Friday, October 30, 2020

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Link building campaigns shouldn't have a start-and-stop date — they should be ongoing, continuing to earn you links over time. In this informative and enduringly relevant 2018 edition of Whiteboard Friday, guest host Paddy Moogan shares strategies to achieve sustainable link building, the kind that makes your content efforts lucrative far beyond your initial campaigns for them.

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I'm not Rand. I'm Paddy Moogan. I'm the cofounder of Aira. We're an agency in the UK, focusing on SEO, link building, and content marketing. You may have seen me write on the Moz Blog before, usually about link building. You may have read my link building book. If you have, thank you. Today, I'm going to talk about link building again. It's a topic I love, and I want to share some ideas around what I'm calling "sustainable link building."


Now, there are a few problems with link building that make it quite risky, and I want to talk about some problems first before giving you some potential solutions that help make your link building less risky. So a few problems first:

I. Content-driven link building is risky.

The problem with content-driven link building is that you're producing some content and you don't really know if it's going to work or not. It's quite risky, and you don't actually know for sure that you're going to get links.

II. A great content idea may not be a great content idea that gets links.

There's a massive difference between a great idea for content and a great idea that will get links. Knowing that difference is really, really important. So we're going to talk a little bit about how we can work that out.

III. It's a big investment of time and budget.

Producing content, particularly visual content, doing design and development takes time. It can take freelancers. It can take designers and developers. So it's a big investment of time and budget. If you're going to put time and budget into a marketing campaign, you want to know it's probably going to work and not be too risky.

IV. Think of link building as campaign-led: it starts & stops.

So you do a link building campaign, and then you stop and start a new one. I want to get away from that idea. I want to talk about the idea of treating link building as the ongoing activity and not treating it as a campaign that has a start date and a finish date and you forget about it and move on to the next one. So I'm going to talk a little bit about that as well.


So those are some of the problems that we've got with content-driven link-building. I want to talk about some solutions of how to offset the risk of content-driven link building and how to increase the chances that you're actually going to get links and your campaign isn't going to fail and not work out for you.

I. Don't tie content to specific dates or events

So the first one, now, when you coming up with content ideas, it's really easy to tie content ideas into events or days of the year. If there are things going on in your client's industry that are quite important, current festivals and things like that, it's a great way of hooking a piece of content into an event. Now, the problem with that is if you produce a piece of content around a certain date and then that date passes and the content hasn't worked, then you're kind of stuck with a piece of content that is no longer relevant.

So an example here of what we've done at Aira, there's a client where they launch a piece of content around the Internet of Things Day. It turns out there's a day celebrating the Internet of Things, which is actually April 9th this year. Now, we produced a piece of content for them around the Internet of Things and its growth in the world and the impact it's having on the world. But importantly, we didn't tie it exactly to that date. So the piece itself didn't mention the date, but we launched it around that time and that outreach talked about Internet of Things Day. So the outreach focused on the date and the event, but the content piece itself didn't. What that meant was, after July 9th, we could still promote that piece of content because it was still relevant. It wasn't tied in with that exact date.

So it means that we're not gambling on a specific event or a specific date. If we get to July 9th and we've got no links, it obviously matters, but we can keep going. We can keep pushing that piece of content. So, by all means, produce content tied into dates and events, but try not to include that too much in the content piece itself and tie yourself to it.

II. Look for datasets which give you multiple angles for outreach

Number two, lots of content ideas can lead from data. So you can get a dataset and produce content ideas off the back of the data, but produce angles and stories using data. Now, that can be quite risky because you don't always know if data is going to give you a story or an angle until you've gone into it. So something we try and do at Aira when trying to produce content around data is from actually different angles you can use from that data.

So, for example:

  • Locations. Can you pitch a piece of content into different locations throughout the US or the UK so you can go after the local newspapers, local magazines for different areas of the country using different data points?
  • Demographics. Can you target different demographics? Can you target females, males, young people, old people? Can you slice the data in different ways to approach different demographics, which will give you multiple ways of actually outreaching that content?
  • Years. Is it updated every year? So it's 2018 at the moment. Is there a piece of data that will be updated in 2019? If there is and it's like a recurring annual thing where the data is updated, you can redo the content next year. So you can launch a piece of content now. When the data gets updated next year, plug the new data into it and relaunch it. So you're not having to rebuild a piece of a content every single time. You can use old content and then update the data afterwards.

III. Build up a bank of link-worthy content

Number three, now this is something which is working really, really well for us at the moment, something I wanted to share with you. This comes back to the idea of not treating link building as a start and stop campaign. You need to build up a bank of link-worthy content on your client websites or on your own websites. Try and build up content that's link worthy and not just have content as a one-off piece of work. What you can do with that is outreach over and over and over again.

We tend to think of the content process as something like this. You come up with your ideas. You do the design, then you do the outreach, and then you stop. In reality, what you should be doing is actually going back to the start and redoing this over and over again for the same piece of content.

What you end up with is multiple pieces of content on your client's website that are all getting links consistently. You're not just focusing on one, then moving past it, and then working on the next one. You can have this nice big bank of content there getting links for you all the time, rather than forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.

IV. Learn what content formats work for you

Number four, again, this is something that's worked really well for us recently. Because we're an agency, we work with lots of different clients, different industries and produce lots and lots of content, what we've done recently is try to work out what content formats are working the best for us. Which formats get the best results for our clients? The way we did this was a very, very simple chart showing how easy something was versus how hard it was, and then wherever it was a fail in terms of the links and the coverage, or wherever it was a really big win in terms of links and coverage and traffic for the client.

Now, what you may find when you do this is certain content formats fit within this grid. So, for example, you may find that doing data viz is actually really, really hard, but it gets you lots and lots of links, whereas you might find that producing maps and visuals around that kind of data is actually really hard but isn't very successful.

Identifying these content formats and knowing what works and doesn't work can then feed into your future content campaign. So when you're working for a client, you can confidently say, "Well, actually, we know that interactives aren't too difficult for us to build because we've got a good dev team, and they really likely to get links because we've done loads of them before and actually seen lots of successes from them." Whereas if you come up with an idea for a map that you know is actually really, really hard to do and actually might lead to a big fail, then that's not going to be so good, but you can say to a client, "Look, from our experience, we can see maps don't work very well. So let's try and do something else."

That's it in terms of tips and solutions for trying to make your link building more sustainable. I'd love to hear your comments and your feedback below. So if you've got any questions, anything you're not sure about, let me know. If you see it's working for your clients or not working, I'd love to hear that as well. Thank you.

Video transcription by

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Easy Halloween Decorations to Spook Your Guests

Stay true to your annual Halloween traditions even during this pandemic by celebrating safely at home with these easy DIY projects:

The sorceress’ downfall
The wicked witch may have fallen, but your porch will come alive with this easy-to-make decor.

