15 miles away. That’s the furthest people want to go when they’re looking for a local resource. So how can we dominate local search?
We invited several experts to discuss winning tips on local search:
• Jerry Campbell, Brand Strategies at 7-Eleven (JC)
• David Hunter, Google My Business expert at dbaPlatform (DH)
• Chris Silver Smith, Reputation Management at Argent Media (CS)
• Moderated by Bernadette Coleman, CEO and Founder of Advice Local (BC)
BC: Every business needs a Google My Business Profile, and it’s changing every day. How are you keeping up with all these new changes? How do you decide where to spend your time? What’s most important?
JC: I’m fortunate to have retail clients on one end and own a small business myself. I’m a little bit obsessed with it. I’m always paying attention. Google realized around 2015 that they made more money when people stayed on Google.com. I knew I had to take their suggestions based on the emails they send as a deeper meaning to read between the lines.
BC: Spam is rampant online! Between inaccurate information and bad reviews, how do you combat those challenges as a small business so that you as a real business can rank higher in search?
CS: There are a lot of online reviews that go unchecked to ensure the person on the other end is an actual customer. Increasingly, the government is taking a look at the issue with fake reviews. I don’t know what the solution is right now except always staying on the up-and-up. Win in the long run by doing the right stuff the right way.
BC: Google allows you to report a fake review, and they are taking them down. [Advice Local] has implemented Google Spam Reviews as part of our workflow.
JC: My team is responsible for manually filtering out authentic reviews.
CS: Do you have a monitoring software to help you manage all the locations?
JC: Yes! It gives us reviews, comments, and complaints for over 8,000 stores all across Canada and the United States. We then leverage that data to see what our customers want.
BC: I typed “7 eleven near me” in my phone. How do you manage which locations show certain icons to ensure people know which location they’re visiting?
JC: We have a loyalty program that takes customer information and personalizes the experience to that customer. So, if you’re looking for a 7-Eleven with a gas station, it will show that. It’s a way to build loyalty. We want to build that loyalty to get those customers back. 7-Eleven is an iconic brand, but I want to get the Gen-Z population. Overall, digital services is a big part for the customer. You have to be where the customer’s at.
BC: You have a client who has a small business. They want to be on the map. There are only a few spots. What do they need to do if they want to be able to rank?
DH: There’s a number of different things. Engaging with what Google’s toolset offers. Use every one of them! Messaging, photos, posts, reviews. And do it consistently! Google really wants you to respond to every review. And do it quickly! No more than 72 hours. They want to see engagement. Post a new photo every 7 days. Google seems to love to measure things in 7-day and 90-day timelines. Those seem to do quite well.
If you have that mix of services into one, you’re going to genuinely outrank your competition. Google doesn’t care about a lot of 5-star reviews. They just want you to get reviews and respond to them. Proximity, Prominence, and Relevance. There’s nothing really you can do about proximity. But prominence and relevance, you can do something about.
CS: Google is focusing on EAT: expertise, authority, and trust. When you think of a business, you’re thinking about how much you trust them. If Google is taking into account links that may have nofollow, it could still use it to pass on trust and authority. For example, being linked from Better Business Bureau.
BC: A trick for posting on Google My Business: If you post it as an event, it won’t go away in 7 days. It’ll stay for the year!
BC: How do you optimize thousands of Google My Business Profiles?
JC: We have a social media content team that manages that for the company. At the end of the day, it’s all about the brand, and corporate owns that brand. So we take care of that for all 8,000 locations.
BC: How important are reviews to rankings on Google My Business?
CS: Reviews indirectly help. It affects your engagement rate. The more click-throughs you get, the more request for driving directions, those are directly linked to how many reviews you have. The keywords, though, that are in the reviews are really valuable. That can allow you to put a lot of people’s names, product names, etc. into the listing.
BC: When you’re asking for the review, you can also ask people to include the name of the product or service, the city, and the state.
DH: One of their newer features is the Q&A. They didn’t do a lot of homework on it, but they seem to be leveraging quite a lot of it. You can actually ask the business owner the question you want to ask, and you as the business owner can answer the question. This seeds it into the listing. Ask that question, give it a thumbs-up, and it’ll move up.
BC: Talk about attributes! How do those things help a business listing?
JC: You don’t want bad reviews saying you’re not handicap-friendly. You also want to be able to say that in your reviews. You want that to pop up. That’s part of our marketing strategy.
DH: They work really well with schema markup, too. Even your reviews can go in it. That improves your authoritativeness. You can make a big difference.
BC: Does traditional SEO still matter?
BC: Let’s talk about voice search. Fact check and asking for directions. How important is voice search for 7-Eleven right now?
JC: Top priority. We’re a digitally native company and we want to meet the customer where they’re at. If that’s what customers are demanding, we have to move in that direction.
BC: What do you do if you want to be schema markup ready?
DH: Make sure you include it in your website’s code. Name, address, phone number, website, consistent feedback and engagement.
BC: You have to make sure your data is correct so that it pulls in the right information from one of the 14 websites that feed into voice search. If you’re not putting your information out there on these directories, you won’t be found.
CS: One thing you can do is focus on “near me” searches. There are quite a few businesses where people are looking for things close to them. The trick is to incorporate a phrase like “near me” and different variances of that phrase. “Near me,” “by me,” “close to me” etc.
BC: There are also more tabs on a phone on Google My Business on mobile vs. on desktop. Make sure you fill in as much content as possible. For example, on mobile, there’s a place to put a list of your services and fill in your description for each.
BC: How many categories can you add to your Google My Business Listing?
DH: 5 right now. You have to be careful with selecting categories though, but you may de-rank yourself because you put your business in another kind of category. You have to consider the competition and how they’re ranking, too.
Also, if you go to the Info tab, click on the pencil icon to edit your listing. When you hit save, it will send Google Mobile Crawlers back to your website almost instantly.
(From the crowd): How do you feel about 1 business with multiple services (or even operating under different names) having more than 1 Google My Business Listing?
DH: You have to be careful with that. You have to have 2 different categories, phone numbers – it can be very tricky. I don’t recommend it.
(From the crowd): What’s the best way to optimize for an online business?
DH: A service-area business is your best bet.
(From the crowd): People are confusing my business with a business of a similar name. We’re getting a lot of bad reviews because people are confusing us. How do we combat that?
DH: Outrank them!
JC: Push your stuff to the top!