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!

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Reblogged 2 weeks 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.

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Reblogged 3 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

An Agency Workflow for Google My Business Dead Ends

Posted by MiriamEllis

There are times when your digital marketing agency will find itself serving a local business with a need for which Google has made no apparent provisions. Unavailable categories for unusual businesses come instantly to mind, but scenarios can be more complex than this.

Client workflows can bog down as you worry over what to do, fearful of making a wrong move that could get a client’s listing suspended or adversely affect its rankings or traffic. If your agency has many employees, an entry-level SEO could be silently stuck on an issue, or even doing the wrong thing because they don’t know how or where to ask the right questions.

The best solution I know of consists of a combination of:

  • Client contracts that are radically honest about the nature of Google
  • Client management that sets correct expectations about the nature of Google
  • A documented process for seeking clarity when unusual client scenarios arise
  • Agency openness to experimentation, failure, and on-going learning
  • Regular monitoring for new Google developments and changes
  • A bit of grit

Let’s put the fear of often-murky, sometimes-unwieldy Google on the back burner for a few minutes and create a proactive process your team can use when hitting what feels like procedural dead end on the highways and byways of local search.

The apartment office conundrum

As a real-world example of a GMB dead end, a few months ago, I was asked a question about on-site offices for apartment complexes. The details:

  • Google doesn’t permit the creation of listings for rental properties but does allow such properties to be listed if they have an on-site office, as many apartment complexes do.
  • Google’s clearest category for this model is “apartment complex”, but the brand in question was told by Google (at the time) that if they chose that category, they couldn’t display their hours of operation.
  • This led the brand I was advising to wonder if they should use “apartment rental agency” as their category because it does display hours. They didn’t want to inconvenience the public by having them arrive at a closed office after hours, but at the same time, they didn’t want to misrepresent their category.

Now that’s a conundrum!

When I was asked to provide some guidance to this brand, I went through my own process of trying to get at the heart of the matter. In this post, I’m going to document this process for your agency as fully as I can to ensure that everyone on your team has a clear workflow when puzzling local SEO scenarios arise.

I hope you’ll share this article with everyone remotely involved in marketing your clients, and that it will prevent costly missteps, save time, move work forward, and support success.

Step 1: Radical honesty sets the stage right

Whether you’re writing a client contract, holding a client onboarding meeting, or having an internal brand discussion about local search marketing, setting correct expectations is the best defense against future disappointments and disputes. Company leadership must task itself with letting all parties know:

  1. Google has a near-monopoly on search. As such, they can do almost anything they feel will profit them. This means that they can alter SERPs, change guidelines, roll out penalties and filters, monetize whatever they like, and fail to provide adequate support to the public that makes up and interacts with the medium of their product. There is no guarantee any SEO can offer about rankings, traffic, or conversions. Things can change overnight. That’s just how it is.
  2. While Google’s monopoly enables them to be whimsical, brands and agencies do not have the same leeway if they wish to avoid negative outcomes. There are known practices which Google has confirmed as contrary to their vision of search (buying links, building listings for non-existent locations, etc.). Client and agency agree not to knowingly violate Google’s guidelines. These guidelines include:

Don’t accept work under any other conditions than that all parties understand Google’s power, unpredictability, and documented guidelines. Don’t work with clients, agencies, software providers, or others that violate guidelines. These basic rules set the stage for both client and agency success.

Step 2: Confirm that the problem really exists

When a business believes it is encountering an unusual local search marketing problem, the first task of the agency staffer is to vet the issue. The truth is, clients sometimes perceive problems that don’t really exist. In my case of the apartment complex, I took the following steps.

  1. I confirmed the problem. I observed the lacking display of hours of operation on GMB listings using the “apartment complex” category.
  2. I called half-a-dozen nearby apartment complex offices and asked if they were open either by appointment only, or 24/7. None of them were. At least in my corner of the world, apartment complex offices have set, daily business hours, just like retail, opening in the AM and closing in the PM each day.
  3. I did a number of Google searches for “apartment rental agency” and all of the results Google brought up were for companies that manage rentals city-wide — not rentals of units within a single complex.

So, I was now convinced that the business was right: they were encountering a real dead end. If they categorized themselves as an “apartment complex”, their missing hours could inconvenience customers. If they chose the “apartment rental agency” designation to get hours to display, they could end up fielding needless calls from people looking for city-wide rental listings. The category would also fail to be strictly accurate.

As an agency worker, be sure you’ve taken common-sense steps to confirm that a client’s problem is, indeed, real before you move on to next steps.

Step 3: Search for a similar scenario

As a considerate agency SEO, avoid wasting the time of project leads, managers, or company leadership by first seeing if the Internet holds a ready answer to your puzzle. Even if a problem seems unusual, there’s a good chance that somebody else has already encountered it, and may even have documented it. Before you declare a challenge to be a total dead-end, search the following resources in the following order:

  1. Do a direct search in Google with the most explicit language you can (e.g. “GMB listing showing wrong photo”, “GMB description for wrong business”, “GMB owner responses not showing”). Click on anything that looks like it might contain an answer, look at the date on the entry, and see what you can learn. Document what you see.
  2. Go to the Google My Business Help Community forum and search with a variety of phrases for your issue. Again, note the dates of responses for the currency of advice. Be aware that not all contributors are experts. Looks for thread responses from people labeled Gold Product Expert; these members have earned special recognition for the amount and quality of what they contribute to the forum. Some of these experts are widely-recognized, world-class local SEOs. Document what you learn, even if means noting down “No solution found”.
  3. Often, a peculiar local search issue may be the result of a Google change, update, or bug. Check the MozCast to see if the SERPs are undergoing turbulent weather and Sterling Sky’s Timeline of Local SEO Changes. If the dates of a surfaced issue correspond with something appearing on these platforms, you may have found your answer. Document what you learn.
  4. Check trusted blogs to see if industry experts have written about your issue. The nice thing about blogs is that, if they accept comments, you can often get a direct response from the author if something they’ve penned needs further clarification. For a big list of resources, see: Follow the Local SEO Leaders: A Guide to Our Industry’s Best Publications. Document what you learn.

    If none of these tactics yields a solution, move on to the next step.

    Step 4: Speak up for support

    If you’ve not yet arrived at an answer, it’s time to reach out. Take these steps, in this order:

    1) Each agency has a different hierarchy. Now is the time to reach out to the appropriate expert at your business, whether that’s your manager or a senior-level local search expert. Clearly explain the issue and share your documentation of what you’ve learned/failed to learn. See if they can provide an answer.

    2) If leadership doesn’t know how to solve the issue, request permission to take it directly to Google in private. You have a variety of options for doing so, including:

    In the case of the apartment complex, I chose to reach out via Twitter. Responses can take a couple of days, but I wasn’t in a hurry. They replied:

    As I had suspected, Google was treating apartment complexes like hotels. Not very satisfactory since the business models are quite different, but at least it was an answer I could document. I’d hit something of a dead-end, but it was interesting to consider Google’s advice about using the description field to list hours of operation. Not a great solution, but at least I would have something to offer the client, right from the horse’s mouth.

    In your case, be advised that not all Google reps have the same level of product training. Hopefully, you will receive some direct guidance on the issue if you describe it well and can document Google’s response and act on it. If not, keep moving.

    3) If Google doesn’t respond, responds inexpertly, or doesn’t solve your problem, go back to your senior-level person. Explain what happened and request advice on how to proceed.

    4) If the senior staffer still isn’t certain, request permission to publicly discuss the issue (and the client). Head to supportive fora. If you’re a Moz Pro customer, feel free to post your scenario in the Moz Q&A forum. If you’re not yet a customer, head to the Local Search Forum, which is free. Share a summary of the challenge, your failure to find a solution, and ask the community what they would do, given that you appear to be at a dead end. Document the advice you receive, and evaluate it based on the expertise of respondents.

    Step 5: Make a strategic decision

    At this point in your workflow, you’ve now:

    • Confirmed the issue
    • Searched for documented solutions
    • Looked to leadership for support
    • Looked to Google for support
    • Looked to the local SEO industry for support

    I’m hoping you’ve arrived at a strategy for your client’s scenario by now, but if not, you have 3 things left to do.

    1. Take your entire documentation back to your team/company leader. Ask them to work with you on an approved response to the client.
    2. Take that response to the client, with a full explanation of any limitations you encountered and a description of what actions your agency wants to take. Book time for a thorough discussion. If what you are doing is experimental, be totally transparent about this with the client.
    3. If the client agrees to the strategy, enact it.

    In the case of the apartment complex, there were several options I could have brought to the client. One thing I did recommend is that they do an internal assessment of how great the risk really was of the public being inconvenienced by absent hours.

