Today we feature Mike Bluementhal’s seven answers to seven questions from our exhaustive local SEO expert Q&A featuring 56 answers from some of the top local SEO experts.
Q 1: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year (2018) that small businesses should pay attention to?
A 1: 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 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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 3: 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 3: 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 4: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?
A 4: 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 5: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?
A 5: 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 6: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?
A 6: 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 7: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?
A 7: 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.
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.