Local SEO Expert Q&A: 56 Answers on Local Marketing

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Local SEO, and SEO in general, is a tough game. One minute you’re ranking number one with your Google My Business listing for your top keyword + city, the next minute, Google changes the number of listings they show in the local pack from seven to three and you’re filtered right out of the Google My Business results.

Or, maybe you’ve experienced another scenario, where you’re say, a local store with one physical location. Let’s say in Los Angeles for sake of this example, that sells gourmet salted caramels. But you don’t just sell them out of your store in Los Angeles, you also sell them online to people in San Diego, San Francisco, and all across the entire country. Your top goal has always been to rank as high as you can for national searches related to “gourmet salted caramels.” Then, one day, Google decides instead of showing a variety of universal results (general search results + news + videos + images), it rather make the results more localized and show shops with physical locations. Your LA caramel shop that once ranked well in San Diego, California, a two hour drive away from Los Angeles, has now disappeared completely with only local shops in San Diego appearing.

Talk about soul crushing.

The scenario I just described is an actual predicament I have personally faced working with one of my clients, which is precisely why I wanted to take the time to interview some of the top local SEO experts to help other local restaurants and shops who have faced similar challenges to win the local SEO game.

Below are 56 answers from some of the top local SEO experts in the online marketing field today. They responded to some of the most common online marketing and SEO questions (struggles) local marketers and business owners face everyday. Needless to say, I was very excited to get their responses and feature them here for you.

Below are the seven questions I asked each interviewee:

  1. What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?
  2. If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?
  3. With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?
  4. Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?
  5. How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?
  6. Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?
  7. How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

Without further ado, check out each interviewee’s answers below for some awesome insights into kicking your local SEO strategy up a notch! You will definitely walk away with more than one actionable piece of advice. Each interviewee also has a bio where you can get to learn more about them and get some of the great content they put out.

Rand Fishkin

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: We never know where Google’s going next, but their recent behavior tells us there will likely be shifts in how local results are displayed, in which search queries trigger local results, and in options for rich markup and controlling how Google presents your data. As a result, it pays to watch the keywords you care about and see how/if Google’s options change in those SERPs, to keep an eye on any news around Google Maps/Local markup changes or use of data sources for citations/listings, and to stay up to date with how and when Google’s triggering local pack results.

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?

A:

1) Product quality (and encouraging folks to amplify their experiences with our product)

2) Customer service and engagement (in-store, as well as online)

3) Getting my location(s) listed in as many relevant places on the web as possible (all the local directories, sites that cover local stores, listing aggregators, etc.)

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?

A: At the least, use a service like Moz Local, Whitespark, or Localeze to get your business listed correctly in all the right places. If you want to go a step further, check out your top 5-10 competitors and see who is mentioning and listing them on the web (you can use Google to search for their name and see where they’re listed, or a tool that shows link data like Majestic, Ahrefs, or Moz). You can then go these sources and try to get your own website/business listed, which can often have a dramatic positive effect on your traffic and rankings.

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A: Given that every year, a great percentage of people are using search engines and local recommendation apps to find where to go, I imagine we’ve got at least another decade or two of substantial growth in these arenas.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: We saw Yelp experiment with augmented reality a number of years ago via their mobile app, but interest in it never took off. Google Glass was much the same. I’m not sure if VR will have a real impact on most local businesses, though I imagine some will start to serve the niche interest in going to coffee shops/bars/etc and playing with VR-tech.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: It often pays to either A) get buy in for a small experiment first, then show the results or B) show how thoroughly a hated competitor or two are winning the space. For some reason, many business owners aren’t motivated by opportunity nearly as much as by competition.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: Reviews can have dramatic effects on whether consumers choose a business, even if it doesn’t impact the listing visibility directly. My advice would be to pay attention to and optimize for both.

Bio:

Rand Fishkin goes by the ludicrous title, Wizard of Moz. He’s founder and former CEO of SEO software startup Moz, host of Whiteboard Friday, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, co-founder of Inbound.org, and serves on the board of the presentation software firm, Haiku Deck. Rand’s currently writing a book for Penguin/Random House on the ups and downs of startup culture, due out in 2018.