1. Cut two pool noodles to leg size (about 30 inches tall).
2. To make knees, draw a 3-inch half-circle in middle of each leg and cut the shape out. Pull edges together and secure with duct tape.
3. Tape quilt batting around pool noodles, adding extra layers to hip and thigh areas and an almond shape where it bends to complete knee. Use more tape to smooth out form.
4. Pull tights over legs. Stuff witch boots with batting and secure to legs by tying laces tightly.
5. To make sign, hot-glue six paint stirrers together to form a jagged rectangle, then hot-glue another stirrer to the back as a signpost. Paint on a phrase like, “Poison Apples for Sale.” Source: WomansDay

Say your message with jack o’ lanterns
Spell out your greeting in mini pumpkins gathered on your porch.

Step 1: Pencil letters on hollowed pumpkins (carve out the opening from the bottom).
Step 2: Using a drill with a half-inch bit, bore holes to form each letter.
Step 3: Hang strings of Christmas-tree lights, gathered in small bunches, to illuminate each pumpkin (unscrew bulbs where the string descends to the next row). Source: CountryLiving

Let spirits roam around
Cheesecloth is a crucial material for any DIY Halloween toolkit. Its loose, gauzy weave is reminiscent of cobwebs and ancient, forgotten places. You can drape it anywhere — over a mantel, lampshades, a dresser, a chair, or a window — to give your home an instant haunted house feel. It’s also the ideal material for making ghost decorations. A few ideas for cheesecloth ghosts include:

– Floating Ghosts. To give it a freestanding ghostly shape, soak cheesecloth in liquid fabric starch and drape it over a form shaped to look like a ghost’s body. Let dry, remove the form, and you’ll have a ghost that “floats” on its own, as shown on Home Talk.
Life-Size Halloween Ghost. Use a similar method to make a life-size levitating ghost for your outdoor decor. Make a larger frame, this time using wooden stakes and multiple Styrofoam balls. Then follow the same basic method as for the floating ghosts. Get the full instructions on HGTV.
Ghostly Outdoor Draperies. Inexpensive cheesecloth makes the perfect budget material for ghostly draperies. Hang yards of cloth from lightweight poplar boards you can staple to your porch roof like they did on HGTV. Source: MoneyCrashers

Want to improve your home’s curb appeal so that it would look awesome even without fancy decoration? We’d love to help! Call us today to get a free estimate.


Kerrisdale Roofing & Drains
8296 Ross St, Vancouver, BC V5X 4C6
(604) 360-2114


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Monday, October 26, 2020

HTTPS Is Table Stakes for SEO in 2020

Posted by Dr-Pete

Back in the spring of 2017, I wrote that HTTPS results made up half of page-one Google organic URLs. In over three years, I haven't posted an update, which might lead you to believe that nothing changed. The reality is that a whole lot changed, but it changed so gradually that there was never a single event or clear "a-ha!" moment to write about.

Now, in the fall of 2020, HTTPS URLs make up 98% of page-one organic results in the MozCast 10,000-keyword tracking set. Here's the monthly growth since April 2017:

There was a bump in HTTPS after October 2017, when Google announced that Chrome would be displaying more warnings to users for non-secure forms, but otherwise forward momentum has been fairly steady. While browsers have continued to raise the stakes, there have been no announced or measured algorithm updates regarding HTTPS.

I scoff at your data!

So, why am I writing this update now? While the MozCast 10,000-keyword set is well-suited for tracking long-term trends (as it's consistent over time and has a long history), the data is focused on page-one, desktop results and is intentionally skewed toward more competitive terms.

Recently, I've been gifted access to our anonymized STAT ranking data — 7.5M keywords across desktop and mobile. Do these trends hold across devices, more pages, and more keywords?

The table above is just the page-one data. Across a much larger data set, the prevalence of HTTPS URLs on page one is very similar to MozCast and nearly identical across desktop and mobile. Now, let's expand to the top 50 organic results (broken up into groups of ten) ...

Even at the tail end of the top 50 organic results, more than 92% of URLs are HTTPS. There does seem to be a pattern of decline in HTTPS prevalence, with more non-secure URLs ranking deeper in Google results, but the prevalence of HTTPS remains very high even on page five of results.

Does this increase in HTTPS prevalence at the top of the rankings suggest that HTTPS is a ranking factor? Not by itself — it's possible that more authoritative sites tend to be more sensitive to perceived security and have more budget to implement it. However, we know Google has stated publicly that HTTPS is a "lightweight ranking signal", and this data seems to support that claim.

You can't make me switch!

I don't know why you're being so combative, but no, I can't really make you do anything. If you're not convinced that HTTPS is important when 97-98% of the top ten organic results have it, I'm not sure what's left to say. Of course, that's not going to stop me from talking some more.

When we focus on rankings, we sometimes ignore core relevance (this is a challenge in large-scale ranking studies). For example, having relevant keywords on your page isn't going to determine whether you win at rankings, but it's essential to ranking at all. It's table stakes — you can't even join the game without relevant keywords. The same goes for HTTPS in 2020 — it's probably not going to determine whether you rank #1 or #10, but it is going to determine whether you rank at all. Without a secure site, expect the bouncer to send you home.

As importantly, Google has made major changes around HTTPS/SSL in the Chrome browser, increasingly warning visitors if your site isn't secure. Even if you're still lucky enough to rank without HTTPS URLs, you're going to be providing a poor user experience to a lot of visitors.

There's not much left between 97% and 100%, and not many blog posts left to write about this particular trend. If you're not taking HTTPS/SSL seriously in 2020, this is your final wake-up call. 

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Friday, October 23, 2020

4 Google My Business Fields That Impact Ranking (and 3 That Don't) — Whiteboard Friday

Posted by JoyHawkins

With so many customization options in your Google My Business profile, it can be tough to decide what to focus on. But when it comes to ranking on the SERP, there are actually only four GMB fields that influence where your business will land. 

In this brand new Whiteboard Friday, MozCon speaker and owner/founder of Sterling Sky, Joy Hawkins, takes us through the fields she and her team has found do (and do not) effect rankings.

4 GMB fields that impact ranking

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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. My name is Joy Hawkins, and today I'm going to be talking about which Google My Business fields impact ranking in the local pack. At my agency, Sterling Sky, we do a lot of testing to try and figure out what things actually influence ranking and what things do not.

We've come to the conclusion that there are only four things inside the Google My Business dashboard that a business owner or a marketing agency can edit that will have a direct influence on where they rank in the local results on Google. 

1. Business name

So to start us out, I'm going to start with the first thing that we found has impacted ranking, which is the business name. Now this is one that's kind of frustrating because I don't think it should have so much of an influence, but it does.

This year in the local search ranking factors study I actually put this as my number one. Of all the things that influence ranking, this one, in my experience, has the most weight, which is again unfortunate. So as a business owner, obviously you're thinking, "I can't really change my business name very easily". If you do happen to have a keyword rich business name, you will see an advantage there.

But the real action item would be to kind of look to see if your competitors are taking advantage of this by adding descriptive words into their business name and then submitting corrections to Google for it, because it is against the guidelines. So I'm not saying go out there and add a whole bunch of keywords to your business name on Google. Don't do that. But you should keep an eye on your competitors just to see if they're doing this, and if they are, you can report it to Google using the Google business complaint redressal form.

