Local Search Tactics (Live Blog)

This was an interesting panel on Local Search which is a very hot topic in general and in the SEO community. I’ve captured some of the key points at the top and you can get the full transcript below.
Moderator: Greg Sterling, Founding Principal, Sterling Market Intelligence

Q&A Moderator: Max Thomas, President & Founder, Thunder SEO


Benu Aggarwal, President, Milestone Internet Marketing
Mary Bowling, Director of Search Engine Marketing, seOverflow
Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc.
Charles Dyer, Director of Business Development, Microsoft
Andrew Shotland, Proprietor, Local SEO Guide.com

Session Highlights:

From Bruce Clay (@BruceClayInc):

  • The Rule of 3’s – in the future you’ll need to be top 3 in SEO, Local and PPC – that’s where 90% of the traffic will flow to within 2 years
  • Randomization in the Google results and will also change based on your location, personalization, location searched and more
  • People aren’t clear that local results and organic are different – everyday people are oblivious (my word) to the difference

Benu Aggarwal:

  • Saturate organic results – optimize everything (images, maps, video, on-page, etc.). The fundamentals are still the same
  • Many people will claim to clean your listing without touching your site – you have to clean your site as well!
  • Use rich snippets and sitemaps (and include location keywords for files such as pictures and videos)
  • Be consistent in IYPs (internet yellow pages), claim your listings and don’t neglect Google’s Hotpot!

Mary Bowling:

  • Focus first on basics, then do competitive research
  • For Google Places – focus on categories that Google has already set up, especially for your first couple; only use custom categories if that search query brings up search results
  • Try to avoid non-related categories – if you’re a snow plower in the winter and a landscaper in the summer, consider having two buinesses
  • Find competitors’ local citation sources, improve your citation sources if possible (claim listing, keywords, better links)
  • Tools: Category suggestion tool – Blumenthals.org, Local Rankers at Whitespark and LocalSearchToolkit.com which scrapes local data

Andrew Shotland:

  • What tools can we use outside Google Places – review sites such as yelp, citysearch, insiderpages, yahoo local, etc. (see below)
  • Can use onlinePRnews and others to rank press releases for local queries – even for a plumber, for example
  • Use video for SEO – upload to YouTube, put keywords, put it on your site, video sitemap on your site
  • Local businesses are lonely on Social Media – if you engage them, they’re likely to respond and so will people following them

(SMX session Description: With Google reporting that nearly 30% of all queries have some type of local intent, local search is no longer just an alternative to online yellow pages. Evolving from simple business information pages that might show up on maps, businesses now have an array of tools to help improve their rankings in a wide variety of local search services. Panelists in this session discuss the current important relevance and ranking factors that any business concerned with interacting with local customers should be focusing on.)

