Tips & Tricks From the LocalU Advanced Workshop in Santa Monica

Local University hosted their Advanced Workshop in Santa Monica in November. We’ve rounded up some tips, advice, and quotes from event speakers that resonated with us and can help you step up your local SEO game.

Joy Hawkins avatar

Joy Hawkins (Sterling Sky)

Joy Hawkins is one of the most knowledgeable local SEO’s, especially when it comes to Google My Business. If she is providing you with tips to help improve your GMB listing, it’s in your best interest to take advantage of her advice!

Stop Wasting Time -10 Things People Do Wrong with Google My Business:

Stop Under-utilizing the Homepage
For your GMB listing, ensure the landing page you are linking to contains the keywords are you are targeting. This can make a difference for your listings’ ability to rank in the pack. Unless you have a ton of location pages, using your homepage is ideal as it’s generally better for rankings. Don’t forget to include your top keywords and related content on the landing page because GMB is looking for this.

Stop Ignoring GMB Categories
Take time to review categories regularly as they are always changing and there may be additional opportunities that come up for your business. Especially because in 2017’s Local Search Ranking Factors, #3 was choosing the right GMB categories.

Stop Expecting GMB to be Able to Detect Spam
If you are reporting spam on Google, you need to show clear, detailed evidence. It’s on you to prove what you are reporting, so use videos and photos.

Stop Whining About Your Negative Reviews
Complaining about your negative reviews is a waste of your time and energy. If the review does violate one of GMB’s policies, flag it as inappropriate, see if it is removed, and if not, go ahead and contact the support team, however; you will need evidence, proof to back up your claim. Don’t expect them to remove it based on a “he said/she said” claim.

We have an extensive post on How to Remove a Fake Google Review. Beyond whining about a negative review, also stop worrying about it. Focus on building your business and stronger/better services, so that in the end the reviews from actual happy customers outweigh the negative and/or sometimes fake reviews.

Joel Headley (Patient Pop)

Joel covered the technical side of SEO with his presentation Websites – Platforms for Content Delivery. Incorporating structured data, using Accelerated Mobile Pages, integrations, and how these optimization techniques help you strengthen your results and deliver your content easier. When it comes to your data, Google wants all of the information:

A key point from Joel’s talk was: Structured data is only as useful as the features it drives in search. The point is that you should focus on structured data that will actually generate features in the search results.

Enhance your search results with marked-up data for:

  • Reviews (Review stars on SERP’s can increase click-through-rate by 30-400%)
  • Bookings (reservations)
  • Events
  • Job Postings
  • Recipes
  • Products
  • Food Delivery
  • Emails (RSVPs)

Joel also suggested that when implementing your structured data, you should put your JSON-LD in a block at the bottom of your page.

Mike Blumenthal (Get Five Stars)

Mike Blumenthal, aka Professor Maps, gave attendees a brief history on Google’s latest local endeavors and what you can do for your business (or clients) in his presentation The Arc of Google Local – What can we learn from the recent past?

In the past nine months Google has introduced 8 new local products and in case you haven’t been paying attention this year Google As the New Home Page is a thing. If you haven’t already taken charge of your branded search results and optimizing your Knowledge Panel, then now is the ideal time to get a plan in place.

So What Can You Do?

1st Party Reviews – You control these. As Aaron Wieche mentioned in his talk, “stop undervaluing first party reviews.” You can use these to your advantage on your website, mark these up in schema so that they show up in search results, and showcase them to prospective clients.

3rd Party Reviews – Diversify your reviews. Google showcases your reviews from around the web, this is a key feature in the Knowledge Panel (KP). Also, earn more Google Reviews, with more reviews your KP is expanded and excerpts from your reviews are highlighted.

Photos – “Photos are a conversion factor but not a ranking factor.” Photo optimization is the cheapest way to get more mileage from your Google My Business listing. In fact, according to Google My Business, businesses with photos get 40% more requests for directions (Marissa Nordahl & Allyson Wright Google – presentation).

Google Posts – Use to your advantage for:

Google Q&A – Monitor your questions and the activity (coming soon to our Reputation Builder platform). Schedule in time to answer questions, and stay on top of your listing. GMB publishes your reply times. (and a related tip from Joy’s presentation: the question with the most likes will appear in the knowledge panel, so like the one you want to feature)

Beyond Google – Go where Google isn’t –

  • Loyalty,
  • Email Marketing,
  • Customer Experience – Reputation, more than just reviews.

Aarron Weiche (Get Five Stars)

Aaron discussed one of our favourite topics, reviews and customer feedback, in his talk Where is the Customer Love?

“Reviews are content and a conversation consumers trust and care about.” But while a lot of businesses get consumed with simply acquiring online reviews, this is only one element in the entire process. There is more value in taking a holistic approach when it comes to customer feedback and reviews.