Now one thing that's kind of a tip here — it has nothing to do with Google — but we've seen the same thing on Bing, which doesn't get talked about a whole lot, but on Bing you're actually allowed to have descriptors in your business name, so go ahead and do it there. 

No impact: Q&A

Now I'm going to switch over to something that we found has not influenced ranking at all, which is Q&A. I kind of shoved it over to the section over there because it's not actually in the dashboard currently. There isn't a Q&A section in there, but it is on the knowledge panel on Google, and it is something that you should get an email alert about if somebody posts a question to your listing. 

So we did a bunch of testing on Q&A and found, despite putting random keywords and very specific things in questions that we posted and also in the answers, there was no measurable impact on ranking.

So, unfortunately, that is not one area where you can kind of manipulate ranking for your clients. 

2. Categories

Moving on to the second thing that we have found influences ranking — categories. Categories might sound kind of simple, because you go and you pick your categories. 

There are 10 that you can add on there, but one thing I want to point out is that Google has around 4,000 categories currently, and they keep adding categories, and then they also sometimes remove them.

So we have been tracking this month over month, and we usually find that there are about two to 10 (on average) changes every month to the categories. Sometimes they add ones that didn't exist before. For example, we found in the last year there have been a lot of restaurant categories added as well as auto dealer categories. But there are also some industries like dentists, for example, that got a new one a couple of months ago for dental implants.

So it is something that you want to kind of keep track of, and hopefully we will have a resource published soon where we can actually log all of the changes for you. 

No impact: services

Now moving on to another thing that does not impact ranking, we'll move over here to services

So the services section — at first glance it looks like an SEO dream. You can put all kinds of descriptive words in there. You can tell Google a lot about the different services you offer.

But we have found that whatever you put there has no actual bearing on where you rank. So it's not something I would spend a lot time on. Also, it's not very visible. Currently it's not really visible on desktop at all. Then if you go onto a mobile device, it's kind of hidden off to a tab. It's not something we have found really has a lot of weight, so spend a few minutes on it, but it's not something I would revisit quite often.

3. Website

Then moving back to the things that do impact ranking, number three would be the website field

So this is something where you do want to kind of think and possibly even test what page on your website to link your Google My Business listing to. Often people link to the homepage, which is fine. But we have also found with multi-location businesses sometimes it is better to link to a location page.

So you do want to kind of test that out. If you're a business that has lots of different listings — like you have departments or you have practitioner listings — you also want to try and make sure that you link those to different pages on your site, to kind of maximize your exposure and make sure that you're just not trying to rank all the listings for the same thing, because that won't happen. They'll just get filtered. So that is a section that I would definitely suggest doing some testing on and see what works best for you and your industry.

No impact: products

Now moving on to something that we have found did not impact rankings — products

So this is a feature that Google launched within I think about a year or so ago. It's available on most listings. They are actually slowly rolling it out at the moment to all listings with the exception of a few categories that don't have it. This section is kind of cool because it's very visual.

If you're a business that offers products or even if you offer services, you can technically list them in this section with photos. One of the neat things about the products section is that they are very visible on the knowledge panel on both desktop and on mobile. So it is something you want to fill out, but unfortunately we have found it doesn't impact ranking. However, it does have an impact on conversions for certain industries.

So if you're a business like a florist or a car dealer, it definitely makes sense to fill out that section and keep it up to date based on what products you're currently offering. 

4. Reviews

Then moving back to the final thing that we found: number four for what influences ranking would be reviews (which is probably not going to be shocking to most of you). But we have found that review quantity does make an impact on ranking.

But that being said, we've also found that it has kind of diminishing returns. So for example, if you're a business and you go from having no reviews to, let's say, 20 or 30 reviews, you might start to see your business rank further away from your office, which is great. But if you go from, let's say, 30 to 70, you may not see the same lift. So that's something to kind of keep in mind. 

But there are lots of reasons as a business, obviously, why you want to focus on reviews, and we do see that they actually have a direct impact on ranking.

There was an article that I wrote a couple of years ago that is still relevant, on Search Engine Land, that talks about the changes that I saw when a whole bunch of businesses lost reviews and just watching how their ranking actually dropped within a 24 to 48-hour period. So that is still true and still relevant, but it's something that I would also keep in mind when you're coming up with a strategy for your business.


So in summary, the four things that you need to remember that you can actually utilize inside Google My Business to influence your ranking: first is the business name, second would be the categories, third would be the website field, and finally the review section on Google. 

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Thinking About Installing Roll Roofing? Read This First!

Deciding on what type of roofing materials to use for your home can be quite daunting considering how many options are out there in the market. If you’re looking for something that’s more budget-friendly, then this is something you should see.

What is Roll Roofing?
Roll roofing is a composite sheet of roofing material manufactured into a roll so it can be laid on the roof in strips that overlap each other. The roofing material used to make the roll can vary depending on the type one desires for their roof. Common materials used to make roll roofing sheets are similar to what’s found in most traditional roofing shingles and can include:
Asphalt-saturated organic felt
Asphalt-coated fiberglass Source: LoveToKnow

There are a lot of advantages or pros to installing a roll roof. The biggest one is the cost advantage compared to a clay roof or traditional asphalt-shingle roof. The cost of the rolls is less than half of what is needed for a shingled roof. With this in mind, homeowners can see a true cost savings for their overall home-improvement budget.

Rolled roofing is very easy to install, and there is minimal expertise needed to finish the job. Heavy-duty saws or nail guns don’t need to be used, and without a slope, there isn’t a huge risk of falling as with a traditional roofing job.

Roll roofing offers a great deal of color options to match with existing home colors, which allows for a finished look that is professional and adds curb appeal. Source: Improvenet

Rolled roofing is less durable than shingles. One reason why shingles work so well: the network of multiple, loosely interlocking shingles expand and contract without stressing individual shingles. By contrast, rolled roofing is like having one big shingle. This shingle cannot respond to changes in the building structure without tearing.

Rolled roofing has a short lifespan of between five and eight years. Compare this to a lifespan of about 20 years or even more for composite shingles. Rolled roofing tends to lose its grains and develop bald spots after only a few years of use. Also, one of the benefits of roofing with many hundreds of small units (shingles) is that they can move and shift as the house moves and shifts. Rolled roof’s larger sections do not move as readily as the home expands and contracts.

You can expect extremely poor resale value on residences that use this type of material. Few home buyers would consider rolled roofing to be anything more than a temporary, stop-gap roofing solution. Source: TheSpruce


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8296 Ross St, Vancouver, BC V5X 4C6
(604) 360-2114

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Basic Reputation Management for Better Customer Service

Posted by MiriamEllis

The Internet can be a great connector, but sometimes, it acts as a barrier.

