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Local SEO with Mike Blumenthal

Welcome to Search Talk Live, search engine optimization and marketing experts, Robert O’ Haver and Matt Weber, powered by the Robert Palmer family of companies.

[00:00:10] Applause

Robert O’Haver [00:00:12] Right. Welcome back to another episode of Search Talk Live. I’m your host Robert O’ Haver along with Matt Weber. Matt, how are you?

Matt Weber [00:00:21] I am doing fantastic. Good to be back home.

Robert O’Haver [00:00:23] Yeah. I want to take a brief second to let everybody know, that, you know, the recent hurricane we came through. We dodged a bullet here in Florida, but you know, our prayers go out to those people that live in the Bahamas and I want to just mention that, uh.

Matt Weber [00:00:43] And you and I were ready to do the show, I mean we had our raincoats. We had our deep boots on. We had the generator here; we had the coal, charcoal ready.

Robert O’Haver [00:00:55] Charcoal?

Matt Weber [00:00:55] For the fire? In case of the electricity and we had to eat right?

Robert O’Haver [00:00:58] Oh, yeah yeah.

Matt Weber [00:00:59] But last minute we decided to cancel it for safety, because really Charles didn’t want to do it. You and I were in but Charles didn’t want to do it.

Robert O’Haver [00:01:07] Yeah. So I want to thank everybody for listening to the show, we have a huge following and listeners. We are getting a lot of good comments and e-mails back, saying how much they love the show. And I just want to thank everyone for supporting the show, supporting our sponsors, AHREFS or HREFS.

Robert O’Haver [00:01:27] IT’S A H A A H R E F S. com. And along with our other sponsors, we really appreciate your sponsorship. And we also want everyone to check out those guys if you haven’t used their services. Let me tell you Matt, you can speak for it.

Matt Weber [00:01:46] We lean on them every day.

Robert O’Haver [00:01:48] Every day.

Matt Weber [00:01:49] Every day.

Robert O’Haver [00:01:49] So much data. Sometimes, you’re like wow. You know, but uh. All right. So let’s get back to the show. Today, we’re going to be talking about local search. One of the things, I mean we do harp, we do do quite a bit of shows on this. But I think it’s really important, because there’s so many different views and things that you don’t get from one person. So I mean we get. We want to do, you know, at least, once a quarter something about local search.

Matt Weber [00:02:19] So I think it’s one of the least understood parts of Search Engine Marketing.

Robert O’Haver [00:02:24] It is, it is definitely. And there’s, there’s so many you know, I still see to this day, so many old school techniques that were done like five, ten years ago, that just don’t work anymore and people don’t really understand. I think it’s just out of not having knowledge about the topic, you know, or their, the skill set. So I know, and you plus you get a lot of website owners that kind of take it upon themselves to save money, and it just you know, they find something on the web. And of course everything on the web is true, right?

Matt Weber [00:02:58] Right. Well fortunately, today we have the man.

Robert O’Haver [00:03:01] Yes, yes. Today our guest, he is an author, well known in the industry. He’s- he’s got one of the most respected blogs on Google Maps and local search and he’s also the co-founder of getlisted.org. But I’ll let you tell him about himself because he is an expert on himself. Mike Blumenthal, Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Blumenthal [00:03:29] Thank you for having me. So I’m the co-founder of local you and gather up get listed was David Mihm’s company that he sold to Moz that became Moz’s local. I did help him beta test that and certainly helped him sort of conceive of it, but I wasn’t a founder of getlisted.

Robert O’Haver [00:03:47] Oh.

Mike Blumenthal [00:03:47] We did jointly start Localyou together though, so, our names are often associated with each other. Localyou is a digital training for agencies and small businesses. We travel around the country; we do a weekly podcast. In fact, we have an event for September 19th. Tickets go…(Inaudible)

Robert O’Haver [00:04:18] We’re getting a bad connection here. You started sounding like you’re talking through a fan blade. I don’t know what happened.

Matt Weber [00:04:26] Great to have Mike on the show though, really one of our top names in local search.

Robert O’Haver [00:04:30] Yeah. I’m sorry I pulled that information from SMX’s website on your bio.

Mike Blumenthal [00:04:37] OK OK. Can you hear me..(inaudible)

Robert O’Haver [00:04:39] I mean, not really good.

Robert O’Haver [00:04:43] Let’s try. I’m going to call you right back on Skype.

Mike Blumenthal [00:04:46] I’m going to-

Robert O’Haver [00:04:49] What’s that? All right, guys.

Robert O’Haver [00:04:58] Matt, you want to fill the dead air real quick?