    How many people did they estimate would stop by after 5 PM in a given month and find the office closed? Would that be 1 person a month? 20 people? Did the convenience of these people outweigh risks of incorrectly categorizing the complex as an “apartment rental agency”? How many erroneous phone calls or walk-ins might that lead to? How big of a pain would that be?

    Determining these things would help the client decide whether to just go with Google’s advice of keeping the accurate category and using the description to publish hours, or, to take some risks by miscategorizing the business. I was in favor of the former, but be sure your client has input in the final decision.

    And that brings us to the final step — one your agency must be sure you don’t overlook.

    Step 6: Monitor from here on out

    In many instances, you’ll find a solution that should be all set to go, with no future worries. But, where you run into dead-end scenarios like the apartment complex case and are having to cobble together a workaround to move forward, do these two things:

    1. Monitor outcomes of your implementation over the coming months. Traffic drops, ranking drops, or other sudden changes require a re-evaluation of the strategy you selected. *This is why it is so critical to document everything and to be transparent with the client about Google’s unpredictability and the limitations of local SEOs.
    2. Monitor Google for changes. Today’s dead end could be tomorrow’s open road.

    This second point is particularly applicable to the apartment complex I was advising. About a month after I’d first looked at their issue, Google made a major change. All of a sudden, they began showing hours for the “apartment complex” category!

    If I’d stopped paying attention to the issue, I’d never have noticed this game-changing alteration. When I did see hours appearing on these listings, I confirmed the development with apartment marketing expert Diogo Ordacowski:

    Moral: be sure you are continuing to keep tabs on any particularly aggravating dead ends in case solutions emerge in future. It’s a happy day when you can tell a client their worries are over. What a great proof of the engagement level of your agency’s staff!

    When it comes to Google, grit matters

    Image Credit: The Other Dan

    “What if I do something wrong?”

    It’s totally okay if that question occurs to you sometimes when marketing local businesses. There’s a lot on the line — it’s true! The livelihoods of your clients are a sacred trust. The credibility that your agency is building matters.

    But, fear not. Unless you flagrantly break guidelines, a dose of grit can take you far when dealing with a product like Google My Business which is, itself, an experiment. Sometimes, you just have to make a decision about how to move forward. If you make a mistake, chances are good you can correct it. When a dead end with no clear egress forces you to test out solutions, you’re just doing your job.

    So, be transparent and communicative, be methodical and thorough in your research, and be a bit bold. Remember, your clients don’t just count on you to churn out rote work. In Google’s increasingly walled garden, the agency which can see over the wall tops when necessity calls is bringing extra value.

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    Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    How Does the Local Algorithm Work? – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by JoyHawkins

    When it comes to Google’s algorithms, there’s quite a difference between how they treat local and organic. Get the scoop on which factors drive the local algorithm and how it works from local SEO extraordinaire, Joy Hawkins, as she offers a taste of her full talk from MozCon 2019.

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

    Video Transcription

    Hello, Moz fans. I’m Joy Hawkins. I run a local SEO agency from Toronto, Canada, and a search forum known as the Local Search Forum, which basically is devoted to anything related to local SEO or local search. Today I’m going to be talking to you about Google’s local algorithm and the three main factors that drive it. 

    If you’re wondering what I’m talking about when I say the local algorithm, this is the algorithm that fuels what we call the three-pack here. When you do a local search or a search that Google thinks has local intents, like plumbers let’s say, you traditionally will get three results at the top with the map, and then everything below it I refer to as organic. This algorithm I’ll be kind of breaking down is what fuels this three-pack, also known as Google My Business listings or Google Maps listings.

    They’re all talking about the exact same thing. If you search Google’s Help Center on what they look at with ranking these entities, they tell you that there are three main things that fuel this algorithm. The three things that they talk about are proximity, prominence, and relevance. I’m going to basically be breaking down each one and explaining how the factors work.

    1. Proximity

    I’ll kind of start here with proximity. Proximity is basically defined as your location when you are searching on your phone or your computer and you type something in. It’s where Google thinks you are located. If you’re not really sure, often you can scroll down to the bottom of your page, and at the bottom of your page it will often list a zip code that Google thinks you’re in.

    Zip code (desktop)

    The other way to tell is if you’re on a phone, sometimes you can also see a little blue dot on the map, which is exactly where Google thinks you’re located. On a high level, we often think that Google thinks we’re located in a city, but this is actually pretty false, which I know that there’s been actually a lot of talk at MozCon about how Google pretty much always knows a little deeper than that as far as where users are located.

    Generally speaking, if you’re on a computer, they know what zip code you’re in, and they’ll list that at the bottom. There are a variety of tools that can help you check ranking based on zip codes, some of which would be Moz Check Your Presence Tool, BrightLocal, Whitespark, or Places Scout. All of these tools have the ability to track at the zip code level. 

    Geo coordinates (mobile)

    However, when you’re on a phone, usually Google knows your location even more detailed, and they actually generally know the geo coordinates of your actual location, and they pinpoint this using that little blue dot.

    It knows even more about the zip code. It knows where you’re actually located. It’s a bit creepy. But there are a couple of tools that will actually let you see results based on geo coordinates, which is really cool and very accurate. Those tools include the Local Falcon, and there is a Chrome extension which is 100% free, that you can put in your browser, called GS Location Changer.

    I use this all the time in an incognito browser if I want to just see what search results look like from a very, very specific location. Now these two levels, depending on what industry you are working in, it’s really important to know which level you need to be looking at. If you work with lawyers, for example, zip code level is usually good enough.

    There aren’t enough lawyers to make a huge difference at certain like little points inside a given zip code. However, if you work with dentists or restaurants, let’s say, you really need to be looking at geo coordinate levels. We have seen lots of cases where we will scan a specific keyword using these two tools, and depending on where in that zip code we are, we see completely different three-packs.

    It’s very, very key to know that this factor here for proximity really influences the results that you see. This can be challenging, because when you’re trying to explain this to clients or business owners, they search from their home, and they’re like, “Why am I not there?” It’s because their proximity or their location is different than where their office is located.

    I realize this is a challenging problem to solve for a lot of agencies on how to represent this, but that’s kind of the tools that you need to look at and use. 

    2. Prominence

    Moving to the next factor, so prominence, this is basically how important Google thinks you are. Like Is this business a big deal, or are they just some random, crappy business or a new business that we don’t know much about?

    • This looks at things like links, for example. 
    • Store visits, if you are a brick-and-mortar business and you get no foot traffic, Google likely won’t think you’re very prominent. 
    • Reviews, the number of reviews often factors in here. We often see in cases where businesses have a lot of reviews and a lot of old reviews, they generally have a lot of prominence.
    • Citations can also factor in here due to the number of citations. That can also factor into prominence. 

    3. Relevance

    Moving into the relevance factor, relevance is basically, does Google think you are related to the query that is typed in? You can be as prominent as anyone else, but if you do not have content on your page that is structured well, that covers the topic the user is searching about, your relevance will be very low, and you will run into issues.

    It’s very important to know that these three things all kind of work together, and it’s really important to make sure you are looking at all three. On the relevance end, it looks at things like:

    • content
    • onsite SEO, so your title tags, your meta tags, all that nice SEO stuff
    • Citations also factor in here, because it looks at things like your address. Like are you actually in this city? Are you relevant to the city that the user is trying to get locations from? 
    • Categories are huge here, your Google My Business categories. Google currently has just under 4,000 different Google My Business categories, and they add an insane amount every year and they also remove ones. It’s very important to keep on top of that and make sure that you have the correct categories on your listing or you won’t rank well.
    • The business name is unfortunately a huge factor as well in here. Merely having keywords in your business name can often give you relevance to rank. It shouldn’t, but it does. 
    • Then review content. I know Mike Blumenthal did a really cool experiment on this a couple years ago, where he actually had a bunch of people write a bunch of fake reviews on Yelp mentioning certain terms to see if it would influence ranking on Google in the local results, and it did. Google is definitely looking at the content inside the reviews to see what words people are using so they can see how that impacts relevance. 

    How to rank without proximity, prominence, or relevance

    Obviously you want all three of these things. It is possible to rank if you don’t have all three, and I’ll give a couple examples. If you’re looking to expand your radius, you service a lot of people.

    You don’t just service people on your block. You’re like, “I serve the whole city of Chicago,” for example. You are not likely going to rank in all of Chicago for very common terms, things like dentist or personal injury attorney. However, if you have a lot of prominence and you have a really relevant page or content related to really niche terms, we often see that it is possible to really expand your radius for long tail keywords, which is great.

