Randy: Welcome to the Content Experience Show, I'm Randy Frisch. Anna is here with me and we are gonna break down everything you will hear over the next 20 plus minutes in this awesome podcast. If you are a local business, or you're just curious to understand how local businesses can be found because, I don't know about you Anna, but I now expect to find all my information on my Google search when I need to know where to go.
Like on my home today, I need a car wash, I'm not looking for a result. I'm looking for Google to tell me where to go, what time I can get there, all those details.
Anna: Yeah, totally. I am very much the type of person that is still super tangible, in terms of what I need in the real world. Like I know there are people who literally live off of Amazon and order everything and they're like, "Why are you going to the store? Just order it off Amazon."
Like, I love going to local businesses, I love supporting local businesses. I love like going and feeling if that shirt is awesome, and amazing.
Anna: Local search results for me are huge. I know, I'm-
Randy: I'm a little different than you on that front. I'm trying to realize why I need local searches, I think it's more for food and taste versus virtually experience somehow.
I hate going to local businesses and I feel like I'm gonna sound like a monster, who's trying to kill local business and all for online.
Anna: I really hope that, that's the quote graphic for this, is like, "Randy wants to kill local businesses"
Randy: It is like fuck business. That's gonna be [crosstalk 00:01:34]
Anna: First is the content marketing. The next is fuck local business.
Randy: Kidding aside, first of all, I do love businesses. I do love local businesses and I think it's everything that Neil's is gonna hit on in the next 20 plus minutes helps us understand how to think about search, but not from the traditional way that I think about SEO, but it's more. What do we have to populate into Google itself, so that google can inform that next step that we're gonna take. Not by directing us to a website, but by serving me information up on the Google result, which is quite fascinating.
Anna: It's great and Neil gives a lot of tips, a lot of tricks. He gets just a lot of great even how to get started on getting better at local search and how you can really optimize your profiles and how you need, not just your website, but you really need to think about Google as your second home page. So Randy, I think I brought him in, but let's go ahead and hear what he has to say.
Randy: Absolutely. Let's roll it.
Anna: Hey Neil, thank you so much for being here with us today. It's really great to have you.
Neil: Well, thank you for having me.
Anna: I'm super excited to dig in to talk about some local search, but before we do you and I got to know each other a little bit off air, but let's get all of our listeners introduced to you. So tell them a little bit about Neil.
Neil: I've been working in the local presence management spaces, sort of local search. I'm probably for about 10 years and actually had started a local analytics startup, that I ended up selling to a large public company. And then in the last two years joined as head of product for MAS, focus specifically around a search engine optimization for local businesses. And then more recently have broadened my scope to include all the products at MAS.
Anna: Nice. So I was fortunate enough to work at an agency prior to joining, Convince & Convert and that actually had a local search team. But this is something that is maybe a little bit foreign to people or maybe they just kind of lump it all under organic search. So talk to me about how you kind of define local search just so we and all of the listeners are on the same page.
Neil: Great question. So, I think if I were to take a step back and think about and talk through local search in the context of the larger SEO space. I actually don't use the term SEO that often. I actually use the word search optimization. Because really, what seems to be happening and what we're seeing in local is, because of the monetization opportunities of the local SERP. Which really if you think about it from a [routine 00:04:19] perspective is. What is the closest sort of search scenarios that lead to a transaction? Google understands that, that is local, right? Because you have folks on their mobile phones, typically when they're looking for things, they're either approximately, close to making a decision, or physically close to the location or to making a decision, taking an action.
Google is actively trying to identify and monetize those types of searches. And because of it, what we're seeing across search generally is a great amount of change and has changed from a monetization perspective. It's changed from Google testing. Testing different types of results to help users get, ultimately to the answers are looking for. And it varies across geographies and varies across verticals. And with all of that change, you can imagine if you're a local marketer trying to make sense of how do I show up, how do I compete in a search scenario? It gets very, very, complex without intelligence, without some sort of research capability to tell you here's how things are changing. Does that make sense?
