3 Key Tactics for Local SEO Success

Whether you have a retail presence or not, local search engine optimization is good for your business. Why? Big brands with big budgets have won the Internet, by and large. Certainly, there are a fair number of unicorns (startups with billion dollar valuations) but compared to the vast number of total companies, most startups competing for search engine placement against large brands don’t do well at the global level.

This scale advantage can be partially mitigated by becoming excellent at local search; Google has made numerous statements that local search, particularly on mobile devices, can give some advantage to smaller businesses that are closer to the querant. Thus, if you’re searching for, say, coffee, a small coffee shop that’s well optimized for local search could reasonably compete with nearby mega-brand franchises.

The same is true of any business that doesn’t serve customers at its location. If you are, say, an email marketing company, having appropriate geographic and local business data will help you win searches in your home city.

In order to effectively compete, at least on Google, for local search, you need to do three activities.

First, set up a My Business account with Google and populate it with the appropriate data. You’ll want to specify your mailing address, phone number, website URL, and any other business data you can provide. This will tell Google where you are located and bind your website URL to your physical location:


Second, tag your geo-data on your website appropriately with schema.org microdata. This involves making relatively simple edits to any postal address text on your website that declares the contents are geographic data:


Once you’ve implemented your microdata, you’ll want to verify in a few days that Google has detected it by looking in the Structured Data menu in Webmaster Tools/Search Console:


When you log in, if you don’t see the above entry, your markup data may not be correctly formatted.

Third, ensure your Google Maps listing is correct. If it’s not, use the Suggest an Edit function to fix your listing:


These three tactics must be done together in order to achieve maximum local search impact. Most organizations and competitors do one or two of them, but rarely do companies do all three. Do them well, and you’ll level the playing field a little when someone searches for you on any geo-aware device.

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Do social shares correlate at all with SEO?

Rand Fishkin of Moz wrote a fascinating Whiteboard Friday article recently, making the claim that except for the top 10% of content producers, social media sharing appears to have no impact on SEO. Go read the article first.

This struck me as a very broad claim. I wanted to see how I might find that out for my site. As with so many things in digital marketing, your mileage may vary, and I felt instinctively certain that my experience is different from the aggregate.

Using one of the many SEO tools at my disposal thanks to SHIFT Communications’ data-driven marketing technology toolkit, I took a look at my website’s inbound links vs. social shares. I did a Spearman regression with Rand’s hypothesis that there should be absolutely no correlation between social shares and inbound links.

What did I find?


Above, we see a modest positive correlation between social shares and referring domains (which are the domains that contain inbound links to my site). While it’s not amazing, it’s also not zero.

I even took a look at Rand’s own site, Moz.com (and Rand, that link with equity is on the house):


Above, an R value of 0.445 with a p value less than 0.001 is far from no correlation. In fact, it’s a moderately strong correlation.

What we’ve proven is that the aggregate statement “social has no bearing on inbound links” is an extremely broad statement. As with anything in metrics, analytics, and statistics, there is no substitute for doing your own work, with your own data, and analyzing for yourself. You can start with a hypothesis derived from a broad, aggregate statement, but do not make the fatal mistake of assuming the aggregate whole also represents your business. You’ll drive your business into the ground.

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Do you know how to measure assisted search?

What’s behind the recent resurgence of interest in search engine optimization, SEO?

Shown above: large spikes of mentions in SEO over the last 2 years

Is it because companies feel like the only channels they have control over any more are search and email? Perhaps. Certainly, moves by social networks to undercut companies’ non-paid reach have reduced confidence of marketers in social channels.

Is it because Google’s changing the rules behind search results at an ever-increasing pace? Perhaps. The menagerie of pandas, penguins, and hummingbirds certainly keep webmasters and content marketers on their toes.

There might be a third, harder to see reason: assisted search.

What is assisted search? In Google Analytics, there’s a concept called assisted conversions, things that impacted the final conversion but were not the last touch. A Tweet might not be the last thing that someone saw prior to converting into a lead, but it certainly might have helped.

Assisted search is a similar idea. Something else could have contributed to search without being the search query itself:

  • You might have driven by a billboard.
  • You might have heard about it on a podcast.
  • You might have seen a mention of a brand on a TV show.
  • You might have talked to a friend or colleague who told you to check something out.

Any of those things might have been the impetus for you to search, but no web analytics tool in existence will be able to detect it.

We all assume that SEO is once again super-important because organic search traffic is going up. What if it’s not SEO? What if it’s assisted search instead?

There’s only one way to know the answer to this question: ask people when they get to your website how they heard of you. Don’t wait for them to go buy something or fill out a form – ask up front:


This is a little 1-question custom survey I’ve got running on my site. I can take the results of this survey and compare it to my web analytics to see just how much of my organic search traffic can be attributed to assisted search. Here’s an example of the early results:


Obviously, the above is statistically invalid, laughably so, but it’s a start. I already see one out of three responses are word of mouth. One is referral, likely from the interview I did with Michael Stelzner. One is social media. Over time, more of this data will tell me just how much of my traffic is from assisted search.

Consider setting up this kind of survey (can be done with a popup or third party services like Google Consumer Surveys for Websites) on your own website so you can start measuring assisted search!

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