2021 Local Search Summit – Day 1 Tips & Insights

By Darren Shaw
on September 29, 2021

Day 1 of the 2021 Local Search Summit is complete. 🔥 Today’s sessions covered the whole gamut of local search marketing advice. We’re sharing takeaways, advice, or a tip for each talk. If you couldn’t make it to the event, you can still get all the recordings with our video bundle. Don’t miss our Day 2 & Day 3 recap posts as well. 

  1. Darren Shaw
  2. Rand Fishkin
  3. Nadya Khoja
  4. Amanda Jordan
  5. Sam Oh
  6. Aleyda Solis
  7. Crystal Carter
  8. Craig Mount
  9. Navah Hopkins
  10. David Mihm
  11. Tomas Acuna, Allie Margeson, Nick Pierno

Read the full 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors Study  to learn more about what is working and not working for local SEO’s.

Darren Shaw (Whitespark)

2021 Local Search Ranking Factors

There were many noteworthy findings in this year’s data. We’ll highlight a couple of them here, and we’ll be publishing the complete 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors results and Analysis soon.A significant insight from this year’s results is that it appears that the impact of proximity to searcher seems to have been dialed down by Google. Darren encouraged the audience to check their own search results to confirm that they’re seeing the same.Spam fighting has also seen a decline in importance, even though it was a hot new tactic back in the 2020 survey results. What’s the quickest way to the #1 ranking spot when you’re currently ranking #3? Easy, just report and remove those two spammers above you.

But the experts have changed their tune in 2021. What used to be a quick win has become increasingly ineffective, leaving local SEOs frustrated and giving up on this strategy to focus on other tactics.

Rand Fishkin (Sparktoro)

Don’t Just Wait for Customers to Google You. Go Find Them!

You cannot build a competitive advantage exclusively from Google & Facebook. The median (not average) across all industries for average Facebook engagement/post (by follower) is 0.09% in 2021 [source: Rival IQ].

As an early stage business or a small business you can build brand awareness through “Influence Marketing.” Discover your audience’s sources of influence blogs, websites, social accounts, podcasts, newsletters, forums, events, etc., and market through and with them in ways that resonate.

Your goal is to find a marketing flywheel that works for you, so that you:

  • Complete a marketing action
  • Boost that action’s reach
  • Engage and grow your audience
  • Improve your algorithmic signals
  • Get higher ROI next time

If you’re just playing in Google & Facebook, they make it really hard to do this. A lot of opportunities come from when you invest where others don’t, so you can build a marketing competitive advantage. 

When you build brand equity first – when people know you, like you, and trust you – before you start investing in more challenging marketing channels and tactics, all those marketing channels and tactics benefit from it.

Rand’s Simple Five Step Process

  1. Figure out who your customers are
  2. Find the messages that resonate with them
  3. Uncover the sources that influence them
  4. Discover where those audience engage
  5. Amplify messages that work in places they pay attention

PRO TIP: Capture every email you can. Email open rates are 252X higher than Facebook page engagement! And emails convert. Put email capturing before Facebook followers, YouTube subscribers, Twitter followers, etc. Get the email.  

Nadya Khoja (This Is Nadya)

Visual Hacks to Improve On-page Optimization

Top ranking sites all have less text + more images

  • Make sure you have optimized headers
  • Add relevant quality images
  • Use short blocks of text

Help your audience find value faster by creating an ‘Aha’ Moment

  • Make it as easy as possible to find the right answers
  • Create jump links 
  • Incorporate better formatting 
  • Add visual breaks with mini-infographics and visual summaries of your content. 

Below is an example of a mini-infographic

Amanda Jordan (Locomotive Agency)

Awesome and Actionable GMB Audits

Don’t let your competitors out shine you on Google My Business! Perform a competitive GMB Audit to see how your top competitors are utilizing both GMB elements that impact rankings and conversions, then take what they’re doing and do it better. 

How to identify worthy competitors to conduct a full GMB Audit on:

  1. Create a list of your most important keywords and phrases 
  2. Choose 3 – 5 critical keywords from your list
  3. Run those top keywords through separate searches 
  4. Track the results to see which competitors show up in the first 10 results
  5. From your results select the top 3 – 5 competitors to track

Sam Oh (Ahrefs)

Content Marketing with Video: An Untapped Medium for Businesses

YouTube is one of the MOST untapped marketing mediums. You don’t need to be a video professional to get results. 