  • Consumers need to see at least 10+ (average is 34) reviews before they trust the average star rating.
  • Stop obsessing over 5 stars:
  • 77% of consumers want to see reviews made in the last 90 days – trending up.
  • Easy to access feedback is a WIN for your customer.
  • Don’t just focus on getting the review, the value is in fixing the real problems.

If your business is looking to implement new strategies for customer feedback, check out these 8 Awesome & Easy Ways to Encourage Customer Feedback for your business daily.

Get specific with your feedback requests, so that you can receive more targeted reviews with this pro-tip from Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing.

Will Scott (Search Influence)

Will Scott presented 5 Ways to Jump-start Your Website Traffic Using Content Marketing. Two areas of this presentation we wanted to highlight are digging deeper in your keyword research and leveraging your existing content.

Get Keyword Rich: Semantic Topic Research
The days of appearing relevant through keyword repetition are long past, however, keyword repetition as an SEO tactic is still something you can see in many content pieces online. This approach is not going to get you the desired results in today’s search environment. Take your research to the next level with semantic topic research, so your content can get keyword rich.

Your goals are:
1. Improve ranking for the anchor topic.
2. Rank for a larger set of search queries.

The basic approach to semantic keyword research is:

  • Gather Proof Terms – synonyms, plurals, variants.
  • Grow Your List Further With Relevant Terms – These will be terms that are slightly more distant words from your main group of keywords, but that drive the detail of your content.

Here are some tools that can aid in your research efforts:

This outline is a basic guide to putting together your research.

This is a rich and diverse topic. If it’s completely new to you – then I suggest checking out this Whiteboard Friday, 5 Tips For conducting Semantic Keyword Research, and Semantic SEO Guide to learn more about it and get started on incorporating this process into your content research.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Thanksgiving Turkey

Take advantage of your existing content, “baste & bake once, then slice and dice for days.” Use your content from any of the following sources:

  • Well-written site pages
  • Infographics
  • Detailed blog posts
  • Past media mentions
  • Others’ blog posts about you
  • Reviews
  • Sponsored/paid content
  • Presentations
  • Internal research studies
  • Internal documentation

Break these down into different chunks that can be used across other mediums. Get the most out of existing well-written content.

Darren Shaw (Whitespark)

Darren discussed a Whitespark specialty, citations! Getting to 100% – How to Perfect Your Local Business Listings. Here’s how you do it.

1. Determine the Sources That Are Important For Your Business

  • Offline Sources – Telco Companies, Utilities, State Business Registries, Industry Specific Registries (if applicable to your business).
  • Data Aggregators – Inforgroup, Localeze, Acxiom, and Factual.
  • Key Sites – Bing, Google, Apple Maps, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Dun & Bradstreet, Yellow Pages, CityGrid.
  • Industry Specific Sites – Think Avvo, OpenTable, ete. To find sites related to your business, search [Industry] + Directory (ie. Dentist Directory)
    You can also use our Best Citations by Category resources to help you determine what citations are important.
  • Geo-Specific – Unique to your location – search for [City] or [State] + Business Directory (Santa Monica business directory). We also have the Best Citations by City for your reference to help give you a head start.
  • The Rest – Also known as our top citations list. These are additional business listing sites that add-value for building your citation profile.

Now you will have a list of sites that are important to your business. To stay organized keep everything together in a spreadsheet. This will help with performing your audit and cleanup. Feel free to use our template.

2. Cleanup Inconsistencies and Duplicates

  • Find all NAP Variations before you start cleaning up inconsistencies – Names, Addresses, Phone Numbers that were ever used for your business.
  • If you’re completing the work for clients, make sure you provide them with a spreadsheet or form and have them add all known NAP variations for their business.

You can use MozLocal to check your live listings and discover variations that are published online, this can help you gather additional variations or uncover anything you may have missed.

Now go through the list of important sites that you gathered in step one, and cleanup/remove/enhance all of your listings.

3. Add Listings Where You Are Not Listed
If you need to know how to add, edit, or remove a listing on a site, then click on that link for a helpful resource.

4. Complete Each Listing With as Much Detail as Possible

5. Encourage Reviews on the Most Important Listings
To find out the sites that are the most valuable for your specific industry – perform searches for your very top keyword terms. Any business listing site that ranks in the top 40 for your search terms is a site that you should be targeting for reviews. You can even look for results in other surrounding cities, to see if other listing sites show up.

Take Your Citation Work to the Next Level With:

  • Unstructured Citations
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Indexing Your Citations:

We hope these tips are helpful you in your local search endeavors. If you are interested in attending a LocalU Event, be sure to check out their site for upcoming workshops.


Jessie Low

Jessie wears many hats here at Whitespark. From curating the monthly newsletter to managing marketing initiatives, and everything in between. She is the go-to helper for all things Whitespark.

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