Randy: Absolutely. I find this all fascinating and in a lot of what we're talking about comes from the report that MAS has put together tied to local search. I think it's called The State of Local SEO. And there was one result in there that it caught my attention. Neil, which is, I think the heading and you guys got me on the heading and it was, Google is becoming your new home page. And I think 64% of local businesses agreed with that statement. And it's funny, I was at ... And I don't know if you were at marketing [pros 00:05:49] this past year, but I was at that event, and they had a great keynote from a gentleman at Google and he talked about how the way we search on Google and what we expect is changing, right. He said, "a number of years ago, a lot of us were searching for things like show me a florist near me"
Like we could say "florists near me". And now we go to Google and we don't use the word near me anymore, because we expect the Google knows what we're talking about. It's like why the hell would I in Toronto want a florist and Phoenix, right? And I love you Neil, maybe one day we'll send flowers to each other, but there's no need for me to have that information. So I just think it's fascinating how Google is becoming that home page. And I guess that's what you're referring to by it becoming such a source for information.
Neil: Specifically around Google and in the local context, right? And there hasn't been sort of commentary in the local space around Google becoming the home. That's a common statement that I've been hearing recently and it's true, right? From a google my business perspective, if you're a local business, it is as important to have a well appointed profile on Google as it is to have your own website.
Neil: And if you look at the way Google is handling local search, in a lot of cases they're keeping the user from search to discovery and even to action. They're keeping them on the Google property itself. It's not just a gateway to your website like you would expect and a lot of other search scenarios and a lot of cases it can be the destination itself, particularly in the local context.
Randy: So with that in mind that that leads to my question because I realize I didn't ask one before and I like to keep it, we're kind of keeping it into the basics here and then after the break we're gonna get into more details here for sure.
Randy: What would you say are the key elements for local businesses to ensure that Google listing has? Like if I had a checklist of five to 10 items that I need to have, there. Like I can tell you, for me, I always want to see that they actually have a website beyond, right? Like to me that adds that next level of legitimacy. But what else has launched and be there while I'm looking on google.
Neil: That's a great question. And just specifically website, I'll just call out really quickly that some recent changes in search results in local. Google's actually removing the link took to the website in the sort of first tier of results. So if you're clicking through a set of local pack results, there used to be right next to clicking on the business profile itself a go to website that has now been sort of pushed down to the point where you actually have to be in the profile to visit the website.
So, I think while you, and I think about website as being sort of a validation that that business is real, I mean Google is trying to underline the fact they may or may not have a website, but it's still a business worth looking at because of the other factors that led to it being listed as one of the top three things you should look at it. Does that make sense?
Anna: Yeah. So then in this scenario that Google has kind of updated and changed a few things. What is something that that local business owners can do to help maintain that presence that they used to have or help really be seen and be visible and make sure that they drive to their brick and mortar store?
Neil: That's a great question. And I would say my answer is, depends on the spectrum of the proficiency that the local marketers at. So there are the very straightforward things and I was sort of didn't quite answer your question earlier, but just to get to the basics. So within the Google My Business profile, there are basic elements of, of the profile that must exist, right? So, you want to have the business name and description, you wanna have business hours because business hours we see are core parts of a result. So, in a local result, whether it business is open or not will impact the way that that result shows up. You want to also be aware that there are question and answer capabilities within Google. Whether or not the local businesses it chosen to take advantage of those.
There could be questions that had been posted by consumers on those pages. You want to have your finger on the pulse of that content and have answers to those that are possible. So Q and A more recently has become a local ranking factor. Is it broad yet? We don't know. We've certainly seen it in certain markets in certain verticals. So those things are important. And then there are aesthetic elements around imagery. People are posting the imagery. You as a business owner also can post imagery which will ensure that people get a sense of this is the real business. And then also just if you think about the richness of a profile, imagery is sort of an important piece of that.
So that's the basics. If we go further into like how do you get more and more sophisticated. Now, I would say that's where you may want to go through some exercises that I always recommend, which is in your market, in your vertical, take some time to pretend being the user, pretend to be the person on Google trying to find your business and actually run different types of searches even across different devices to find out what those search results look like.
And we use a term internally here called search typography, which is a really fancy way to say what does the SERP look like? What is the search engine result page look like? And it's very different for very different types of businesses in different geographies. And really what you want to understand is what are the elements of that experience for the searcher that could lead them to finding your business. That's the first question.