YouTube vs Other Mediums

  • Higher Conversion Rates
    • “Marketers who use video in their campaigns experience 34% higher conversion rates” – Aberdeen Group
  • For many people seeing is believing. Watching someone demonstrating how to use a product or sharing their expertise helps someone visualize their own experience.
  • Video is the Preferred Content Format
    • “69% of consumers prefer watching videos to learn about new products or services” – Wyzowl, 2019
  • Longer Lifespan
    • YouTube videos have a longer lifespan than any other medium ~ about 20X more on average.

Getting started on your video marketing journey requires you to Understand your audience’s needs (Step 1 of Sam’s 6 Step Process):

This boils down to problems and desires.

There is a misconception among people who haven’t adopted content marketing who think by sharing your knowledge you are giving away your trade secrets – this is not true!

At the end of the day even though most people won’t become your customers, you’re still leaving a positive footprint in their journey. 

Learn what your audience wants by digging into your customer data:

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Segments of customers
  • Common sense

Aleyda Solis (Orainti)

SEO Low hanging Fruit: Identifying SEO Opportunities to Achieve Results Fast

A low hanging fruit opportunity just waiting for you is prioritizing actions that will improve your search engine results page (SERP) visibility for your highest impact queries by analyzing current website content. 

If you have Poor SERP click-through rate:

  • Review and optimize your title tags. Make sure that you don’t have any irrelevant or unattractive title tags or meta descriptions.
  • Review SERP feature inclusions that you’re not leveraging:
    • Featured Snippets – Add a table of content and index to generate featured snippets.
    • Rich Results –  Include or fix structured data implementation to generate rich results.
    • News/Videos/Carousels – Content generation in the relevant format.

Crystal Carter (Optix Solutions)

Structured Data Strategies for Local SEO

Structured Data allows you to give clear instructions to Google – it helps search engines to quickly understand the important parts of your content and to be able to use the different parts of it in SERPs. Google reconfigures your structured data information to generate rich results that are great for users and enhances their experience – especially on Mobile. 

Add person schema markup on your about us or team page to expand your rankings:

This is really good for expertise, authority and trustworthiness (E-A-T) and for searchers looking for people on your team. Think networking events, trade shows, or activities in the community, if you add person schema on your about us or team page, people can find you from name searches. 

Don’t forget to include a contact form on these pages as well, which can have a really high conversion rate because people are looking for this person.   

Even if you have a single team/about us page with multiple team members you can still add person schema for each individual to that page because you can nest the data. 

Craig Mount (Nerdy Nuts)

Digital PR for SMB’s: Public Relations < Public Relationships

PR is not just sending something to “the wire.” The job of PR goes beyond just earning link equity, it should:

  • Create partnerships
  • Win social proof
  • Make other people write about you 
  • Win business
  • Get traffic to your website
  • Attract investors

Don’t get trapped into the thinking of “I’m in a boring industry I can’t 10X my story and results.” Nope, you’re wrong. This is something anyone can do but it requires 10X thinking.

You want to start by developing a list of prospective publications that would potentially write about your business. 

  1. Find your competitors and see what stories have been written about them. 
    • Search by geography – “product + location” 
    • Search by relevance – “product” + news articles
  2. Determine who your look-alike competitors are. These are businesses that have offerings in a close category. For example, if your product was small batch peanut butter your look-alike competitors are honey, butter, small batch ice cream, jelly, etc.
    • Identify all your look-alike competitors, make a full list.
    • Search for the brands that have received press coverage. 
  3. Now you want to find industry publications that talk about products like yours. 
    • Look at the backlinks of your competitors to uncover industry publications. 
    • You can use Ahrefs to uncover this information. 
  4. Look at the local publications available to you – local news stations, magazines, newspapers, and radio stations.
  5. Make a list of your dream publications. This is your list of the publication sources you wish would write about your business.
  6. Review niche publications.
    • Categorize articles that have already been published by the niche you’re targeting. 

Navah Hopkins (Adzooma)

Winning With Local Service Ads


“Local Service Ads (LSA’s) are one of the kindest things Google has put out for SMBs specifically in the local services sector. If there’s anything that you walk away with in my session, it’s the confidence to test this channel.”

