past for financial publications, and so I’ll add one important tip for creating eligible Google listings for kiosks: guidelines require that you have a helpline phone number for kiosk users. I would post this number both on the listings and on the units, themselves. Note that this will likely mean you have a shared phone number on multiple listings, which isn’t typically deemed ideal for local search marketing, but if kiosks become your model and you avoid any semblance of creating fake listings, Google can likely handle it.

Tip #2: Unique local landing pages for your kiosks

I can also see value in creating unique location landing pages on client websites for their kiosks, especially if they aren’t stationed at your physical location. These pages could give excellent driving and walking directions for each unit, explain how to use the machine, feature reviews and testimonials for that location, and perhaps highlight new inventory.

Tip #3: Capitalize on your social media

Social media will also be an excellent vehicle for letting particular neighborhoods know about client kiosks and engaging with communities to understand their sentiments. Seek abundant feedback about what is and isn’t working for customers and how inventory could better serve their needs. And, of course, be sure every client is monitoring reviews like a low-flying hawk.

Is there an appetite for kiosks?

Image credit: Ben Chun

I’m a longtime observer of rural local SEO. I’ve learned that being intentional in noticing small things can lead to big ideas, and almost any novel concept is worth floating to clients. The tiny, free book lending kiosks sometimes officially branded “Little Free Libraries” are everywhere in my county, have become a non-profit initiative, and are driving Etsy sales of cute wooden contraptions. Moreover, my region is dotted with unstaffed farm stands that operate on the honor system, trusting neighbors to pay for what they take. I’d say our household purchases about half of our produce from them.

Within recent recall, the milkman and the grocery delivery boy seemed as distant as the phonograph. Now, consumers are showing interest in having whole meal kitsentire wardrobes, and just about everything delivered. The point being: don’t discount anything that renders convenience; not the traveling salesman, not the automat.

The decision to experiment with a kiosk isn’t a simple one. There will be financial aspects, like how to access a unit that works for the inventory being sold. There will be security questions, as most businesses probably won’t feel comfortable operating on the honor system.

But if the question is whether there is an appetite for the right kiosk, selling the right goods, in the right place, I’ll close today with a look at these provocative, illuminating reviews from just one location of Farmer’s Fridge:

Screenshot: Multiple positive five-star Yelp reviews praising existing kiosks

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Get the Bingeable & Shareable MozCon 2019 Video Bundle!

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

MozCon 2019 was an absolute blast. There were endless snacks. There were Roger hugs. There were networking opportunities and Birds of a Feather tables and search epiphanies galore. And there were a ton of folks in our community who watched it all unfold from the perspective of a Twitter hashtag — fun to follow along with, but not quite the same impact as seeing the talks unfold in real-time.

If you’re still wishing you could’ve joined us in Seattle this past July, you’ll be happy to know that you can recreate the MozCon experience from the comfort of your home or office (or your home office, but hopefully not your office-home — seriously, Karen, the quarterly reports will still be there in the morning!).

Yep, you got it: the MozCon 2019 Video Bundle is available for your purchasing and viewing pleasure!

Get the MozCon 2019 video bundle


Tell me about the video bundle!

For those of you who attended in-person, good news: you’ve already got access! The video bundle is always included in the price of your MozCon ticket, so you can relive your three jam-packed days of learning as many times as you want — and if you aren’t too bummed that they already made you share your MozCon swag with them, be sure to share the vids with your team!

For the rest of us, the video bundle lets us enjoy the presentations at our own pace. It’s condensed MozCon-caliber information in a neat, on-demand package that you can — have we mentioned this? — share with your team. Seriously, we think they’ll like it. We were humbled to host some of the very brightest minds in SEO and digital marketing on our stage. With topics ranging from content marketing to technical SEO, PPC to local SEO, and just about everything in between, there are presentations to inspire just about any role in marketing (and your web dev just might be interested in a few talks, too).