Your local business receives a negative review, and the slate-colored words on the bland white screen can seem so cold, remote. You respond, but the whole interaction feels stilted, formal, devoid of face-to-face human feelings, like this:

At least when a complaint occurs via phone, the tone of a customer’s voice tells you a bit more and you can strive to respond with an appropriate vocal pitch, further questions, soothing, helping, maybe resolving. Still, if you’re working off a formal script, the human connection can be missed:

Image credit: News Oresund, Elvert Barnes

It’s a win when a customer complains in person to your staff, but only if those employees have been empowered to use their own initiative to solve problems. Employees who’ve been tasked with face-to-face interactions but lack permission to act fully human when customers complain will miss opportunity after opportunity to earn the loyalty your brand would give almost anything to amass. Two people can be looking one another in the eye, but if one has to act corporate instead of human, too much formality ensures forgettable experiences:

Image credit: Jan-Willem Boot, Amancay Blank

What you really want as a local business owner is to have the power to turn those chilly black-and-white words on a review profile into a living color interaction. You want to turn one-way messaging into front porch conversation, with the potential for further details, vital learnings, resolution, and deeply informal human connection with a neighbor, like this:

Image Credit: Christian Gries

The great barrier: reviews

Seventeen years into my journey as a local SEO, I’ve come to realize that my favorite businesses — the ones I’ve come to patronize with devotion — are the ones with owners and staff who treat me with the least formality. They’ve creatively established an environment in which I felt liked, heard, regarded, trusted, and appreciated, and I’ve responded with loyalty. It’s really a beautiful thing, when you step back and think about it.

For me, it’s small local farmers who epitomize informal neighborliness in business. They:

  • Do their best to grow high quality food
  • Know me by name
  • Know my dietary preferences
  • Let me roam around their properties for enjoyment’s sake
  • Trust me to pay via an honor system
  • Ask me if there’s additional produce I’d like them to grow
  • Want to know how I’m cooking their produce
  • Tell me other ways I might prepare their produce
  • Have nice conversations with me about a variety of topics

Am I describing a business here, or a friend? The line is blurry. I’ve hugged some farmers. Prayed for a few when they’ve had hard times. I may have first met them for monetary transactions, but we’ve built human relationships, and the entire way I relate to this sector is defined by how the farmers go about their business.

With a few exceptions, most local brands can work at building less formality and more neighborliness into their in-person customer service. Think about it. In most settings, your customers would enjoy being treated with the respectful interest and kindness that invites camaraderie.

But we hit a strange barrier when the medium is online reviews. If we learned to read and write in a formal school setting, we may unconsciously ascribe a certain stiffness to textual exchanges. We’re worried about getting lower marks for making a mistake, and we’re aware of being in front of a public audience in writing review responses. We’re missing vital communicative cues, like the facial expression of the customer, their tone of voice, and their body language.

On our side of the equation, we can’t shake hands, or physically demonstrate our willingness to help, or even signal our approachability with a smile.

To tell the truth, reviews aren’t a great substitute for in-person communication, but they are here to stay, and there’s a certain amount of fear on both sides of many transactions that builds up the layers of the barrier, like this:

What can be done to bring the two parties closer together, so that they are at least leaning over the same fence to talk?

Create a workflow for spotting single and aggregate review cues

The easiest way I know of to get started with a workflow surrounding reviews is via a very intuitive product like Moz Local. Basic components are built into the dashboard, offering a simple jumping off point into the complex world of reputation management.

The screenshot above shows a portion of the functions Moz Local offers for review management. The organization of the various data widgets create a bridge for getting closer to customers and engaging in real, meaningful dialogue with them in an atmosphere of goodwill, rather than fear. Let’s break it down by tasks.

1. Seek cues in single reviews with ongoing alerts

To enter into a conversation, you have to know when it starts. The right-side column of the Moz Local dashboard keeps a running feed of your incoming reviews on a variety of platforms, as well as incoming Google Q&A questions. On a daily basis, you can see who is starting a conversation about your business, and you can tell whether customers most recent customers were having a good or bad experience by looking at the star rating.

Make it your practice to click first on any review in this feed if it’s received a 3-star rating or less, and see how much information a customer has shared about the reason for their less-than-perfect rating, as in this fictitious example:.

Because the reviews are timestamped, you may have the ability to connect a customer’s poor experience with something that happened at your place of business on a specific day, like being understaffed, having an equipment failure, or another problem.

In fact, a second view in the dashboard makes it immediately obvious if the reviews you received on a particular day had lower star ratings than you’d like to see:

If you know a customer’s complaints can be tied to an issue, this gives you something more and better to say than just “I’m sorry,” when you respond. For example, broken equipment leading to a cold meal is something you can explain in asking the customer to let you make it up to them.

2. Seek cues in aggregated sentiment

Knowing whether you have just one customer with a single complaint or multiple customers with the same complaint is vital quality control intelligence. Very often, Google reviews are particularly brief in comparison to reviews on other platforms, and you need to be able to take a large body of them to see if there are shared topical themes. The Review Analysis widget in the Moz Local dashboard does exactly this for you:

In this view, you can see up to 100 of the most common words your customers are using when they review you, the percentage of the reviews containing each word, and the star rating associated with reviews using each word. You can toggle the data for each column.

In our fictitious example, the business owner could see that when food is served cold, it’s yielding very poor review ratings, but that, fortunately, this is a complaint contained in only 1.7% of total reviews. Meanwhile, the business owner could notice that 2% of reviews with a 3.8 star rating (only a moderately good experience) are revolving around the phrase “service”. The owner can click on each word to be shown a list of the reviews containing that term to help them identify what it is about the service that’s diminishing customer satisfaction.

The figures in the above screenshot are all pretty low, and likely represent only mild concerns for the business. If, however, the business owner saw something like this, that would change the narrative:

Here, 12.2% of the reviews mentioning the restaurant’s veggie burgers are associated with a very poor 2.0 rating. The owner would need to dive into this list of reviews and see just what it is customers don’t like about this dish. For example, if many of these reviews mentioned that the burgers lacked flavor, had bland condiments, or buns that fell apart, these would be cues that could lead to changing a recipe. Again, this would give the owner something genuine to say in response to dissatisfied customers. Ideally, it would lead to the customer being invited to come again for something like a free taste test of the new recipe.

Whatever details the review sentiment analysis function yields for your business, use it with the intention of having a two sided conversation with your customers. They complain, in aggregate, about X, you research and implement a solution, and finally, you invite them to experience the solution in hopes of retaining that customer, which is typically far less costly than replacing them.

3. Grade your business at a glance

These two views in the Moz Local dashboard allow you to analyze two key, related aspects of your business at a glance.

The Average Rating view is the fastest way to grade yourself on aggregate customer satisfaction. This example shows a business with little to fear, with 96% of customers rating the business at 4-or-more stars and only 4% having a three-stars-or-less experience. In terms of having happy customers, this fictitious company is doing a great job.

However, the Reviews Reply rate needs some work. They’re only replying to 1% of their overall reviews, 0% of their 2-to-5-star reviews, and only 21% of their 1-star reviews. The business is doing an excellent job offline, but unless they improve their online responsiveness, their average review rating could begin to decrease over time.

In sum, a workflow which investigates reviews singly and in aggregate tells the story or customer satisfaction across time, and gives the business owner a clearer narrative to tap into and write from in responding.

Make optimal response rates and two-way conversation your goal

As a local business owner, you have many demands on your time. That being said, my pro tip for you is to respond to every review you possibly can. There’s no scenario in which it’s smart to ignore a conversation any customer starts, whether positive or negative. Just as you wouldn’t ignore a percentage of your incoming calls or customers walking around your business, you shouldn’t ignore them online.