Matt Weber [00:05:02] Yeah, I’d like to tell everybody about an event that’s coming up. It is Thursday. If you’re in the Orlando, Central Florida area, I’m going to be doing a special session on Google ads. And it’s at the National Entrepreneurs Center in Orlando at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall and it’s at 9:00.

Matt Weber [00:05:18] It’s 30 dollars to register and it’s two hours of packed information on Google ads and you can find more information under events at ROARwebsite.com , ROARwebdesign.com.

Robert O’Haver [00:05:31] Mike can we hear you?

Mike Blumenthal [00:05:32] I am here. Can you hear me?

Robert O’Haver [00:05:35] Yes perfect. OK. So go back. Can you go back through telling us about yourself again? I’m sorry.

Mike Blumenthal [00:05:41] Sure. So I was born and bred in upstate western New York, small-town south of Buffalo. I started a Web hosting company and designed in 2001, got into local search, 2006. 2010, I founded Localyou with a number of partners – Mary Bolling David Mihm, a number of others. And 2013, I founded GatherUp, which at the time we called GetFiveStars, which is an online solution to help local businesses engage productively with the world of reviews, by gathering them more efficiently, leveraging them for management insights, and then also leveraging them for their marketing and content strategy.

Robert O’Haver [00:06:27] Very nice. So let’s get into it, where do you want to start? Now, actually, before we get too much into it, I would like you to tell about the case study you kind of told me about previously with the customer. I think that is very fascinating and I think it would be a good thing for people to hear.

Mike Blumenthal [00:06:45] So, I ride my bike to work every day and I noticed a new business had opened where a restaurant had previously, Caro’s it was – it was a restaurant. And this was a restaurant location that had three restaurants at it in the last four years and this new one opened and they had a Facebook only presence. So I was very curious to see if they would allow me to help them create a Google complimentary Google presence, no Web site, no other citations and to see if – to see if- they would be able to generate more leads with Facebook or more leads with Google, if they would be able to live without a citation campaign. Because there was a lot of NAP confusion at that physical location because there had been multiple restaurants there prior to them and to see whether we could rank reasonably well because they are sort of just outside the edge of town. Even though it’s a small town, there’s a lot of restaurants, there’s probably 80 or 90 restaurants, because we’re the only city, if you can call it that, in about 50 miles. So there’s a lot of restaurants to compete with. So we started off by claiming their Google listing. This was in June of 2018 and I built them a Google My Business web page, shortly thereafter, and historically people thought that Google My Business web pages couldn’t rank. But this one ranked within six weeks, with no link, just showed up in the search results for breakfasts in town. I trained her how to do Google posts and for the first or so the first three or four months, all she did was Facebook posts and Google posts. She was posting on Facebook, probably three times a week, maybe once a week at Google and during that period in tracking conversions. And for her we are checking KPIs, we define driving directions and click the calls which are the only data we could get, as the primary KPI is from either Facebook or Google. During the first three months, she got probably three times as many of those driving directions and phone calls from Google, as she got from Facebook.

Mike Blumenthal [00:08:58] We then, so it was a pretty clean setup, right? There was no Web site for Google to look at. She had no citations, because she was brand new. She only had a Facebook presence, so Google didn’t know much about her. And yet within a fairly short period of time, they were ranking – she was getting some fair bit of traction. So that fall, last fall, we added menu items forth. I was thinking, that perhaps having the detail in the Google My Business Web site with all our menu items would increase our rank.It had zero impact. Around probably, meanwhile she was seeing some increased traffic and she was continuing to get seven to ten times the leads from Google, then from her purely organic Facebook presence, right? She wasn’t advertising on Facebook; she wasn’t boosting. She wasn’t doing any targeting; she was just posting. She had a fairly loyal following, number of people that would share her things. It was fairly active but still she wasn’t seeing many leads that we could track or that Facebook was sending to her.

Robert O’Haver [00:10:06] Yeah.

Mike Blumenthal [00:10:07] The man who had zero impact. I thought it would have some impact, but in December, Google added a little of an ability to manipulate the title tag of the Web site through the Google My Business web page. It’s a single page websites. They’re fairly unsophisticated. No ability to control metadescription, for example. They sort of just grab the top first page, one or each two out of the page. Used as a metadescription. But they did finally had the ability to control the title tag. We did, just added the word restaurant, the city, breakfast and lunch and that immediately left her with with – increased her rank in particularly in the breakfast and both short tail and long tail terms.