 

Greg Gifford

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: I think businesses should really be paying attention to 2 things. First, they should keep a close eye on how local results are being served in search results. The Possum update in September really dialed up proximity as a ranking factor, and links have become the most important non-physical-location ranking factor. Business owners need to keep an eye on any changes that happen this year.

Then, people need to pay a lot of attention to ‘virtual assistants’ – whether we’re talking about Siri or Cortana on mobile devices or Alexa or Google Home, there’s a big push towards virtual assistants and voice interaction. How will local searches work? How will results be served? Will a list of options be sent to a mobile screen for users to choose from, or will we move towards  a world where there’s a single answer to local queries?

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?

A: I’d rock my social channels, especially if I’m doing something that’s unique. Organic social posts and targeted Facebook ads will go a really long way without a lot of time or money commitment.

I’d also pay a lot of attention to getting links from local businesses. Local links are really valuable for Local SEO, and the smaller mom-and-pop businesses are typically pretty connected with the community, so it’s a lot easier to get legitimate local links. More than anything else, getting more local links will improve visibility in searches.

Finally, I’d spend a lot of time writing awesome blog content. It’s not about making lots of pages for the site, it’s about sharing blog posts that show the amazing things I’m doing. I’d want local people to have lots of opportunities to see why I’m great and why they should buy from me.

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?

A: Local SEO is a must – without building local relevance correctly, there’s simply too much competition to be able to achieve visibility in searches. Sites have to have awesome localized content, they’ve got to optimize that content with the right local signals, they’ve got to have a lot of relevant local links, and they’ve got to have great reviews on multiple sites.

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

As mobile continues to grow, Local SEO is going to continue to grow in importance. Search results are more localized on mobile devices because location detection is much more exact. Even with proximity being such a huge factor now, the need for awesome local optimization is evident. If customers don’t see you in searches, you’re going to miss out on huge amounts of business.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: I think that Augmented Reality will have much more of an influence on the future. I don’t think people will pop on a VR rig to do searches – but I can see AR making a big splash. Whether it’s something like Snapchat Spectacles or Google Glass, or it’s simply using the live camera on your mobile phone and seeing info overlaid on the view, I really think AR has a huge chance of changing the way people interact with the “Real world”.

Imagine walking down a street in a city you’re visiting – instead of doing a search for best restaurants and pulling up directions, you could simply hold up your phone and walk around. Review scores and photos would pop up next to the restaurants or bars as you walk down the street, like private personalized billboards. Tons of kickass opportunities here.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: This is something we have to cover with potential clients all the time. We use the “pizza delivery” example to show HOW Local SEO works – check out our video at bit.ly/seo-pizza

Once we’ve covered that, we use a simple math equation to show WHY Local SEO is needed. Check out the video at bit.ly/seo-simple-math. Basically, it shows how there are really only 7 or 8 possible spots on page on of search results, but in most cases, there are 20+ businesses fighting for those spots. Without Local SEO, you won’t be seen.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: Incredibly important – for restaurants, reviews might be one of the most important things out there. Every restaurant can have great photos on their site, and their menu can look amazing… but honest reviews from unbiased customers show what the restaurant is really like. Reviews will make or break a restaurant – and since Google reviews are the first thing people see when they search for a restaurant, they’ve got to be a major focus for any restaurant.

Bio:

Greg Gifford is the Director of Search and Social at DealerOn, a software company that provides websites and online marketing to new car dealers all over the country. He’s got over 16 years of online marketing and web design experience, and he speaks internationally at both automotive and SEO conferences, teaching thousands of small business owners and marketers how to get their sites to show up higher in local search rankings.

Greg also spends his time doing freelance website design and SEO for local businesses. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in Cinema and Communications, and has an obscure movie quote for just about any situation.

David Mihm

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: I wrote about this pretty extensively in my 2017 predictions post: ads and Knowledge Panels.

We’re already seeing a decline in the amount of organic traffic Google sends to websites of all sizes — whether due to increased monetization of the Search Engine Results Page, or searcher interaction with rich-attribute Knowledge Panels.  The decline in the number of businesses for whom organic search (SEO) is a viable primary channel for customer acquisition will get steeper and steeper in the next few years if these two trends (ads and Knowledge Panels) continue at their current rate.
Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?

