The New Moz Local Is on Its Way!

Posted by MiriamEllis

Exciting secrets can be so hard to keep. Finally, all of us at Moz have the green light to share with all of you a first glimpse of something we’ve been working on for months behind the scenes. Big inhale, big exhale…

Announcing: the new and improved Moz Local, to be rolled out beginning June 12!

Why is Moz updating the Moz Local platform?

Local search has evolved from caterpillar to butterfly in the seven years since we launched Moz Local. I think we’ve spent the time well, intensively studying both Google’s trajectory and the feedback of enterprise, marketing agency, and SMB customers.

Your generosity in telling us what you need as marketers has inspired us to action. Over the coming months, you’ll be seeing what Moz has learned reflected in a series of rollouts. Stage by stage, you’ll see that we’re planning to give our software the wings it needs to help you fully navigate the dynamic local search landscape and, in turn, grow your business.

We hope you’ll keep gathering together with us to watch Moz Local take full flight — changes will only become more robust as we move forward.

What can I expect from this upgrade?

Beginning June 12th, Moz Local customers will experience a fresh look and feel in the Moz Local interface, plus these added capabilities:

  • New distribution partners to ensure your data is shared on the platforms that matter most in the evolving local search ecosystem
  • Listing status and real-time updates to know the precise status of your location data
  • Automated detection and permanent duplicate closure, taking the manual work out of the process and saving you significant time
  • Integrations with Google and Facebook to gain deeper insights, reporting, and management for your location’s profiles
  • An even better data clean-up process to ensure valid data is formatted properly for distribution
  • A new activity feed to alert you to any changes to your location’s listings
  • A suggestion engine to provide recommendations to increase accuracy, completeness, and consistency of your location data

Additional features available include:

  • Managing reviews of your locations to keep your finger on the pulse of what customers are saying
  • Social posting to engage with consumers and alert them to news, offers, and other updates
  • Store locator and landing pages to share location data easily with both customers and search engines (available for Moz Local customers with 100 or more locations)

Remember, this is just the beginning. There’s more to come in 2019, and you can expect ongoing communications from us as further new feature sets emerge!

When is it happening?

We’ll be rolling out all the new changes beginning on June 12th. As with some large changes, this update will take a few days to complete, so some people will see the changes immediately while for others it may take up to a week. By June 21st, everyone should be able to explore the new Moz Local experience!

Don’t worry — we’ll have several more communications between now and then to help you prepare. Keep an eye out for our webinar and training materials to help ensure a smooth transition to the new Moz Local.

Are any metrics/scores changing?

Some of our reporting metrics will look different in the new Moz Local. We’ll be sharing more information on these metrics and how to use them soon, but for now, here’s a quick overview of changes you can expect:

  • Profile Completeness: Listing Score will be replaced by the improved Profile Completeness metric. This new feature will give you a better measurement of how complete your data is, what’s missing from it, and clear prompts to fill in any lacking information.
  • Improved listing status reporting: Partner Accuracy Score will be replaced by improved reporting on listing status with all of our partners, including continuous information about the data they’ve received from us. You’ll be able to access an overview of your distribution network, so that you can see which sites your business is listed on. Plus, you’ll be able to go straight to the live listing with a single click.
  • Visibility Index: Though they have similar names, Visibility Score is being replaced by something slightly different with the new and improved Visibility Index, which notates how the data you’ve provided us about a location matches or mismatches your information on your live listings.
  • New ways to measure and act on listing reach: Reach Score will be leaving us in favor of even more relevant measurement via the Visibility Index and Profile Completeness metrics. The new Moz Local will include more actionable information to ensure your listings are accurate and complete.

Other FAQs

You’ll likely have questions if you’re a current Moz Local customer or are considering becoming one. Please check out our resource center for further details, and feel free to leave us a question down in the comments — we’ll be on point to respond to any wonderings or concerns you might have!

Head to the FAQs

Where is Moz heading with this?

As a veteran local SEO, I’m finding the developments taking place with our software particularly exciting because, like you, I see how local search and local search marketing have matured over the past decade.

I’ve closely watched the best minds in our industry moving toward a holistic vision of how authenticity, customer engagement, data, analysis, and other factors underpin local business success. And we’ve all witnessed Google’s increasingly sophisticated presentation of local business information evolve and grow. It’s been quite a ride!

At every level of local commerce, owners and marketers deserve tools that bring order out of what can seem like chaos. We believe you deserve software that yields strategy. As our CEO, Sarah Bird, recently said of Moz,

“We are big believers in the power of local SEO.”

So the secret is finally out, and you can see where Moz is heading with the local side of our product lineup. It’s our serious plan to devote everything we’ve got into putting the power of local SEO into your hands.

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 6 days ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Restaurant Local SEO: The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries

Posted by MiriamEllis

“A good chef has to be a manager, a businessman and a great cook. To marry all three together is sometimes difficult.”
– Wolfgang Puck

I like this quote. It makes me hear phones ringing at your local search marketing agency, with aspiring chefs and restaurateurs on the other end of the line, ready to bring experts aboard in the “sometimes difficult” quest for online visibility.

Is your team ready for these clients? How comfortable do you feel talking restaurant Local SEO when such calls come in? When was the last time you took a broad survey of what’s really ranking in this specialized industry?

Allow me to be your prep cook today, and I’ll dice up “best restaurant” local packs for major cities in all 50 US states. We’ll julienne Google Posts usage, rough chop DA, make chiffonade of reviews, owner responses, categories, and a host of other ingredients to determine which characteristics are shared by establishments winning this most superlative of local search phrases.

The finished dish should make us conversant with what it takes these days to be deemed “best” by diners and by Google, empowering your agency to answer those phones with all the breezy confidence of Julia Child.

Methodology

I looked at the 3 businesses in the local pack for “best restaurants (city)” in a major city in each of the 50 states, examining 11 elements for each entry, yielding 4,950 data points. I set aside the food processor for this one and did everything manually. I wanted to avoid the influence of proximity, so I didn’t search for any city in which I was physically located. The results, then, are what a traveler would see when searching for top restaurants in destination cities.

Restaurant results

Now, let’s look at each of the 11 data points together and see what we learn. Take a seat at the table!

Categories prove no barrier to entry

Which restaurant categories make up the dominant percentage of local pack entries for our search?

You might think that a business trying to rank locally for “best restaurants” would want to choose just “restaurant” as their primary Google category as a close match. Or, you might think that since we’re looking at best restaurants, something like “fine dining restaurants” or the historically popular “French restaurants” might top the charts.

Instead, what we’ve discovered is that restaurants of every category can make it into the top 3. Fifty-one percent of the ranking restaurants hailed from highly diverse categories, including Pacific Northwest Restaurant, Pacific Rim Restaurant, Organic, Southern, Polish, Lebanese, Eclectic and just about every imaginable designation. American Restaurant is winning out in bulk with 26 percent of the take, and an additional 7 percent for New American Restaurant. I find this an interesting commentary on the nation’s present gustatory aesthetic as it may indicate a shift away from what might be deemed fancy fare to familiar, homier plates.

Overall, though, we see the celebrated American “melting pot” perfectly represented when searchers seek the best restaurant in any given city. Your client’s food niche, however specialized, should prove no barrier to entry in the local packs.

High prices don’t automatically equal “best”

Do Google’s picks for “best restaurants” share a pricing structure?

It will cost you more than $1000 per head to dine at Urasawa, the nation’s most expensive eatery, and one study estimates that the average cost of a restaurant meal in the US is $12.75. When we look at the price attribute on Google listings, we find that the designation “best” is most common for establishments with charges that fall somewhere in between the economical and the extravagant.

Fifty-eight percent of the top ranked restaurants for our search have the $$ designation and another 25 percent have the $$$. We don’t know Google’s exact monetary value behind these symbols, but for context, a Taco Bell with its $1–$2 entrees would typically be marked as $, while the fabled French Laundry gets $$$$ with its $400–$500 plates. In our study, the cheapest and the costliest restaurants make up only a small percentage of what gets deemed “best.”

There isn’t much information out there about Google’s pricing designations, but it’s generally believed that they stem at least in part from the attribute questions Google sends to searchers. So, this element of your clients’ listings is likely to be influenced by subjective public sentiment. For instance, Californians’ conceptions of priciness may be quite different from North Dakotans’. Nevertheless, on the national average, mid-priced restaurants are most likely to be deemed “best.”

Of anecdotal interest: The only locale in which all 3 top-ranked restaurants were designated at $$$$ was NYC, while in Trenton, NJ, the #1 spot in the local pack belongs to Rozmaryn, serving Polish cuisine at $ prices. It’s interesting to consider how regional economics may contribute to expectations, and your smartest restaurant clients will carefully study what their local market can bear. Meanwhile, 7 of the 150 restaurants we surveyed had no pricing information at all, indicating that Google’s lack of adequate information about this element doesn’t bar an establishment from ranking.

Less than 5 stars is no reason to despair

Is perfection a prerequisite for “best”?

Negative reviews are the stuff of indigestion for restaurateurs, and I’m sincerely hoping this study will provide some welcome relief. The average star rating of the 150 “best” restaurants we surveyed is 4.5. Read that again: 4.5. And the number of perfect 5-star joints in our study? Exactly zero. Time for your agency to spend a moment doing deep breathing with clients.

The highest rating for any restaurant in our data set is 4.8, and only three establishments rated so highly. The lowest is sitting at 4.1. Every other business falls somewhere in-between. These ratings stem from customer reviews, and the 4.5 average proves that perfection is simply not necessary to be “best.”

Breaking down a single dining spot with 73 reviews, a 4.6 star rating was achieved with fifty-six 5-star reviews, four 4-star reviews, three 3-star reviews, two 2-star reviews, and three 1-star reviews. 23 percent of diners in this small review set had a less-than-ideal experience, but the restaurant is still achieving top rankings. Practically speaking for your clients, the odd night when the pho was gummy and the paella was burnt can be tossed onto the compost heap of forgivable mistakes.

Review counts matter, but differ significantly

How many reviews do the best restaurants have?

It’s folk wisdom that any business looking to win local rankings needs to compete on native Google review counts. I agree with that, but was struck by the great variation in review counts across the nation and within given packs. Consider:

  • The greatest number of reviews in our study was earned by Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, TN, coming in at a whopping 4,537!
  • Meanwhile, Park Heights Restaurant in Tupelo, MS is managing a 3-pack ranking with just 72 reviews, the lowest in our data set.
  • 35 percent of “best”-ranked restaurants have between 100–499 reviews and another 31 percent have between 500–999 reviews. Taken together that’s 66 percent of contenders having yet to break 1,000 reviews.
  • A restaurant with less than 100 reviews has only a 1 percent chance of ranking for this type of search.