Mike Blumenthal [00:10:51] It sort of quadrupled her web site, her visibility and in search, instantly just by controlling the title tags. So that was December and in mid-January. She is a small restaurant she serves maybe 20, 25 meals, breakfast 20, 25 meals, lunch right. She doesn’t have a huge budget, had no way to gather email addresses or to easily ask for reviews. So we had just built a new feature, gather up, called text back, which essentially allows the client or the customer frequenting the spot to be restaurant to text a quick little message to our system and it starts the feedback and review process. So we built her some tent- tents for the table with calls to action. I put them on the countertops and on the tables and she started getting reviews, first and third party reviews, using this text back system. She’d have somebody new come in, she’d mention the feature, they’d be able to point their phone at and instantly start the review process. She was able to start, she was able to get you know, she’d gotten a few reviews prior to that but her reviews really started ticking up. I can’t remember the exact number but it went from four to like thirty in a couple months. That was an interesting experiment, on a number of levels but what we saw was a slight increase in-in keyword exposure, but improvement on the longer tail keywords, particularly. In other words, the ones that were in the thirty, forty, fifty position were consistently moving up. So she was continuing to get increased exposure still getting 10x. Now remember we did no citation building for her, we didn’t clean up the citations and the citations were totally a mess because there had been three restaurants there prior. So one of the learnings in this is that citations are not structured citations at the multitude of sites that people use have little to no ranking impact in and of themselves. And even having NAP confusion while it’s not recommended doesn’t seem to hold a site back. So those are two interesting learnings in this that we tested and it’s not to say that- that you know, that it’s ideal but it doesn’t have any very very big impact, reviews at this point had a significant impact. And then in June I wrote up a case study for her and gather up, and a case and a summary of it at Blumenthal’s. So, she got her first two links, had no links prior to this and instantly again, we saw a big jump both in pack results and organic results or around a couple of phrases that we were targeting- all day breakfasts, lunches those sorts of things.

Robert O’Haver [00:13:49] So what would you say was the majority of the traffic? Was it from the pack or was it from the post that you were – ?

Mike Blumenthal [00:13:57] Well interestingly, while similar, I don’t have the exact date but what we saw was users shifted over at least in the restaurant, segment to using Google maps. So the bulk of her traffic is actually coming from Google Maps, not, thats discovery and recovery traffic both, not from the pack or from organic. She’s getting some from organic and some from the back but the bulk of it appears to be coming from Google Maps, which was shocking to me because historically Google Maps has not provided the user experience or the search ability, but in the restaurant world Google has put a lot of effort into improving their results and people are starting to use it for discovery. So, she was finding she was getting visitor, out of town visitors, looking for the best breakfast restaurant. She was getting those kind of folks, so surprisingly, the bulk of that was coming and is coming from Google Maps.

Matt Weber [00:14:51] So thats a lot to unpack in that case study, certainly among the topics we want to pursue is the death of citations. There’s an awful lot of people listening to the show that spend a good deal of time doing citation building. But then secondly the other thing that you didn’t do with her, Mike, is you didn’t put her into the data aggregators, which was also one of the conventional – you got to do this, to make sure that you rank. What’s your thought on, where are the data aggregators now in the role of Google My Business ranking in the local pack?

Mike Blumenthal [00:15:21] So, most of the data aggregators have gone by the wayside. Axion sold their product locally, it’s not much and factual it sort of doesn’t really do that. They do more data analysis, doesn’t really do aggregation much anymore, so the only aggregator worth anything is InfoUSA, Infogroup. And what I discovered was that through her phone number, through getting a local phone number, she some- she showed up there, she didn’t even do an entry there. So, they discovered her fairly early on. I see Infogroup particularly for new businesses, as a valuable thing, because I know Google still looks at them for validation, not necessarily for rank. So yeah, I mean structured site – I went back and read a post from 2006, I did, on the attributes of a restaurant that was ranking well. And back then Google didn’t – we didn’t call them citations, just before David Mihm named him in 2008. They were called by Google, web references, and they were surfaced in the graph, the knowledge graph, whatever they called it back then, the local business listing. Those Web references were surfaced and I catalogued them and what I found were review sites with reviews. I found some citation sites; I found articles, New York Times, those courts, sorts of things. So when I see citations, the citation itself, and as I noted in the article; it was likely that the low value citations would ultimately be normalized out of the system. Right.

Mike Blumenthal [00:17:03] So the thing about a citation, I think people need to understand is it only helps you in ranking if the citation itself adds value to the listing. Right. And that could be for example, a Yelp page with a lot of reviews on them. Yelp will rank that page highly, that will contribute to your ranking local. But just having a Yelp listing is of little consequence and certainly having a listing at sites less important than Yelp, you might as well you know, not waste your time, so having reviews on a site, having articles and newspapers, having local mentions, those are all citations that were visible back then that are still valuable now. And any citation where you can influence its rank in some way and have it move up in page prominence is a valuable citation. So it’s not that citations aren’t valuable, but the idea that you’re going to pay some subscription fee to feed your listing to 40 directories. It’s really a meaningless exercise these days, particularly for single location business.