PSA: You CANNOT MIX Local Service Ads in a regular/existing Google Ads account. Local Services Ads Pro Tips You Need to Know

  • You cannot have more than one LSA profile associated with a GMB listing.
  • Your GMB listing is always the hero here. It’s always safe. It will never be negatively impacted by you running local service ads, it can only help you get access to this amazing resource.
  • When proximity is the same, the ranking factor that gives one business a bigger push over another is reviews. So, respond to your LSA reviews in a timely manner.
  • Closing and archiving your leads have an impact on your ad account.
    • At the end of the day, Google wants to drive value. All ad platforms run off of conversion data. It doesn’t matter whether it’s local service ads, Google ads, Facebook ads… any ads need conversion data.

David Mihm (Near Media)

Essential & Everywhere: Ecommerce for Local Businesses

Consumers are eager to support local businesses. Google Trends data showed a YOY increase of 20,000% for “support local businesses” searches!Google’s presentation layer (how they return search results) has actually shifted consumer behavior – consumers are now overwhelmingly likely to make decisions directly from those local pack results or ads.

Google is still the dominant source of leads and purchases for small businesses. Because the intent is so much higher when you’re talking about search – a consumer going onto Google and saying “I want to buy this” as opposed to just sort of coming across something in their social feed.

Which is why you need to make a great first impression to customers on Google by optimizing your Google My Business listing before your website. 

Tomas Acuna,

Allie Margeson,

Nick Pierno (Whitespark)

GMB Listing Review & Website Clinic

This year, attendees had the opportunity to enter a draw to have some Whitespark experts perform a GMB Listing Review and Website Audit for their business. 

Geeks in Phoenix – Audited by Nick Pierno, Director of Product
Nick performed a competitive analysis for this computer repair business in Phoenix, AZ to see how their rankings stacked up, since the website and GMB listing were both well optimized. The two main findings from this analysis were:

  1. The business name in GMB is holding them back. 
    Although we wish name spam wasn’t such an issue with Google Maps, it is and unfortunately, many of Geeks in Phoenix’s competitors seem to have keywords in their business name. Geeks in Phoenix could look into registering the business with a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name that includes their top keyword “computer repair” to even the playing field. Or they can continue to do the noble thing.
  2. Behavior signals (click-through rate and frequency of users returning to the SERP from the site) could be impacted by the design and content. 
    The business is doing most things right. Better than the competitors who outrank them, even! Nick suggests various way to improve behaviour signals, using things like content, title tags, rich snippets, calls to action, and more!

Websmart Media – Audited by Tomas Acuna, SEO Services Account Manager
Tomas analyzed this Scottish marketing company’s website to evaluate how they could better sell their clients by telling their story and using case studies. His top priority recommendations were:

  1. Create quality content with case studies, rather than thin “portfolios” pages showing what you did for the client – tell us how it affected their business in their words.
  2. Learn from client interviews for case studies and repurpose content to create better service pages and new blog posts.
  3. Optimize generic title tags to include target keywords and localities. And craft engaging meta descriptions to influence click through rate.

The most important advice for this business’s GMB listing (and probably yours too): Ask every client for a Google Review.

Roof Crafters LLC  – Audited by Allie Margeson, Director of SEO Services
Allie reviewed the GMB listing and website of a Louisiana roofing contractor. The main areas of improvement on this site are the content, calls to action and design.

  1. Write content for searchers, not just search engines.
    There’s a lot of quality content but it’s cluttered with keyword stuffing that makes it read like it’s written mainly for search engines and that’s not great for winning over site visitors.
  2. Create clear calls to action to increase conversions.
    What is the #1 thing you want a site visitor to do? Request a free quote? Call? Subscribe? Let them know clearly from a glance and repeat it again throughout your content to improve conversion rate optimization.
  3. Review site design and functionality on all device types.
    Elements on several pages aren’t ideal for mobile site visitors. Even if tools like Google’s Mobile Friendly Test give your site a pass, navigate through your site on mobile as if you’re a first time visitor. Is it easy to read and navigate? Is it clear how you complete the call to action? Is critical information buried below the fold? Are images and embedded videos performing as expected?

The key takeaway from reviewing the GMB listing? Add a link whenever it’s an option – including Posts, Products – and always implement UTM tracking so you can take credit for your hard work!Did you catch Day 1 of the Local Search Summit? Share your favourite insight, tip, or moment in the comments below.

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