Local SEO Expert Q&A: 7 Answers from Rand Fishkin

Local SEO 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 office with one physical location. Let’s say Milwaukee for sake of this example, that sells small business accounting services. But you don’t just sell those services to people in Milwaukee, you also sell them to people in nearby cities like Germantown, Cedarburg, and Waukesha.

Your top goal has always been to rank as high as you can for local searches related to “small business accounting” in the Milwaukee and 25 mile surrounding area. Then, one day, Google decides it rather make the results more localized and show offices with physical locations in the cities mentioned above that you don’t have a physical office in. Your Milwaukee small business accounting firm that once ranked well in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, a 45 minute drive away from Milwaukee, has now disappeared completely with only local offices in Cedarburg appearing.

Talk about soul crushing.

Below are seven answers featured from local SEO expert, Rand Fishkin, who among some of the top local SEO experts in the online marketing field today answered 56 questions on local marketing.

Below are seven local marketing questions and answers from Rand:

Q 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?

A 1: 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 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?

A 2:

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 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?

A 3: 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 4: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?

A 4: 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 5: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?

A 5: 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 6: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?

A 6: 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 7: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?

A 7: 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.

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Rand’s 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.