Matt Weber [00:18:09] So if you’re taking notes –

Mike Blumenthal [00:18:13] (Inaudible) .. adding value to a big chain because they don’t, aren’t able to keep a canonical list of their locations, so it may add value in that sense. Or maybe a company that has a lot of locations, changed your hours frequently, it might add value in that sense, but it has no value as a ranking tool or very little value. So even NAP confusion. So I went and finally left about a month ago, actually two weeks ago, cleaned up some of the NAP confusion that was out there, the many restaurants that had been at the same location and so far we haven’t seen an impact rank or visibility at all. So even that Google’s new knowledge graph seems much more stable, much less influenced by bad data. You have to realize that the idea of-of cleaning up a messy NAP came from the fact that Google used to rebuild their index every six weeks using organic results. And if you never knew when a confusing citation might influence that new result inappropriately, so the only way you could control that was by making sure they were clean. But after Google switched the knowledge panel, the authoritative nature of that listing sort of became fixed in the database and it was much less likely that – that some errant web listing would goof it up.

Matt Weber [00:19:32] So you know, we can’t let that go by too quickly, Robert. Because in the past three and a half minutes, Mike just really changed the course of local search optimization for a lot of people listening to the show.

Robert O’Haver [00:19:43] Sure.

Matt Weber [00:19:44] So citation building, routine feeding it to aggregators, less impactful on that being fanatically concerned about the accuracy of your NAP, which many people are still doing. Not an impact.

Robert O’Haver [00:19:58] I hate messy NAPs. You always have to change the sheets.

[00:20:01] Laughing

Robert O’Haver [00:20:03] Sorry.

Matt Weber [00:20:04] Okay. Insider joke. Well Mike, let’s go the other way, then and say you know what. Give us some sense of what are the signals that have increased in strength. You’ve done a great job of telling what’s decreased in strength. What are the signals that are now becoming more dominant as far as local search ranking?

Mike Blumenthal [00:20:21] Well there’s, there’s all sorts of signals, that we can’t see from Google. When you read their patterns , you know in terms of visitation. Google knows a whole lot more than they used to about where people are going, what they’re doing. So that’s all hidden from us. But in terms of things that you can control. I mean there’s two issues. One there’s rank. The other is conversion. So, with, I guess, it was pigeon 2014 when Google dramatically narrowed the search radius and essentially only showed most businesses in a radius of a mile or two. Google is going to show your listing within that context of that limited mobile searcher and in that context you’re going to get shown, no matter what. And their conversion optimization is critical. Right. So conversion optimization, being looking better than the next guy in that pack results. So making your brand story stand out in that limited context. Yep. So that’s reviews, great photos, enticing posts, the kinds of things you can do with Google to provide them with data. In terms of ranking, what we found in terms of this case study that was impactful was reviews – everybody knows that, links – everybody knows that. And in terms of expanding reach, reviews and posts seem to expand the sort of long, the depth of long tail and the rank of those long tail phrases.

Matt Weber [00:21:48] Okay now we want to get your thoughts on three –

Mike Blumenthal [00:21:51] Now, this is a single location case study, so you know these are correlations not causation, but I because it’s such a clean sort of subject, right? With not a lot of noise, there’s not links floating around, there’s no website. These are – these are indicators that I think the correlation is likely to be causation because there’s so tightly bound, like for example, when I dropped a couple links to her from gather up and Blumenthal’s. I mean we immediately started getting, you know, our rank tracker immediately started digging and we started seeing ranking on searches we hadn’t seen before, so clearly that is a correlation but it’s a solid one. You know I mean.

Matt Weber [00:22:35] Let’s talk about three kind of experimental innovative techniques, if you will, that are floating around the local search forums and let’s get your thoughts on these three experimental techniques. Number one, having an appendix of local specific links on either the contact us page or the location page of a Web site. So if you’re trying to target Orlando, you’ve got a little appendix on the sidebar that says “Orlando Parks and Recreations, Orlando things to do, Orlando,” such a such a, what’s your thoughts on that as an innovative technique?

Mike Blumenthal [00:23:07] Well, how many angels fit on the head of a pin?

Robert O’Haver [00:23:12] I don’t know that one.

Matt Weber [00:23:14] I don’t know.