    Prominence is probably the number one thing that will expand your radius inside competitive terms. We’ll often see Google bringing in a business that is slightly outside of the same area as other businesses, just because they have an astronomical number of reviews, or maybe their domain authority is ridiculously high and they have all these linking domains.

    Those two factors are definitely what influences the amount of area you cover with your local exposure. 

    Spam and fake listings

    On the flip side, spam is something I talk a lot about. Fake listings are a big problem in the local search space. Fake listings, these lead gen providers create these listings, and they rank with zero prominence.

    They have no prominence. They have no citations. They have no authority. They often don’t even have websites, and they still rank because of these two factors. You create 100 listings in a city, you are going to be close to someone searching. Then if you stuff a bunch of keywords in your business name, you will have some relevance, and by somehow eliminating the prominence factor, they are able to get these listings to rank, which is very frustrating.

    Obviously, Google is kind of trying to evolve this algorithm over time. We are hoping that maybe the prominence factor will increase over time to kind of eliminate that problem, but ultimately we’ll have to see what Google does. We also did a study recently to test to see which of these two factors kind of carries more weight.

    An experiment: Linking to your site within GMB

    One thing I’ve kind of highlighted here is when you link to a website inside your Google My Business listing, there’s often a debate. Should I link to my homepage, or should I link to my location page if I’ve got three or four or five offices? We did an experiment to see what happens when we switch a client’s Google My Business listing from their location page to their homepage, and we’ve pretty much almost always seen a positive impact by switching to the homepage, even if that homepage is not relevant at all.

    In one example, we had a client that was in Houston, and they opened up a location in Dallas. Their homepage was optimized for Houston, but their location page was optimized for Dallas. I had a conversation with a couple of other SEOs, and they were like, “Oh, well, obviously link to the Dallas page on the Dallas listing. That makes perfect sense.”

    But we were wondering what would happen if we linked to the homepage, which is optimized for Houston. We saw a lift in rankings and a lift in the number of search queries that this business showed for when we switched to the homepage, even though the homepage didn’t really mention Dallas at all. Something to think about. Make sure you’re always testing these different factors and chasing the right ones when you’re coming up with your local SEO strategy. Finally, something I’ll mention at the top here.

    Local algorithm vs organic algorithm

    As far as the local algorithm versus the organic algorithm, some of you might be thinking, okay, these things really look at the same factors. They really kind of, sort of work the same way. Honestly, if that is your thinking, I would really strongly recommend you change it. I’ll quote this. This is from a Moz whitepaper that they did recently, where they found that only 8% of local pack listings had their website also appearing in the organic search results below.

    I feel like the overlap between these two is definitely shrinking, which is kind of why I’m a bit obsessed with figuring out how the local algorithm works to make sure that we can have clients successful in both spaces. Hopefully you learned something. If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments. Thanks for listening.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


    If you liked this episode of Whiteboard Friday, you’ll love all the SEO thought leadership goodness you’ll get from our newly released MozCon 2019 video bundle. Catch Joy’s full talk on the differences between the local and organic algorithm, plus 26 additional future-focused topics from our top-notch speakers:

    Grab the sessions now!

    We suggest scheduling a good old-fashioned knowledge share with your colleagues to educate the whole team — after all, who didn’t love movie day in school? 😉

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    Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    Kindness as Currency: How Good Deeds Can Benefit Your Local Business

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    “To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” – Taisen Deshimaru, Buddhist philosopher


    A woman stands in a busy supermarket checkout line. The shopper in front of her realizes that they don’t have enough money with them to cover their purchase, so she steps in and makes up the balance. Then, when she reaches the checkout, her own receipt totals up higher than she was expecting. She doesn’t have enough left in her purse.

    “No problem,” says the young clerk and swipes his own debit card to pay for her groceries.

    A bystander snaps a photo and posts the story to Facebook. The story ends up on local radio and TV news. Unstructured citations for the grocery store start crackling like popcorn. National news takes notice. A scholarship foundation presents a check to the clerk. When asked how he felt about it, the clerk said:

    “Personally, I think it’s undeserved attention. Because she did something so good … I felt like it was my responsibility to return the favor.”

    In the process, if only for a moment in time, an everyday supermarket is transformed into a rescue operation for hope in humanity. Through the lens of local SEO, it’s also a lesson in how good deeds can be rewarded by good mentions.

    Studying business kindness can be a rewarding task for any motivated digital marketing agency or local brand owner. I hope this post will be both a pick-me-up for the day, and a rallying cry to begin having deeper conversations about the positive culture businesses can create in the communities they serve.

    10+ evocative examples of business kindness

    “We should love people and use things, but sadly, we love things and use people,” Roger Johnson, Artisan

    As a youngster in the American workforce, I ran into some very peculiar styles of leadership.

    For instance, one boss gruffly told me not to waste too much time chatting with the elderly customers who especially loved buying from me…as if customer support doesn’t make or break business reputations.

    And then there was the cranky school secretary who reprimanded me for giving ice packs to children because she believed they were only “trying to get attention” … as if schools don’t exist to lavish focus on the kids in their care.

    In other words, both individuals would have preferred me to be less kind, less human, than more so.

    Perhaps it was these experiences of my superiors taking a miserly approach to workplace human kindness that inspired me to keep a little file of outbreaks of goodwill that earned online renown. These examples beg self-reflective questions of any local business owner:

    1. If you launched your brand in the winter, would you have opened your doors while under construction to shelter and feed housing-insecure neighbors?
    2. If a neighboring business was struggling, would you offer them floor space in your shop to help them survive?
    3. Would your brand’s culture inspire an employee to cut up an elder’s ham for him if he needed help? How awesome would it be if a staffer of yours had a day named after her for her kindness? Would your employees comp a meal for a hungry neighbor or pay a customer’s $200 tab because they saw them hold open a door for a differently-abled guest?
    4. What good things might happen in a community you serve if you started mailing out postcards promoting positivity?
    5. What if you gave flowers to strangers, including moms, on Mother’s Day?
    6. How deeply are you delving into the season of giving at the holidays? What if, like one business owner, you opened shop on Thanksgiving just to help a family find a gift for a foster child? You might wake up to international fame on Monday morning.
    7. What if visitors to your community had their bikes stolen on a road trip and your shop gifted them new bikes and ended up on the news?
    8. One business owner was so grateful for his community’s help in overcoming addiction, he’s been washing their signage for free. What has your community done for you and how have you thanked them?
    9. What if all you had to do was something really small, like replacing negative “towed at your own expense” signs by welcoming quick stop parking?
    10. What if you, just for a day, you asked customers to pay for their purchases with kind acts?

    I only know about these stories because of the unstructured citations (online references to a local business) they generated. They earned online publicity, radio, and television press. The fame for some was small and local, for others, internationally viral. Some activities were planned, but many others took place on the spur of the moment. Kindness, empathy, and gratitude, flow through them all like a river of hope, inviting every business owner to catch the current in their own way. One easy way for local business owners to keep better track of any positive mentions is by managing and monitoring reviews online with the New Moz Local.

    See your online presence

    Can kindness be taught in the workplace?

    In Demark, schoolchildren learn empathy as a class subject. The country is routinely rated as one of the happiest in the world. At Moz, we have the TAGFEE code, which includes both generosity and empathy, and our company offers internal workshops on things like “How to be TAGFEE when you disagree.” We are noted for the kindness of our customer support, as in the above review.

    According to Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, people “catch” cooperation and generosity from others. In his study, the monetary amount donors gave to charity went up or down based on whether they were told their peers gave much or little. They matched the generosity or stinginess they witnessed. In part two of the study, the groups who had seen others donating generously went on to offer greater empathy in writing letters to penpals suffering hard times. In other words, kindness isn’t just contagious — its impact can spread across multiple activities.

    Mercedes-Benz CEO, Stephen Cannon, wanted employees to catch the kindness bug because of its profound impact on sales. He invited his workforce to join a “grassroots movement” that resulted in surprising shoppers with birthday cakes, staff rushing to remote locations with spare tires, and other memorable consumer experiences. Cannon noted:

    “There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary. The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

    In a 2018 article, I highlighted the reviews of a pharmacy that made it apparent that staff wasn’t empowered to do the simplest self-determined acts, like providing a chair for a sick man who was about to fall down in a long prescription counter line. By contrast, an Inc. book review of Jill Lublin’s The Profits of Kindness states:

    “Organizations that trade in kindness allow their employees to give that currency away. If you’re a waitress, can you give someone a free piece of pie because the kid at the next table spilled milk on their foot? If you’re a clerk in a hotel, do you have the authority to give someone a discounted rate because you can tell they’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?”