If thinking of reviews as a two-way conversation is a bit of new concept to you, consider that most review platforms enable people to edit their reviews for a reason: many of your customers think of the reviews they write as living documents, and are willing to update them to journal subsequent interactions that made a scenario better or worse. My own research has shown this to be true, and multiple studies have reached the conclusion that the majority of customers will continue doing business with brands that resolve their complaints.

This means that local businesses can manage a customer journey that follow this pattern for negative reviews, much of the time:

In black-and-white review land, this might look like this:

Or, when a customer is happy to begin with, offering extra incentives to come again while thanking the customer for taking the time to write their review could look like this:

Here, a conversation starter about salsa has been turned into a two-way dialog guaranteed to make the customer feel heard and valued. They’ve been invited back, their opinion has been solicited, and both the existing customer and all potential future customers reading Mary’s response can see that this is a restaurant with a lively, on-going relationship with its diners.

Takeaway: don’t just say “thanks” to every customer who positively reviews your business. Seek cues in their words that show what they care about and tie it to what you care about. Find common ground to further engage them and bring them back again.

How big of a priority are reviews, really?

I’ve consulted with so many local business owners over the years — everybody from beekeepers to bookkeepers. It’s a plain fact that all small business owners are extremely busy, and not all of them instantly take a shine to the idea of having a lot of little two-way conversations going on with their customers in their review profiles.

Statistics can change minds on this, when it comes to figuring out how much of a priority review analysis and management should be. Consider these findings from the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry survey of over 1,400 people involved in the marketing of local businesses:

Respondents placed aspects of Google reviews (count, sentiment, owner responses, etc.) as having the second greatest impact on Google’s local rankings.

90% of respondents agree that the impact of reviews on local pack rankings is real.

Nearly 14% of those marketing the largest local enterprises realize that more resources need to be devoted to review management. Yet, in another section of the survey, agency workers placed review management in a lowly 11th place in terms of something they are requested to help their clients with. Learn more about these trends by downloading the free State of the Local SEO Industry Report for 2020.

Statistics like these indicate that there is a maturing awareness of the vital role reviews play in running a successful local business. Management of all aspects of reviews deserves priority time.

Make a habit of reading reviews between the lines

Moz Local software will ensure you know whenever single reviews come in, and help you slice and dice review data in ways that tell customer service narratives in aggregate. If you’re already using this software, your first steps of reputation management are just waiting to be taken with ease and simplicity.

But to get the most of any review management product, you’ll need to bring a human talent to the dashboard: your ability to read between the lines of review text that can be brief, vague, sharp, and sometimes unfair.

With the exception of spam, there’s a real person on the other side of each text snippet, and for the most part, their shared desire is to be treated well by your business. Even if a review stems from a customer you can’t identify or one who communicates disappointment rudely, you can take the high road by making a mental image of yourself standing face-to-face with someone you highly value who is voicing a problem. Respond from that good place, with the conscious intention of improved neighborly communication and you may be pleasantly surprised by your ability to transform even the most dissatisfied person into a happier, more loyal customer.

I’ll close today with an excerpt of a very long real-world review which I’ve truncated. I’ve underlined the cues and the rewards I’m hoping you’ll spot and see as you strengthen your commitment to review management as a key component of your customer service strategy.

The new Moz Local plans — Lite, Preferred, and Elite — are designed to offer more features and flexibility to better meet the needs of local businesses and their marketers. Customers on any of the new plans can now monitor reviews via alerts, and depending on the plan, respond to reviews and take advantage of social posting. It’s never been more important to actively engage and listen to the needs and concerns of your current customers — and potential customers will take notice.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

There's Gold In Them Thar SERPs: Mining Important SEO Insights from Search Results

Posted by AndrewDennis33

There’s gold in them thar SERPs…gold I tell ya!

Now, whether that phrase takes you back to a simpler (maybe? I don’t know, I was born in the 80s) time of gold panning, Mark Twain, and metallurgical assay — or just makes you want some Velveeta shells and liquid gold (I also might be hungry) — the point is, there is a lot you can learn from analyzing search results.

Search engine results pages (SERPs) are the mountains we’re trying to climb as SEOs to reach the peak (number one position). But these mountains aren’t just for climbing — there are numerous “nuggets” of information to be mined from the SERPs that can help us on our journey to the mountaintop.

Earning page one rankings is difficult — to build optimized pages that can rank, you need comprehensive SEO strategy that includes:

  • Content audits
  • Keyword research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Technical SEO audits
  • Projections and forecasting
  • Niche and audience research
  • Content ideation and creation
  • Knowledge and an understanding of your (or your client’s) website’s history
  • And more.

A ton of work and research goes into successful SEO.

Fortunately, much of this information can be gleaned from the SERPs you’re targeting, that will in turn inform your strategy and help you make better decisions.

The three main areas of research that SERP analysis can benefit are:

  • Keyword research
  • Content creation
  • And competitive analysis.

So, get your pickaxe handy (or maybe just a notebook?) because we’re going to learn how to mine the SERPs for SEO gold!

Finding keyword research nuggets

Any sound SEO strategy is built on sound keyword research. Without keyword research, you’re just blindly creating pages and hoping Google ranks them. While we don’t fully understand or know every signal in Google’s search algorithm — I’m pretty confident your “hopes” aren’t one of them — you need keyword research to understand the opportunities as they exist.

And you can find some big nuggets of information right in the search results!

First off, SERP analysis will help you understand the intent (or at least the perceived intent by Google) behind your target keywords or phrases. Do you see product pages or informational content? Are there comparison or listicle type pages? Is there a variety of pages serving multiple potential intents? For example:

Examining these pages will tell you which page — either on your site or yet to be created — would be a good fit. For example, if the results are long-form guides, you’re not going to be able to make your product page rank there (unless of course the SERP serves multiple intents, including transactional). You should analyze search intent before you start optimizing for keywords, and there’s no better resource for gauging searcher intent than the search results themselves.

You can also learn a lot about the potential traffic you could receive from ranking in a given SERP by reviewing its makeup and the potential for clicks.

Of course, we all want to rank in position number one (and sometimes, position zero) as conventional wisdom points to this being our best chance to earn that valuable click-through. And, a recent study by SISTRIX confirmed as much, reporting that position one has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 28.5% — which is fairly larger than positions two (15.7%) and three (11%).

But the most interesting statistics within the study were regarding how SERP layout can impact CTR.

Some highlights from the study include:

  • SERPs that include sitelinks have a 12.7% increase in CTR, above average.
  • Position one in a SERP with a featured snippet has a 5.2% lower CTR than average.
  • Position one in SERPs that feature a knowledge panel see an 11.8% dip in CTR, below average.
  • SERPs with Google Shopping ads have the worst CTR: 14.8% below average.

SISTRIX found that overall, the more SERP elements present, the lower the CTR for the top organic position.

This is valuable information to discover during keyword research, particularly if you’re searching for opportunities that might bring organic traffic relatively quickly. For these opportunities, you’ll want to research less competitive keywords and phrases, as the SISTRIX report suggests that these long-tail terms have a larger proportion of “purely organic SERPs (e.g. ten blue links).