Anecdotally, I don’t know how much data you would have to analyze to be able to find a truly reliable pattern regarding winning review counts. Consider the city of Dallas, where the #1 spot has 3,365 review, but spots #2 and #3 each have just over 300. Compare that to Tallahassee, where a business with 590 reviews is coming in at #1 above a competitor with twice that many. Everybody ranking in Boise has well over 1,000 reviews, but nobody in Bangor is even breaking into the 200s.

The takeaways from this data point is that the national average review count is 893 for our “best” search, but that there is no average magic threshold you can tell a restaurant client they need to cross to get into the pack. Totals vary so much from city to city that your best plan of action is to study the client’s market and strongly urge full review management without making any promise that hitting 1,000 reviews will ensure them beating out that mysterious competitor who is sweeping up with just 400 pieces of consumer sentiment. Remember, no local ranking factor stands in isolation.

Best restaurants aren’t best at owner responses

How many of America’s top chophouses have replied to reviews in the last 60 days?

With a hat tip to Jason Brown at the Local Search Forum for this example of a memorable owner response to a negative review, I’m sorry to say I have some disappointing news. Only 29 percent of the restaurants ranked best in all 50 states had responded to their reviews in the 60 days leading up to my study. There were tributes of lavish praise, cries for understanding, and seething remarks from diners, but less than one-third of owners appeared to be paying the slightest bit of attention.

On the one hand, this indicates that review responsiveness is not a prerequisite for ranking for our desirable search term, but let’s go a step further. In my view, whatever time restaurant owners may be gaining back via unresponsiveness is utterly offset by what they stand to lose if they make a habit of overlooking complaints. Review neglect has been cited as a possible cause of business closure. As my friends David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal always say:“Your brand is its reviews” and mastering the customer service ecosystem is your surest way to build a restaurant brand that lasts.

For your clients, I would look at any local pack with neglected reviews as representative of a weakness. Algorithmically, your client’s active management of the owner response function could become a strength others lack. But I’ll even go beyond that: Restaurants ignoring how large segments of customer service have moved onto the web are showing a deficit of commitment to the long haul. It’s true that some eateries are famous for thriving despite offhand treatment of patrons, but in the average city, a superior commitment to responsiveness could increase many restaurants’ repeat business, revenue and rankings.

Critic reviews nice but not essential

I’ve always wanted to investigate critic reviews for restaurants, as Google gives them a great deal of screen space in the listings:

How many times were critic reviews cited in the Google listings of America’s best restaurants and how does an establishment earn this type of publicity?

With 57 appearances, Lonely Planet is the leading source of professional reviews for our search term, with Zagat and 10Best making strong showings, too. It’s worth noting that 70/150 businesses I investigated surfaced no critic reviews at all. They’re clearly not a requirement for being considered “best”, but most restaurants will benefit from the press. Unfortunately, there are few options for prompting a professional review. To wit:

Lonely Planet — Founded in 1972, Lonely Planet is a travel guide publisher headquartered in Australia. Critic reviews like this one are written for their website and guidebooks simultaneously. You can submit a business for review consideration via this form, but the company makes no guarantees about inclusion.

Zagat — Founded in 1979, Zagat began as a vehicle for aggregating diner reviews. It was purchased by Google in 2011 and sold off to The Infatuation in 2018. Restaurants can’t request Zagat reviews. Instead, the company conducts its own surveys and selects businesses to be rated and reviewed, like this.

10Best — Owned by USA Today Travel Media Group, 10Best employs local writers/travelers to review restaurants and other destinations. Restaurants cannot request a review.

The Infatuation — Founded in 2009 and headquartered in NY, The Infatuation employs diner-writers to create reviews like this one based on multiple anonymous dining experiences that are then published via their app. The also have a SMS-based restaurant recommendation system. They do not accept request from restaurants hoping to be reviewed.

AFAR — Founded in 2009, AFAR is a travel publication with a website, magazine, and app which publishes reviews like this one. There is no form for requesting a review.

Michelin — Founded as a tire company in 1889 in France, Michelin’s subsidiary ViaMichelin is a digital mapping service that houses the reviews Google is pulling. In my study, Chicago, NYC and San Francisco were the only three cities that yielded Michelin reviews like this one and one article states that only 165 US restaurants have qualified for a coveted star rating. The company offers this guide to dining establishments.

As you can see, the surest way to earn a professional review is to become notable enough on the dining scene to gain the unsolicited notice of a critic. 

Google Posts hardly get a seat at best restaurant tables

How many picks for best restaurants are using the Google Posts microblogging feature?

As it turns out, only a meager 16 percent of America’s “best” restaurants in my survey have made any use of Google Posts. In fact, most of the usage I saw wasn’t even current. I had to click the “view previous posts on Google” link to surface past efforts. This statistic is much worse than what Ben Fisher found when he took a broader look at Google Posts utilization and found that 42 percent of local businesses had at least experimented with the feature at some point.

For whatever reason, the eateries in my study are largely neglecting this influential feature, and this knowledge could encompass a competitive advantage for your restaurant clients.

Do you have a restaurateur who is trying to move up the ranks? There is some evidence that devoting a few minutes a week to this form of microblogging could help them get a leg up on lazier competitors.

Google Posts are a natural match for restaurants because they always have something to tout, some appetizing food shot to share, some new menu item to celebrate. As the local SEO on the job, you should be recommending an embrace of this element for its valuable screen real estate in the Google Business Profile, local finder, and maybe even in local packs.

Waiter, there’s some Q&A in my soup

What is the average number of questions top restaurants are receiving on their Google Business Profiles?

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is absolutely stealing the show in my survey with 56 questions asked via the Q&A feature of the Google Business Profile. Only four restaurants had zero questions. The average number of questions across the board was eight.

As I began looking at the data, I decided not to re-do this earlier study of mine to find out how many questions were actually receiving responses from owners, because I was winding up with the same story. Time and again, answers were being left up to the public, resulting in consumer relations like these:

Takeaway: As I mentioned in a previous post, Greg Gifford found that 40 percent of his clients’ Google Questions were leads. To leave those leads up to the vagaries of the public, including a variety of wags and jokesters, is to leave money on the table. If a potential guest is asking about dietary restrictions, dress codes, gift cards, average prices, parking availability, or ADA compliance, can your restaurant clients really afford to allow a public “maybe” to be the only answer given?

I’d suggest that a dedication to answering questions promptly could increase bookings, cumulatively build the kind of reputation that builds rankings, and possibly even directly impact rankings as a result of being a signal of activity.

A moderate PA & DA gets you into the game

What is the average Page Authority and Domain Authority of restaurants ranking as “best’?

Looking at both the landing page that Google listings are pointing to and the overall authority of each restaurant’s domain, I found that:

  • The average PA is 36, with a high of 56 and a low of zero being represented by one restaurant with no website link and one restaurant appearing to have no website at all.
  • The average DA is 41, with a high of 88, one business lacking a website link while actually having a DA of 56 and another one having no apparent website at all. The lowest linked DA I saw was 6.
  • PA/DA do not = rankings. Within the 50 local packs I surveyed, 32 of them exhibited the #1 restaurant having a lower DA than the establishments sitting at #2 or #3. In one extreme case, a restaurant with a DA of 7 was outranking a website with a DA of 32, and there were the two businesses with the missing website link or missing website. But, for the most part, knowing the range of PA/DA in a pack you are targeting will help you create a baseline for competing.

While pack DA/PA differs significantly from city to city, the average numbers we’ve discovered shouldn’t be out-of-reach for established businesses. If your client’s restaurant is brand new, it’s going to take some serious work to get up market averages, of course.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2019 found that DA was the 9th most important local pack ranking signal, with PA sitting at factor #20. Once you’ve established a range of DA/PA for a local SERP you are trying to move a client up into, your best bet for making improvements will include improving content so that it earns links and powering up your outreach for local links and linktations.

Google’s Local Finder “web results” show where to focus management

Which websites does Google trust enough to cite as references for restaurants?

As it turns out, that trust is limited to a handful of sources:

As the above pie chart shows:

  • The restaurant’s website was listed as a reference for 99 percent of the candidates in our survey. More proof that you still need a website in 2019, for the very good reason that it feeds data to Google.
  • Yelp is highly trusted at 76 percent and TripAdvisor is going strong at 43 percent. Your client is likely already aware of the need to manage their reviews on these two platforms. Be sure you’re also checking them for basic data accuracy.
  • OpenTable and Facebook are each getting a small slice of Google trust, too.

Not shown in the above chart are 13 restaurants that had a web reference from a one-off source, like the Des Moines Register or Dallas Eater. A few very famous establishments, like Brennan’s in New Orleans, surfaced their Wikipedia page, although they didn’t do so consistently. I noticed Wikipedia pages appearing one day as a reference and then disappearing the next day. I was left wondering why.

For me, the core takeaway from this factor is that if Google is highlighting your client’s listing on a given platform as a trusted web result, your agency should go over those pages with a fine-toothed comb, checking for accuracy, activity, and completeness. These are citations Google is telling you are of vital importance.

A few other random ingredients

As I was undertaking this study, there were a few things I noted down but didn’t formally analyze, so consider this as mixed tapas:

  • Menu implementation is all over the place. While many restaurants are linking directly to their own website via Google’s offered menu link, some are using other services like Single Platform, and far too many have no menu link at all.
  • Reservation platforms like Open Table are making a strong showing, but many restaurants are drawing a blank on this Google listing field, too. Many, but far from all, of the restaurants designated “best” feature Google’s “reserve a table” function which stems from partnerships with platforms like Open Table and RESY.
  • Order links are pointing to multiple sources including DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, Seamless, and in some cases, the restaurant’s own website (smart!). But, in many cases, no use is being made of this function.
  • Photos were present for every single best-ranked restaurant. Their quality varied, but they are clearly a “given” in this industry.
  • Independently-owned restaurants are the clear winners for my search term. With the notable exception of an Olive Garden branch in Parkersburg, WV, and a Cracker Barrel in Bismarck, ND, the top competitors were either single-location or small multi-location brands. For the most part, neither Google nor the dining public associate large chains with “best”.
  • Honorable mentions go to Bida Manda Laotian Bar & Grill for what looks like a gorgeous and unusual restaurant ranking #1 in Raleigh, NC and to Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen of Tupelo, MS for the most memorable name in my data set. You can get a lot of creative inspiration from just spending time with restaurant data.

