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The Post-Google Local Survival Guide
What are you focusing on in your local SEO efforts? Columnist Andrew Shotland argues that fixating too much on Google My Business could be a waste of time.
Ask any local SEO worth their salt, and they will tell you that the Pigeon algorithm update has been a kind of big shift in local search results. Traditionally, when an algorithm update causes a major shift in the SERPs, SEOs adjust their strategy and tactics accordingly.
Consider this: we had a single location client that was a major winner post-Pigeon. Yet, when they shot up in local pack results for all their major terms, we didn’t see a significant increase in traffic to their site. Here are the referrals from their Google My Business (GMB) page pre- and post-Pigeon:
Forty (40) visits on a good day is nothing to sneeze at, but when you compare it to the non-GMB organic traffic they are getting, it seems like small potatoes. Here’s the organic traffic to their non-homepage URLs, which we’ll use as a proxy for non-branded traffic:
The above represents just their long-tail local organic traffic, and it’s at least twice as much as they are getting from Google My Business, despite high rankings in the local pack results.
But Andrew, you say, you’re conveniently ignoring phone call data, and our clients are in a vertical that gets significant call volume from the local pack results!
If that’s true, then brace yourself — because things may be getting ugly. Google recently rolled out a local Carousel replacement that I have dubbed the “fanny pak.” If this display rolls out to your vertical, then you are SOL because for some bizarre reason Google has elected not to show phone numbers in the results:
It’s not clear whether the no-phone-number convention will remain. Google seems pretty happy to keep rearranging its local results on a fairly regular basis these days.
But since it’s Google’s world and we just live in it, I suggest diversifying your SEO strategies before you lose a major lead channel. To that end, here are five quick tips for adjusting your local search tactics in this post-Pigeon world.
1. Always Do A Site Audit
I can’t tell you how many times we surface major SEO issues in our audits. We just got called by a multi-location law firm this week who claimed to “know SEO,” and they had no clue that they had duplicates of every page on their site in Google’s index.
Another client told us we were the first SEO company that ever had asked them to do anything to their site besides update title tags.
Sites that have been blocked in robots.txt or redesigned and lost all their traffic are going to put my girls through college. And SEO companies that rely 100% on off-page tactics are putting their clients at risk and missing out on opportunity.
Fixing site SEO issues can translate into quick wins while you are working on an off-site plan. If you don’t already have one, my colleague Dan Leibson has put together a great local SEO audit template to get you started.
2. Optimize Your <title> Tags
Here is a quick tip. Use a tool like SEMrush to figure out the various keywords that pages on your site are ranking for.
If a page isn’t ranking #1 then you should consider looking to see if that term is in the <title> tag. If not, add it. And make sure they are still optimized for humans. If you need an example of what that means, check out these 50 examples Phil Rozek gives.
3. Go For The Page Two Bump
From my almost 7(!)-year-old post, The Page Two Bump:
1. Look at the keywords that are sending you good to ok traffic.
2. Check your site’s rank in Google for each keyword.
3. Note all of the keywords that are on page 2 of Google and pick the one that is sending you the most traffic. Let’s call this the “Bumpword.”
4. Increase the internal linking to the page the Bumpword ranks for. At the very least link to it from somewhere on the home page. Make sure you use a variation of the Bumpword in the anchor text that links to the page.
5. Sit back, let the crawling and indexing begin and get ready to say hello to page one.
4. Create Great Content
Don’t know what that is? We like to use SEMrush to look at competitors’ sites and see if there are pages driving traffic/rankings that our clients don’t have on their site.
We also are a big fan of regularly adding content to client location pages to make them feel “fresh” to Google. No in-house content writers? Consider using a service like Zerys to find great writers to help you realize your content dreams.
5. Get Reviews
In our experience, it’s really hard to get clients to invest themselves in obtaining reviews. We almost always recommend using a service like Customer Lobby or Get 5 Stars in order to better help them integrate review gathering into their day to day business process (see this list of top Local SEO Tools for more review services).
Also, if your client has a vetted email list of happy customers, consider using Facebook Power Editor to import the list into Facebook and run ads to the Facebook users in it asking for a review and linking to the review site.
And make sure you get some of those reviews on your site. Not only do testimonials help with conversions, but they can add valuable keywords to your pages that you can rank for.
Of course there are many other places to look. Do something great and earn some links. Write a post on Search Engine Land or Mesothelioma Land or Plastic Surgeon Land (or whatever “land” you’re in).
When you free your mind of fixating on your Google My Business rankings, you can find that there’s a lot more traffic out there for the taking.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.