I really like Andrew Shotland. Beyond being the mastermind behind Local SEO Guide, he’s pretty much a celebrity in my book (chapter: wise veteran and charismatic leader in the local SEO community.)
A Quick, Personal Story About Andrew Shotland
About 2 years ago, I had the most bizarre yet memorable job interview with Shotland. He was en route to a meeting in San Francisco via BART (from his Pleasanton HQs), so we planned to rendezvous at Revolution Cafe in West Oakland.
Unfortunately the cafe was closed, so we hopped a couple BART lines to an alternative spot. Shotland was on his phone for most of the time (I believe he was chatting with a bigwig at Yext,) but he was still mindful of my presence. I didn’t care. I was hanging out with an idolized guru of my profession.
We ended up at a random lunch cafeteria by Oakland City Center just near BART. The coffee was questionable, so we mutually passed, hijacked an empty booth, and started talking.
Shotland made it very clear what he needed from his future SEO hire. And it was clearly big league stuff. He emphasized things like “link generation” and “review generation,” and how I would implement these variables into a seamless local SEO service.
In conclusion, I didn’t think I qualified to take the position. But in the end, it was a positive experience. Not only did I learn a few things, but I was grateful and inspired by our meeting.
Getting Back On Track
So recently I experienced similar, Shotland-induced sensations of gratitude and inspiration. Manta hosted a killer webinar with Andrew Shotland that highlighted local SEO ranking factors that matter most (or “Local Search Secrets” as the presentation is titled.)
In essence, Shotland outlined the best practices of local SEO while highlighting which ranking signals to invest most your efforts. If the conversation was too long for you, and you didn’t listen (tl;dl), then your welcome. I’ve extracted what I believe to be the golden nuggets worth noting.
Backlinks Are THE Biggest Factor
This maybe obvious for some, but it deserves mentioning. In Local SEO Guide’s, 2016 Local SEO Ranking Factors study (which analyzed data across 35,000 businesses,) backlinks were the biggest factor impacting search visibility.
Shotland’s takeaway: figure out a way to acquire links (that won’t harm you.) And invest a significant amount of your efforts doing so. Do PR, sponsor events, guest blog on other sites, invest in memberships, and create brilliant and linkworthy content. These are just few ideas to generate backlinks.
Optimizing for “Near Me”
One of the most creative ideas that Shotland has been experimenting with is keyword optimizing for “near me.” While I personally never search using the “near me” geo-modifier, it’s clearly quite common with respect to Google autocomplete.
This is weird one, as it may seem odd and tricky using copy in the first person perspective. But it’s definitely worth experimenting with, especially if you’re struggling to rank in competitive city.
I couldn’t resist just throwing something out there:
“Do you ever ask yourself, ‘where can I find the best pizza near me?‘ Well, my friend, at PizzaMe, of course.”
Get Your Citations Right
Not much new here, but still worth a mention (pun intended.) Citations remain a major ranking factor in the local 3 pack, and it’s vital to get the right. Not only is important to include the accurate Name, Address, Phone number (NAP = citation) on your site (ideally sitewide in the header or footer,) but your business’s citation information must be accurate and consist across the web.
Tools like Yext, BrightLocal, and Whitespark (among others) enable you scan that citations surrounding your business. You can use the intelligence to correct or populate listings on sites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Yellowpages, and tons more.
Mistakes With Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) pages are the bee’s knees for Google Maps marketing (that is, appearing in the ranked Google Maps search results, not the 3 pack.) Like we’ve covered in this blog post,
GMB pages trump both location and reviews as Google Maps ranking factors.
Shotland mentions a few GMB optimization tips that lend to common mistakes:
- Ensure you link directly to your site, not a redirected domain
- Contrary to what some SEO believe, choose the least amount of relevant categories
- Make sure your citation/NAP matches that of your website
- Completely fill out your GMB page and add numerous photos.
Leveraging LocalBusiness Schema
If you’ve been doing SEO for some time and are still neglecting Schema, then your dropping an easy catch. Marking up the NAP/citation data listed on your website is a simple way to get a leg up. Because backlinks, citations, and GMB factors carry so much weight, there’s only so much you can do on-site before you efforts run thin. Schema is often a small detail that offers big wins.
While LocalBusiness Schema is a must for local SEO and Google Maps marketing, there are more specific types that may be relevant to your business (i.e. AutomotiveBusiness, Dentist, RealEstateAgent, ProfessionalService, etc.) Scroll near the bottom of this page to see more.
Other Local Factors & Insights
Shotland briefly touches on a few other local ranking factors and SEO insights.
- Reviews – This may require creativity and an offline approach, but figure out a way to generate positive customer reviews on your GMB page and other top listings like Yelp, Facebook, etc.
- Long Pages – Long pages tend to rank higher than shorter ones. Of course there are other factors involved, but in general, a pages with 1,000 words will be stronger than a page with 100 words.
- User Engagement – Metrics like time on site and bounce rate can define the overall experience a site lends to its visitors. Ensure your site is on-point that you provide a good user experience. Poor engagement can lead to weaker rankings.
- Ranking Videos – The two primary ranking factors for videos are backlinks and engagement (or how many people watch and stay on the video.) Of course some degree of keyword relevancy in the video title helps too.
Where to Focus Your SEO
Lastly, Shotland and the dudes over at Local SEO Guide created a nice investment chart indicating where you should focus your efforts most. While optimizing your site and GMB page will be offer more immediate yet diminished efforts upfront, a great deal of your long-term investment should be place on building links and cleaning up citations.
Big thanks to Andrew Shotland for the presentation and educating the search marketing community with up-to-date local search ranking factors and SEO best practices.
Listen to the full conversation over at BrightTalk.com.