A final garnish to our understanding of this data

I want to note two things as we near the end of our study:

  1. Local rankings emerge from the dynamic scenario of Google’s opinionated algorithms + public opinion and behavior. Doing Local SEO for restaurants means managing a ton of different ingredients: website SEO, link building, review management, GBP signals, etc. We can’t offer clients a generic “formula” for winning across the board. This study has helped us understand national averages so that we can walk into the restaurant space feeling conversant with the industry. In practice, we’ll need to discover the true competitors in each market to shape our strategy for each unique client. And that brings us to some good news.
  2. As I mentioned at the outset of this survey, I specifically avoided proximity as an influence by searching as a traveler to other destinations would. I investigated one local pack for each major city I “visited”. The glad tidings are that, for many of your restaurant clients, there is going to be more than one chance to rank for a search like “best restaurants (city)”. Unless the eatery is in a very small town, Google is going to whip up a variety of local packs based on the searcher’s location. So, that’s something hopeful to share.

What have we learned about restaurant local SEO?

A brief TL;DR you can share easily with your clients:

  • While the US shows a predictable leaning towards American restaurants, any category can be a contender. So, be bold!
  • Mid-priced restaurants are considered “best” to a greater degree than the cheapest or most expensive options. Price for your market.
  • While you’ll likely need at least 100 native Google reviews to break into these packs, well over half of competitors have yet to break the 1,000 mark.
  • An average 71 percent of competitors are revealing a glaring weakness by neglecting to respond to reviews – so get in there and start embracing customer service to distinguish your restaurant!
  • A little over half of your competitors have earned critic reviews. If you don’t yet have any, there’s little you can do to earn them beyond becoming well enough known for anonymous professional reviewers to visit you. In the meantime, don’t sweat it.
  • About three-quarters of your competitors are completely ignoring Google Posts; gain the advantage by getting active.
  • Potential guests are asking nearly every competitor questions, and so many restaurants are leaving leads on the table by allowing random people to answer. Embrace fast responses to Q&A to stand out from the crowd.
  • With few exceptions, devotion to authentic link earning efforts can build up your PA/DA to competitive levels.
  • Pay attention to any platform Google is citing as a resource to be sure the information published there is a complete and accurate.
  • The current management of other Google Business Profile features like Menus, Reservations and Ordering paints a veritable smorgasbord of providers and a picture of prevalent neglect. If you need to improve visibility, explore every profile field that Google is giving you.

A question for you: Do you market restaurants? Would you be willing to share a cool local SEO tactic with our community? We’d love to hear about your special sauce in the comments below.

Wishing you bon appétit for working in the restaurant local SEO space, with delicious wins ahead!

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

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

How to Find Your True Local Competitors

Posted by MiriamEllis

Who are your clients’ true competitors?

It’s a question that’s become harder to answer. What felt like a fairly simple triangulation between Google, brand, and searcher in the early days of the local web has multiplied into a geodesic dome of localization, personalization, intent matching, and other facets.

This evolution from a simple shape to a more complex shape has the local SEO industry starting to understand the need to talk about trends and patterns vs. empirical rankings.

For instance, you might notice that you just can’t deliver client reports that say, “Congratulations, you’re #1” anymore. And that’s because the new reality is that there is no #1 for all searchers. A user on the north side of town may see a completely different local pack of results if they go south, or if they modify their search language. An SEO may get a whole different SERP if they search on one rank checking tool vs. another — or even on the same tool, just five minutes later.

Despite all this, you still need to analyze and report — it remains a core task to audit a client’s competitive landscape.

 Today, let’s talk about how we can distill this dynamic, complex environment down to the simplest shapes to understand who your client’s true competitors are. I’ll be sharing a spreadsheet to help you and your clients see the trends and patterns that can create the basis for competitive strategy.

Why are competitive audits necessary…and challenging?

Before we dive into a demo, let’s sync up on what the basic point is of auditing local competitors. Essentially, you’re seeking contrast — you stack up two brands side-by-side to discover the metrics that appear to be making one of them dominant in the local or localized organic SERPs.

From there, you can develop a strategy to emulate the successes of the current winner with the goal of meeting and then surpassing them with superior efforts.

But before you start comparing your brand A to their brand B, you’ve got to know who brand B actually is. What obstacles do you face?

1. SERPs are incredibly diversified

    A recent STAT whitepaper that looked at 1.2 million keywords says it all: every SERP is a local SERP. And since both local packs and organic results are both subject to the whims of geo-location and geo-modification, incorporating them into your tracking strategy is a must.

    To explain, imagine two searchers are sitting on the same couch. One searches for “Mexican restaurant” and the other searches for “Mexican restaurant near me”. Then, they divvy up searching “Mexican restaurant near me” vs. “Mexican restaurant in San Jose”. And, so on. What they see are local packs that are only about 80 percent similar based on Google recognizing different intents. That’s significant variability.

    The scenario gets even more interesting when one of the searchers gets up and travels across town to a different zip code. At that point, the two people making identical queries can see local packs that range from only about 26–65 percent similar. In other words, quite different.

    Now, let’s say your client wants to rank for seven key phrases — like “Mexican restaurant,” “Mexican restaurant near me,” “Mexican restaurant San Jose,” “best Mexican restaurant,” “cheap Mexican restaurant,” etc. Your client doesn’t have just three businesses to compete against in the local pack; they now have multiple multiples of three!

    2) Even good rank tracking tools can be inconsistent

    There are many useful local rank tracking tools out there, and one of the most popular comes to us from BrightLocal. I really like the super easy interface of this tool, but there is a consistency issue with this and other tools I’ve tried, which I’ve captured in a screenshot, below.

    Here I’m performing the same search at 5-minute intervals, showing how the reported localized organic ranking of a single business vary widely across time.

    The business above appears to move from position 5 to position 12. This illustrates the difficulty of answering the question of who is actually the top competitor when using a tool. My understanding is that this type of variability may result from the use of proxies. If you know of a local rank checker that doesn’t do this, please let our community know in the comments.

    In the meantime, what I’ve discovered in my own work is that it’s really hard to find a strong and consistent substitute for manually checking which competitors rank where, on the ground. So, let’s try something out together.

    The simplest solution for finding true competitors

    Your client owns a Mexican restaurant and has seven main keyword phrases they want to compete for. Follow these five easy steps:

    Step 1: Give the client a local pack crash course

    If the client doesn’t already know, teach them how to perform a search on Google and recognize what a local pack is. Show them how businesses in the pack rank 1, 2, and 3. If they have more questions about local packs, how they show up in results, and how Google ranks content, they can check out our updated Beginners Guide to SEO.

    Step 2: Give the client a spreadsheet and a tiny bit of homework

    Give the client a copy of this free spreadsheet, filled out with their most desired keyword phrases. Have them conduct seven searches from a computer located at their place of business* and then fill out the spreadsheet with the names of the three competitors they see for each of the seven phrases. Tell them not to pay attention to any of the other fields of the spreadsheet.

    *Be sure the client does this task from their business’ physical location as this is the best way to see what searchers in their area will see in the local results. Why are we doing this? Because Google weights proximity of the searcher-to-the-business so heavily, we have to pretend we’re a searcher at or near the business to emulate Google’s “thought process”.

    Step 3: Roll up your sleeves for your part of the work

    Now it’s your turn. Look up “directions Google” in Google.

    Enter your client’s business address and the address of their first competitor. Write down the distance in the spreadsheet. Repeat for every entry in each of the seven local packs. This will take you approximately 10–15 minutes to cover all 21 locations, so make sure you’re doing it on company time to ensure you’re on the clock.

    Step 4: Get measuring

    Now, in the 2nd column of the spreadsheet, note down the greatest distance Google appears to be going to fill out the results for each pack.

    Step 5: Identify competitors by strength

    Finally, rate the competitors by the number of times each one appears across all seven local packs. Your spreadsheet should now look something like this:

    Looking at the example sheet above, we’ve learned that:

    • Mi Casa and El Juan’s are the dominant competitors in your client’s market, ranking in 4/7 packs. Plaza Azul is also a strong competitor, with a place in 3/7 packs.
    • Don Pedro’s and Rubio’s are noteworthy with 2/7 pack appearances.
    • All the others make just one pack appearance, making them basic competitors.
    • The radius to which Google is willing to expand to find relevant businesses varies significantly, depending on the search term. While they’re having to go just a couple of miles to find competitors for “Mexican restaurant”, they’re forced to go more than 15 miles for a long tail term like “organic Mexican restaurant”.

    You now know who the client’s direct competitors are for their most desired searches, and how far Google is willing to go to make up a local pack for each term. You have discovered a pattern of most dominant competition across your client’s top phrases, signaling which players need to be audited to yield clues about which elements are making them so strong.

    The pros and cons of the simple search shape

    The old song says that it’s a gift to be simple, but there are some drawbacks to my methodology, namely:

    • You’ll have to depend on the client to help you out for a few minutes, and some clients are not very good at participation, so you’ll need to convince them of the value of their doing the initial searches for you.
    • Manual work is sometimes tedious.
    • Scaling this for a multi-location enterprise would be time-consuming.
    • Some of your clients are going to be located in large cities and will want to know what competitors are showing up for users across town and in different zip codes. Sometimes, it will be possible to compete with these differently-located competitors, but not always. At any rate, our approach doesn’t cover this scenario and you will be stuck with either using tools (with their known inconsistencies), or sending the client across town to search from that locale. This could quickly become a large chore.

    Negatives aside, the positives of this very basic exercise are:

    • Instead of tying yourself to the limited vision of a single local pack and a single set of competitors, you are seeing a trend, a pattern of dominant market-wide competitors.
    • You will have swiftly arrived at a base set of dominant, strong, and noteworthy competitors to audit, with the above-stated goal of figuring out what’s helping them to win so that you can create a client strategy for emulating and surpassing them.
    • Your agency will have created a useful view of your client’s market, understanding the difference between businesses that seem very embedded (like Mi Casa) across multiple packs, vs. those (like Taco Bell) that are only one-offs and could possibly be easier to outpace.
    • You may discover some extremely valuable competitive intel for your client. For example, if Google is having to cast a 15-mile net to find an organic Mexican restaurant, what if your client started offering more organic items on their menu, writing more about this and getting more reviews that mention it? This will give Google a new option, right in town, to consider for local pack inclusion.
    • It’s really quite fast to do for a single-location business.
    • Client buy-in should be a snap for any research they’ve personally helped on, and the spreadsheet should be something they can intuitively and immediately understand.

    My questions for you

    I’d like to close by asking you some questions about your work doing competitive audits for local businesses. I’d be truly interested in your replies as we all work together to navigate the complex shape of Google’s SERPs:

    1. What percentage of your clients “get” that Google’s results have become so dynamic, with different competitors being shown for different queries and different packs being based on searcher location? What percentage of your clients are “there yet” with this concept vs. the old idea of just being #1, period?
    2. I’ve offered you a manual process for getting at trustworthy data on competitors, but as I’ve said, it does take some work. If something could automate this process for you, especially for multi-location clients, would you be interested in hearing more about it?
    3. How often do you do competitive audits for clients? Monthly? Every six months? Annually?

    Thanks for responding, and allow me to wish you and your clients a happy and empowering audit!