    There may be no formula for teaching kindness, but if Zaki is right, then leadership can be the starting point of demonstrative empathy that can emanate through the staff and to its customers. How do you build for that?

    A cared-for workforce for customer service excellence

    You can find examples of individual employees behaving with radical kindness despite working for brands that routinely disregard workers’ basic needs. But, this hardly seems ideal. How much better to build a business on empathy and generosity so that cared-for staff can care for customers.

    I ran a very quick Twitter poll to ask employees what their very most basic need is:

    Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents cited a living wage as their top requirement. Owners developing a kind workforce must ensure that staff are housing-and-food-secure, and can afford the basic dignities of life. Any brand that can’t pay its staff a living wage isn’t really operational — it’s exploitation.

    Beyond the bare minimums, Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2019 Survey of 7,300 executives, HR experts, and employees highlighted trending worker emphasis on:

    • Flexibility in both hours and location to create a healthy work/life balance
    • Ethics in company technology, practices, and transparency
    • Equity in pay ratios, regardless of gender
    • Empathy in the workplace, both internally and in having a positive societal impact with customers

    It’s just not very hard to connect the dots between a workforce that has its basic and aspirational needs met, and one possessing the physical, mental and emotional health to extend those values to consumers. As I found in a recent study of my own, 70 percent of negative review resolution was driven by brands having to overcome bad/rude service with subsequent caring service.

    Even at the smallest local business level, caring policies and initiatives that generate kindness are within reach, with Gallup reporting that SMBs have America’s happiest and most engaged workers. Check out Forbes list of the best small companies of 2019 and note the repeated emphasis on employee satisfaction.

    Kindness as currency, with limitless growth potential

    “I wanted a tangible item that could track acts of kindness. From that, the Butterfly Coin emerged.” Bruce Pedersen, Butterfly Coins

    Maybe someday, you’ll be the lucky recipient of a Butterfly Coin, equipped with a unique tracking code, and gifted to you by someone doing a kind act. Then, you’ll do something nice for somebody and pass it on, recording your story amongst thousands of others around the world. People, it seems, are so eager for tokens of kindness that the first mint sold out almost immediately.

    The butterfly effect (the inspiration for the name of these coins) in chaos theory holds that a small action can trigger multiple subsequent actions at a remove. In a local business setting, an owner could publicly reward an employee’s contributions, which could cause the employee to spread their extra happiness to twenty customers that day, which could cause those customers to be in a mood to tip waitstaff extra, which could cause the waitstaff to comp meals for hungry neighbors sitting on their doorsteps, and on and on it goes.

    There’s an artisan in Gig Harbor, WA who rewards kindnesses via turtle figurines. There are local newspapers that solicit stories of kindness. There are towns that have inaugurated acts-of-kindness weeks. There is even a suburb in Phoenix, AZ that re-dubbed itself Kindness, USA. (I mentioned, I’ve been keeping a file).

    The most priceless aspect of kindness is that it’s virtually limitless. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be quantified. The Butterfly Coin idea is attempting to track kindness, and as a local business owner, you have a practical means of parsing it, too. It will turn up in unstructured citations, reviews, and social media, if you originate it at the leadership level, and share it out from employee to customer with an open hand.

    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

    New Things I&rsquo;ve Learned About Google Review Likes

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

    A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

    Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

    Wait, what is the “like” button?

    Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

    At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

    My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

    1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
    2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

    The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

    60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

    15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

    At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

    And that leads us to…

    Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

    But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

    So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

    Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

    I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

    After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

    1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

    “If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

    “What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

    “No, it’s not considered spam.”

    “Not even then?”

    “No,” she said.

    2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

    The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

    3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

    To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

    My guidelines for use of the review likes function

    Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

    1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
    2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
    3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
    4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

    How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

    In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

    If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

    What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

    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

    MozCon 2019: The Top Takeaways From Day One

    Posted by KameronJenkins

    Rand, Russ, Ruth, Rob, and Ross. Dana and Darren. Shannon and Sarah. We didn’t mean to (we swear we didn’t) but the first day of MozCon was littered with alliteration, takeaways, and oodles of insights from our speakers. Topics ranged from local SEO, link building, and Google tools, and there was no shortage of “Aha!” moments. And while the content was diverse, the themes are clear: search is constantly changing. 

    If you’re a Moz community member, you can access the slides from Day One. Not a community member yet? Sign up — it’s free!

    Get the speaker slides!

    Ready? Let’s make like Roger in his SERP submarine and dive right in!

    Sarah’s welcome

    Our fearless leader took the stage to ready our attendees for their deep sea dive over the next three days. Our guiding theme to help set the tone? The deep sea of data that we find ourselves immersed in every day.

    People are searching more than ever before on more types of devices than ever before… we truly are living in the golden age of search. As Sarah explained though, not all search is created equal. Because Google wants to answer searchers’ questions as quickly as possible, they’ve moved from being the gateway to information to being the destination for information in many cases. SEOs need to be able to work smarter and identify the best opportunities in this new landscape. 

    Rand Fishkin — Web Search 2019: The Essential Data Marketers Need

    Next up was Rand of SparkToro who dropped a ton of data about the state of search in 2019.

    To set the stage, Rand gave us a quick review of the evolution of media: “This new thing is going to kill this old thing!” has been the theme of panicked marketers for decades. TV was supposed to kill radio. Computers were supposed to kill TV. Mobile was supposed to kill desktop. Voice search was supposed to kill text search. But as Rand showed us, these new technologies often don’t kill the old ones — they just take up all our free time. We need to make sure we’re not turning away from mediums just because they’re “old” and, instead, make sure our investments follow real behavior.

    Rand’s deck was also chock-full of data from Jumpshot about how much traffic Google is really sending to websites these days, how much of that comes from paid search, and how that’s changed over the years.

    In 2019, Google sent ~20 fewer organic clicks via browser searches than in 2016.

    In 2016, there were 26 organic clicks for every paid click. In 2019, that ratio is 11:1.

    Google still owns the lion’s share of the search market and still sends a significant amount of traffic to websites, but in light of this data, SEOs should be thinking about how their brands can benefit even without the click.

    And finally, Rand left us with some wisdom from the world of social — getting engagement on social media can get you the type of attention it takes to earn quality links and mentions in a way that’s much easier than manual, cold outreach.

    Ruth Burr Reedy — Human > Machine > Human: Understanding Human-Readable Quality Signals and Their Machine-Readable Equivalents

    It’s 2019. And though we all thought by this year we’d have flying cars and robots to do our bidding, machine learning has come a very long way. Almost frustratingly so — the push and pull of making decisions for searchers versus search engines is an ever-present SEO conundrum.

    Ruth argued that in our pursuit of an audience, we can’t get too caught up in the middleman (Google), and in our pursuit of Google, we can’t forget the end user.

    Optimizing for humans-only is inefficient. Those who do are likely missing out on a massive opportunity. Optimizing for search engines-only is reactive. Those who do will likely fall behind.

    She also left us with the very best kind of homework… homework that’ll make us all better SEOs and marketers!

    • Read the Quality Rater Guidelines
    • Ask what your site is currently benefiting from that Google might eliminate or change in the future
    • Write better (clearer, simpler) content
    • Examine your SERPs with the goal of understanding search intent so you can meet it
    • Lean on subject matter experts to make your brand more trustworthy
    • Conduct a reputation audit — what’s on the internet about your company that people can find?

    And last, but certainly not least, stop fighting about this stuff. It’s boring.

    Thank you, Ruth!

    Dana DiTomaso — Improved Reporting & Analytics Within Google Tools

    Freshly fueled with cinnamon buns and glowing with the energy of a thousand jolts of caffeine, we were ready to dive back into it — this time with Dana from Kick Point.

    This year was a continuation of Dana’s talk on goal charters. If you haven’t checked that out yet or you need a refresher, you can view it here

    Dana emphasized the importance of data hygiene. Messy analytics, missing tracking codes, poorly labeled events… we’ve all been there. Dana is a big advocate of documenting every component of your analytics.

    She also blew us away with a ton of great insight on making our reports accessible — from getting rid of jargon and using the client’s language to using colors that are compatible with printing.

    And just when we thought it couldn’t get any more actionable, Dana drops some free Google Data Studio resources on us! You can check them out here.

    (Also, close your tabs!)

    Rob Bucci — Local Market Analytics: The Challenges and Opportunities

    The first thing you need to know is that Rob finally did it — he finally got a cat.

    Very bold of Rob to assume he would have our collective attention after dropping something adorable like that on us. Luckily, we were all able to regroup and focus on his talk — how there are challenges aplenty in the local search landscape, but there are even more opportunities if you overcome them.

    Rob came equipped with a ton of stats about localized SERPs that have massive implications for rank tracking.

