"Digital Advertising and Getting Your Business Ahead" features a discussion on tips and developments in the world of SEO with Joy Hawkins. Joy is a SEO personality and top contributor to the Google My Business Forum, the Local Search Forum and other SEO online communities. She is also a moderator, speaker and columnist on all things related to online searches. Currently, she is employed as a digital marketing product consultant for Imprezzio marketing.
This webinar is another in our series of occasional updates on what is going on in the dynamic world of SEO. Today we are featuring a discussion with Joy Hawkins, an expert in local SEO. We discuss digital advertising and what’s new in the world of SEO these days.
Among the topics:
The Way Google Lists Businesses Has Changed
At one time businesses were primarily listed on Google+ which was connected to Google My Business (GMB). Businesses could customize descriptions of their businesses there. Google is now, however, “divorcing” Google+ from GMB which takes away some features. Changes include:
- Business listings on GMB are no longer displayed (although there is still a field form for it in the GMB dashboard, likely a temporary hiccup during the transition but confusing to many right now).
- Business listings are now called “editorial summaries” and they show up on other Google sites such as Google Maps, etc.
- The editorial summaries are written by Google employees now and no longer by the business owners.
- There are only two other places the descriptions are pulled from currently.
- Some descriptions are pulled from Wikipedia if the business is listed there. Some are pulled from the Google editorial summaries section. Other than those two, there are no other places the descriptions are pulled from currently.
What Other Changes in the World of SEO and Digital Advertising Have Occurred Over the Last Year or So?
The most significant recent change in searches and digital advertising came on 9/1/16 and concerns this new algorithm update for ranking local searches. Now, the location of the person performing the search plays a bigger role in the types of search results they will see. Possum changed approximately 65% of the way local search ranking factors work, according to Joy. The location of the person searching is now a more significant ranking factor than it used to be, for example, with the intention to provide them a more locality-specific search result.
Intended to fight SPAM listings, advanced verification addresses the problem of false business listings showing up in keyword searches. They don’t exist, but they show up ahead of yours on the rankings. Basically it’s a dirty trick propagated by your competitors. Advanced verification requires a fairly rigorous verification process for registering your business listing to make sure listings represent legitimate business. If it doesn’t appear to be a legitimate business doing the digital advertising, the listing is removed.
Posting direct to search results
Another new approach, currently in beta testing, is the ability for businesses to post updates such as photos or videos directly to search results.
Given the changes, should we be creating two different web sites for desktop and mobile?
No. It would result in a doubling of the work involved with managing online presence and digital advertising. Joy advises creating one site that has a responsive design (i.e., can also work well on mobile devices as well as desktop). Web page designers should take into consideration elements that don’t transfer well to mobile viewing such as certain graphic elements, certain forms, using the right button for click-to-call, etc.
With Mobile Devices, How Much Do Reviews (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) Matter In The Local Pack?
They matter because there are many ways reviews get presented via Google searches:
- From 3rd party review sites: Google pulls reviews from other non-Google (i.e. 3rd party) sites and includes them in your Google listing results.
- Stars: from a tech point, putting in a schema ranking matters but few do it simply because knowing how to do it properly is a technical process that is more within the skill set of the technical specialist than the typical small business owner. Some attempt to do it but only for their homepage which defeats the purpose because you can’t get the stars added to a review on your homepage, and their competitors don’t see stars on the pages of the other competition so they don’t pursue stars and so on. Joy suggests that if you are a business owner that is fortunate enough to have web team, ask them about Schema in your digital advertising and how to adjust for the recent changes.
Keywords: Tools, Methods In Digital Advertising, And How To Beat Out Competitors – What’s Working?
- Keyword Planner - best, but to access it you must be logged into a Google account with a paid Google Adwords subscription.
- Google Search Console see the related terms at the bottom of the page.
- Competitor sites - see what keywords they are using in their digital advertising and factor that in as well.
- Add FAQ pages - a great way to rank because you can show up in the knowledge graph and the best answers to search questions to allow searchers to get info quickly.
When your content answers questions, you’re doing digital advertising right. Often times the one key word that most people would use to search for a given local business is missing. For example: the absence of the word “dentist” on a dental health practitioner’s site. Local packs and 3 packs (i.e., localized search results) automatically trigger when you search on a service, usually. Google guesses at the intent of the query. They’ve grown smarter over the years.
How Long Does It Take to Get Results From Work You Do Regarding SEO?
You should consider your time and investment in proper SEO as ongoing. There is no magic answer as to how long it takes. There may be 12 businesses competing for 3 spots and whoever is strategically adding more on a continual basis to their ranking factor info is going to maintain the top spot more often than not, over time. It could take weeks or months of continual attention.
Small business budgets for SEO and digital advertising differ with each business and the level of competition in your area. Most dentists, for example are paying for SEO.
Putting The Name Of The City In Which Your Business Is Located In Your Long Tail Listing For Local Rankings Help With Local Search Rankings?
It’s really challenging these days to rank in a region beyond your town. Backlinks can help with that. Joy advises that small businesses owners have reciprocal and beneficial arrangements (such as testimonial in exchange for review or backlink, etc.) with other businesses owners in a given locale for the betterment of their specific SEO strategies. Consultants are recommending Google Adwords for businesses that want to expand digital advertising above and beyond their specific town.
How Does a Local Mom & Pop Business Approach SEO vs. a Much Larger Business in the Same Market?
For example, a local hardware vs. Home Depot. If the local creates the right content it could be an advantage over the big box stores. Taking advantage of the ability of most small businesses to be agile and respond more quickly to local marketplace, such as by advertising specific products for specific types of projects or events taking place within the locality.
If they can, smaller businesses should post fresh, original content (videos, photos, etc.) to their digital advertising consistently and often. It doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, if a customer asks a questions, chances are others have that question too and are searching for the answer. Put the question and the answer on your site.
Trick Business Listings
GMB lists some businesses that operate out of UPS stores, storage units, etc. Google is trying to get the public to “clean up” the map in this regard. These are regarded as SPAM digital advertising listings and can be the bane of legitimate service area businesses. You can report such listings through the google guides program; Google will take them down, bringing you up in the rankings as a result. Sometimes the edits take 3-4 months, but you can shorten that time by escalating it a bit on the Google forum. Any fake listings that outrank you must be reported, as must duplicate listings. Duplicate listings on GMB can be detected but you have to so dome sleuthing; check on Google Maps, for instance. Other ways to detect duplicate listings are provided at Joy's web site.
Ask for Reviews!
It pays off. But don’t ask just anyone. Find satisfied customers or other businesses that you have a relationship with and show them how to access the form for the review. Keywords appearing in reviews are important for rankings, but they do need to flow very naturally within the context of the review. Don’t ask for anything less than 5 stars. Take advantage of the communication with that customer as a means by which to correct any negative impressions or experiences. They’ll be more likely to provide a positive review for your excellent customer service.
Final words of advice: follow SEO publications to keep up with the latest on SEO and digital advertising. White Spark Local Pulse is a good one.
About Our Guest Today: Joy Hawkins
Joy Hawkins is an expert on SEO issues. She not only works to improve the SEO for clients as a component of their marketing plans, but also participates and presents over a variety of SEO-related fora, including as a Google My Business Top Contributor, @Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Contributor, @SMX Speaker, and as a consultant at @ImprezzioMktg.
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