    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

    B2B Local Search Marketing: A Guide to Hidden Opportunity

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    Is a local business you’re marketing missing out on a host of B2B opportunities? Do B2B brands even qualify for local SEO?

    If I say “B2B” and you think “tech,” then you’re having the same problem I was finding reliable information about local search marketing for business-to-business models. While it’s true that SaaS companies like Moz, MailChimp, and Hootsuite are businesses which vend to other businesses, their transactions are primarily digital. These may be the types of companies that make best-of B2B lists, but today let’s explore another realm in which a physical business you promote is eligible to be marketed both locally and as a B2B.

    Let’s determine your eligibility, find your B2B opportunities, identify tips specific to your business model, analyze an outreach email, explore your content with a checklist, and find an advantage for you in today’s article.

    Seeing how Google sees you

    First to determine whether Google would view your brand as a local business, answer these two questions:

    1. Does the business I’m marketing have a physical location that’s accessible to the public? This can’t be a PO Box or virtual office. It must be a real-world address.
    2. Does the business I’m marketing interact face-to-face with its customers?

    If you answered “yes” to both questions, continue, because you’ve just met Google’s local business guidelines.

    Seeing your B2B opportunity

    Next, determine if there’s a component of your business that already serves or could be created to serve other businesses.

    Not totally sure? Let’s look at Google’s categories.

    Out of the 2,395 Google My Business Categories listed here, there are at least 1,270 categories applicable to B2B companies. These include companies that are by nature B2B (wholesalers, suppliers) and companies that are B2C but could have a B2B offering (restaurants, event sites). In other words, more than half of Google’s categories signal to B2B-friendly companies that local marketing is an opportunity.

    Let’s look at some major groups of categories and see how they could be fine-tuned to serve executive needs instead of only consumer needs:

    Food establishments (restaurants, cafes, food trucks, caterers, etc.) can create relationships with nearby employers by offering business lunch specials, delivery, corporate catering, banquet rooms, and related B2B services. This can work especially well for restaurants located in large business districts, but almost any food-related business could create a corporate offering that incentivizes loyalty.

    Major attractions (museums, amusements, cultural centers, sports centers, etc.) can create corporate packages for local employers seeking fun group activities. Brands looking to reduce implicit bias may be especially interested in interacting with cultural groups and events.

    Professional services (realty, financial, printing, consulting, tech, etc.) can be geared towards corporate needs as well as individuals. A realtor can sell commercial properties. A printer can create business signage. A computer repair shop can service offices.

    Personal services (counseling, wellness, fitness, skill training, etc.) can become corporate services when employers bring in outside experts to improve company morale, education, or well-being.

    Home services (carpet cleaning, landscaping, plumbing, contracting, security, etc.) can become commercial services when offered to other businesses. Office buildings need design, remodeling, and construction and many have lounges, kitchens, restrooms, and grounds that need janitorial and upkeep services. Many retailers need these services, too.

    Entertainers (comedians, musicians, DJs, performance troupes, etc.) can move beyond private events to corporate ones with special package offerings. Many brands have days where children, family members, and even pets are welcomed to the workplace, and special activities are planned.

    Retailers (clothing, gifts, equipment, furniture, etc.) can find numerous ways to supply businesses with gear, swag, electronics, furnishings, gift baskets, uniforms, and other necessities. For example, a kitchen store could vend breakfast china to a B&B, or an electronics store could offer special pricing for a purchase of new computers for an office.

    Transportation and travel services (auto sales and maintenance, auto rentals, travel agencies, tour guides, charging stations, etc.) can create special packages for businesses. A car dealer could sell a fleet of vehicles to a food delivery service, or a garage could offer special pricing for maintaining food trucks. A travel agency could manage business trips.

    As you can see, the possibilities are substantial, and this is all apart from businesses that are classic B2B models, like manufacturers, suppliers, and wholesalers who also have physical premises and meet face-to-face with their clients. See if you’ve been missing out on a lucrative opportunity by examining the following spreadsheet of every Google My Business Category I could find that is either straight-up B2B or could create a B2B offering:

    See local B2B categories

    The business I’m marketing qualifies. What’s next?

    See which of these two groups you belong to: either a B2B company that hasn’t been doing local SEO, or a local business that hasn’t created a B2B offering yet. Then follow the set of foundational tips specific to your scenario.

    If you’re marketing a B2B company that hasn’t been doing local SEO:

    1. Know that the goal of local SEO is to make you as visible as possible online to any neighbor searching for what you offer so that you can win as many transactions as possible.
    2. Read the Guidelines for Representing your business on Google to be 100% sure your business qualifies and to familiarize yourself with Google’s rules. Google is the dominant player in local search.
    3. Make sure your complete, accurate name, address, and phone number is included in the footer of your website and on the Contact Us page. If you have multiple locations, create a unique page on your website for each location, complete with its full contact information and useful text for website visitors. Make each of these pages as unique and persuasive as possible.
    4. Be sure the content on your website thoroughly describes your goods and services, and makes compelling offers about the value of choosing you.
    5. Make sure your website is friendly to mobile users. If you’re not sure, test it using Google’s free mobile-friendly test.
    6. Create a Google My Business profile for your business if you don’t already have one so that you can work towards ranking well in Google’s local results. If you do have a profile, be sure it is claimed, accurate, guideline-compliant and fully filled out. This cheat sheet guide explains all of the common components that can show up in your Google Business Profile when people search for your company by name.
    7. Do a free check of the health of your other major local business listings on Moz Check Listing. Correct errors and duplicate listings manually, or to save time and enable ongoing monitoring, purchase Moz Local so that it can do the work for you. Accurate local business listings support good local rankings and prevent customers from being misdirected and inconvenience.
    8. Ask for, monitor, and respond to all of your Google reviews to improve customer satisfaction and build a strong, lucrative reputation. Read the guidelines of any other platform (like Yelp or TripAdvisor) to know what is allowed in terms of review management.
    9. Build real-world relationships within the community you serve and explore them for opportunities to earn relevant links to your website. Strong, sensible links can help you increase both your organic and local search engine rankings. Join local business organizations and become a community advocate.
    10. Be as accessible as possible via social media, sharing with your community online in the places they typically socialize. Emphasize communication rather than selling in this environment.

    If you’re marketing a local business that hasn’t created a B2B offering yet:

    1. Research your neighborhood and your community to determine what kinds of businesses are present around you. If you’re not sure, reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce or a local business association like AMIBA to see if they have data they can share with you. Doing searches like “Human Resources Event Seattle” or “People Ops Event Seattle” can bring up results like this one naming some key companies and staffers.
    2. Document your research. Create a spreadsheet with a column for why you feel a specific business might be a good fit for your service, and another column for their contact information.See if you can turn up direct contact info for the HR or People Ops team. Phone the business, if necessary, to acquire this information.
    3. Now, based on what you’ve learned, brainstorm an offering that might be appealing to this audience. Remember, you’re trying to entice other business owners and their staff with something that’s special for them and meets their needs..
    4. Next, write out your offering in as few words at possible, including all salient points (who you are, what you offer, why it solves a problem the business is likely to have, available proof of problem-solving, price range, a nice request to discuss further, and your complete contact info). Keep it short to respect how busy recipients are.
    5. Depending on your resources, plan outreach in manageable batches and keep track of outcomes.
    6. Be sure all of your online local SEO is representing you well, with the understanding that anyone seriously considering your offer is likely to check you out on the web. Be sure you’ve created a page on the site for your B2B offer. Be sure your website is navigable, optimized and persuasive, with clear contact information, and that your local business listings are accurate and thorough — hopefully with an abundance of good reviews to which you’ve gratefully responded.
    7. Now, begin outreach. In many cases this will be via email, using the text you’ve created, but if you’ve determined that an in-person visit is a better approach, invest a little in having your offer printed nicely so that you can give it to the staff at the place of business. Make the best impression you possibly can as a salesperson for your product.
    8. Give a reasonable amount of time for the business to review and decide on your offer. If you don’t hear back, follow up once. Ideally, you’re hoping for a reply with a request for more info. If you hear nothing in response to your follow-up, move on, as silence from the business is a signal of disinterest. Make note of the dates you outreached and try again after some time goes by, as things may have changed at the business by then. Do, however, avoid aggressive outreach as your business will appear to be spamming potential clients instead of helping them.

    As indicated, these are foundational steps for both groups — the beginnings of your strategy rather than the ultimate lengths you may need to go to for your efforts to fully pay off. The amount of work you need to do depends largely on the level of your local competition.

    B2B tips from Moz’s own Team Happy

    Moz’s People Ops team is called Team Happy, and these wonderful folks handle everything from event and travel planning, to gift giving, to making sure people’s parking needs are met. Team Happy is responsible for creating an exceptional, fun, generous environment that functions smoothly for all Mozzers and visitors.

    I asked Team Happy Manager of Operations, Ashlie Daulton, to share some tips for crafting successful B2B outreach when approaching a business like Moz. Ashlie explains:

    • We get lots of inquiry emails. Do some research into our company, help us see what we can benefit from, and how we can fit it in. We don’t accept every offer, but we try to stay open to exploring whether it’s a good fit for the office.
    • The more information we can get up front, the better! We are super busy in our day-to-day and we can get a lot of spam sometimes, so it can be hard to take vague email outreach seriously and not chalk it up to more spam. Be real, be direct in your outreach. Keeping it more person-to-person and less “sales pitchy” is usually key.
    • If we can get most of the information we need first, research the website/offers, and communicate our questions through emails until we feel a call is a good next step, that usually makes a good impression.

    Finally, Ashlie let me know that her team comes to decisions thoughtfully, as will the People Ops folks at any reputable company. If your B2B outreach doesn’t meet with acceptance from a particular company, it would be a waste of your time and theirs to keep contacting them.

    However, as mentioned above, a refusal one year doesn’t mean there couldn’t be opportunity at a later date if the company’s needs or your offer change to be a better fit. You may need to go through some refinements over the years, based on the feedback you receive and analyze, until you’ve got an offer that’s truly irresistible.

    A sample B2B outreach email

    La práctica hace al maestro.”
    – Proverb

    Practice makes perfect. Let’s do an exercise together in which we imagine ourselves running an awesome Oaxacan restaurant in Seattle that wants to grow the B2B side of our business. Let’s hypothesize that we’ve decided Moz would be a perfect client, and we’ve spent some time on the web learning about them. We’ve looked at their website, their blog, and have read some third-party news about the company.

    We found an email address for Team Happy and we’ve crafted our outreach email. What follows is that email + Ashlie’s honest, summarized feedback to me (detailed below) about how our fictitious outreach would strike her team:

    Good morning, Team Happy!