And there are lots of different paths to your business. And then the second piece is, are you there or are you not? And then, if your competitors are there, why are they there? Right? And so all those pieces come together and I would say content’s a big piece of it, right? Either content you create and have on your own website or content that you are managing on Google My Business like reviews and like Q and A, those things are fundamental. So anyway, that's sort of the spectrum of the answer from both really basics to more sophisticated.
Anna: Nice, it's so funny to Randy and I just had this conversation the other day about just even taking a step back and like what do you yourself as just a consumer or as somebody trying to find something value and find useful. And it's like even just doing that, like you had just mentioned about looking at other businesses and how they set it up and what information they have that you're looking for is huge. In addition to everything else you mentioned. Neil, this has been amazing so far.
We just have to take a super quick break to hear from our sponsors. But everybody, when we come back, we're gonna talk to Neil and dig even deeper into some of those great findings that MAS just produced from the report, the state of local SEO in 2019 so stick with us and we will be right back.
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Randy: We are back here on the Content show, we've got Neil and we're digging into local SEO. So, this report is awesome. I got my hands on it through this podcast. I always geek out on some of these findings because I just find them so interesting. You've been doing this for a long time. Maybe tell us your favorite three findings.Like the ones that kind of made you adjust your seat, check the screen, make sure the data was really what it was saying. What caught you off guard?
Neil: For sure, the reason that we conducted this report as I talked about earlier, there's a vast amount of change going on in the local search space. So with those challenges and with continual change, it also means a local marketers, their views on what's most important is changing as well. And so the purpose of the report was really to get to the bottom of how do local marketers think things are changing and where are they finding success? So there are a couple of things I was surprised about, one of the biggest ones I would say is that marketers in the local context view local as becoming more and more complex and they feel as though they don't really have a handle on all the levers that are available to them.
And some of that comes out in just sort of the way that they responded to some, some of the problems in the marketplace. One of the questions was around proximity. And what we found is that roughly a third of marketers say proximity is the top low local ranking factor. And that is a very sort of basic sense of how local search works relative to all of the other elements that would impact a search results. I thought that was pretty interesting that that marketers were kind of like understanding that while it is more complex, their understanding of it was still really at the sort of basic level and they need more information. They need more data or insight on how things are changing in a more frequent basis.
Randy: What else caught you off guard?
Neil: I would say, this was actually good, good news to me. And that was that from a local perspective, local marketing, there was this understanding that it's not just about search results. And I think if you come at local marketing with an SEO specific point of view, you can get really wrapped up in the search results themselves. And while those are a really important input to the broader picture or sort an input to the strategy for local marketer, it is not the end all be all.
What I mean by that, it is really important to understand ... The broader marketing landscape for you as a local marketer, which would include things like email, word of mouth, real world community building. The idea that if you're a local business and you sponsor, the local baseball little league baseball league, having a link that connects that sponsorship to your business actually is valuable to you, from a local marketing perspective. And it does contribute to search as well. But it was a really nice to see that, while search is an input and is important, there still was a sense that there's more activities that a local marketer needs to follow up on and sort of be aware of in order to succeed in a local context.
Anna: So, one of the things that I also found kind of surprising is that a lot of people felt that great training really isn't available for local SEO. And it guess I find that surprising because it seems like this whole host of available pieces, maybe it's just people don't know where to start. So Neil, where would people start? Where would you recommend they go for local SEO? Because actually now that I think about it, it is a lot of very sort of general organic search type of training and things like that. But what about for specific local SEO? Where can people go to kind of brush up on their skills?
Neil: It's actually kinda funny you mentioned this. If you look back probably close to 15 years at the history of MAS. We actually started, the company started as a community for learning. It actually started as a blog and the entire purpose was around learning and understanding and there was no software in the background, there was no analytics platform and so even today MAS has a community base of around 600,000 marketers and SEO experts. And that is not just a community of people that are reading content but it's made up of experts that are contributing content to particular areas of focus. And local is one off ... Because of the change and because of the monetization we talked about earlier and the rate of change it is a really, really hot topic within the community of MAS in that MAS community. And so that's a great place to start in and of itself.