    • 73 percent of the 1.2 million SERPs he analyzed contained some kind of localized feature.
    • 25 percent of the sites he was tracking had some degree of variability between markets.
    • 85 percent was the maximum variability he saw across zip codes in a single market.

    That’s right… rankings can vary by zip code, even for queries you don’t automatically associate as local intent. Whether you’re a national brand without physical storefronts or you’re a single-location retail store, localization has a huge impact on how you show up to your audience.

    With this in mind, Rob announced a huge initiative that Moz has been working on… Local Market Analytics — complete with local search volume! Eep! See how you perform on hyper-local SERPs with precision and ease — whether you’re an online or location-based business.

    It launched today as an invitation-only limited release. Want an invite? Request it here

    Ross Simmonds— Keywords Aren’t Enough: How to Uncover Content Ideas Worth Chasing

    Ross Simmonds was up next, and he dug into how you might be creating content wrong if you’re building it strictly around keyword research.

    The methodology we marketers need to remember is Research – Rethink – Remix.

    Research:

    • Find the channel your audience spends time on. What performs well? How can you serve this audience?

    Rethink:

    • Find the content that your audience wants most. What topics resonate? What stories connect?

    Remix:

    • Measure how your audience responds to the content. Can this be remixed further? How can we remix at scale?

    If you use this method and you still aren’t sure if you should pursue a content opportunity, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Will it give us a positive ROI?
    • Does it fall within our circle of competence?
    • Does the benefit outweigh the cost of creation?
    • Will it give us shares and links and engagement?

    Thanks, Ross, for such an actionable session!

    Shannon McGuirk — How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom

    Shannon of Aira Digital took the floor with real-life examples of how her team does link building at scale with what she calls the “digital PR newsroom.”

    The truth is, most of us are still link building like it’s 1948 with “planned editorial” content. When we do this, we’re missing out on a ton of opportunity (about 66%!) that can come from reactive editorial and planned reactive editorial.

    Shannon encouraged us to try tactics that have worked for her team such as:

    • Having morning scrum meetings to go over trending topics and find reactive opportunities
    • Staffing your team with both storytellers and story makers
    • Holding quarterly reviews to see which content types performed best and using that to inform future work

    Her talk was so good that she even changed Cyrus’s mind about link building!

    For free resources on how you can set up your own digital PR newsroom, visit: aira.net/mozcon19.

    Darren Shaw— From Zero to Local Ranking Hero

    Next up, Darren of Whitespark chronicled his 8-month long journey to growing a client’s local footprint.

    Here’s what he learned and encouraged us to implement in response:

    • Track from multiple zip codes around the city
    • Make sure your citations are indexed
    • The service area section in GMB won’t help you rank in those areas. It’s for display purposes only
    • Invest in a Google reviews strategy
    • The first few links earned really have a positive impact, but it reaches a point of diminishing returns
    • Any individual strategy will probably hit a point of diminishing returns
    • A full website is better than a single-page GMB website when it comes to local rankings

    As SEOs, we’d all do well to remember that it’s not one specific activity, but the aggregate, that will move the needle!

    Russ Jones — Esse Quam Videri: When Faking it is Harder than Making It

    Rounding out day one of MozCon was our very own Russ Jones on Esse Quam Videri — “To be, rather than to seem.”

    By Russ’s own admission, he’s a pretty good liar, and so too are many SEOs. In a poll Russ ran on Twitter, he found that 64 percent of SEOs state that they have promoted sites they believe are not the best answer to the query. We can be so “rank-centric” that we engage in tactics that make our websites look like we care about the users, when in reality, what we really care about is that Google sees it.

    Russ encouraged SEOs to help guide the businesses we work for to “be real companies” rather than trying to look like real companies purely for SEO benefit.

    Thanks to Russ for reminding us to stop sacrificing the long run for the short run!

    Phew — what a day!

    And it ain’t over yet! There are two more days to make the most of MozCon, connect with fellow attendees, and pick the brains of our speakers. 

    In the meantime, tell me in the comments below — if you had to pick just one thing, what was your favorite part about day one?

    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

    What Your Google Tag Manager Container Should Contain – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by DiTomaso

    Agencies, are you set up for ongoing Google Tag Manager success? GTM isn’t the easiest tool in the world to work with, but if you know how to use it, it can make your life much easier. Make your future self happier and more productive by setting up your GTM containers the right way today. Dana DiTomaso shares more tips and hints in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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

    Video Transcription

    Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I am President and partner at Kick Point, which is a digital marketing agency based in Edmonton, Alberta. Today I’m going to be talking to you about Google Tag Manager and what your default container in Google Tag Manager should contain. I think if you’re in SEO, there are certainly a lot of things Google Tag Manager can do for you.

    But if you’ve kind of said to yourself, “You know, Google Tag Manager is not the easiest thing to work with,” which is fair, it is not, and it used to be a lot worse, but the newer versions are pretty good, then you might have been a little intimidated by going in there and doing stuff. But I really recommend that you include these things by default because later you is going to be really happy that current you put this stuff in. So I’m going to go through what’s in Kick Point’s default Google Tag Manager container, and then hopefully you can take some of this and apply it to your own stuff.

    Agencies, if you are watching, you are going to want to create a default container and use it again and again, trust me. 

    Tags

    So we’re going to start with how this stuff is laid out. So what we have are tags and then triggers. The way that this works is the tag is sort of the thing that’s going to happen when a trigger occurs. 

    Conversion linker

    So tags that we have in our default container are the conversion linker, which is used to help conversions with Safari.

    If you don’t know a lot about this, I recommend looking up some of the restrictions with Safari tracking and ITP. I think they’re at 2.2 at the time I’m recording this. So I recommend checking that out. But this conversion linker will help you get around that. It’s a default tag in Tag Manager, so you just add the conversion linker. There’s a nice article on Google about what it does and how it all works. 

    Events

    Then we need to track a number of events. You can certainly track these things as custom dimensions or custom metrics if that floats your boat. I mean that’s up to you. If you are familiar with using custom dimensions and custom metrics, then I assume you probably know how to do this. But if you’re just getting started with Tag Manager, just start with events and then you can roll your way up to being an expert after a while. 

    External links

    So under events, we always track external links, so anything that points out to a domain that isn’t yours.

    The way that we track this is we’re looking at every single link that’s clicked and if it does not contain our client’s domain name, then we record it as an external link, and that’s an event that we record. Now remember, and I’ve seen accidents with this where someone doesn’t put in your client’s domain and then it tracks every single click to a different page on your client’s website as an external link. That’s bad.

    When you transfer from HTTP to HTTPS, if you don’t update Google Tag Manager, it will start recording links incorrectly. Also bad. But what this is really useful for are things like when you link out to other websites, as you should when you’re writing articles, telling people to find out more information. Or you can track clicks out to your different social properties and see if people are actually clicking on that Facebook icon that you stuck in the header of your website. 

    PDF downloads

    The next thing to track are PDF downloads.

    Now there’s a limitation to this, of course, in that if people google something and your PDF comes out and then they click on it directly from Google, of course that’s not going to show up in your Analytics. That can show up in Search Console, but you’re not going to get it in Analytics. So just keep that in mind. This is if someone clicks to your PDF from a specific page on your website. Again, you’re decorating the link to say if this link contains a PDF, then I want to have this.

    Scroll tracking

    Then we also track scroll tracking. Now scroll tracking is when people scroll down the site, you can track and fire an event at say 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the way down the page. Now the thing is with this is that your mileage is going to vary. You will probably pick different percentages. By default, in all of our containers we put 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Based on the client, we might change this.

    An advanced, sort of level up tactic would be to pick specific elements and then when they enter the viewport, then you can fire an event. So let’s say, for example, you have a really important call to action and because different devices are different sizes, it’s going to be a different percentage of the way down the page when it shows up, but you want to see if people got to that main CTA. Then you would want to add an event that would show whether or not that CTA was shown in the viewport.

    If you google Google Tag Manager and tracking things in the viewport, there are some great articles out there on how to do it. It’s not that difficult to set up. 

    Form submits

    Then also form submits. Of course, you’re going to want to customize this. But by default put form submits in your container, because I guarantee that when someone is making your container let’s say for a brand-new website, they will forget about tracking form submits unless you put it in your default container and they look at it and say, “Oh, right, I have to edit that.” So always put form submits in there. 

    Tel: & mailto: links

    Of course you want to track telephone links and mailto: links. Telephone links should always, always be tappable, and that’s something that I see a lot of mistakes. Particularly in local SEO, when we’re dealing with really small business websites, they don’t make the telephone links tappable. It’s probably because people don’t know how. In case you don’t know how, you just telephone and then a colon and then the telephone number.