    When was the last time Moz’s hardworking staff was treated to tacos made from grandmother’s own authentic recipe? I’m your neighbor Jose Morales, co-owner with my abuela of Tacos Morales, just down the street from you. Our Oaxacan-style Mexican food is:

    – Locally sourced and prepared with love in our zero-waste kitchen
    – 100% organic (better for Mozzers’ brains and happiness!) with traditional, vegan, and gluten-free options
    – $6–$9 per plate

    We know you have to feed tons of techies sometimes, and we can effortlessly cater meals of up to 500 Mozzers. The folks at another neighboring company, Zillow, say this about our beautiful food:

    “The best handmade tortillas we’ve ever had. Just the right portions to feel full, but not bogged down for the afternoon’s workload. Perfect for corporate lunches and magically scrumptious!”

    May I bring over a complimentary taco basket for a few of your teammates to try? Check out our menu here and please let me know if there would be a good day for you to sample the very best of Taco Morales. Thank you for your kind consideration and I hope I get the chance to personally make Team Happy even happier!

    Your neighbors,
    Jose y Lupita Morales
    Tacos Morales
    www.tacosmorales.com
    222 2nd Street, Seattle – (206) 111-1111

    Why this email works:

    • We’re an inclusive office, so the various dietary options catch our eye. Knowing price helps us decide if it’s a good fit for our budget.
    • The reference to tech feels personalized — they know our team and who we work with.
    • It’s great to know they can handle some larger events!
    • It instills trust to see a quote from a nearby, familiar company.
    • Samples are a nice way to get to know the product/service and how it feels to work with the B2B company.
    • The menu link, website link, and contact info ensure that we can do our own exploring to help us make a decision.

    As the above outreach illustrates, Team Happy was most impressed by the elements of our sample email that provided key information about variety, price and capacity, useful links and contact data, trust signals in the form of a review from a well-known client, and a one-on-one personalized message.

    Your business is unique, and the precise tone of your email will match both your company culture and the sensibilities of your potential clients. Regardless of industry, studying the above communication will give you some cues for creating your own from the viewpoint of speaking personally to another business with their needs in mind. Why not practice writing an email of your own today, then run it past an unbiased acquaintance to ask if it would persuade them to reply?

    A checklist to guide your website content

    Your site content speaks for you when a potential client wants to research you further before communicating one-on-one. Why invest both budget and heart in what you publish? Because 94% of B2B buyers reportedly conduct online investigation before purchasing a business solution. Unfortunately, the same study indicates that only 37% of these buyers are satisfied with the level of information provided by suppliers’ websites. Do you see a disconnect here?

    Let’s look at the key landing pages of your website today and see how many of these boxes you can check off:

    My content tells potential clients…

    ☑ What my business name, addresses, phone numbers, fax number, email addresses, driving directions, mapped locations, social and review profiles are

    ☑ What my products and services are and why they meet clients’ needs

    ☑ The complete details of my special offers for B2B clients, including my capacity for fulfillment

    ☑ What my pricing is like, so that I’m getting leads from qualified clients without wasting anyone’s time

    ☑ What my USP is — what makes my selling proposition unique and a better choice than my local competitors

    ☑ What my role is as a beneficial member of the local business community and the human community, including my professional relationships, philanthropy, sustainable practices, accreditations, awards, and other points of pride

    ☑ What others say about my company, including reviews and testimonials

    ☑ What my clients’ rights and guarantees are

    ☑ What value I place on my clients, via the quality, usefulness, and usability of my website and its content

    If you found your content lacking any of these checklist elements, budget to build them. If writing is not your strong suit and your company isn’t large enough to have an in-house content team, hire help. A really good copywriter will partner up to tell the story of your business while also accurately portraying its unique voice. Expect to be deeply interviewed so that a rich narrative can emerge.

    In sum, you want your website to be doing the talking for you 24 hours a day so that every question a potential B2B client has can be confidently answered, prompting the next step of personal outreach.

    How to find your B2B advantage

    Earlier, we spoke of the research you’ll do to analyze the business community you could be serving with your B2B offerings, and we covered how to be sure you’ve got the local digital marketing basics in place to showcase what you do on the web. Depending on your market, you could find that investment in either direction could represent an opportunity many of your competitors have overlooked.

    For an even greater advantage, though, let’s look directly at your competitors. You can research them by:

    1. Visiting their websites to understand their services, products, pricing, hours, capacity, USP, etc.
    2. Visiting their physical premises, making inquiries by phone, or (if possible) making a purchase of their products/services to see how you like them and if there’s anything that could be done better
    3. Reading their negative reviews to see what their customers complain about
    4. Looking them up on social media, again to see what customers say and how the brand handles complaints
    5. Reading both positive and negative media coverage of the brand

    Do you see any gaps? If you can dare to be different and fill them, you will have identified an important advantage. Perhaps you’ll be the only:

    • Commercial cleaning company in town that specializes in servicing the pet-friendly hospitality market
    • Restaurant offering a particular type of cuisine at scale
    • Major attraction with appealing discounts for large groups
    • Commercial printer open late at night for rush jobs
    • Yoga instructor specializing in reducing work-related stress/injuries

    And if your city is large and highly competitive and there aren’t glaring gaps in available services, try to find a gap in service quality. Maybe there are several computer repair shops, but yours is the only one that works weekends. Maybe there are a multitude of travel agents, but your eco-tourism packages for corporations have won major awards. Maybe yours is just one of 400+ Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, but the only one to throw in a free bag of MeeMee’s sesame and almond cookies (a fortune cookie differentiator!) with every office delivery, giving a little uplift to hardworking staff.

    Find your differentiator, put it in writing, put it to the fore of your sales process. And engineer it into consumer-centric language, so that hard candy buttons with chocolate inside them become the USP that “melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” solving a discovered pain point or need.

    B2B marketing boils down to service

    “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

    – Charles Dickens

    We’re all in business to serve. We’re all helpers. At Moz, we make SEO easier for digital and local companies. At your brand, _________?

    However you fill in that blank, you’re in the business of service. Whether you’re marketing a B2B that’s awakening to the need to invest in local SEO or a B2C on the verge of debuting your new business-to-business offering, your project boils down to the simple question,

    “How can I help?”

    Looking thoughtfully into your brand’s untapped capacities to serve your community, coupled with an authentic desire to help, is the best groundwork you can lay at the starting point for satisfaction at the finish line.

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

    Reblogged 3 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    Why Local Businesses Will Need Websites More than Ever in 2019

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    64% of 1,411 surveyed local business marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

    …but please don’t come away with the wrong storyline from this statistic.

    As local brands and their marketers watch Google play Trojan horse, shifting from top benefactor to top competitor by replacing former “free” publicity with paid packs, Local Service Ads, zero-click SERPs, and related structures, it’s no surprise to see forum members asking, “Do I even need a website anymore?”

    Our answer to this question is,“Yes, you’ve never needed a website more than you will in 2019.” In this post, we’ll examine:

    • Why it looks like local businesses don’t need websites
    • Statistical proofs of why local businesses need websites now more than ever
    • The current status of local business websites and most-needed improvements

    How Google stopped bearing so many gifts

    Within recent memory, a Google query with local intent brought up a big pack of ten nearby businesses, with each entry taking the user directly to these brands’ websites for all of their next steps. A modest amount of marketing effort was rewarded with a shower of Google gifts in the form of rankings, traffic, and conversions.

    Then these generous SERPs shrank to seven spots, and then three, with the mobile sea change thrown into the bargain and consisting of layers and layers of Google-owned interfaces instead of direct-to-website links. In 2018, when we rustle through the wrapping paper, the presents we find from Google look cheaper, smaller, and less magnificent.

    Consider these five key developments:

    1) Zero-click mobile SERPs

    This slide from a recent presentation by Rand Fishkin encapsulateshis findings regarding the growth of no-click SERPs between 2016–2018. Mobile users have experienced a 20% increase in delivery of search engine results that don’t require them to go any deeper than Google’s own interface.

    2) The encroachment of paid ads into local packs

    When Dr. Peter J. Myers surveyed 11,000 SERPs in 2018, he found that 35% of competitive local packs feature ads.

    3) Google becoming a lead gen agency

    At last count, Google’s Local Service Ads program via which they interposition themselves as the paid lead gen agent between businesses and consumers has taken over 23 business categories in 77 US cities.

    4) Even your branded SERPs don’t belong to you

    When a user specifically searches for your brand and your Google Knowledge Panel pops up, you can likely cope with the long-standing “People Also Search For” set of competitors at the bottom of it. But that’s not the same as Google allowing Groupon to advertise at the top of your KP, or putting lead gen from Doordash and GrubHub front and center to nickel and dime you on your own customers’ orders.

    5) Google is being called the new “homepage” for local businesses

    As highlighted at the beginning of this post, 64% of marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. This concept, coined by Mike Blumenthal, signifies that a user looking at a Google Knowledge Panel can get basic business info, make a phone call, get directions, book something, ask a question, take a virtual tour, read microblog posts, see hours of operation, thumb through photos, see busy times, read and leave reviews. Without ever having to click through to a brand’s domain, the user may be fully satisfied.

    “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”
    – Epicurus

    There are many more examples we could gather, but they can all be summed up in one way: None of Google’s most recent local initiatives are about driving customers to brands’ own websites. Local SERPs have shrunk and have been re-engineered to keep users within Google’s platforms to generate maximum revenue for Google and their partners.

    You may be as philosophical as Epicurus about this and say that Google has every right to be as profitable as they can with their own product, even if they don’t really need to siphon more revenue off local businesses. But if Google’s recent trajectory causes your brand or agency to conclude that websites have become obsolete in this heavily controlled environment, please keep reading.

    Your website is your bedrock

    “65% of 1,411 surveyed marketers observe strong correlation between organic and local rank.” – Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

    What this means is that businesses which rank highly organically are very likely to have high associated local pack rankings. In the following screenshot, if you take away the directory-type platforms, you will see how the brand websites ranking on page 1 for “deli athens ga” are also the two businesses that have made it into Google’s local pack:

    How often do the top 3 Google local pack results also have a 1st page organic rankings?

    In a small study, we looked at 15 head keywords across 7 US cities and towns. This yielded 315 possible entries in Google’s local pack. Of that 315, 235 of the businesses ranking in the local packs also had page 1 organic rankings. That’s a 75% correlation between organic website rankings and local pack presence.

    *It’s worth noting that where local and organic results did not correlate, it was sometimes due the presence of spam GMB listings, or to mystery SERPs that did not make sense at first glance — perhaps as a result of Google testing, in some cases.

    Additionally, many local businesses are not making it to the first page of Google anymore in some categories because the organic SERPs are inundated with best-of lists and directories. Often, local business websites were pushed down to the second page of the organic results. In other words, if spam, “best-ofs,” and mysteries were removed, the local-organic correlation would likely be much higher than 75%.

