10 Things I Learned About Local SEO In 2014

Andrew Shotland 2014 - 2015

We may not be in school anymore, but as we in the SEO business know, the education process never ends. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned about this bizarre trade we practice over the past year:

1. Never Again, Google; Never Again

First they came for the Google+ Authorship avatars in the SERPs, and I did not speak out for many of my local clients had not bothered to follow our “high priority” recommendations to implement Authorship and actually publish interesting content.

Then they came for the Google My Business descriptors, and I did not speak out, because the data on their effectiveness was inconclusive.

Then they came for businesses’ phone numbers on the Local SERPs, and I did not speak out because I have mostly a referral-based business.

Never again, Google. Never again.

2. Great Rankings Are Just A Click Away, Click Away, Click Away

User Behavior is an important competitive difference maker in local search. Darren Shaw blew everyone’s collective minds at State of Search when he unveiled the results of tests he had been running on the impact of user behavior in search rankings:

If you missed the presentation at State of Search, you must check out the follow-up discussion in an episode of Max Impact with Max Minzer, Darren and Bill Slawski.

3. {Insert Favorite Color} Hat Techniques Still Work

Google’s Pigeon update helped a lot of spammy sites, fake addresses, etc. rank well in the local pack results. Press release links still seem to work. SEO companies preaching “real” marketing tactics are still supplementing them with surreal marketing tactics. Spinning service area pages is still around.

Do the right things, of course; but don’t confuse doing the right things with what Google tells you are the right things to do. (Particularly when this kind of thing works.)

4. Apple Does Care About Local Businesses

It’s often said that Apple’s #1 priority is Apple. Its customers are #2 and developers are #3. It’s safe to say that helping local businesses market themselves has never even been in the top 1,000.

Until this year, that is, when Apple launched Apple Maps Connect, a way for U.S. businesses to claim and update their listings on Apple Maps. Shortly thereafter, we uncovered that Apple had started to work with a number of big local marketing agencies to allow them to pipe in direct feeds of their customers’ data.

While it’s likely this move was made to improve Apple Maps data quality faster, it’s nice to see that what is likely the #2 most used local search service is becoming more business friendly.

5. Lamination Is A Review Builder’s Best Friend

In marketing, sometimes the simple things are the most effective.

I always learn a lot from Phil Rozek’s take on customer review strategies, but his post 3 Nimble Moves For Local Review Ninjas has one of my favorite ideas of the year: hard-laminate printed instructions you give out to potential reviewers. The lamination makes it hard to crumple up the instructions and throw them away, makes them harder to lose, and seems “better planned-out and more sincere.”

6. Don’t Lose Control Of Your Logins

While this problem is not particular to Local SEO, it does seem to be common with SMB sites.

We recently signed a multi-location client and discovered on day one of the engagement that we could not get access to their Google Analytics (GA) account. The client, who rarely looked at GA, could not access it either and initially suspected that somehow we had screwed it up (nothing like starting out on the right foot).

Eventually, the client realized that a disgruntled former employee who had been in charge of the GA account had the login info. The trouble was, he wanted $60,000 to turn it over. The client eventually got control of the account, but it took a fair amount of time and hair-pulling.

Moral of the story: Don’t give any one person sole control of your logins.

7. Yelp Has Affordable Advertising

Problem is, you can’t buy it via Yelp.

8. The World Really Is Going Mobile

We all talk about it, but this past Black Friday/Cyber Monday, we saw a 100+% increase in mobile traffic to our local retailer clients. According to one national/local client that has a partnership with Google, Google has told them to expect that 80% of their organic traffic in 2015 will come from mobile search.

The challenge is that, as more searches go mobile, conversion can decline. This is particularly true if your site is not mobile optimized and definitely true if you are selling stuff versus just trying to generate phone calls.

If you have not started your mobile-friendly strategy yet, what are you waiting for?

9. Everyone Really Wants Your Local SEO Budget…Until They Don’t

I have nothing against web developers, ad agencies, etc., who want to get into the Local SEO biz. But occasionally (particularly when dealing with smaller local clients), we get into situations where the person running the website or the agency running the AdWords campaign has convinced the client they could also run the SEO program.

It makes sense. How hard is it to update a title tag, after all? Easier than maintaining a functioning SMB website or running a profitable local AdWords campaign from what I see!

Inevitably, however, they hit the brick wall that is Google Local. I have talked to numerous SEO pros who do nothing but Local SEO all day long and the consensus is that, if anything, Local SEO is getting more complex.

This is all good news for Local SEO professionals, but those who have “building a Local SEO practice” among their 2015 plans should think long and hard about how willing they are to deal with all of the fun that comes with this gig.

10. Always Be Learning

Back in the day when I started doing SEO, there weren’t very many places to talk with other like-minded local search professionals.

Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Linda Buquet’s Local Search Forum has been a great resource for several years now, and she just recently launched a Google+ group exclusively for local search pros. Mike Blumenthal’s/Local U’s subscription forum, which launched earlier this year, is another great one. And Max Minzer just celebrated his 100th episode of Max Impact, which features video interviews of local marketers.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Oscar Wilde

Hope you had a great 2014. See you next year!

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