What’s covered in the videos:

  1. The Golden Age of Search, Sarah Bird
  2. Web Search 2019: The Essential Data Marketers Need, Rand Fishkin
  3. Human > Machine > Human: Understanding Human-Readable Quality Signals and Their Machine-Readable Equivalents, Ruth Burr Reedy
  4. Improved Reporting & Analytics Within Google Tools, Dana DiTomaso
  5. Local Market Analytics: The Challenges and Opportunities, Rob Bucci
  6. Keywords Aren’t Enough: How to Uncover Content Ideas Worth Chasing, Ross Simmonds
  7. How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom, Shannon McGuirk
  8. From Zero to Local Ranking Hero, Darren Shaw
  9. Esse Quam Videri: When Faking it is Harder than Making It, Russ Jones
  10. Building a Discoverability Powerhouse: Lessons From Merging an Organic, Paid, & Content Practice, Heather Physioc
  11. Brand Is King: How to Rule in the New Era of Local Search, Mary Bowling
  12. Making Memories: Creating Content People Remember, Casie Gillette
  13. 20 Years in Search & I Don’t Trust My Gut or Google, Wil Reynolds
  14. Super-Practical Tips for Improving Your Site’s E-A-T, Marie Haynes
  15. Fixing the Indexability Challenge: A Data-Based Framework, Areej AbuAli
  16. What Voice Means for Search Marketers: Top Findings from the 2019 Report, Christi Olson
  17. Redefining Technical SEO, Paul Shapiro
  18. How Many Words Is a Question Worth?, Dr. Peter J. Meyers
  19. Fraggles, Mobile-First Indexing, & the SERP of the Future, Cindy Krum
  20. Killer E-commerce CRO and UX Wins Using A SEO Crawler, Luke Carthy
  21. Content, Rankings, and Lead Generation: A Breakdown of the 1% Content Strategy, Andy Crestodina
  22. Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right, Rob Ousbey
  23. Dark Helmet’s Guide to Local Domination with Google Posts and Q&A, Greg Gifford
  24. How to Audit for Inclusive Content, Emily Triplett Lentz
  25. Image & Visual Search Optimization Opportunities, Joelle Irvine
  26. Factors that Affect the Local Algorithm that Don’t Impact Organic, Joy Hawkins
  27. Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target, Britney Muller

What you’ll get:

For just $299, you’ll get all of the MozCon education and inspiration with none of the air travel or traffic. The bundle includes:

  • 27 full-length presentation videos chock full of leading SEO innovations, thought leadership, and tips & tricks
  • Instant downloads and streaming to your computer, tablet, or mobile device
  • Downloadable slide decks for all presentations

If we could include a download of a Top Pot doughnut and some piping hot Starbucks, we would in a heartbeat. Alas, they don’t have the technology for that… yet.

Free preview – Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right by Rob Ousbey

Speaking of doughnuts, we wouldn’t expect you to buy a dozen sweet treats without taking a little taste first to see if you like ’em. It’s important to know that your doughnuts are both delicious, shareable, and relevant to your everyday work as an SEO — almost exactly like the MozCon video bundle. And just like the feeling of warmth and goodwill you receive when you come back to the office with a fragrant baker’s dozen, your teammates will thank you when you’ve got twenty-seven highly actionable talks to share with them — presentations that’ll hone your skills and level up your understanding of modern SEO and digital marketing.

That’s why we’ve released a talk we’re super proud of as your free preview of all the juicy goodness you can look forward to in the video bundle: Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right, presented by our very own Rob Ousbey. 

Google’s algorithms have undergone significant changes in recent years. Traditional ranking signals don’t hold the same sway they used to, and they’re being usurped by factors like UX and brand that are becoming more important than ever before. What’s an SEO to do? The answer lies in testing. Sharing original data and results from clients, Rob highlights the necessity of testing, learning, and iterating your work, from traditional UX testing to weighing the impact of technical SEO changes, tweaking on-page elements, and changing up content on key pages. Actionable processes and real-world results abound in this thoughtful presentation on why you should be testing SEO changes, how and where to run them, and what kinds of tests you ought to consider for your circumstances.

Gather the team, grab some snacks, and get ready to binge these presentations Netflix-Original-Series-style. 