    <a href="tel:+5555555555">(555) 555-5555</a>
    

    That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Just like a link, except rather than going out to an HTTPS://, you’re going out to a telephone number. That is going to make your visitors’ lives so much easier, particularly on mobile devices. You always want to have those be tappable. So then you can track the number of people who tap on telephone links and people who tap on mailto: links exactly the same way. Now something that I do have to say, though, is that if you are using a call tracking provider, like CallRail for example, which is one that we use, then you’re going to want to shut this off, because then you could end up in double counting.

    Particularly if you’re tracking every call made out from your website, then CallRail would have an Analytics integration, and then you would be tracking taps and you might also be tracking telephone clicks. So you can track it if you want to see how many people tap versus picking up the phone and calling the old-fashioned way with landlines. You can also do that, but that’s entirely up to you. But just keep that in mind if you are going to track telephone links.

    All pages tracking

    Then, of course, all pages tracking. Make sure you’re tracking all of the pages on your website through Google Analytics. So those are the tags. 

    Triggers

    Next up are the triggers. So I have a tag of external links. Then I need a trigger for external links. The trigger says when somebody clicks an external link, then I want this event to happen.

    Clicks

    So the event is where you structure the category and then the action and the label. 

    External links

    The way that we would structure external links, for example, we would say that the category for it is an external link, the action is click, and then the label is the actual link that was clicked for example. You can see you can go through each of these and see where this is happening.

    Form submits

    Then on things like form submit, for example, our label could be the specific form. 

    Tel: & mailto:

    On telephone and mailto:, we might track the phone number. 

    PDFs

    On other things, like PDFs, we might track like the page that this happened on. 

    Page scroll

    For scroll tracking, for example, we would want to track the page that someone scrolled down on. What I recommend when you’re setting up the event tracking for page scroll, the category should be page scroll, the action should be the percentage of which people scroll down, and then the label should be the URL.

    Really think of it in terms of events, where you’ve got the category, which is what happened, the action, which is what did the person do, and the label is telling me more information about this. So actions are typically things like scroll, click, and tap if you’re going to be fancy and track mobile versus desktop. It could be things like form submit, for example, or just submit. Just really basic stuff. So really the two things that are going to tell you the difference are things like categories and labels, and the action is just the action that happened.

    I’m really pedantic when it comes to setting up events, but I think in the long term, again, future you is going to thank you if you set this stuff up properly from the beginning. So you can really see that the tag goes to this trigger. Tag to trigger, tag to trigger, etc. So really think about making sure that every one of your tags has a corresponding trigger if it makes sense. So now we’re going to leave you with some tips on how to set up your Tag Manager account.

    Tips

    1. Use a Google Analytics ID variable

    So the first tip is use a Google Analytics ID variable. It’s one of the built-in variables. When you go into Tag Manager and you click on Variables, it’s one of the built-in variables in there. I really recommend using that, because if you hardcode in the GA ID and something happens and you have to change it in the future or you copy that for someone else or whatever it might be, you’re going to forget.

    I guarantee you you will forget. So you’re going to want to put that variable in there so you change it once and it’s everywhere. You’re saving yourself so much time and suffering. Just use a Google Analytics ID variable. If you have a really old container, maybe the variable wasn’t a thing when you first set it up. So one of the things I would recommend is go check and make sure you’re using a variable. If you’re not, then make a to-do for yourself to rip out all the hardcoded instances of your GA ID and instead replace it with a variable.

    It will save you so much headaches. 

    2. Create a default container to import

    So the next thing — agencies, this is for you — create a default container to import. Obviously, if you’re working in-house, you’re probably not making Google Tag Manager containers all that often, unless you work at say a homebuilder and you’re making microsites for every new home development. Then you might want to create a default container for yourself. But agency side for sure, you want have a default container that you make so every cool idea that you think of, you think, oh, we need to track this, just put it all in your default container, and then when you’re grabbing it to make one for a client, you can decide, oh, we don’t need this, or yes, we need this.

    It’s going to save you a ton of time when you’re setting up containers, because I find that that’s the most labor-intensive part of working with a new Tag Manager container is thinking about, “What is all the stuff I want to include?” So you want to make sure that your default container has all your little tips and tricks that you’ve accumulated over the years in there and documented of course, and then decide on a client-by-client basis what you’re going to leave and what you’re going to keep.

    3. Use a naming scheme and folders

    Also use a naming scheme and folders, again because you may not be working there forever, and somebody in the future is going to want to look at this and think, “Why did they set it up like this? What does this word mean? Why is this variable called foo?” You know, things that have annoyed me about developers for years and years and years, developers I love you, but please stop naming things foo. It makes no sense to anyone other than you. So our naming scheme, and you can totally steal this if you want, is we go product, result, and then what.

    So, for example, we would have our tag for Google Analytics page download. So it would say Google Analytics. This is the product that the thing is going to go to. Event is what is the result of this thing existing. Then what is the PDF download. Then it’s really clear, okay, I need to fix this thing with PDF download. Something is wrong.

    It’s kind of weird. Now I know exactly where to go. Again, with folders as well, so let’s say you’ve implemented something such as content consumption, which is a Google Tag Manager recipe that you can grab on our website at Kickpoint.ca, and I’ll make sure to link to it in the transcript. Let’s say you grab that. Then you’re going to want to take all the different tags and triggers that come along with content consumption and toss that into its own folder and then separate it out from all of your basic stuff.

    Even if you have everything to start in a folder called Basics or Events or Analytics versus Call Tracking versus any of the other billion different tracking pixels that you have on your website, it’s a good idea to just keep it all organized. I know it’s two minutes now. It is saving you a lifetime of suffering in the future, and the future you, whether it’s you working there or somebody who ends up taking your job five years from now, just make it easier on them.

    Especially too, when you think back to say Google Analytics has been around for a long time now. When I go back and look at some of my very, very first analytics that I set up, I might look at it and think, “Why was I doing that?” But if you have documentation, at least you’re going to know why you did that really weird thing back in 2008. Or when you’re looking at this in 2029 and you’re thinking, “Why did I do this thing in 2019?” you’re going to have documentation for it. So just really keep that in mind. 

    4. Audit regularly!

    Then the last thing is auditing regularly, and that means once every 3, 6, or 12 months. Pick a time period that makes sense for how often you’re going into the container. You go in and you take a look at every single tag, every single trigger, and every single variable. Simo Ahava has a really nice Google Tag Manager sort of auditing tool.

    I’ll make sure to link to that in the transcript as well. You can use that to just go through your container and see what’s up. Let’s say you tested out some sort of screen recording, like you installed Hotjar six months ago and you ended up deciding on say another product instead, like FullStory, so then you want to make sure you remove the Hotjar. How many times have you found that you look at a new website and you’re like, “Why is this on here?”

    No one at the client can tell you. They’re like, “I don’t know where that code came from.” So this is where auditing can be really handy, because remember, over time, each one of those funny little pixels that you tested out some product and then you ended up not going with it is weighing down your page and maybe it’s just a couple of microseconds, but that stuff adds up. So you really do want to go in and audit regularly and remove anything you’re not using anymore. Keep your Google Tag Manager container clean.

    A lot of this is focused on obviously making future you very happy. Auditing will also make future you very happy. So hopefully, out of this, you can create a Google Tag Manager default container that’s going to work for you. I’m going to make sure as well, when the transcript is out for this, that I’m going to include some of the links that I talked about as well as a link to some more tips on how to add in things like conversion linker and make sure I’m updating it for when this video is published.

    Thanks so much.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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    Reblogged 4 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    Rural Local SEO: A Marketing Package Strong on Education

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    Can your marketing agency make a profit working with low-budget clients in rural areas?

    Could you be overlooking a source of referrals, publicity, and professional satisfaction if you’re mainly focused on landing larger clients in urban locales? Clients in least-populated areas need to capture every customer they can get to be viable, including locals, new neighbors, and passers-through. Basic Local SEO can go a long way toward helping with this, and even if package offerings aren’t your agency’s typical approach, a simple product that emphasizes education could be exactly what’s called for.

    Today, I’d like to help you explore your opportunities of serving rural and very small town clients. I’ve pulled together a sample spreadsheet and a ton of other resources that I hope will empower you to develop a bare-bones but high-quality local search marketing package that will work for most and could significantly benefit your agency in some remarkable ways.

    Everything in moderation

    The linchpin fundamental to the rural client/agency relationship is that the needs of these businesses are so exceedingly moderate. The competitive bar is set so low in a small-town-and-country setting, that, with few exceptions, clients can make a strong local showing with a pared-down marketing plan.