A: This question is really at the heart of my rationale for creating the Local Marketing Stack graphic.  It sort of depends at what stage your business is, but, I would say the lowest-cost, highest-return digital marketing initiatives for local businesses are:

  1. Gathering customer emails — these can be leveraged into customer intelligence, content, promotions, reviews, remarketing and lookalike audience acquisition
  2. A strong, consistent email newsletter to stay top-of-mind
  3. Gathering customer feedback and channeling net promoters into leaving online reviews

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regard to local SEO?

A: I don’t know that the increase in mobile device usage really has anything to do with it, but basically everything inside of Zone 2 of this graphic.

Specifically, I’d say that every local business needs:

  1. A mobile-responsive website
  2. A customer email list
  3. Claimed local profiles (Google, FB, Yelp) with good photos
  4. A handful of customer reviews on each of those platforms
  5. Claimed social profiles with good photos (FB, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, depending on your industry)
  6. And probably a handful of links from local community groups/charities you’re involved in

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A: As I said in question 1, I’d say somewhat less important over time, because I think Google and Facebook will continue to monetize more and more searches.  Within Local SEO, there will still be foundational tactics that every business should execute (like claiming their Google My Business page, adding good photos, keeping information current, getting reviews), but things we usually start with today as SEO fundamentals (title tags, links, citations) will over time decline in importance as Google ingests more and more personalized engagement signals.
Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: Certainly, there’s value as a medium for any industry which is heavily visual.  Google has been working on 360-degree Trusted Photographer views of local businesses for a long time, so extending this framework into VR would make total sense. We’re probably only 4-5 years away from seeing this kind of thing as a common experience.

But I’m pretty bearish on the commercial value of AR/VR as a platform. I see AR/VR platforms as a lot closer to a video game than a mobile search in terms of how people will interact with it and the utility for local businesses. The biggest AR/VR sensation so far, Pokémon Go, only works for a VERY limited set of businesses in terms of attracting customers. I just don’t see lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, nail salons, roofers, and so on getting much value out of something like Pokémon Go, or placing a virtual billboard in a virtual experience.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: First of all, Google has a lot of great studies and surveys at thinkwithgoogle.com. They’re skewed/biased towards paid search but executives tend to place a lot of trust in Google data and there are certainly some compelling findings that can be persuasive.

Secondly, I would just ask executives to think about their own behaviors about their discovery mechanisms (and evaluation mechanisms) for local businesses.  If they’re looking for a (fill in the blank business type), how do they go about it?  Even if they are recommended a business by a friend offline or via email, they’re probably still going to look it up on Google or Facebook to view photos, read reviews, etc.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: Essential. Review volume and review content (on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Zomato, and others as well as Google and Facebook) is, in a vacuum, probably the #1 ranking factor in the restaurant industry.

Bio:

David Mihm is first and foremost an advocate for sustainable digital marketing techniques for small businesses.  In 2012, he sold his former company GetListed.org to Moz, helping over 3 million businesses get better visibility in the local search engines.  He’s a co-founder of the Local University conference series.

David now runs Tidings and his weekly newsletter, Minutive.  In his spare time, he volunteers with and serves on the Board of MercyCorps Northwest, enjoys travel (to world-class links courses in particular), Oregon-made craft coffee and craft beer, and spectator sports of almost all kinds—go Blazers and Timbers!

Mike Blumenthal

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: Over the past year or two, Google has been slowly and steadily making their front page the most important page for a business. They are doing this by creating more and more scenarios where the users no longer needs to go to the website to retrieve critical information. More calls, more driving directions and more reviews are all keeping the user at Google for the final step in getting in touch with the business. In fact, I am seeing as many as 70% of critical small business key performance indicators taking place right on Google NOW. See: Case Study: Key Performance Indicators in Local Digital Marketing.

This shift is critical to pay attention to as Google is going to accelerate this process in an effort to dominate the presale customer interaction.

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?