Get the MozCon 2019 video bundle

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Take the 2019 Local Search Marketing Industry Survey

Posted by MiriamEllis

We couldn’t do it without you! In 2018, over 1,400 marketers responded to our State of Local SEO industry survey. We all learned so much from your responses about the day-to-day realities of marketing local businesses. This year, we can do even better because your answers will give us all valuable comparative data to analyze, YoY.

Who can take the survey?

Anyone who markets local businesses in any way is eagerly invited. Whether you market a single location, work for an agency with some local business clients, or are an in-house SEO for a brand with thousands of locations, we would love your participation! Whether you do just a little local search marketing or a lot, are a novice or an adept, your insights have value.

What is the survey about?

Unlike a typical local ranking factors poll, The Local Search Marketing Industry Survey digs deep into marketers’ experiences with tactics, challenges, clients, Google, and the working environment. For example, we learned last year that:

  • 90% of respondents felt Google’s emphasis on proximity was detrimental to SERP quality
  • 62% felt there aren’t enough quality local search marketing training materials available
  • 60% lacked a comprehensive review management strategy
  • 49% felt utilization of Google Business Profile features were impacting local rank
  • 35% had no link building strategy in place
  • 17% of enterprises had no in-house SEO staff

With your help, we’ll see what’s changed and what hasn’t. There are fresh questions, too, which we hope will uncover new stories to spark new strategies for local brands and their marketers.

There will be four lucky winners!

Everyone is a winner with access to the data we’ll be sharing from this large survey. But we’d like to offer a little extra thank-you for your time and knowledge.

Every respondent who completes the full survey will be automatically entered for a chance to win one of four $50 Visa gift cards. Winners will be selected at random, and we hope they will use these gift cards to shop someplace local and awesome this holiday season!

Take the survey

Look forward to seeing the results in early 2020, when we compile them into our State of Local SEO 2020 Industry Report. Curious about last year’s insights? Check them out here, and thank you for participating!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The 2019 Holiday Checklist for Local SEO Heroes

Posted by MiriamEllis



Right now, the shoppers nearest you are making some pretty long gift lists. US holiday sales are predicted to surpass $1.1 trillion, with 4.5–5% growth between November–January. That’s a lot of gadgets, garments, games, goodies, and gizmos to bought and sold.

Winter weather and long lines will be braved, traffic endured, tired feet soaked, and patience tested in the search for the perfect gift for everyone on everyone’s list. Holiday shopping can and should be cheery, but sometimes it can be a bit of an overload. The end of the year can put local businesses back in the black, but it can be kind of stressful, too.

And that’s why local business marketers need a list of their own. Your agency can be holiday heroes, both to clients and their customers. An organized approach can ensure that no mom with three kids in tow is inconvenienced by a wrong address on a Facebook listing, and no dad is doomed to wander lonely aisles for hours with no help in sight. Strategic planning can save your clients, too, from total holiday frazzle.

Be of good cheer! Download the Moz Holiday Local SEO Checklist, share it with each of your clients, and plan for reputation, rankings, and revenue to rise as a result of your well-orchestrated campaign:

Get your free copy!

Holiday marketing success in 3 segments

Part 1: The client

The local business owner provides the basic, raw materials and agrees to being ready with:

  • Knowledge of their customers and market
  • Sufficient, well-trained staff
  • Front door and indoor signage explaining hours and support availability for complaints
  • Adequate stock
  • Content for marketing
  • A joint commitment to ongoing local listing/social engagement during the holiday season

Part 2: The local marketing agency

Your agency knits up the online picture of local businesses and is ready with:

  • Accurate, complete, persuasive local business listings
  • Unique marketing ideas to set the client apart
  • A joint commitment to ongoing local listing/social engagement during the holiday season
  • Publication of holiday content, on time and in the right places
  • Analytics and post-holiday analysis

Part 3: The customer

The shopper is aided along their merry way by:

  • A great online experience
  • A great offline experience
  • An overall experience that’s exceptional enough to inspire them to leave a review, recommend the business via WoM, and return for more shopping after New Year’s Day.

A lot of time and care goes into crafting happy holiday customers. Ready for a detailed list of the finer points that could take your agency’s reputation to heroic proportions as we put a bow on 2019?