To see this in action, let’s compare two SERPs: “gold panning equipment” and “can I use a sluice box in California?”.

Here is the top of the SERP for “gold panning equipment”:

And here is the top of the SERP for “can I use a sluice box in California?”:

Based on what we know now, we can quickly assess that our potential CTR for “can I use a sluice box in California?” will be higher. Although featured snippets lower CTR for other results, there is the possibility to rank in the snippet, and the “gold panning equipment” SERP features shopping ads which have the most negative impact (-14.8%) on CTR.

Of course, CTR isn’t the only determining factor in how much traffic you’d potentially receive from ranking, as search volume also plays a role. Our example “can I use a sluice box in California?” has little to no search volume, so while the opportunity for click-throughs is high, there aren’t many searching this term and ranking wouldn’t bring much organic traffic — but if you’re a business that sells sluice boxes in California, this is absolutely a SERP where you should rank.

Keyword research sets the stage for any SEO campaign, and by mining existing SERPs, you can gain information that will guide the execution of your research.

Mining content creation nuggets

Of course, keyword research is only useful if you leverage it to create the right content. Fortunately, we can find big, glittering nuggets of content creation gold in the SERPs, too!

One the main bits of information from examining SERPs is which types of content are ranking — and since you want to rank there, too, this information is useful for your own page creation.

For example, if the SERP has a featured snippet, you know that Google wants to answer the query in a quick, succinct manner for searchers — do this on your page. Video results appearing on the SERP? You should probably include a video on your page if you want to rank there too. Image carousel at the top? Consider what images might be associated with your page and how they would be displayed.

You can also review the ranking pages to gain insight into what formats are performing well in that SERP. Are the ranking pages mostly guides? Comparison posts? FAQs or forums? News articles or interviews? Infographics? If you can identify a trend in format, you’ve already got a good idea of how you should structure (or re-structure) your page.

Some SERPs may serve multiple intents and display a mixture of the above types of pages. In these instances, consider which intent you want your page to serve and focus on the ranking page that serves that intent to glean content creation ideas.

Furthermore, you can leverage the SERP for topic ideation — starting with the People Also Ask (PAA) box. You should already have your primary topic (the main keyword you’re targeting), but the PAA can provide insight into related topics.

Here’s an example of a SERP for “modern gold mining techniques”:

Right there in the PAA box, I’ve got three solid ideas for sub-topics or sections of my page on “Modern Gold Mining”. These PAA boxes expand, too, and provide more potential sub-topics.

While thorough keyword research should uncover most long-tail keywords and phrases related to your target keyword, reviewing the People Also Ask box will ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Of course, understanding what types of formats, structures, topics, etc. perform well in a given SERP only gets you part of the way there. You still need to create something that is better than the pages currently ranking. And this brings us to the third type of wisdom nuggets you can mine from the SERPs — competitive analysis gold.

Extracting competitive analysis nuggets

With an understanding of the keywords and content types associated with your target SERP, you’re well on your way to staking your claim on the first page. Now it’s time to analyze the competition.

A quick glance at the SERP will quickly give you an idea of competition level and potential keyword difficulty. Look at the domains you see — are there recognizable brands? As a small or new e-commerce site, you can quickly toss out any keywords that have SERPs littered with pages from Amazon, eBay, and Wal-Mart. Conversely, if you see your direct competitors ranking and no large brands, you’ve likely found a good keyword set to target. Of course, you may come across SERPs that have major brands ranking along with your competitor — if your competitor is ranking there, it means you have a shot, too!

But this is just the surface SERP silt (say that five times fast). You need to mine a bit deeper to reach the big, golden competitive nuggets.

The next step is to click through to the pages and analyze them based on a variety of factors, including (in no particular order):

  • Page speed
  • Visual aesthetics
  • Timeliness and recency
  • Readability and structure
  • Amount and quality of citations
  • Depth of coverage of related topic
  • How well the page matches search intent

If the page is lacking in any, many, or all these areas, there is a strong opportunity your page can become the better result, and rank.

You should also review how many backlinks ranking pages have, to get an idea for the range of links you need to reach to be competitive. In addition, review the number of referring domains for each ranking domain — while you’re competing on a page-to-page level in the SERP, there’s no doubt that pages on more authoritative domains will benefit from that authority.

However, if you find a page that’s ranking from a relatively unknown or new site, and it has a substantial amount of backlinks, that’s likely why it’s ranking, and earning a similar amount of links will give your page a good chance to rank as well.

Lastly, take the time to dive into your competitor’s ranking pages (if they’re there). Examine their messaging and study how they’re talking to your shared audience to identify areas where your copy is suboptimal or completely missing the mark. Remember, these pages are ranking on page one, so they must be resonating in some way.


Successful SEO requires thorough research and analysis from a variety of sources. However, much of what you need can be found in the very SERPs for which you’re trying to rank. After all, you need to understand why the pages that rank are performing if you want your pages to appear there, too.

These SERPs are full of helpful takeaways in terms of:

  • Keyword research and analysis
  • Content ideation and strategy
  • And competitive analysis and review.

These golden nuggets are just there for the takin’ and you don’t need any tools other than Google and your analytical mind — well, and your metaphorical pickaxe.

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from Moz Blog

Monday, October 19, 2020

The State of Local SEO: Experts Weigh in on Industry-Specific Tactics

Posted by MiriamEllis

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we engage with local businesses. We're ordering more food for delivery, spending more money in online shops, and checking for safety measures on the web listings of businesses of all kinds. But what do these new trends mean for the ways businesses market themselves online?

We asked five local SEO experts to zero in on the trends and tactics businesses across five industries should focus on to get ahead — and stay ahead — during this time. 

For more local insights, download our State of Local SEO Industry Report.

1. 70% of local marketers reported marketing budget cuts due to COVID-19, leading marketers to focus even more on the most impactful local SEO campaign elements. Which three local search marketing tactics are delivering the most value for businesses right now, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

1. Detailed, recent reviews — especially on Google Maps, but preferably also on other sites. 

2. Where applicable, a “telehealth”-type page that goes into great detail on what specific problem(s) the doctor or wellness profession can help with remotely. 

3. A detailed page on every specific service, procedure, or condition the practice handles, each with a section that explicitly states whether a telehealth or similar “virtual” option is applicable to it.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

1. Link building. A lot of businesses have a hard time getting quality links on their own, so when you have link building tactics at an agency that work, it can be a huge value add.  

2. Optimizing internal linking structure on the business website. Most websites for small businesses are not structured properly, and making a few adjustments to internal linking can make fairly impressive changes in the search results. It also impacts both the local and organic search results, just like link building.

3. Localizing content on the website. Taking existing pages on a business’ website and optimizing them for city, county, or state queries can have really great impacts on both local and organic results. We’ve also seen great results from optimizing for “near me” queries.

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Blake Denman: Home Services

For home services, identifying and reporting Google My Business spam/violations are the most impactful. Why? If you’re using accurate rank tracking and see that you rank #5 for a popular keyword in your target market BUT three of the listings above you are violating Google My Business guidelines, getting those listings updated or removed (depending on the violation) would move you up three spots. Knowing the Google My Business guidelines is crucial along with knowing how to spot violations. 

