Reputation, Rankings, and Revenue: Navigating Local for Non-Technical People

Posted by MiriamEllis

Your local SEO agency needs new clients in 2017. Your department needs to convince management to earmark robust resources for local SEM this year. What if the only thing standing in your way is presentation?

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In the 10+ years I’ve been consulting with local businesses, I’ve watched our industry grow to absorb an incredibly diverse set of disparate-seeming tasks. The breadth of the lingo alone is on the verge of becoming a dialect of its own. Here, supporting our Moz Local product, some of my internal communications with team members read like a code, packed with acronyms, abbreviations, and shorthand references that encapsulate large concepts which, while perfectly understood between local SEOs, would likely mean little to many CEOs or local business owners. In other words: shoptalk. Every industry has it.

The ability to codify and convey a complex concept by distilling it down to its essence is critical to the art of the pitch. Tell your new lead or your all-hands meeting that the company’s NAP is inconsistent on FB and YP, their DA is weak, and their owner responses are painfully MIA and watch their eyes glaze over. Today, I’d like to help you get meaningful attention by translating your local SEO work into 3 terms that almost any non-technical party will not only understand, but care about tremendously: reputation, rankings and revenue.

How to explain the main components of local SEO

1. Guideline compliance

Step One: Determine that the business qualifies as local via Google’s definition in their guidelines.

Step Two: Adhere to all guidelines to ensure that the business isn’t spamming Google. The same applies to other major local business data platforms.

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation, in that the business conducts itself in an above-board fashion and doesn’t come across as spammy to search engines or consumers. It protects rankings in that penalties are avoided. It protects revenue in that resources are not wasted on risky practices and funds are being devoted to appropriate forms of marketing for the business model; money and time aren’t being spent on dubious work that can fall apart at any moment.

Further reading:

  • Dear SEOs: Please stop spamming Google Maps!
  • Video Deep Dive: Google Local Maps Spam, Is it Worth it?
  • Google Local Spam Hall of Shame

2. Website

Step One: Develop a technically clean website with good UX for all users/devices. If the site already exists, audit it for problems/penalties and resolve them.

Step Two: Develop the best possible website content in the business’ geo-industry.

Step Three: Properly optimize the site for local search + organic search.

Step Four: Optimize for conversions. All four goals should be a simultaneous effort.

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation in that the website delivers excellent customer service and establishes the business as an authoritative resource. It protects rankings in that penalties and filters are avoided, excellent content rises in visibility, and both local and organic results are won and held. It protects revenue in that conversions are not being lost to unsatisfactory user experiences.

Further reading:

  • Match Your Local SEO to Your Business Type with the Local SEO Checklist
  • Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages
  • Getting Local Store Locator SEO Right
  • Using the Barnacle SEO Method to Prove Local Community Awareness

3. Citations

Step One: Audit the existing citation landscape and correct inconsistent, incomplete and duplicate listings.

Step Two: Ensure listings have been developed on core local business data platforms.

Step Three: Develop geo/industry-specific citations.

Step Four: Manage citations on an on-going basis to catch emerging inconsistencies/duplicates/third party edits.

Step Five: Seek out unstructured citation opportunities (news, blogs, etc.).

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation in that the business is accurately listed in consumers’ preferred places, establishing identity and professionalism — citations are simply publishing and no business wants wrong information to be published about it. It protects rankings in that search engines’ trust in the validity of the business’ basic data is being augmented. It protects revenue in that transactions are not being lost due to the misdirection and frustration of consumers via inaccurate basic data around the web.

Further reading:

  • The Definitive List of Local Search Citations
  • Duplicate Listings and the Case of the Nomadic New Mexican Restaurant
  • Local Centroids are Now Individual Users: How Can We Optimize for Their Searches?

4. Reviews

Step One: Perfect and reinforce customer service policies and staff training.

Step Two: Implement a review acquisition strategy for key citation platforms and for the company website.

Step Three: Respond to reviews.

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation in that incoming customers derive trust from previous customers and the business’ reputation is being carefully managed from in-store service to online sentiment by the owner or agency department, including the improvement/resolution of negative sentiment via owner responses. It protects rankings by dint of surpassing competitors with a larger number of positive reviews on the major platforms. It protects revenue by winning trust-based transactions from new customers who are influenced by previous customers’ sentiment, while ensuring that neglect of negative sentiment or a simple lack of reviews isn’t turning potential consumers away. Actively managed reviews are one of the very best indicators of a responsive, reliable brand.