    Further, one recent study found that even when Google’s Local Service Ads are present, 43.9% of clicks went to the organic SERPs. Obviously, if you can make it to the top of the organic SERPs, this puts you in very good CTR shape from a purely organic standpoint.

    Your takeaway from this

    The local businesses you market may not be able to stave off the onslaught of Google’s zero-click SERPs, paid SERPs, and lead gen features, but where “free” local 3-packs still exist, your very best bet for being included in them is to have the strongest possible website. Moreover, organic SERPs remain a substantial source of clicks.

    Far from it being the case that websites have become obsolete, they are the firmest bedrock for maintaining free local SERP visibility amidst an increasing scarcity of opportunities.

    This calls for an industry-wide doubling down on organic metrics that matter most.

    Bridging the local-organic gap

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
    – Aristotle

    A 2017 CNBC survey found that 45% of small businesses have no website, and, while most large enterprises have websites, many local businesses qualify as “small.”

    Moreover, a recent audit of 9,392 Google My Business listings found that 27% have no website link.

    When asked which one task 1,411 marketers want clients to devote more resources to, it’s no coincidence that 66% listed a website-oriented asset. This includes local content development, on-site optimization, local link building, technical analysis of rankings/traffic/conversions, and website design as shown in the following Moz survey graphic:

    In an environment in which websites are table stakes for competitive local pack rankings, virtually all local businesses not only need one, but they need it to be as strong as possible so that it achieves maximum organic rankings.

    What makes a website strong?

    The Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers incredibly detailed guidelines for creating the best possible website. While we recommend that everyone marketing a local business read through this in-depth guide, we can sum up its contents here by stating that strong websites combine:

    • Technical basics
    • Excellent usability
    • On-site optimization
    • Relevant content publication
    • Publicity

    For our present purpose, let’s take a special look at those last three elements.

    On-site optimization and relevant content publication

    There was a time when on-site SEO and content development were treated almost independently of one another. And while local businesses will need a make a little extra effort to put their basic contact information in prominent places on their websites (such as the footer and Contact Us page), publication and optimization should be viewed as a single topic. A modern strategy takes all of the following into account:

    • Keyword and real-world research tell a local business what consumers want
    • These consumer desires are then reflected in what the business publishes on its website, including its homepage, location landing pages, about page, blog and other components
    • Full reflection of consumer desires includes ensuring that human language (discovered via keyword and real-world research) is implemented in all elements of each page, including its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and in some cases, markup

    What we’re describing here isn’t a set of disconnected efforts. It’s a single effort that’s integral to researching, writing, and publishing the website. Far from stuffing keywords into a tag or a page’s content, focus has shifted to building topical authority in the eyes of search engines like Google by building an authoritative resource for a particular consumer demographic. The more closely a business is able to reflect customers’ needs (including the language of their needs), in every possible component of its website, the more relevant it becomes.

    A hypothetical example of this would be a large medical clinic in Dallas. Last year, their phone staff was inundated with basic questions about flu shots, like where and when to get them, what they cost, would they cause side effects, what about side effects on people with pre-existing health conditions, etc. This year, the medical center’s marketing team took a look at Moz Keyword Explorer and saw that there’s an enormous volume of questions surrounding flu shots:

    This tiny segment of the findings of the free keyword research tool, Answer the Public, further illustrates how many questions people have about flu shots:

    The medical clinic need not compete nationally for these topics, but at a local level, a page on the website can answer nearly every question a nearby patient could have about this subject. The page, created properly, will reflect human language in its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and markup. It will tell all patients where to come and when to come for this procedure. It has the potential to cut down on time-consuming phone calls.

    And, finally, it will build topical authority in the eyes of Google to strengthen the clinic’s chances of ranking well organically… which can then translate to improved local rankings.

    It’s important to note that keyword research tools typically do not reflect location very accurately, so research is typically done at a national level, and then adjusted to reflect regional or local language differences and geographic terms, after the fact. In other words, a keyword tool may not accurately reflect exactly how many local consumers in Dallas are asking “Where do I get a flu shot?”, but keyword and real-world research signals that this type of question is definitely being asked. The local business website can reflect this question while also adding in the necessary geographic terms.

    Local link building must be brought to the fore of publicity efforts

    Moz’s industry survey found that more than one-third of respondents had no local link building strategy in place. Meanwhile, link building was listed as one of the top three tasks to which marketers want their clients to devote more resources. There’s clearly a disconnect going on here. Given the fundamental role links play in building Domain Authority, organic rankings, and subsequent local rankings, building strong websites means bridging this gap.

    First, it might help to examine old prejudices that could cause local business marketers and their clients to feel dubious about link building. These most likely stem from link spam which has gotten so out of hand in the general world of SEO that Google has had to penalize it and filter it to the best of their ability.

    Not long ago, many digital-only businesses were having a heyday with paid links, link farms, reciprocal links, abusive link anchor text and the like. An online company might accrue thousands of links from completely irrelevant sources, all in hopes of escalating rank. Clearly, these practices aren’t ones an ethical business can feel good about investing in, but they do serve as an interesting object lesson, especially when a local marketer can point out to a client, that best local links are typically going to result from real-world relationship-building.

    Local businesses are truly special because they serve a distinct, physical community made up of their own neighbors. The more involved a local business is in its own community, the more naturally link opportunities arise from things like local:

    • Sponsorships
    • Event participation and hosting
    • Online news
    • Blogs
    • Business associations
    • B2B cross-promotions

    There are so many ways a local business can build genuine topical and domain authority in a given community by dint of the relationships it develops with neighbors.

    An excellent way to get started on this effort is to look at high-ranking local businesses in the same or similar business categories to discover what work they’ve put in to achieve a supportive backlink profile. Moz Link Intersect is an extremely actionable resource for this, enabling a business to input its top competitors to find who is linking to them.

    In the following example, a small B&B in Albuquerque looks up two luxurious Tribal resorts in its city:

    Link Intersect then lists out a blueprint of opportunities, showing which links one or both competitors have earned. Drilling down, the B&B finds that Marriott.com is linking to both Tribal resorts on an Albuquerque things-to-do page:

    The small B&B can then try to earn a spot on that same page, because it hosts lavish tea parties as a thing-to-do. Outreach could depend on the B&B owner knowing someone who works at the local Marriott personally. It could include meeting with them in person, or on the phone, or even via email. If this outreach succeeds, an excellent, relevant link will have been earned to boost organic rank, underpinning local rank.

    Then, repeat the process. Aristotle might well have been speaking of link building when he said we are what we repeatedly do and that excellence is a habit. Good marketers can teach customers to have excellent habits in recognizing a good link opportunity when they see it.

    Taken altogether

    Without a website, a local business lacks the brand-controlled publishing and link-earning platform that so strongly influences organic rankings. In the absence of this, the chances of ranking well in competitive local packs will be significantly less. Taken altogether, the case is clear for local businesses investing substantially in their websites.

    Acting now is actually a strategy for the future

    “There is nothing permanent except change.”
    – Heraclitus

    You’ve now determined that strong websites are fundamental to local rankings in competitive markets. You’ve absorbed numerous reasons to encourage local businesses you market to prioritize care of their domains. But there’s one more thing you’ll need to be able to convey, and that’s a sense of urgency.

    Right now, every single customer you can still earn from a free local pack listing is immensely valuable for the future.

    This isn’t a customer you’ve had to pay Google for, as you very well might six months, a year, or five years from now. Yes, you’ve had to invest plenty in developing the strong website that contributed to the high local ranking, but you haven’t paid a penny directly to Google for this particular lead. Soon, you may be having to fork over commissions to Google for a large portion of your new customers, so acting now is like insurance against future spend.

    For this to work out properly, local businesses must take the leads Google is sending them right now for free, and convert them into long-term, loyal customers, with an ultimate value of multiple future transactions without Google as a the middle man. And if these freely won customers can be inspired to act as word-of-mouth advocates for your brand, you will have done something substantial to develop a stream of non-Google-dependent revenue.

    This offer may well expire as time goes by. When it comes to the capricious local SERPs, marketers resemble the Greek philosophers who knew that change is the only constant. The Trojan horse has rolled into every US city, and it’s a gift with a questionable shelf life. We can’t predict if or when free packs might become obsolete, but we share your concerns about the way the wind is blowing.

    What we can see clearly right now is that websites will be anything but obsolete in 2019. Rather, they are the building blocks of local rankings, precious free leads, and loyal revenue, regardless of how SERPs may alter in future.

    For more insights into where local businesses should focus in 2019, be sure to explore the Moz State of Local SEO industry report:

    Read the State of Local SEO industry report

    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 5 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    This article was written jointly in partnership with Kameron Jenkins. You can enjoy her previous articles here.


    When you’ve accomplished step one in your local search marketing, how do you take step two?

    You already know that any local business you market has to have the table stakes of accurate structured citations on major platforms like Facebook, Yelp, Infogroup, Acxiom, and YP.

    But what can local SEO practitioners do once they’ve got these formal listings created and a system in place for managing them? Our customers often come to us once they’ve gotten well underway with Moz Local and ask, “What’s next? What can I do to move the needle?” This blog post will give you the actionable strategy and a complete step-by-step tutorial to answer this important question.

    A quick refresher on citations

    Listings on formal directories are called “structured citations.” When other types of platforms (like online news, blogs, best-of lists, etc.) reference a local business’ complete or partial contact information, that’s called an “unstructured citation.” And the best unstructured citations of all include links, of course!

    For example, the San Francisco branch of a natural foods grocery store gets a linked unstructured citation from a major medical center in their city via a blog post about stocking a pantry with the right ingredients for healthier eating. Google and consumers encounter this reference and understand that trust and authority are being conveyed and earned.

    The more often websites that are relevant to your location or industry link to you within their own content, the better your chances of ranking well in Google’s organic and local search engine results.

    Why linked unstructured citations are growing in importance right now

    Link building is as old as organic SEO. Structured citation building is as old as local SEO. Both practices have long sought to influence Google rankings. But a close read of the local search marketing community these days points up an increasing emphasis on the value of unstructured citations. In fact, local links were one of the top three takeaways from the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Why is this?

    1. Google has become the dominant force in local consumer experiences, keeping as many actions as possible within their own interface instead of sending searchers to company websites. Because links influence rank within that interface, most local businesses enterprises will need to move beyond traditional structured citations to impress Google with mentions on a diverse variety of relevant websites. While structured citations are rightly referred to as “table stakes” for all local businesses, it’s the unstructured ones that can be competitive difference-makers in tough markets.
    2. Meanwhile, Google is increasingly monetizing local search results. A prime example of this is their Local Service Ads (LSA) program which acts as lead gen between Google and service area businesses like plumbing and housekeeping companies. Savvy local brands (including brick-and-mortar models) will see the way the wind is blowing with this and work to form non-Google-dependent sources of traffic and lead generation. A good linked unstructured citation on a highly relevant publication can drive business without having to pay Google a dime.