    Let’s be honest — many businesses in this scenario can squeak by on a website design package from some giant web hosting agency. A few minutes spent with Google’s non-urban local packs attest to this. But I’m personally dissatisfied by independent businesses ending up being treated like numbers because it’s so antithetical to the way they operate. The local hardware store doesn’t put you on hold for 45 minutes to answer a question. The local farm stand doesn’t route you overseas to buy heirloom tomatoes. Few small town institutions stay in business for 150 years by overpromising and under-delivering.

    Let’s assume that many rural clients will have some kind of website. If they don’t, you can recommend some sort of freebie or cheapie solution. It will be enough to get them placed somewhere in Google’s results, but if they never move beyond this, the maximum conversions they need to stay in business could be missed.

    I’ve come to believe that the small-to-medium local marketing agency is the best fit for the small-to-medium rural brand because of shared work ethics and a similar way of doing business. But both entities need to survive monetarily and that means playing a very smart game with a budget on both sides.

    It’s a question of organizing an agency offering that delivers maximum value with a modest investment of your time and the client’s money.

    Constructing a square deal

    When you take on a substantial client in a large town or city, you pull out all the stops. You dive deeply into auditing the business, its market, its assets. You look at everything from technical errors to creative strengths before beginning to build a strategy or implement campaigns, and there may be many months or years of work ahead for you with these clients. This is all entirely appropriate for big, lucrative contracts.

    For your rural roster, prepare to scale way back. Here is your working plan:

    1. Schedule your first 15-minute phone call with the client

    Avoid the whole issue of having to lollygag around waiting for a busy small business owner to fill out a form. Schedule an appointment and have the client be at their place of business in front of a computer at the time of the call. Confirm the following, ultra-basic data about the client.

    • Name
    • Address
    • Phone
    • URL
    • Business model (single location brick-and-mortar, SAB, etc.)
    • Category
    • Are there any other businesses at this address?
    • Main products/services offered
    • If SAB, list of cities served
    • Most obvious search phrase they want to rank for
    • Year established and year they first took the business online
    • Have they ever been aware of a penalty on their website or had Google tell them they were removing a listing?
    • Finally, have the client (who is in front of their computer at their place of business) search for the search term that’s the most obviously important and read off to you the names and URLs of the businesses ranking in the local pack and on the first page of the organic results.

    And that’s it. If you pay yourself $100/hr, this quick session yields a charge of $25.

    2. Make a one-time investment in writing a bare-bones guide to Local SEO

    Spend less than one working day putting together a .pdf file or Google doc written in the least-technical language containing the following:

    • Your briefest, clearest definition of what local SEO is and how it brings customers to local businesses. Inspiration here.
    • An overview of 3 key business models: brick & mortar, SAB, and home-based so the client can easily identify which of these models is theirs.
    • A complete copy of the Guidelines for representing your business on Google with a link in it to the live guidelines.
    • Foolproof instructions for creating a Google account and creating and claiming a GMB listing. Show the process step-by-step so that anyone can understand it. Inspiration here.
    • A list of top general industry citation platforms with links to the forms for getting listed on them. Inspiration here and if the client can hit at least a few of these, they will be off to a good start.
    • An overview of the role of review acquisition and response, with a few simple tips for earning reviews and a list of the top general industry review platforms. Inspiration here and here.
    • An overview of the role of building offline relationships to earn a few online linktations. Inspiration here.
    • Links to the Google My Business forum and the main Google support platforms including their phone number (844.491.9665), Facebook, Twitter, and online chat. Tell the client this is where to go if they encounter a problem with their Google listing in the future.
    • Links to major independent business associations as a support vehicle for small and rural businesses like AMIBA, ILSR, and Small Business Saturday. Inspiration here.
    • Your agency’s complete contact information so that the business can remember who you are and engage you for further consulting down the road, if ever necessary.

    If you pay yourself $100 an hour, investing in creating this guide will cost you less than $1000.00. That’s a modest amount that you can quickly earn back from clients. Hopefully, the inspirational links I’ve included will give you a big head start. Avoid covering anything trendy (like some brand new Google feature) so that the only time you should have to update the guide in the near future will be if Google makes some major changes to their guidelines or dashboard.

    Deliver this asset to every rural client as their basic training in the bare essentials of local marketing.

    3. Create a competitive audit spreadsheet once and fill it out ad infinitum

    What you want here is something that lets you swiftly fill in the blanks.

    For the competitive audit, you’ll be stacking up your client’s metrics against the metrics of the business they told you was ranking at the top of the local pack when they searched from their location. You can come up with your own metrics, or you can make a copy of this template I’ve created for you and add to it/subtract from it as you like.

    Make a copy of the ultra-basic competitive local audit template — you can do so right here.

    You’ll notice that my sample sheet does not delve deeply into some of the more technical or creative areas you might explore for clients in tougher markets. With few exceptions, rural clients just don’t need that level of insight to compete.

    Give yourself 45 focused minutes filling in the data in the spreadsheet. You’ve now invested 1 hour of time with the client. So let’s give that a value of $100.

    4. Transfer the findings of your audit into a custom report

    Here’s another one-time investment. Spend no more than one workday creating a .pdf or Google Docs template that takes the fields of your audit and presents them in a readable format for the client. I’m going to leave exact formatting up to you, but here are the sections I would recommend structuring the report around:

    • A side-by-side comparison of the client vs. competitor metrics, bucketed by topic (Website, GMB, Reputation, Links, Citations, etc)
    • A very basic explanation of what those metrics mean
    • A clear recommendation of what the client should do to improve their metrics

    For example, your section on reputation might look like this:

    The beauty of this is that, once you have the template, all you have to do is fill it out and then spend an hour making intelligent observations based on your findings.

    Constructing the template should take you less than one workday; so, a one-time investment of less than $1,000 if you are paying yourself $100/hr.

    Transferring the findings of your audit from the spreadsheet to the report for each client should take about 1 hour. So, we’re now up to two total hours of effort for a unique client.

    5. Excelling at value

    So, you’ve now had a 15-minute conversation with a client, given them an introductory guide to the basics of local search marketing, and delivered a customized report filled with your observations and their to-dos. Many agencies might call it a day and leave the client to interpret the report on their own.

    But you won’t do that, because you don’t want to waste an incredible opportunity to build a firm relationship with a business. Instead, spend one more hour on the phone with the owner, going over the report with them page by page and allowing a few minutes for any of their questions. This is where you have the chance to deliver exceptional value to the client, telling them exactly what you think will be most helpful for them to know in a true teaching moment.

    At the end of this, you will have become a memorable ally, someone they trust, and someone to whom they will have confidence in referring their colleagues, family members, and neighbors.

    You’ve made an overall investment of less than $2,000 to create your rural/small town marketing program.

    Packaging up the guide, the report and the 1:1 phone consulting, you have a base price of $300 for the product if you pay yourself $100/hour.

    However, I’m going to suggest that, based on the level of local SEO expertise you bring to the scenario, you create a price point somewhere between $300–$500 for the package. If you are still relatively green at local SEO, $300 could be a fair price for three hours of consulting. If you’re an industry adept, scale it up a bit because, because you bring a rare level of insight to every client interaction, even if you’re sticking to the absolute basics. Begin selling several of these packages in a week, and it will start totaling up to a good monthly revenue stream.

    As a marketer, I’ve generally shied away from packages because whenever you dig deeply into a client’s scenario, nuances end up requiring so much custom research and communication. But, for the very smallest clients in this least competitive markets, packages can hit the spot.

    Considerable benefits for your agency

    The client is going to walk away from the relationship with a good deal … and likely a lot to do. If they follow your recommendations, it will typically be just what they needed to establish themselves on the web to the extent that neighbors and travelers can easily find them and choose them for transactions. Good job!

    But you’re going to walk away with some amazing benefits, too, some of which you might not have considered before. To wit:

    1. Relationships and the ripple effect

    A client you’ve treated very well on the phone is a client who is likely to remember you for future needs and recommend you. I’ve had businesses send me lovely gifts on top of my consulting fee because I’ve taken the time to really listen and answer questions. SEO agencies are always looking for ways to build authentic relationships. Don’t overlook the small client as a centroid of referrals throughout a tight-knit community and beyond it to their urban colleagues, friends, and family.

    2. Big data for insights and bragging rights

    If your package becomes popular, a ton of data is going to start passing through your hands. The more of these audits you do, the more time you’re spending actively observing Google’s handling of the localized SERPs. Imagine the blog posts your agency can begin publishing by anonymizing and aggregating this data, pulling insights of value to our industry. There is no end to the potential for you to grow your knowledge.