The second most impactful marketing “tactic” is implementing and maintaining a review building strategy. You can’t outrank a sh*tty reputation. 

The third most important marketing tactic is understanding who your customers are, where they live, how you can relate to them, and what they care about. From a strategic standpoint, the more information you have on your target customers, the more you’re able to get involved in the local community that they belong to. For local search, I’m of the opinion that Google wants to highlight popular companies from the offline world in the online world. Start focusing on building a better, LOCAL brand.

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

For restaurant and hotel listings in particular, there’s certainly a lot that can be done to stand out from other listings. With COVID, both categories have been impacted heavily. Many listings needed to either be marked as “Permanently Closed” or the newly created “Temporarily Closed”. Three tactics that are important to utilize right now include:

  1. Effective attribute usage: There are now attributes in GMB for “Health & Safety” and “Service Options”. Both are extremely important right now, especially the mask-related attributes, which can give customers a lot of reassurance. The same goes for how hospitality businesses are operating with respect to whether there are in-store or pick-up options.
  2. Google Post notices: Google Posts are an effective way of communicating important changes to operations. The COVID-19 update post is a great one to use because it never expires. But there is the downside that other posts are buried (COVID-19 posts are given prominence).
  3. Proactive updates: For hotel listings, GMB can be a complicated space with how booking sites are deeply integrated into the UI. As COVID regulations change based on your location, details on these sites need to be kept updated quickly to reach customers and avoid negative experiences.
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Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Make sure that your GMB listings use the COVID posts to share information about how you are keeping your clients safe. Our financial client created COVID landing pages for both personal and business accounts. This client saw a 95% increase in organic goal completions from February to March. There was also a 97% increase in organic goal completions YoY. Google posts that focused on coronavirus-related services and products have also performed well.

2. 75% of marketers agree that elements of Google My Business profiles (categories, reviews, photos, etc.) are local search ranking factors. Which three GMB elements do you recommend businesses focus on right now to influence their local pack rankings, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Number one: reviews.  

Number two: categories — particularly the “primary” category.  

Number three: getting your “practitioner” GMB pages right, by which I mean you’ve got a detailed “bio” page serving as the GMB landing page, a primary category that reflects the practitioner’s specialty, and Google reviews for each practitioner from their patients.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

There are only four elements inside Google My Business that really impact ranking.  Since the first one is the business name, I’d suggest focusing on the other three: Reviews, the page on your website you link the listing to, and the categories you choose. For example, in this article, I detailed the difference between the family lawyer category and the divorce lawyer category, and which keywords they correlate to.

Blake Denman: Home Services

Specifically for the home services industry, adjusting your primary category in Google My Business when seasons change. HVAC company? Winter is fast approaching, your primary category should be changed to a relevant heating category instead of your summer category, AC. Your primary Google My Business category is going to have more of a ranking improvement than secondary categories. 

I hate to sound like a broken record, but take a look at all of your competitor’s listings for Google My Business violations. And finally, reviews are going to make or break your listing. If you haven’t implemented a review building strategy by now, you really need to get one set up ASAP.

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Brodie Clark: Hospitality

As a starting point, opening hours and whether a listing is marked as permanently/temporarily closed are major influencers of local pack rankings. Each is key to showing up at all, but incremental increases can certainly be achieved with gaining a high volume of positive reviews and making sure both your primary and secondary categories are set effectively. With categories, a great place to start is completing a competitor analysis with GMBspy Chrome extension.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Reviews are one of the most important ranking factors, as well as being important for improving conversions. 

Second is the proximity to searchers — are there ATMs or branches that currently do not have GMB listings? New listings can help increase visibility in Google Maps.

Build local links. Now is a great time to work on link building. Try to find directories and organizations specific to your geographic location to join.

3. 90% of our survey respondents agree that GMB reviews influence local pack rankings. What advice can you offer businesses looking to maximize the value of reviews?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Stop going for easy, fast, drive-by email requests, and start trying to identify patients who might go into a little detail in their reviews. Lazy requests result in lazy reviews.  At the very least, don’t send “Dear Valued Patient”-type requests by email, but ideally you also find a discreet way to ask in-person, with a follow-up email to come later.  See my 2017 post on “Why Your Review-Encouragement Software Is a Meat Grinder”.

These days, more than ever, patients want to know things like what safety and hygiene procedures you follow, what wait times are like, whether the standard of care has changed, etc. Longtime patients are in the best position to write crunchy, detailed reviews, but you should encourage every patient to go into as much detail as they can.  Try having a designated “review person” who knows a thing or two about any given patient, and will take a couple of minutes to make a personal and personalized request. Do it because you want “keywords” in your reviews, and because a five-star review that doesn’t impress anyone won’t help your practice much.

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Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

Make sure you ask every customer for a review and come up with a process that is streamlined and easy to keep organized. We normally suggest using a paid platform for review management (we use GatherUp) because it can automate the process and send reminders to people who haven’t responded yet. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Figure out the best method for earning reviews. Test email, texting, and in-person requests from your team, physical cards with a link, etc. Test each one for a few months, then switch to a different method. Test until you find the method that works best for your customers. 

The other thing that really needs to be considered is how to get customers to write about the specific services they used when working with your company. Little prompts or questions that they could answer when you reach out will help customers write better reviews.

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Getting reviews on GMB has never been easy. You can always try to take the manual route, but that’s impossible to properly scale. I rely on and recommend using GatherUp for hospitality business with multiple listings that need an integrated strategy to gather reviews effectively. The upside of using GatherUp is that you can capture first party reviews to use on your website or as an internal feedback mechanism. 

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

My number one tactic for reviews has always been to have an actual person ask for a review during key points in the customer journey. For example, an associate that helps someone open a checking account, a mortgage advisor who is helping a family refinance their home, etc.

4. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 78% of local marketers agreed with Mike Blumenthal's popularized concept that Google is the new homepage for local businesses. Do your observations and analytics data indicate that this concept is still correct? Has the role of websites for currently operational businesses grown or decreased as a result of the public health emergency, and what does that mean for those websites?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

I’ve never been too much of that school of thought, and have been even less so since roughly the start of the COVID era: See my March 26, 2020 post: “Is COVID-19 the End of “Google As Your New Homepage?

For casual, drop-in businesses, where customers or clients don’t need to do much research or make a big decision, I could see how maybe Google has made the SERPs an almost-suitable substitute for the homepage. That may also be true of medical practices to the extent they have current or returning patients who just want or need quick information fast on a practice they’re already familiar with. But when people’s health is at stake, they tend to dig a little deeper. Often they want or need to find out what procedures a practice does or doesn’t offer, learn more about the doctors or other staff, learn more about insurance and billing, or confirm what they saw in the search results.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I agree that Google My Business is becoming a more important factor, as there are a ton of options that Google is pushing out due to COVID-19 that you can take advantage of.

For example, you can use the online appointments attribute, which shows up prominently in the Knowledge Panel and the 3-pack. They also recently added online operating hours as an additional hours set. 

