Local Search – More than a Location: What I Learned at SearchFest 2014

By May 1, 2014Uncategorized


The third session I attended at this year’s SearchFest in Portland was, “Local Search – More than Location, Location, Location.” This was probably my favorite session of the day as they not only offered up some really great tips for getting to the top of the first page of search results for local searches, they also discussed some ways of standing out once you’re there.

The main takeaway from this session was: While there are a lot of basics steps, and rules to follow in order to do local SEO right, there is room for creativity as well.

First the presenters spoke a bit about what Local SEO is and what a site looks like when it’s optimized for local search.

Some Best Practices for On-Site Local SEO:

  • Location & Service area pages – interlink them.
  • Use geo-keywords on pages (city + business, city + service).
  • Always have city in title tag, H1 tag, text, etc.
  • Have name, address, and phone number -NAP- (local business schema) on every page.

Some Best Practices for Off-Site Local SEO:

  • Links: important, but not the most important, don’t need a million links to rank well, need a couple of solid ones.  Have the business name in the anchor text, or geo-keywords + business name.
  • Citations: your NAP showing up on directory sites.  The problem with these is there is a lot of mess (avoid duplicate citations).
  • Customer reviews: on relevant sites that link to your website (ex: Yelp)
  • Local sites are interconnected, meaning Google is sharing information across sites.
  • Use local phone numbers whenever possible – not recommended by Google.  Don’t use P.O. Boxes.
  • Upload a ton of photos to Google+ page.
  • Make sure rel=author is on your websites, to get authorship.  Use real human beings in your pictures on Google+.

Some Best Practices for Service Area Businesses Local SEO:

  • Create a page on your site for each area of service – try to find a local address (ex: attorneys put the address of the local court house) to put on that page.
  • Regularly update content on pages with geo-keywords – most local sites do not update themselves very much.
  • Make sure you’re using relevant terminology to the local audience (ex: “pop” vs. “soda”)
  • Don’t forget Apple Maps (default for mobile devices besides Google’s)
  • Upload photos to Yelp or Apple Maps (not sure – but photos are pulled into both) to make sure you are display good quality pictures that represent the brand well.
  • Submit an update to all the providers of Apple Maps instead of “Reporting a Problem”, more likely to actually get it updated.

So now that we understand what local SEO is and we have some tactics for improving your site’s standings in local search, what do you do next?  The question no longer is how do I show up, but how do I stand out?

Recommendations for Improving Local SEO – Beyond the Basics

What’s the next step?  Getting into the business:

  • Hang out at a customer site for a day
  • Go to coffee shops and eavesdrop on local customers
  • Talking to clients (show us the emails, phone calls you get, let us talk to who’s walking in the door)

Recommendations to Make Your Brand Stand Out in Local Search

1. Create a referral army

  • Referrals are the best kind of marketing
  • Example: using a hashtag across all channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) lets customers use that hashtag when they want to advocate for you.

 2. Be where your customers are

  • Find Twitter info, start following those members.
  • Figure out if customers are talking about you online, what are they saying? What other things do they like?

 3. Learn regional differences

  • The same ad will not perform as well between different cities, segment by city and check the CTR to see where the ad is performing the best.

 4. Understand your customer’s lifecycle

  • Paid and organic search work well together, they can.
  • Retargeting (ex: someone who fills out a form for an oil change, remarket to them in 3 months when they will need another one)

 5. Not all neighborhoods are created equal

  • Get the data in Settings à Locations à View Location Reports

 6. Use ad extensions

  • Hugely successful for local search


Questions and Answers Portion:

Q: How can you claim review sites for companies with automated phone messaging.  Issue was with CitySearch.

A: Turn it off or try a post card message.  Forget CitySearch – good luck!


Q: What about businesses with an address that is similar to another or the same address?

A: Make sure you have a separate phone number, everything else should be just fine.


Q: How to deal with customers that don’t want to have anything to do with Yelp

A: Doesn’t matter what the business owner wants, it matters what the customers want to do – if customers want to review them there, you should be there (responding to negative reviews).


Q: Unstructured citations, how to best deal with these?

A: Unstructured citations are mentions of the business name, or address, or phone number, on a page that isn’t a directory type listing.  These are actually good to have.  If someone doesn’t want to give a link, getting an unstructured citation/mention in an article is good too.


Q: Do review responses improve SERP’s?

A: Not sure, but would guess yes, because Google likes recently updated content.  Have a review generation strategy that is ongoing.  People will look through all reviews to find a negative review and if you haven’t responded that will look bad.  People expect to see negative reviews – it freaks them out when there aren’t any bad reviews.


Q: Going direct to the data providers, have you had success with that?

A: Yes, you can get a trusted account with one of these providers (Axiom, Localese, etc.).


Q: Google Map Maker community – is there a way to stop Google from updating these listings

A: Sometimes your fixes work, but sometimes they don’t.


Q: Pinterest just introduced location pin – is that having an impact?

A: Yes.  Pinterest is pulling all of it information from FourSquare.


Other Resources:


http://seogadget.com/fullcontact-api-excel/ – $90/month plug in an email and you get all of their other contact info.

Zoe Huden

Author Zoe Huden

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