    Apart from case studies, think of the way this package can both build up your proud client roster and serve as a source of client reviews. The friendly relationship you’ve built with that 1:1 time can now become a font of very positive portfolio content and testimonials for you to publish on your website.

    3. Agency pride from helping rebuild rural America

    Have you noticed the recent spate of hit TV shows that hinge on rebuilding dilapidated American towns? Industry consolidation is most often cited as the root of rural collapse, with small farmers and independent businesses no longer able to create a tax base to support basic community needs like hospitals, fire departments, and schools. Few of us rejoice at the idea of Main Streets — long-cherished hallmarks not just of Americana but of shared American identity — becoming ghost towns.

    But if you look for it, you can see signs of brilliant small entrepreneurs uniting to buck this trend. Check out initiatives like Locavesting and Localstake. There’s a reason to hope in small farming co-ops, the Main Street movement, and individuals like these who can re-envision a crumbling building as an independent country store, a B&B, or a job training center with Internet access.

    It can be a source of professional satisfaction for your marketing agency if you offer these brave and hard-working business owners a good deal and the necessary education they need to present themselves sufficiently on the web. I live in a rural area, and I know just how much a little, solid advice can help. I feel extra good if I know I’m contributing to America’s rural comeback story.

    Promoting your rural local SEO package

    Once you’ve got your guide and templates created, what next? Here are some simple tips:

    • Create a terrific landing page on your website specifically for this package and call it out on your homepage as well. Wherever appropriate, build internal links to it.
    • Promote on social media.
    • Blog about why you’ve created the package, aligning your agency as an ally to the rebuilding of rural communities.
    • If, like me, you live in a rural area, consider presenting at local community events that will put you in front of small business owners.
    • Don’t overlook old school media like community message boards at the local post office, or even fliers tacked to electric poles.
    • If you’re a city slicker, consider how far you’d have to travel to get to the nearest rural community to participate in events.
    • Advertising both off and online in rural papers can be quite economical. There are also place of worship print bulletins, local school papers, and other publications that welcome sponsors. Give it a try.
    • And, of course, ask happy clients to refer you, telling them what it means to your business. You might even develop a referral program.

    The truth is that your agency may not be able to live by rural clients, alone. You may still be targeting the bulk of your campaigns towards urban enterprises because just a few highly competitive clients can bring welcome security to your bank account.

    But maybe this is a good day to start looking beyond the fast food franchise, the NY attorney and the LA dermatology group. The more one reads about rural entrepreneurs, the more one tends to empathize with them, and empathy is the best foundation I know of for building rewarding business relationships.

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    Reblogged 4 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm?

    Posted by Dr-Pete

    In 2018, Google reported an incredible 3,234 improvements to search. That’s more than 8 times the number of updates they reported in 2009 — less than a decade ago — and an average of almost 9 per day. How have algorithm updates evolved over the past decade, and how can we possibly keep tabs on all of them? Should we even try?

    To kick this off, here’s a list of every confirmed count we have (sources at end of post):

    • 2018 – 3,234 “improvements”
    • 2017 – 2,453 “changes”
    • 2016 – 1,653 “improvements”
    • 2013 – 890 “improvements”
    • 2012 – 665 “launches”
    • 2011 – 538 “launches”
    • 2010 – 516 “changes”
    • 2009 – 350–400 “changes”

    Unfortunately, we don’t have confirmed data for 2014-2015 (if you know differently, please let me know in the comments).

    A brief history of update counts

    Our first peek into this data came in spring of 2010, when Google’s Matt Cutts revealed that “on average, [Google] tends to roll out 350–400 things per year.” It wasn’t an exact number, but given that SEOs at the time (and to this day) were tracking at most dozens of algorithm changes, the idea of roughly one change per day was eye-opening.

    In fall of 2011, Eric Schmidt was called to testify before Congress, and revealed our first precise update count and an even more shocking scope of testing and changes:

    “To give you a sense of the scale of the changes that Google considers, in 2010 we conducted 13,311 precision evaluations to see whether proposed algorithm changes improved the quality of its search results, 8,157 side-by-side experiments where it presented two sets of search results to a panel of human testers and had the evaluators rank which set of results was better, and 2,800 click evaluations to see how a small sample of real-life Google users responded to the change. Ultimately, the process resulted in 516 changes that were determined to be useful to users based on the data and, therefore, were made to Google’s algorithm.”

    Later, Google would reveal similar data in an online feature called “How Search Works.” Unfortunately, some of the earlier years are only available via the Internet Archive, but here’s a screenshot from 2012:

    Note that Google uses “launches” and “improvements” somewhat interchangeably. This diagram provided a fascinating peek into Google’s process, and also revealed a startling jump from 13,311 precisions evaluations (changes that were shown to human evaluators) to 118,812 in just two years.

    Is the Google algorithm heating up?

    Since MozCast has kept the same keyword set since almost the beginning of data collection, we’re able to make some long-term comparisons. The graph below represents five years of temperatures. Note that the system was originally tuned (in early 2012) to an average temperature of 70°F. The redder the bar, the hotter the temperature …

    Click to open a high-resolution version in a new tab

    You’ll notice that the temperature ranges aren’t fixed — instead, I’ve split the label into eight roughly equal buckets (i.e. they represent the same number of days). This gives us a little more sensitivity in the more common ranges.

    The trend is pretty clear. The latter half of this 5-year timeframe has clearly been hotter than the first half. While warming trend is evident, though, it’s not a steady increase over time like Google’s update counts might suggest. Instead, we see a stark shift in the fall of 2016 and a very hot summer of 2017. More recently, we’ve actually seen signs of cooling. Below are the means and medians for each year (note that 2014 and 2019 are partial years):

    • 2019 – 83.7° /82.0°
    • 2018 – 89.9° /88.0°
    • 2017 – 94.0° /93.7°
    • 2016 – 75.1° / 73.7°
    • 2015 – 62.9° / 60.3°
    • 2014 – 65.8° / 65.9°

    Note that search engine rankings are naturally noisy, and our error measurements tend to be large (making day-to-day changes hard to interpret). The difference from 2015 to 2017, however, is clearly significant.

    Are there really 9 updates per day?

    No, there are only 8.86 – feel better? Ok, that’s probably not what you meant. Even back in 2009, Matt Cutts said something pretty interesting that seems to have been lost in the mists of time…

    “We might batch [algorithm changes] up and go to a meeting once a week where we talk about 8 or 10 or 12 or 6 different things that we would want to launch, but then after those get approved … those will roll out as we can get them into production.”

    In 2016, I did a study of algorithm flux that demonstrated a weekly pattern evident during clearer episodes of ranking changes. From a software engineering standpoint, this just makes sense — updates have to be approved and tend to be rolled out in batches. So, while measuring a daily average may help illustrate the rate of change, it probably has very little basis in the reality of how Google handles algorithm updates.

    Do all of these algo updates matter?

    Some changes are small. Many improvements are likely not even things we in the SEO industry would consider “algorithm updates” — they could be new features, for example, or UI changes.

    As SERP verticals and features evolve, and new elements are added, there are also more moving parts subject to being fixed and improved. Local SEO, for example, has clearly seen an accelerated rate of change over the past 2-3 years. So, we’d naturally expect the overall rate of change to increase.

    A lot of this is also in the eye of the beholder. Let’s say Google makes an update to how they handle misspelled words in Korean. For most of us in the United States, that change isn’t going to be actionable. If you’re a Korean brand trying to rank for a commonly misspelled, high-volume term, this change could be huge. Some changes also are vertical-specific, representing radical change for one industry and little or no impact outside that niche.

    On the other hand, you’ll hear comments in the industry along the lines of “There are 3,000 changes per year; stop worrying about it!” To me that’s like saying “The weather changes every day; stop worrying about it!” Yes, not every weather report is interesting, but I still want to know when it’s going to snow or if there’s a tornado coming my way. Recognizing that most updates won’t affect you is fine, but it’s a fallacy to stretch that into saying that no updates matter or that SEOs shouldn’t care about algorithm changes.

    Ultimately, I believe it helps to know when major changes happen, if only to understand whether rankings shifted due something we did or something Google did. It’s also clear that the rate of change has accelerated, no matter how you measure it, and there’s no evidence to suggest that Google is slowing down.


    Appendix A: Update count sources

    2009 – Google’s Matt Cutts, video (Search Engine Land)
    2010 – Google’s Eric Schmidt, testifying before Congress (Search Engine Land)
    2012 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Internet Archive)
    2013 – Google’s Amit Singhal, Google+ (Search Engine Land)
    2016 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Internet Archive)
    2017 – Unnamed Google employees (CNBC)
    2018 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Google.com)

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    Reblogged 5 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it