    Your goal with linked unstructured citations is to build your community footprint and your authority simultaneously. All you need is the right tools for the research phase!

    Fishing for opportunities with Link Intersect

    For the sake of this tutorial, let’s choose at random a small B&B in Albuquerque — Bottger.com — as our hypothetical client. Let’s say that the innkeeper wants to know how the big Tribal resort casinos are earning publicity and links, in the hopes of finding opportunities for a smaller hospitality business, too. *Note that these aren’t absolutely direct competitors, but they share a city and an overall industry.

    We’re going to use Moz’s Link Intersect tool to do this research for Bottger Mansion. This tool could help Bottger uncover all kinds of links and unstructured linked citation opportunities, depending on how it’s used. For example, the tool could surface:

    • Links that direct or near-direct competitors have, but that Bottger doesn’t
    • Locally relevant links from domains/pages about Bottger’s locale
    • Industry-relevant links from domains/pages about the hospitality industry

    Step 1: Find the “big fish”

    A client may already know who the “big fish” in their community are, or you can cast a net by identifying popular local events and seeing which businesses sponsor them. Sponsorships can be pricey, depending on the event, so if a local company sponsors a big event, it’s an indication that they’re a larger enterprise with the budget to pursue a wide array of creative PR ideas. Larger enterprises can serve as models for small business emulation, at scale.

    In our case study, we know that Bottger is located in Albuquerque, so we decided to locate sponsors of the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Right away, we spotted two lavish Albuquerque resort-casinos — Isleta and Sandia. These are the “big fish” we want our smaller client to look to for inspiration.

    Step 2: Input domains in Link Intersect

    We’re going to compare Bottger’s domain to Isleta and Sandia’s domains. In Moz Pro, navigate to “Link Explorer” and then select “Link Intersect” from the left navigation. Input your domain in the top and the domains you want to mine link ideas from in the fields beneath, as depicted below.

    Open Link Explorer in a new tab

    Next to Bottger’s domain, we’ve selected “root domain” as that will show us all competitor links who haven’t linked to us at all. We’re also going to select “root domain” on the resort domains, so we can see all of their backlinks, rather than just links to particular pages on their sites.

    Moz’s Link Intersect tool will let you compare your site with up to 5 competitors. It’s totally up to you how many sites you want to evaluate at once. If you’re just getting started with link building, you may want to start with just one domain, as this should yield plenty of link opportunities to start with. If you’ve already been doing some link building, you have more time to dedicate to link building, or you’d just generally rather have more options to work with, go ahead and put in multiple domains to compare.

    Step 3: Find link opportunities

    Once you’ve input your domain and your competitor(s) domains, click “Find Opportunities.” That will yield a list of sites that link to your competitors, but do not link to you.

    In this example, we’re comparing our client’s domain against two other domains: A (Isleta) and B (Sandia). In the “Sites that intersect” column, you will see whether Site A has the link, Site B has it, or if they both have it.

    Step 4: The link selection process

    Now that we have a list of link ideas from Isleta and Sandia’s backlink profiles, it’s time to decide which ones might yield good opportunities for our B&B. That’s right — just because something is in a competitor’s link profile doesn’t necessarily mean you want it!

    View the referring pages

    The first step is to drill down and get more detail about links the big resorts have. Select the arrow to expand this section and view the exact page the link is coming from.

    In this example, both Sandia and Isleta have links from the root domain marriott.com. By using the “expand” feature, we can see the exact pages those links are located on.

    Identify follow or no-follow

    You can use the MozBar Chrome plugin to view whether your competitor’s link is no-followed or followed. Since only followed links pass authority, you may want to prioritize those, but no-followed links can also have value in the form of generating traffic to your site and could get picked up by others who do eventually link to your site with a follow link.

    Select the MozBar icon from your browser and click the pencil icon. If you want to see Followed links, select “Followed” and the MozBar will highlight these links on the page in green. To find No-Followed links, click “No-Followed” and MozBar will highlight these links on the page in pink.

    Common types of links you’ll see in the profiles of local business websites

    If this is your first foray into link building for local businesses, you may be unfamiliar with the types of sites you’ll see in Link Intersect. While no two link profiles are exactly the same, many local businesses use similar methods for building links, so there are some common categories to be aware of. Knowing these will help you decipher the results Link Intersect will show you.

    Types of links and what you can do with them:

    Press releases

    Press release sites like PRweb.com and PRnewsire.com are fairly common among local businesses that want to spread the word about their initiatives. Whether someone at the business won an award or they started a new community outreach program, local businesses often pay companies like PRweb.com to distribute this news on their platform and to their partners. These are no-followed links (don’t pass link authority aka “SEO value”) but they can offer valuable traffic and could even get picked up by sites that do link with a follow link.

    If your competitor is utilizing press releases, you may want to consider distributing your newsworthy information this way!

    Structured citations / directories

    One of the primary types of domains you’ll see in a local business’ backlink profile is directories — structured citation websites like yellowpages.com that list a business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP) with a link back to the business’ website. Because they’re self-created and not editorially given, like Press Releases, they are often no-followed. However, having consistent and accurate citations across major directory websites is a key foundational step in local search performance.

    If you see these types of sites in Link Intersect, it may indicate your need for a listings management solution like Moz Local that can ensure your NAP is accurate and available across major directories. Typically, you’ll want to have these table stakes before focusing on unstructured linked citations.

    News coverage

    Another favorite among local businesses is local media coverage (or just media coverage in general — it’s not always local). HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a popular service for connecting journalists to subject matter experts who may be valuable sources for their articles. The journalists will typically link your quote back to your website. Aside from services like HARO, local businesses would do well to make media contacts, such as forming relationships with local news correspondents. As news surfaces, they’ll start reaching out to you for comment!

    If you see news coverage in your competitor’s backlink profile, you can get ideas of what types of publications want content and information that you can provide.

    Local / industry coverage

    Blogs, hobby sites, DIY sites, and other platforms can feature content that depicts city life or interest in a topic. For example, a chef might author a popular blog covering their dining experiences in San Francisco. For a local restaurant, being cited by this publication could be valuable.

    If you see popular local or industry sites in your competitor’s backlink profile, it’s a good signal of opportunity for your business to build a relationship with the authors in hopes of gaining links.

    Trade organizations

    Most local businesses are affiliated with some type of governing/regulating body, trade organization, award organization, etc. Many of these organizations have websites themselves, and they often list the businesses they’re affiliated with.

    If your competitor is involved with an organization, that means your business is likely suited to be involved as well! Use these links to get ideas of which organizations to join.

    Community organizations

    Community organizations are a great local validator for search engines, and many local businesses have taken notice. You’ll likely find these types of organizations’ websites in your competitor’s backlink profile, such as Chamber of Commerce websites or the local YMCA.

    As a local business, your competitors are in the same locale as you, so take note of these community organizations and consider joining them. You’ll not only get the benefit of better community involvement, but you can get a link out of it too!

    Sponsorships / event participation

    Local businesses can sponsor, donate to, host or participate in community events, teams, and other cherished local resources, which can lead to both online and offline publicity.

    Local businesses can earn great links from online press surrounding these groups and happening. If an event/team page highlights you, but doesn’t actually link to benefactors/participants, don’t be shy about politely requesting a link.

    Scholarships / .edu sites

    A popular strategy used by many local businesses and non-local businesses alike is scholarship link building. Businesses figured out that if they offered a scholarship, they could get a link back to their site on education websites, such as .edu domains. Everyone seemed to catch on — so much so that many schools stopped featuring these scholarships on their site. It’s also important to note that .edu domains don’t inherently have more value than domains on any other TLD.

    If your business wants to offer a scholarship, that is a great thing! We encourage you to pursue this for the benefit it could offer students, rather than primarily for the purpose of gaining links. Scholarship link building has become very saturated, and could be a strategy with diminishing returns, so don’t put all your eggs in this basket, and do it first and foremost for students instead of links.

    Other businesses

    Businesses may sometimes partner with each other for mutually beneficial link opportunities. Co-marketing opportunities that are a byproduct of genuine relationships can present valuable link opportunities, but link exchanges are against Google’s quality guidelines.

    Stay away from “you link to me, I’ll link to you” opportunities as Google can see it as an attempt to manipulate your site’s ranking in search, but don’t be afraid to pursue genuine connections with other businesses that can turn into linking opportunities.

    Spam

    Just because your competitor has that link doesn’t mean you want it too! In Link Intersect, pay attention to the domain’s Spam Score and DA. A high spam score and/or low DA can indicate that the link wouldn’t be valuable for your site, and may even harm it.

    Also watch out for links generated from comments. If your competitor has links in their backlink profile coming from comments, you can safely ignore these as they do not present real opportunities for earning links that will move the needle in the right direction.

    Now that you’re familiar with popular types of local backlinks and what you can do with them, let’s actually dig into Isleta and Sandia’s backlinks to see which might be good prospects for us.

    Step 5: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

    Both the Albuquerque Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn link to Isleta and Sandia on their “Local Things to Do” pages. This could be a great prospect for Bottger! In many cases, “things to do” pages will include lists of local restaurants, historic sites, attractions, shops, and more. Note how their addresses are included on the following pages, making them powerful linked unstructured citations. Bottger hosts fancy tea parties in a lovely setting, which could be a fun thing for tourists to do.

    Isleta and Sandia also have links from a wedding website. If Bottger uses their property as a wedding venue, offers special wedding or engagement packages, or something similar, this could be a great prospect as well.

    Link Intersect also yielded links to various travel guide websites. There are plenty of links on websites like these to local attractions. In the following example, you can see an Albuquerque travel guide that’s broken up by category, “hotels” being one of them:

    Isleta and Sandia also have been featured in the Albuquerque Journal. In this example, a local reporter covered news that Isleta was opening expanded bingo and poker rooms. This seems to be a journalist who covers local businesses, so she could be a great connection to make!

    Many other links in Isleta and Sandia’s backlink profiles came from sources like events websites, since these resorts are large enough to serve as the venue for major events like concerts and MMA matches. Although Bottger isn’t large enough to host an event of that magnitude, it could spark good ideas for link building opportunities in the future. Maybe Bottger could host a small community tea tasting event featuring locally sourced herbal teas and get in touch with a local reporter to promote it. Even competitor links that you can’t directly pursue can spark your creativity for related link building opportunities.

    And let’s not forget how we found out about Isleta and Sandia in the first place: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Event sponsors are featured on an “official sponsors” page with links to their websites. This is a classic, locally relevant opportunity for any Albuquerque business.

    Step 6: Compile your link prospects in Link Tracking Lists

    If you’re thinking, “This sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of work. How am I ever going to keep track of all this?” — we’ve got you covered!

    Moz Pro’s “Link Tracking Lists” was built for just this purpose.