  1. I would invest in a solid 5-6 page website that clearly indicates who you are, what you do and where you are located. As part of this web effort I would also submit my NAP information via a service like Moz.
    • Why? Google needs the consistency of data from a Moz like service and the data of your website to feel comfortable ranking your business. And regardless of what you might think of Facebook, Google is going to be sending you most new business.
  2. I would set up a system to gather email addresses and mobile phone numbers (and of course permission to use them)
    • Why? Having a direct way to communicate with YOUR customers is the most effective way to get ROI with local marketing. Why pay Google or Facebook when you own the relationship?
  3. I would then set up a system to leverage those emails to ask for feedback and reviews from these customers AND send out a regular newsletter to them.
    • Why? The future growth of your business is dependent on being a great business. You won’t know if you are doing well if you don’t ask. Knowing who your advocates are and keeping them informed is one of the least expensive things you can do to increase your future income. See Case Study: In Local Attribution Word of Mouth Dominates

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regard to local SEO?

A: I am a bit of an idiot savant and only focus on local so I can’t really speak to the question of online retailers.

But for restaurants I would say focus on your mobile website first and foremost. And in that focus, make four things REALLY obvious and in your customer’s face: the phone number, driving directions, hours and the menu.

All too often I go to a mobile website and I have to scroll for a lifetime or click through a hamburger menu to find even the most basic of information.

While you are at it be sure that you are tracking these activities when they do occur on your website as they are some of the best measures of your digital marketing success.

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A: Well that depends on your definition of Local SEO. That definition has evolved over time and means many things to many people.

If by Local SEO you mean, building a great website and doing the things you need to do to create visibility for your local business online then I don’t think that will get less important.

If by that question you mean some of the traditional tactics associated with Local SEO like citations and even link building, I think that those specific tactics will decrease in importance as time goes on.

Google is shifting from a link based view of the world of web pages to an authority based view of entities vis a vis local. That shift will dramatically change how we help a business increase their online conversions.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: I think that augmented reality is likely to affect local businesses a great deal. As to virtual reality, I am not so sure.

We are starting to see the beginnings of augmented reality with like what I experience with my Apple Watch and Apple Maps guiding me through an unfamiliar local environment with taps on my wrist telling me to turn left or right in 200 feet. It’s like wearing the internet and its very powerful. I can see something similar taking place with Apple’s Ear Buds. I am sure that other phone vendors will provide similar experiences that are transparent AND helpful to the user. I see this happening now and accelerating over the next 24 months.

Virtual reality is further out and out so far that I, for one, am not comfortable speculating on its impact.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: I think that the basis for any buy in is to have compelling metrics close to the sale that you can measure across the ecosystem. I think that these metrics need to be easy to understand things like how times did users click to call on Google, Yelp, your website, Bing etc. Or how many times did they request driving directions. It’s important to define metrics that correlate closely with customers doing business with you.

From where I sit once you have good tracking of these fundamental values ACROSS every place that they are taking place you can easily communicate their benefit and get buy in. From my point of view a phone call is a phone call. It’s easy to communicate its value wherever it takes place.  but you need to be tracking where and how often it is happening to make the case.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: I know that the common wisdom is that Yelp is paramount in consumer decisions but in my research, I see Google local being at least as important and often more important than Yelp in delivering customers to the business.

From where I sit, it’s not just Google reviews that are important at Google; it is every review rich snippet that shows on your brand search, and every review source that shows in Reviews from the web. I think that it’s the aggregate story that reviews tell at Google when a user starts their search that matters. Not just Google reviews and not just Yelp reviews.

Bio:

With unmatched industry expertise and knowledge, Mike is a co-founder and serves as GetFiveStar’s Chief Review Officer helping our customers get the most of the platform.

Widely cited as the foremost Local Search expert in North America and affectionately known among his colleagues as ‘Professor Maps’, Mike Blumenthal is the author of the industry’s most respected blog: Understanding Google Maps & Local Search.

 

Jason Parks

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: Local backlinks. This isn’t new I just think more emphasis needs to be put on getting quality, authoritative links in your local market.

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance? 

