Top Learnings from MozCon Local 2016
MozCon Local 2016 in Seattle was a trip to remember. Two days of being surrounded by digital marketing professionals, great food, awesome scenery and most importantly: unparalleled knowledge and learning opportunities for local search. Linkmedia 360 has been on the forefront of local search management since 2004, and our attendance at MozCon Local has further strengthened our agency’s local search knowledgebase to apply to our enterprise local search clients.
At MozCon Local, we had the chance to experience powerful and insightful presentations along with participating in small and intimate group break-out sessions with industry experts from Moz, Google, Whitespark, Local U and more! There were four top learnings we’d like to share including: link-building tactics for today’s time, citation building, local content creation and enterprise level listings.
Link Building is Overlooked and Underused
Despite the Penguin update that frightened all search marketers in 2012, links pointing to your website still prove themselves to be a top ranking factor. Removal of links is necessary if you have a manual penalty. Link building will never be what it used to be, which was easily finding cheap or free places to get a link pointing to your domain. It will always require hard work and creativity, but if executed properly, it can be extremely valuable for clients.
Mike Ramsey, a Local University faculty member, gave an interesting link building presentation about unique ways to build valuable links without appearing spammy or bought.
During his presentation, he shared an alarming statistic provided by BrightLocal, stating that only 6% of SEOs and businesses focus their efforts on link building in a normal week.
Google is looking for quantity, quality and diversity in links from a variety of sites. In regards to local SEO, we have a handful of intriguing options that involve using both a digital and physical presence.
Some of our favorite link building strategies presented at MozCon Local include:
- Local Sponsorships. If you are a local business, it is critical to have physical business visibility. Finding opportunities for local sponsorships is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Whether it’s sponsoring a sports team or getting a local Chamber of Commerce membership, these opportunities help get your business name around the town and a link on their website. This task is low effort, low cost and high impact.
- Competitive Intelligence. Use a backlink explorer tool to discover where your competitors are linking from. Use tools such as CognitiveSEO and Bulk Page Rank to determine the sources you want to target. This is great for smaller businesses. This task is low effort, low-medium cost and medium impact.
- Brand Mentions. This is one of the simplest link building tactics. Find mentions of your brand that are already floating around the web and simply ask the author to link to your website. If you are polite, most authors are willing to attribute to your business. This task is low effort, low cost and high impact.
- Alumni Relations. Use your personal or business success story to get an .EDU link. Reach out to your alma mater and see if they will run a short story about the success. If you make sure to contribute part of that success to your education, getting a story with a link should be easy-peasy! This task is low effort, low cost and high impact.
What You Need to Know About Your Citations
Darren Shaw, Founder and President of Whitespark, presented a citation investigation that has resonated in our minds when considering all local directories, citations builders, data syndicators and data aggregators. The purpose of this investigation was to discover what exactly happens when submitting new business data to different sources. We will summarize the results, but you can view the entire investigation here.
Five questions that Shaw asked during the citation investigation were:
- How long does it take for citations to appear across their distribution networks?
- How many citations show up compared to their reported distribution network?
- How long does it take for Google to automatically create a listing for the business?
- Can a business rank in local search simply by getting listed in the data aggregators?
- Can a business get any search traffic or actual customer calls simply by getting listed in the data aggregators?
After submitting to seven businesses including Infogroup, Localeze, Acxiom, Factual, Moz Local, Yext and Whitespark, Shaw waited four months. Here are the results:
Based on your client’s needs, this chart can help local search marketers determine the best route for data sharing. However, what we have taken from this investigation is that if you want to see results within the first six months, pushing local data through Infogroup, Moz Local, Yext and Whitespark will surely do just that. If you are looking for brand awareness and impressions are a priority, Yext might be your best bet. If you have a client that wants to be listed anywhere and everywhere, then Whitespark may be a good option.
Stop Writing Content for Search Engines and Start Writing Content for People Who Use Search Engines
The internet is full of mediocre, keyword-stuffed content. There are many SEOs out there that are still writing content with solely the search engine in mind. Content writers need to be mindful of the user and ensure that their content is serving them optimally. Write heading tags that are meaningful to the user, don’t just focus on how you could stuff in the highest potential keyword.
As marketers, we should aim to have our clients become an excellent source in the local space by providing supplementary, high-quality, and meaningful content to the end user. It is well known that Google puts an emphasis on user behavior in regards to search rankings. Therefore, our content needs to be content that people want to share, like, click and comment on; content that people read through and use rather than drop off or bounce.
Two results that you should focus on as a local content writer are engagement and attraction. Attracting the right customers and keeping them engaged is what will boost your search rankings. Some things that can improve your content include real photos, reviews and testimonials, in-depth content, pricing information and prominent calls to action.
Perfect NAP Audit = Unicorns
Enterprise local listing management can be excruciatingly daunting to say the least. Populating a syndication spreadsheet can have many of us wanting to pull our hair out by the end of the day. The first step to a successful local campaign is educating the client on local search and setting their expectations quickly. They should not expect to see any results within the first three months of the campaign, especially if there are a lot of accuracy and consistency challenges to overcome.
During MozCon Local, Cori Shirk compared a perfect NAP audit to a unicorn. It doesn’t exist.
When working at an enterprise level with hundreds of listings, it is more important to be purposeful than perfect. Spend your time filling out every section of every spreadsheet. Don’t rush because every column counts. When filling out a spreadsheet, it will help to keep in mind the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why.
- Who? Name, address, phone number and business logos.
- What? Business categories.
- When? Store hours.
- Where? Latitude and Longitude, neighborhoods, town centers, shopping malls and nearby landmarks.
- Why? Business description.
Every section of a spreadsheet provides value to the end user. Users are seeking information about local businesses and it is our job to provide them with the most information possible. Work on being listed on popular review sites such as Facebook and Yelp. Facebook still has parent-child pages, which are great for local listings and multi-location businesses. Reviews are one of the most common behaviors in the local space. That means maintaining your review platforms is critical.
Think Outside of the Local Box
Linkmedia 360 is always striving to stay up-to-date and educated on the latest industry trends. That is why we attend multiple conferences each year focused on digital marketing services. The main takeaway from MozCon Local 2016 is that there is so much more to Local SEO than what most marketers focus on. Accuracy and consistency are critical to the success of a local campaign; however, these components should not be the only focus. To take your Local SEO to the next level, you must start thinking outside of the box.
The strategies described in this post are a great foundation for taking your local listings up a notch. From unique link building, to content for people, to the data aggregators you use, these types of tasks will provide the purposeful work your Local SEO campaign needs to be a leader in the local space.