And then I would say within that community, within some other content areas, like the local search association has great content as well. One of the things that, that I do recommend is take advantage of the free tools that are out there and local that can help you understand first your local presence and then you can start diving in based on your sort of appetite for complexity. You can start to dig into tools that will tell you more about search and search results. I would start there for sure.
Anna: Awesome. There's a ton of stuff out there and maybe it's just getting started and getting to know where to look. So everybody hit up MAS for all of your local SEO and local search training needs. And then Neil, where can everybody download this amazing report and get all of this awesome content that we've been talking about the whole time. It's on the MAS website, right?
Neil: It's on the MAS website. If you go to mas.com/blog it will be posted in pin sort of right near the top there. And in addition to other reports that the MAS is putting out, we have a pretty broad set of researchers that, as we're doing research we publish it pretty openly and quickly and so it's a great place to find other related content as well.
Anna: Yeah, agreed. I love all of this stuff you publish and you and the rest of the team publish at MAS. Always amazing, insightful, fantastic reports and articles. So Neil, thank you so much for being on the podcast with us. It's been really great. We do want to have you just stick around for a few minutes more. We've gotten to know you on the professional side. Now we want to kind of get to know you on the personal side, so stick around for a little bit of fun facts with Neil.
Randy: Welcome back to the Content show, now we get to know Neil outside of search. But I figured we've talked all about search let's talk about search in your own life. Okay, so I've got some lightening questions when we do this Just to run down the drill you with questions. You see like a one or two word answer and then we'll laugh about it and we'll move on. Are you ready Neil?
Neil: I am ready.
Randy: Okay. My first question in your online world, if you didn't have google, where would you search?
Neil: The public library.
Randy: Next question for you. What is the last thing you searched for on Google locally that you can remember or you want to admit to?
Neil: The last or the first thing?
Randy: The last thing you recall searching for?
Neil: So, it was specifically for a basketball game venue for my son who's in traveling basketball.
Randy: Nice, Nice. And where do you live?
Neil: Live in Seattle, Washington.
Randy: What's the best place for basketball in Seattle?
Neil: Well for a 13 year old kids, it's typically the YMCA, network of the YMCAs that are throughout the area or boys and girls clubs.
Randy: Nice. Okay, cool. So we're going to keep going here. When you're searching for a good place to eat, do you use google or do you use a different app?
Neil: I use Google Maps specifically.
Randy: Interesting. Right to the map apps.
Neil: That's right. I go straight to Maps and typically find what I can ... What I need to very quickly.
Randy: Sounds good. The precursor to research, what do you lose the most often?
Neil: I'm not sure I understand the question.
Randy: What is the item that you misplaced most often?
Neil: The item I misplaced the most often is my water bottle.
Randy: Water bottle. Nice. The next one I got for you. If you had a voice search device, are you a, hey Alexa, hey Google or hey Siri type of person. Who Do you trust?
Neil: Right now? Hey Alexa. So, Alexa is positioned throughout our home garage everywhere.
Randy: Beautiful, Awesome. Now, it was a ton of fun. It was great to get to know you, it's great to get to know how you search in your personal life. I don't know about you Anna I'm more of a Google guy. What do you kinda land on?
Anna: Siri. I'm an Apple fan girl for life. I can't help it.
Randy: I feel like you can ask that question different next time. It's like if you were stuck on an island with one of Amazon, Google or Siri, who would you choose? Right. It's like, who's going to get you off that island?
Neil: That's a better question because the answer would be different.
Anna: Siri is pretty sassy, it can at least entertain until you get rescued. Assuming you get rescued.
Randy: I don't know ... I think Google's pretty, sassy too Google's kinda got some answers built in.
Neil: I don't know if Alexa would be who I'd choose on an island. I think it would be Google, to be honest.
Randy: There's more.
Neil: I think more there for me to tap into.
Randy: There you go. Neil is naturally going back to data on this answer.
Neil: There you go.
Randy: Awesome. Thanks everyone for tuning in. I don't know where you found this podcast. Hopefully Google helped you along that way. Until next time you can find us in all the places podcasts can be found. A Google Play is one of them Spotify, Stitcher, iTunes. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning in. I'm reading Randy Frisch on behalf of Anna and I.