I think it’s important, though, for people to realize that Google My Business is mainly there to provide the opportunity to share more about what your business does and provide ways for customers to contact you. Most of the fields inside Google My Business do not impact ranking. Traditional SEO factors are needed to make sure your business actually ranks on Google, and then Google My Business will help ensure those customers see the right information. Additionally, Google My Business has not replaced the need for a website — it’s simply another place that needs to be monitored and updated frequently. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Yes, Google My Business might be the first interaction people have with before (or needing) to go to your website. Websites are still really important — not just for traditional organic SEO, but for traditional SEO signals that influence Google My Business rankings, too. 

Since the public health emergency emerged, we’re seeing an uptick in traffic to websites. Yes, you can add certain attributes to your GMB listing to address public health concerns, but people need more information. What kinds of protocols are you taking? How far out are you booked? 

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

It really depends on the business type, but at the moment, many local businesses (especially in hospitality) are under a lot of pressure. This means they might not have the capacity to keep their websites updated or their GMB listings in check. So, they’re having to resort to food delivery services like UberEats — which has become far more mainstream in recent years, and I’m guessing there’s been an increase during 2020. And hotels, where I’m located in Melbourne, anyway, haven’t been able to operate for some time, but I probably wouldn’t be relying on their GMB listing to give the most up-to-date information.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

The role of the website has definitely grown for our financial clients. Websites are hubs for useful information, especially in the case of a crisis or for products and services that play a large role in your life. For many business categories, the information found on GMB listings is enough to get conversions. Consumers do significant research when choosing a financial product, and they need all of the information they can get to make a well-informed decision based on rates, fees, and policies.

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5. Only 39% of marketers feel that Google's emphasis on user-to-business proximity always delivers high-quality results. In the industry, does Google tend to prioritize proximity over quality for core search terms? Would you say they over-emphasize proximity in your experience?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

That’s truest in saturated industries, in my experience. But in more specialized fields, or for more specific (niche) terms, Google doesn’t seem to fixate on proximity as much. To some extent that’s because it can’t: Google needs to go a little farther afield to grab enough relevant results to fill up a page or a 3-pack.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

Absolutely. Proximity is one of the main reasons why spam is a problem in the legal services industry. Marketing companies will create lead-generating Google My Business listings and be able to get them to rank simply based on having keyword-rich business names. They create them in mass so they rank when people close to them are searching (due to the proximity factor).  

Here is an example of some of the spam we see in the legal services industry. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Proximity for certain types of industries (restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, etc.) are great, but for others, like home industries, they are not. Most home service businesses should not be displaying their address since they are a Service Area Business, but this doesn’t stop some from keeping their address up to rank in that city. 

Google does tend to prioritize proximity in the home services industry, unfortunately. 

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Brodie Clark: Hospitality

I think Google does a reasonable job at dialing up the proximity meter where necessary. If you were to pin keywords in a business listing name against proximity, keywords in the business name would win nine times out of 10. So in that instance, other signals should be dialled up further, but proximity may only be relevant in certain cases.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Absolutely. With digital banking and the amount of trust we put into financial organizations, proximity isn’t a major factor when considering a financial service provider, but Google results don’t reflect that. 

Proximity is a much bigger factor when you’re choosing a place to order takeout from than it is when you’re choosing who to trust with your 30-year mortgage. Reviews should definitely play a bigger factor than proximity for financial institutions.

6. 91% of marketers tell us they have a strategy in place for capturing featured snippet visibility in the SERPs. Which featured snippets should businesses focus on most, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Focus on FAQs, particularly on your “service,” “treatment,” or “condition” pages. Focus on those sorts of pages rather than on blog posts or other purely informational resources, which generally are less likely to help bring you new patients.  

Those FAQs and your answers, of course, should be specific to the service, treatment, procedure, or condition you describe on a given page. The questions should be phrased in the way your patients (or searchers) would phrase them, and your answers should be blurb-length and relatively simple.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I have seen featured snippets for lots of really long-tail, commercial-intent keywords that probably shouldn’t have featured snippets. These can be really amazing sources of traffic if you get one of them (see photo below). Additionally, creating content around things like “can you sue for [insert information]” can be a great way to win featured snippets.

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Blake Denman: Home Services  

With more and more personalization coming into the SERPs, I believe that featured snippets will become more and more regionally specific. If you do a search for “new water heater cost” you see a featured snippet for Home Advisor. If a company that is local to me published content around the cost and installation, why wouldn’t Google serve that snippet to me instead of what is shown nationally?

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Featured snippets are a topic that I write about regularly. When it comes to hospitality businesses, featured snippets can be a lower-end priority. According to the MozCast, featured snippets appear on ~9% of all SERPs in the ~10K MozCast query set. I would expect it to be lower than that for most hospitality businesses. Focus on the featured snippets that provide the highest return for your time, and ensure you’ve got a tracking strategy in place. I wrote a post recently that described a method for using Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to capture these insights.

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Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

We teach our financial clients to focus on educating their customers by making sure we research the right topics and provide the best possible answer. Paragraph, table, and carousel featured snippets are typically the types that we see financial websites achieving most often.

7. We saw an increase in the number of consultants advising clients about offline strategy, instead of keeping strictly to online SEO consulting. What can businesses be doing offline right now to strengthen their chances of success?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Don’t keep patients waiting anywhere close to how long they’d wait pre-COVID.  Patients should think, “I wish it happened under better circumstances, but I do like that I don’t wait around as much as I used to.”

Make sure your patient-facing staff are always friendly, patient, and organized. Many practices get bad reviews online not because of the doctor(s), but because of complaints regarding staff. Yes, admins and other staff have a tough job, and no, patients aren’t always reasonable. Just the same, staff-patient issues can bring down a practice. Continually working with staff on soft skills is time well-spent.

Get to know more doctors or business owners outside of your field of practice.  Occasionally they have great ideas that you can adapt to your situation, to your practice.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I would focus on tactics offline that would increase branded searches on Google.  Branded searches are one of the things we’ve found that correlate with your business getting a place label on Google Maps. Our study on this is releasing later this year.

Blake Denman: Home Services

Start focusing on building a BETTER. LOCAL. BRAND. I’ve come across websites that have a horrible backlink profile or haven’t updated their website since 2010, yet they rank prominently in their market — why? They have been involved in their local community for a long time. 

If you know who your customers are and have dived into your affinity categories in Google Analytics, you will have a really good understanding of what your target audience cares about outside of your service. 

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Talk to your customers. Ask them questions and understand their concerns. Taking important conversations offline still plays an important role in your marketing strategy. 

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Review strategies should include offline tactics. Community outreach and involvement are crucial. I would argue that anyone who is consulting about online reputation management should focus on the company’s reputation offline as well.

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Every business is different and no tactic is one-size-fits-all. As with all good things in SEO, the key is testing. Whether you’re releasing a new product or service, upleveling your review management process, or changing the way you use Google My Business, we encourage you to try out some of these expert tips to see what will stick for your business.

Have a local SEO strategy that’s working well for your business, or want us to feature your industry in our next post? Let us know in the comments below.

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