Download the holiday checklist!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Google Review Stars Drop by 14%

Posted by Dr-Pete

On Monday, September 16, Google announced that they would be restricting review stars in SERPs to specific schemas and would stop displaying reviews that they deemed to be “self-serving.” It wasn’t clear at the time when this change would be happening, or if it had already happened.

Across our daily MozCast tracking set, we measured a drop the morning of September 16 (in sync with the announcement) followed by a continued drop the next day …

The purple bar shows the new “normal” in our data set (so far). This represents a two-day relative drop of nearly 14% (13.8%). It definitely appears that Google dropped review snippets from page-1 SERPs across the roughly 48-hour period around their announcement (note that measurements are only taken once per day, so we can’t pinpoint changes beyond 24-hour periods).

Review drops by category

When we broke this two-day drop out into 20 industry categories (roughly corresponding to Google Ads), the results were dramatic. Note that every industry experienced some loss of review snippets. This is not a situation with “winners” and “losers” like an algorithm update. Google’s changes only reduced review snippets. Here’s the breakdown …

Percent drops in blue are <10%, purple are 10%-25%, and red represents 25%+ drops. Finance and Real Estate were hit the hardest, both losing almost half of their SERPs with review snippets (-46%). Note that our 10K daily data set broken down 20 ways only has 500 SERPs per category, so the sample size is low, but even at the scale of 500 SERPs, some of these changes are clearly substantial.

Average reviews per SERP

If we look only at the page-1 SERPs that have review snippets, were there any changes in the average number of snippets per SERP? The short answer is “no” …

On September 18, when the dust settled on the drop, SERPs with review snippets had an average of 2.26 snippets, roughly the same as prior to the drop. Many queries seem to have been unaffected.

Review counts per SERP

How did this break down by count? Let’s look at just the three days covering the review snippet drop. Page-1 SERPs in MozCast with review snippets had between one and nine results with snippets. Here’s the breakdown …



Consistent with the stable average, there was very little shift across groups. Nearly half of all SERPs with review snippets had just one result with review snippets, with a steady drop as count increases.

Next steps and Q&A

What does this mean for you if your site has been affected? I asked my colleague and local SEO expert, Miriam Ellis, for a bit of additional advice …

(Q) Will I be penalized if I leave my review schema active on my website?

(A) No. Continuing to use review schema should have no negative impact. There will be no penalty.

(Q) Are first-party reviews “dead”?

(A) Of course not. Displaying reviews on your website can still be quite beneficial in terms of:

  • Instilling trust in visitors at multiple phases of the consumer journey
  • Creating unique content for store location landing pages
  • Helping you monitor your reputation, learn from and resolve customers’ cited complaints

(Q) Could first-party review stars return to the SERPs in future?

(A) Anything is possible with Google. Review stars were often here-today-gone-tomorrow even while Google supported them. But, Google seems to have made a fairly firm decision this time that they feel first-party reviews are “self serving”.

(Q) Is Google right to consider first-party reviews “self-serving”?

(A) Review spam and review gating are serious problems. Google is absolutely correct that efforts must be made to curb abusive consumer sentiment tactics. At the same time, Google’s increasing control of business reputation is a cause for concern, particularly when their own review corpus is inundated with spam, even for YMYL local business categories. In judging which practices are self-serving, Google may want to look closer to home to see whether their growing middle-man role between consumers and businesses is entirely altruistic. Any CTR loss attendant on Google’s new policy could rightly be seen as less traffic for brand-controlled websites and more for Google.

For more tactical advice on thriving in this new environment, there’s a good write-up on GatherUp.

Thanks, Miriam! A couple of additional comments. As someone who tracks the SERPs, I can tell you that the presence of review stars has definitely fluctuated over time, but in the past this has been more of a “volume” knob, for lack of a better word. In other words, Google is always trying to find an overall balance of usefulness for the feature. You can expect this number to vary in the future, as well, but, as Miriam said, you have to look at the philosophy underlying this change. It’s unlikely Google will reverse course on that philosophy itself.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it