A:

  1. Reviews – I’d make sure to get reviews from my customers. People are going to do a Google search for your bakery or look on Yelp so reviews will be a big trust indicator and can help increase conversion rate
  2. Local Directories – I’d sign-up for a local directory service like Moz Local or Aabaco. This will make all of your listings consistent and make it easy for your customers to find your business
  3. Facebook Ads – I’d serve Facebook ads to people living around my bakery – This is low cost and would help generate instant exposure

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?

A: Make sure your website is responsive on mobile. This should have been done years ago. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. Make sure people can easily navigate your site on mobile. SEO does no good if people just immediately bounce from your site.

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A: Local SEO will get more important. More people do research online before making a purchasing decision. Your local SEO can help people find you during that search phase.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: I’m not an expert in virtual reality. I think we’re at least 5 years away from this going mainstream so I’m not too focused on that at the moment.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: I think you just need to bring up Google.com and get your decision maker in front of a computer or their phone. Ask the decision maker how they are going to find a restaurant for this Friday night. Chances are, they will start on Google. This will prove the importance of local SEO within 30 seconds.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: Very important. If people search for your brand or you populate for a coveted search term, this will be the first thing people see pertaining to your brand. Your business needs to focus on customer service and a review strategy that will compliment solid customer service.

Bio:

Jason Parks is a proud Buckeye and the owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency based in Columbus. Jason has been featured in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Inc., Yahoo News, Search Engine Watch, The Columbus Dispatch and Entrepreneur.com. Jason has assisted in launching successful digital campaigns for Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies to medium and small sized businesses. 

 

Craig Campbell

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to? 

A: It’s hard to predict what changes will be made it is obvious that Google is wanting to show local business hence the map positions having a prominent position and the searches becoming more localized. For local SEO I would always have a process of setting up my business listing, get local citations, get listed on local directories and get Google reviews which all go some way to helping you with your local SEO.

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance? 

A: Local SEO works really well and doesn’t require a huge budget, doing the basics, a basic website, some local SEO, Map Listing, some citations and even trying out some basic stuff on social media to raise your business profile in the local area is always a good place to start. Even doing some local Facebook advertising can be done on a very modest budget.

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO? 

A: It surprises me that given over 60% of people are using mobile devices when searching that websites out there are not mobile friendly, any online business should have a nice easy to navigate website with some local SEO if they want to get that exposure. If they don’t want to do the basics then the competition will and some good business can be generated from a little bit of local exposure. Do the basics and get a website that shows exactly what the business has to offer, as there will be searches going on and you want to be in front of those people.

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on? 

A: For small businesses it is very important, people are very specific when they search and very often will add a location to their search term when looking for services. For example, if someone was looking for a “Roof Repair” they are likely to search for ” Roof Repairs & their location ” rather than simply Roof repairs.

So, I think people are becoming more specific with their searches and I feel that having that local exposure is only going to become more important as time goes on.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all? 

A: It’s hard to say at this stage how it will affect local businesses, but the way things are going there is always going to be integration with new technology and businesses will be able to show off their products or services using virtual reality. Even on a much smaller scale local businesses are showing off their premises by using Google 360 images, and I can only imagine that with virtual reality that we will be seeing more advanced ways of showcasing products, premises and whatever needs to be shown in much more detail.

And of course, that will always help as all of this new technology improves what we can see, so it will improve online sales which is the main purpose at the end of the day.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives? 

A: If an in-house marketing team was doing some local SEO there shouldn’t really be a cost, its time based so it really should not come down to budgets etc. There is no cost to get a map listing, it is completely free, this coupled with some local directories which are free and some local relevant links are all that’s required for some local SEO. It would always be the first steps when starting out getting some local traffic to the website.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: My business is a massive part of local search and is one of the first things I would suggest someone does when setting up a small local business. Reviews are also important, mainly because people like to read reviews and seeing someone with 4 or 5 stars over someone who doesn’t is always likely to give a customer a good impression.

So it would help a consumer making a choice between your business and another, and there is also this debate as to whether there is a ranking signal from reviews, I’ve seen people claim they do also help your rankings in local search and Moz said it makes up 8% of the ranking signal for local search. It’s not a case of who gets the most reviews win, but I do firmly believe they do help you a little so you would want to try and get your customers doing them for you when you can.