Further reading:

  • Diagramming the Story of a 1-Star Review
  • The Complete Guide to Creating On-Site Reviews + Testimonials Pages
  • Mastering the Owner Response to the Quintet of Google My Business Reviews
  • Survey: 8 Things That Really Cause Consumers to Complain
  • SURVEY: What Happens When Things Go South? You Lose More Customers Than You Ever Know

5. Links

Step One: Audit the existing link landscape for problem links and disavow or otherwise resolve them.

Step Two: Earn voluntary links via the publication and promotion of exceptional materials.

Step Three: Carefully seek out relevant link opportunities via safe methods such as local sponsorships, editorial contributions, or other vehicles on quality geo/industry sites.

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation in that the business is associating with the best-of-the-best and isn’t being lumped in by search engines or consumers with shady actors or practices. It protects the website’s rankings in that links are growing the brand’s renown over time, making it an active and visible competitor and proving its relevance to search engines. It protects the website’s revenue both in fostering traffic and conversions from new sources, and in utilizing allowed practices to safeguard against sudden plunges in visibility.

Further reading:

  • 11 Ways for Local Businesses to Get Links
  • The Ultimate List of Local Link Building Ideas
  • The Guide to Local Marketing with Sponsorships

6. Social

Step One: Identify the social hubs preferred by your specific geo/industry consumers.

Step Two: Based on the culture of each platform, develop a policy and strategy for participation.

Step Three: Participate on these platforms in a spirit of sharing rather than selling.

Step Four: Given that Social is an extension of customer service, monitor all social accounts for consumer needs/complaints and enact your policy for resolution.

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation in that you are both contributing to and managing the online discussion of your brand, providing accessibility in a modern vein. It protects rankings in that some social results (like Twitter) will appear directly within the organic results of search engines like Google, establishing a sense of both company activity and consumer sentiment. It protects revenue in that neglected consumer sentiment does not lead to lost transactions or permanent negative reviews.

Further reading:

  • The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Local Businesses
  • 30 Top Social Media Sites to Market Your Small Business Locally
  • Three small businesses rocking local social media marketing

7. Offline

Step One: Recognize that anything that happens offline may be published online, whether this relates to company activity driving online content development or consumer in-store experiences driving online sentiment.

Step Two: Take whatever steps necessary to create a cohesive offline-to-online experience, including branding, messaging, signage, promotions, in-store apps or kiosks, and transactional support.

Step Three: Seek out real-world opportunities for establishing your brand as a community resource via traditional methods like print, radio, and television, as well as by participation in appropriate community organizations and events.

How does it impact the 3 Rs?

This protects reputation by cementing for consumers that they will enjoy a specific type of desired experience interacting with your brand, whether on the Internet or offline — it’s all about consistency, and it carries over into reviews. It protects rankings by creating the active, real-world company culture that contributes to both your own online publication strategy and the acquisition of third-party media mentions (online news, blogs, social, etc.). It protects revenue in that the most-desired end of the funnel of all of the above is the transaction, and today, most consumers will arrive at that moment via a combination of both on- and offline influences. By being present in what Google calls its four micro-moments, revenue is safeguarded and, ideally, improved.

Further reading:

  • What Really Earns Loyalty in the Local Business World?
  • 3 Examples of Optimizing the Customer Experience
  • 13 Ideas to Make Your Business More Complaint-Friendly
  • Printing your way to SEO success

8. Other media

Depending on the business’ industry, other forms of media may contribute directly to reputation, rankings, and revenue. This could include email marketing, video marketing, or app, tool, or widget development. In essence, these are specialized forms of content development and social promotion that will need to be built into marketing strategies wherever appropriate.

Further reading:

  • For More Local Traffic Hit Play ▶ Video Marketing Mini Roundup
  • Infographic on Nuts & Bolts of Video Marketing for Local Business
  • 9 Killer Location Features for Retailer Mobile Apps
  • Video Deep Dive: Leveraging Email for Local Businesses

How much do they need to know?

I’m a firm believer in full transparency and thorough documentation of all work performed so that clients, teams, or bosses can see exactly what is being done, even if the technicalities aren’t perfectly understood by them. As you undertake the various tasks of local SEM, you’ll want to both fully detail the steps you are taking and use every available means for measuring their outcomes. That’s how you keep clients and keep your department funded.

But initially, when first presenting your proposed strategic outline, paring it down to finite goals may greatly improve your communication with industry outsiders, establishing common ground where you are seeing eye-to-eye with confidence. I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t instinctively sense the importance of his company’s reputation, rankings, and revenue, so rather than risk losing him with complex jargon at the outset, why not signal that you are on the same wavelength with the simplest terms possible?

As a fellow local search marketer, I know that you, too, have your livelihood wrapped up in the 3 Rs, and I’m wishing you a highly converting 2017!

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