    In Link Intersect, you’ll see little check boxes next to all your competitors’ links. When you find one you want to target, check the box. When you’re done going through all the links and have checked the boxes next to the domains you want to pursue, click “Add to Link Tracking List” at the top right.

    Since we’ve never done link building for Bottger before, we’re going to select “Create New List” from the dropdown, and label it something descriptive.

    Make sure to put your client’s domain in the “target URL” field. For Step 3, since we’ve just selected the links we want to track from Link Intersect, those will already be populated in this field, so no further action is needed other than to click “Save.”

    We’ll come back to Link Tracking Lists when we talk about outreach, but for now, all you need to know is that you can add the desirable competitor links (in our case, links from Isleta and Sandia) to Link Tracking lists straight from Link Intersect, making it easy to manage your data.

    Step 7: Find out how to connect with your link prospects

    Now it’s time to connect the dots: how do you go from knowing about your competitor’s links to getting those types of links for yourself?

    There are three main ways you can get unstructured linked citations to your local business’ website, and those categories are what’s going to dictate the strategy you need to take to secure that opportunity for yourself.

    1. Self-created: Self-created links are like voting for yourself, so sites that accept these types of submissions, like Yelp.com, will NoFollow the link to your business’ website. Visitors are still referred to your website through that link, but the link doesn’t pass authority from Yelp.com to your domain. You should only get authority from a website if they link to you on their own (what Google calls “editorially placed” links). Neither NoFollow nor Follow links are inherently good or bad on their own. They are just intended for different purposes, and it’s the misuse of followed links that can get you in trouble with Google. We’ll talk more about that in a later section titled “Avoiding the bad fish: Risks of ignoring Google’s link scheme guidelines”
    2. Prompted by outreach: In many cases, people won’t know about your content until you tell them. These links are editorially placed by the site owner (not self-created), but the site owner was only made aware of your content because you reached out to them.
    3. Organically earned: Sometimes, you get links even without asking for them. If you have a popular piece of content on your site that receives lots of traffic, for example, people may link to that on their own because they find it valuable.

    Since this tutorial is about proactively pursuing link opportunities, we’re going to focus on unstructured linked citations types one and two.

    Articles

    If your competitor has been featured in an article from say a local journalist or blogger, then your outreach will be focused on making a connection with that writer or publication for future link opportunities, rather than getting the exact link your competitor has. That’s because the article has already been written, so it’s unlikely that the writer will go back and edit their story just to add your link.

    The one exception to this rule would be if the article links to your competitor, but your competitor’s link is now broken. In this scenario, you could reach out to the writer and say something like, “Hey! I notice in your article [article title] you link to [competitor’s link], but that link doesn’t seem to be working. I have similar content on my website [your URL]. If you find it valuable, please feel free to use it as a replacement for that broken link!”

    Sometimes the contact information of the writer will be right next to the article, itself. For example:

    If there’s no email address or contact form in the writer’s bio, you can usually find a link to one of their social media accounts, like Twitter, and you can connect with them there via a public or direct message. If you live in a small, tight-knit community, you may even be able to meet with the author in person.

    Press releases

    If you notice your competitors are issuing a lot of press releases and you want to try that out for yourself, you’ll likely need to sign up for an account, as these are a primarily self-serve platform. Most quality press release sites charge per release, and the price can differ depending on length.

    Citations / directories

    You’ll either want to sign up for a citation service like Moz Local that distributes your data to these types of listings programmatically, or if you do it manually, you’ll want to find the link to create your listings. Please note that your business may already be on the directory even if you haven’t set up a profile. Before creating a new listing, search for your business name and its variants, your phone number, and current and former addresses to see if there are existing listings you can claim and update.

    Business websites

    Most businesses will make it easy to contact them. If you’re trying to contact another business for the purpose of proposing teaming up for a co-marketing opportunity, look in their footer (the very bottom of the website). If there’s no contact information there, search for a “Contact Us” or “About” page. You may not find an email address, but you may be able to find a contact form or phone number. Below is an example from Albuquerque Little Theater, where they have contact information on the right and advertising information in the top navigation for businesses that are interested in taking out ads in their printed show programs. Not an unstructured linked citation, but a great way to get your business known to the community!

    Organizations

    Most organizations will make it easy for those who want to join, unless they are more exclusive or invitation-only. In the event that you do wish to get involved in an invitation-only organization that has no public-facing contact information, try viewing a member list and seeing if there’s anyone you know. Or maybe you know someone who can introduce you to one of the members. Genuine connections are key for this type of organization.

    Step 8: Writing a good outreach email (for unstructured linked citations requiring outreach)

    Outreach emails are necessary when the link opportunity you’re pursuing isn’t a link you could create yourself, or if the link source is one where you can’t make face-to-face contact with decision-makers. One of the most important questions you should be asking yourself for these opportunities is, “Why would this website link to me?”

    Here’s how Bottger might go about sending an outreach email:

    Greeting that matches the nature of the outreach target

    “Hey Jill!” might be fine when outreaching to the author of a blog, while “Hello Ms. Smith” might be better for more professional outreach.

    Introduction

    Give a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and your interest in contacting them. For example: “I work with Bottger Mansion, a historic Bed & Breakfast in Old Town Albuquerque. I found your page about Albuquerque activities — you’ve really captured a lot of what Albuquerque has to offer!”

    The ask, and the value add

    This is where you’ll actually ask for the link. It’s a good idea here to add value. Don’t just ask for something; offer to give something back!

    To continue the same example: “As long-time residents of Old Town, we’d love to provide you with a comprehensive list of activities in the city’s historic district! We feel an Old Town Activities list would be a great addition to your page. Bottger Mansion regularly hosts high tea, for example, which we’d love to let more people know about with a spot on your list!”

    Close

    Wish them well, thank them for their time, and sign off. Make sure that it’s easy for them to find information about you by including your full name, title, organization, and website/social links in your email signature.

    Don’t be afraid to get on the phone, either! Hearing your voice can add a human element to the outreach attempt and offer a better conversion rate than a more impersonal email (we all get so many of those a day that ones from people we don’t know are easy to ignore).

    And remember that local businesses have a particular advantage in accruing unstructured linked citations. Lively participation in the life of your community can continuously introduce you to decision-makers at popular local publications, paving the way towards neighborly outreach on your part. Learn to see the opportunities and think of ways your business can add value to the content that is being written about your town or city.

    Step 9: Tracking your wins

    Next-to-last, we’re going to jump back to Link Tracking Lists for a second, because that’s going to come in extremely handy here. Remember when we created the list with Sandia and Isleta’s links that we were interested in pursuing? Those will now show up when we go to Moz Pro > Link Explorer > Link Tracking Lists.

    Every time Bottger successfully secures a link that they’ve added to their Link Tracking List, the red X in “Links to target URL?” column will turn blue, indicating that the site links to Bottger’s root domain. If we were pursuing links to individual pages, and a link prospect linked to our target page, the red X would turn green.

    Another handy feature is the “Notes” dropdown. This allows you to keep track of your outreach attempts, which can be one of the trickiest parts about link building!

    Avoiding the bad fish: Some words of caution before you get started

    Before starting this process for yourself, familiarize yourself with these four risks so that your fishing trip doesn’t result in a basket of bad catches that could waste your resources or get your website penalized.

    1. Risks of a “copy only” strategy

    Link Intersect can be amazingly helpful for discovering new, relevant link opportunities for your local business, but link builders beware. If all you ever do is copy your competitors, the most you’ll ever achieve is becoming the second-best version of them. Use this method to keep tabs on strategies your competition is using, and even use it to spark your own creativity, but avoid copying everything your competitors do, and nothing else. Why be the second-best version of your competition when you can be the best version of yourself?

    2. Risks of a “blindly follow” strategy

    Comparing your site’s backlink profile with your direct competitors’ backlink profiles will return a list of links that they have and you don’t, but don’t use Link Intersect results as an exact checklist of links to pursue. Your competitors might have bad backlinks in their profile. For example, avoid pursuing opportunities from domains with a high Spam Score or low Domain or Page Authority (DA/PA). Learn more about how to evaluate sites by their Spam Score or DA/PA.

    They might also have great backlinks that aren’t the right opportunity for your business, and those should be avoided too! Do you remember Isleta and Sandia’s links for events like MMA matches? If Bottger were to blindly take those resorts’ link profiles as directives, they might think they have to host a fight at their B&B, too!

    Take what you find with a grain of salt. Evaluate every link opportunity on its own merit, rather than deeming it a good opportunity simply because your competitor has it.

    3. Risks of an “apples to oranges” strategy

    Choose the domains and pages you want to compare yourself against wisely. As a small local B&B, Bottger wouldn’t want to compare their backlink profile to that of Wikipedia or The New York Times, for example. Those sites are popular, but not relevant in any way to the types of unstructured linked citations Bottger would want to pursue, such as links that are locally relevant or industry-relevant.

    In other words, just because a site is popular doesn’t mean it will yield relevant unstructured linked citation opportunities for you. Here in this tutorial, we’ve outlined one potential use-case for Link Intersect: finding unstructured linked citations your local business competitors have. However, this is not the only use for Link Intersect. Instead of comparing your site against competitors or near-competitors, you could compare it against:

    If you know what types of links you’re trying to find, choosing sites to evaluate against your own should be a lot easier, and yield more relevant opportunities.

    4. Risks of ignoring Google’s “link schemes” guidelines

    If you’ve never embarked on link building before, we encourage you to read through Google’s quality guidelines for webmasters, specifically its section on “Link schemes.” If you were to distill those link guidelines down into a single principle, it would be: don’t create links for the purpose of manipulating your site’s ranking in Google search. That’s right. Google doesn’t want anyone embarking on any marketing initiatives solely for the purpose of improving their ranking. Google wants links to be the natural byproduct of the quality work you’re doing for your audience. Google can penalize sites that participate in activities such as:

    • Buying links that pass PageRank (“followed” links)
    • Excessive “you link to me and I’ll link to you” exchanges
    • Self-created followed links that weren’t editorially placed by the site owner

    This underscores that the activities that are just good business, like being involved in the local community, are also the ones that can produce the links that Google likes. Sites owners might need a little nudge, which is why we’ve included a section on outreach, but that doesn’t mean the links are unnatural. Unstructured linked citations should be a byproduct of the good work local businesses are doing in their communities.

    In conclusion

    At Moz, we’re strong believers in authenticity, and there is no better pond for building meaningful marketing relationships than the local one. Focusing on unstructured linked citations can be viewed as a prompt to grow your community relationships — with journalists, bloggers, event hosts, business associations, and customers. It’s a chance for a real-world fishing trip that can reel in a basket of publicity for your local brand beyond what money can buy. Your genuine desire to serve and build community will stand you in good stead for the long haul.

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    Reblogged 5 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it