Here’s the Detailed Transcript

Bruce Clay: according to Google 20% of all searches and 1/3 of all mobile searches had local intent
Who you are, where you are, what device you’re on will impact the results
There seems to be some randomization for local results to make it seem more organic
Same query for different cities gives you different format
Setting location then performing a keyword query is not the same as a search with a location name in search
Can optimize local – review sites are critical
The rule of 3′s – need to be top 3 in SEO, Local and PPC – that’s where 90% of the traffic will flow to within 2 years
People are confused – don’t know that Google Places and 7 Pack are not Organic
This will change the way we do SEO
Benu Aggarwal begins her talk
Focus will be on-page and off-page factors
Local search – optimize for everything – images, videos, on-page, etc. – fundamentals are still the same
Many people will claim to clean your listing without touching your site, but you have to clean your site!
On page – Page Title, H1 Tags, Local Map, Text for display address and phone numbers. Include H Cards in address – stay away from 800 number – can use but put local number
Search engines want to know that your business is interacting with local companies
Rich Snippet – small amount of code – events, reviews, etc. – is Google’s main way to index certain content – e.g. restaurants should use
Test – hotel and travel industry – what is driving traffic to my hotel?
Saturate organic search, maps search, images search
To saturate maps search – created a map and uploaded to google docs – this gives you a code – embed this code in your site – when this map shows up, the map gets views. your biz has become associated with other businesses in that location
The hotel now gets traffic from hotel searches, event searches, conventions, etc.
Mobile search – include hcards, include maps
13-14% of seach from mobile devices – make sure you have content specific to mobile seaches – huge when it comes to location or local search
Images – make sure you create sitemap.xml for images and name them for location keywords – traffic coming from image search – mobile, video, images so much easier to rank
People are still focusing on basic organic and paid but not thinking about saturating the market
infoUSA, localeze, citysearch, yelp, trip advisor, etc. are great
Hashtag for SMX is #SMX
If you have multiple businesses in one location – try to attach a different suite number
Hyperlocal – Gowalla, Places, Foursquare
Optimizing on Facebook places, foursquare, etc. is basically the same as google places
Make sure all information is accurate and consistent – start from on-page to off-page
Reviews – tripadvisor, urbanspoon, etc. important
But you can generate reviews on your own site! – Use and hcard – it works phenomenally well
Best media is your own site – make sure every point of contact helps them give reviews. negative reviews are okay. More reviews the better
Hotpot – fragmentation in Reviews Sites – solved by Hotpot
Because reviews are so important, Google started Hotpot – don’t neglect it! May be another strong player 6 months from now
#1 – claim your listing
#2 – ask customers to leave reviews
Hotpot reviews are based on your likes, your connections, your friends
Leverage all factors
Make sure site is optimized for local
Enhance Google Places account
Consistent in IYPs, directories, all sites
Saturate local search buckets – maps, images, video, social, hyper local
Watch for Google Places and Hotpot
Mary Bowling – seOverflow is next
Do the basics first – then do some competitive research
Focus first on fat head terms – dentist, plumber, plastic surgeon – then do long tail
Categories are very important for local search
dentists clean teeth
plumbers fix faucets
Pick all five categories – google allows
Pick one of their categories first and then find 1 or 2 others
Use custom categories if the query brings up local search results – don’t waste space on bad custom category
Support these categories with the right categories in other sites
Try to avoid non-related categories
If you do landscaping in summer and snow plowing in winter – set up as unique businesses
Optimize main pages for fat tail, interior for long tail
Look at competitors Places pages
– look for good categories
– custom categories
– categories pulled from other sources (try to get listed there)
Reviews – number of reviews has lost some impact but try to get number that matches average of the others
Authentic reviews are important
Anonymous reviews will become devalued
Don’t neglect HotPot
To find out where to get customers to do reviews – look at Google maps or places
Even if reviews were not a ranking factor, you still need an ongoing sustainable review process for all businesses – drown out crazies, respond to bad reviews to gain future customers, use it to improve your biz
Citations are links of local
– just need your biz name, address and phone #
– quantity matters but quality matters more
– doesn’t have to include a link to your site
– consistent data is important – inconsistency can damage rankings
Look at competitors places pages under “details” to see where they’re getting citations
Also, “more about this place”
Find most common citation sources – find golden nuggets – ignore scraper sites (that don’t have their own data)
Look at your own citations – see if you can improve your listings – claim it, get a link, alter link text, etc.
Link building for local – think about links differently
– you may normally ignore some links for search but they’ll help for local
– get links from different domains – local authortiy sites
– industry authority sites
– trusted local directories
Links help if they have location or biz name in title tag or URL
Get links to the local pages on your site – about, contact, maps, directions, reviews, testimonials, etc
Use some of that PR to push out to other directory listings
Free category suggestion tool – blumenthals.org
White spark and Onltolo – whitespark.com – top local rankers
White Spark local citation finder
Localsearchtoolkit.com – enter search term, scrapes data from sites ranking well, gives you info 

Andrew Shotland is next
What other tools can we use outside Google Places?
Think small – plenty of searches that don’t show Google Places search – Synagogues in Provo, UT – not enough local biz
Links show up on strangest places – you could provide reviews of businesses and start showing up as a data source for google
Bombs in Chicago – listing came up – salon provides a bath bomb
Top 10 review sites in google places
– yelp
yahoo local
deal rater
judys book
trip advisor
open table
but you really need to go niche by niche
Markup to show up better in google shopping – including local
Electrician in seattle – got a news result (pre farmer update) – you can still write press releases – send to onlinePRnews, etc. and rank for local queries – won’t last (stay for 3 days) but you can do it
Video is awesome for SEO – drives more click through for SERPs – video for seo still easy
– upload video to youtube
– put keywords
– put video sitemap on your site
– link to video from your site – good anchor text
– comment around youtube on popular videos – raise awareness to your videos
Like yourself, really, really like yourself
– he liked a site on backyard.com
– this started showing up in search
– if you like things on your page in search it will start showing up in facebook search
Social – if you create a facebook page – e.g. about a pop star – get people to fan it, you can show up in Bing pretty quickly for that pop star
– twitter and bing – similar
– be an authoritative user on the site
Local businesses – lonely on social media – if you start to follow them and talk to them, they’ll follow you. their followers will follow you
Barnacle SEO – attach yourself to a site that is trying to rank for something
– buy an ad on a local page – e.g. yahoo local for a region
– link to that page from your site
Draft off strong local brand queries
– new york facebook
– plumbers on twitter
– craiglist detroit
Answer life’s vexing questions
– yahoo answers
– funadvice
– answerbag
– etc.
smaller sites still get lots of traffic:
Avantar – top yellow pages site on iphone
rank for terms like “black wedding dress”
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Everything will change – so put yourself everywhere
Closing up the session
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