Bio:

Craig Campbell is a Glasgow-based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 14 years. In this time he has gained extensive knowledge in the subject of SEO and has built up a wealth of experience in SEO and other digital marketing services.

 

Joy Hawkins

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: I think if Google rolls out the Posts Beta, that will be huge for SMBs.

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?

A: Ask customers for reviews on Google, Yelp & Facebook, Update my website with rich descriptions and photos of the recent food/beverages I sell, Network with other local businesses & organizations and try to get links from them.

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?

A: Make their site work on mobile! I can’t get over how many businesses don’t even have their phone number set up as click-to-call. Also tons of forms and features on sites don’t always work properly or easily on mobile.

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A: I think it will be equally important but get harder to succeed with if you’re using a cookie-cutter approach.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: I’m not sure. This would be a better question for my husband 😉

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: Sign up for my Local SEO training if you want an advanced look at Local SEO and the ability to get updated as new things happen and old tactics stop working.  If you are looking for a free way to keep on top of things, monitor the Local Search Forum.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: Huge. Some of the highest-activity accounts I’ve seen for Google My Business were for restaurants. It’s one industry that isn’t very advanced at SEO usually due to budget constraints of restaurant owners who have a ton of overhead so if you get one player that comes along and can invest in SEO it can make a really big difference.

Bio:

Joy Hawkins has been working in the Local SEO industry since 2006 and loves being a Google My Business Top Contributor. She also loves spending time managing Google AdWords accounts and has been certified in both Google Search & Display. She is also a speaker at various search engine marketing conferences such as SMX & LocalU and has a monthly column on Search Engine Land. She currently works as a the owner of Sterling Sky Inc in Uxbridge, ON, Canada. Joy’s daily responsibilities there include troubleshooting ranking issues on Google for the most complicated and difficult accounts, updating her training manual (The Expert’s Guide to Local SEO.), consulting on how to use Google products and SEO-related tools and tactics, selling and managing local SEO, social media and AdWords accounts for small business owners, and keeping up with new trends and processes in the local SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) world. You can connect with her on G+ or follow her on Twitter.

 

Andrew Shotland

Q: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year that small businesses should pay attention to?

A: I think the biggest change will be an increase in Google Ads where a lot of organic GMB results used to be. So SMBs will need to get better at buying traffic, find additional ways to squeeze organic traffic out of Google and start working new organic channels.

Q: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?

A:

  1. Claim and update your profiles on Google My Business, Yelp , Facebook, Bing and Apple Maps. These will likely be the first point of online contact between you and your potential customers
  2. Create a simple, well-made website that clearly describes your services, answers your customers top questions and has a clear call to action
  3. Build an email/text message list and experiment with using it to bring customers in the door/help you get new customers.

Q: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?

A: See above

Q: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A: More but I am biased but so is the AI that will often default to things that are near you when you ask it questions that imply local intent.

Q: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A: More people will be wearing those ridiculous goggles at the bar while I am trying to enjoy my beer.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A: Always start with a small test that when extrapolated out to a large number of locations shows potential for huge wins.

Q: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A: As important as golf is to Trump.

Bio:

In 1994, Andrew helped launch Showtime Networks first website. From there he joined NBC’s Internet division and ran NBC.com, launching some of the first TV to Web experiences. In 2003, Andrew helped launch InsiderPages which was acquired by CitySearch in 2006. Since then, he’s been helping clients big and small with this strange thing they call “SEO”.

 

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Local SEO Expert Q&A: 56 Answers on Local Marketing Click To Tweet
  • AWESOME group of Local experts – thanks for sharing their insights Rachel 🙂

    • You bet, Andy! Appreciate you taking the time to read it.

  • Always good to know Local experts insights. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Jim Froling

    Wow! Definitive remarks from many of my friends/mentors in local search. Awesome, and possibly game changing for me, post. Thank you!

    • You bet, Jim! Mentors to me as well. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Loved that article Rachel. Google keep changing things up, down and sideways and we all have to keep on top of it the best we can. I do think there will always be a need for local search. Lets see how the general release of Posts works. Could be a big tool for small business

    • Glad you enjoyed it Mark. Google does keep us on our toes! I’m interested to see how long Google Posts works/lasts as well 😉