Mike Blumenthal [00:23:15] I-I don’t know. I mean certainly up, solid outbound links, from a Web site are viewed by Google as a sign of a quality Web site. So I don’t see it, as a you know trying to, I- I see Web sites the way I hope Google is starting to see them, which is that if the content, even if it links off the site to valuable local resources valuable to the user, it’s going to help. And we’ve seen outbound links consistently on high ranking sites be valuable. As far as this particular tactic in terms of sidebars as a way of manipulating rank, I see it as less than useful to the searcher and probably going to have minimal impact on rank.

Robert O’Haver [00:24:01] Well I’ll have to agree with that one. Yeah. Number two, publishing the GMB Web site without pointing your main domain to it.

Mike Blumenthal [00:24:12] It’s like any citation, if it doesn’t have any value, it doesn’t have any value. So for it to have value, you have to do link building to it or add some other value to that page. It’s just gonna sit low in the index, though you have to understand these days they’re not rank-they used to be they ranked your home page and your website was the authoritative page that influenced ranking local. But since the advent of the knowledge battle, it is now the entity in the knowledge graph that gets ranked, and that gets ranked by association with valuable pages that it can associate with it. In other words, high ranking out page, high ranking website. Those things confer value back to the entity in the knowledge graph and so having a Google My business Web site that just sits out there buried on page four, you know it’s kind of like the dead body sits out there beyond page two, doesn’t do much good.

Matt Weber [00:25:05] Alright, number three. But that’s a hot technique; that-that last one is getting some buzz in a couple of different forms. Now, this next one, I actually think I’ve heard you talk about on your video cast, and that is that if you are a service based business and you’ve chosen a service geography to have a cell phone number that spends time in the physical city that you are trying to target as the number in the directory.

Mike Blumenthal [00:25:35] As far as I can tell Google is pretty agnostic. You’re saying that the business itself would have a cell phone number that Google, could, like an android that Google could track around and sees that it’s in that geography?

Matt Weber [00:25:49] Yes.

Robert O’Haver [00:25:49] You mentioned that before. Yeah.

Matt Weber [00:25:51] There’s-there’s a study I thought I might have heard on on your show but maybe it was Joy’s. Somebody had a landscaping business and they were trying to track that when their client was actually in a particular geographical unit, a city. They were getting more calls from that particular city, theorizing that they were showing up in GMBs for service related searches, with that particular city, next day he goes to a different city. And lo and behold, he gets more calls from that particular city. So they were postulating, that it was because it was a service based listing that the cell phone number in the listing was physically in that city at that time.

Mike Blumenthal [00:26:32] I have no data on it. I mean, oh I could only make a guess. Right? I mean it’s-it’s- and I don’t really have a good guess. I’d have to test it. And that’s what I’d suggest, right if you have a theory, build a good test. The problem with most tests is people build messy tests. Right? And so you want to be careful to try to limit the variables and see what happens. I really can’t speak to that one intelligently. I’ve never tried it, never. Don’t have any good data on it.

Matt Weber [00:27:00] Super interesting though, isn’t it, if it were true?

Robert O’Haver [00:27:02] Yeah, but there’s so many variables you know. I mean your service area alone, if you have you know- it’s just there’s just a lot there.

Matt Weber [00:27:11] But you, but you think about how the data works for you know popular times at this location. What’s that all based on? It’s all based on where cell phones are.

Robert O’Haver [00:27:20] It’s-it’s also personalized results. So like if you did that search multiple times through your phone, Google is going to think OK well maybe he’s wanting to go back to this person because he him clicked on before.

Matt Weber [00:27:33] That’s true too, great.

Robert O’Haver [00:27:34] I mean there’s other variables.

Matt Weber [00:27:34] Yeah you’re absolutely right. Yeah I totally agree. And Mike, while we’re kind of on this this topic a little bit, you brought up reviews and the effect that it had in your case study. I think we need to work a little bit about what’s the safest way for people to solicit reviews and walk us through a little bit of what are some of the dos and don’ts in terms of incentivizing reviews.

Mike Blumenthal [00:27:58] Sure. So Yelp explicitly prohibits in their terms of service solicitation of reviews, if you do it a Yelp you’re likely to get the red badge of shame. TripAdvisor and Google both encourage you to solicit reviews. Google’s rules are basically that you can’t incentivize them. And so, as TripAdvisor can incentivize them in any way. And I just wrote a blog post together up on incentivizing TripAdvisor-this hotel, this green hotel had an interesting incentive, where they would make a donation to a charitable organization, if you wrote a TripAdvisor review. They didn’t make any contention that it had to be a good review, didn’t make it. There was no direct incentive. It was an indirect incentive. I showed TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor said “absolutely against our guidelines”. So there is-and what the FTC says about this which is the sort of ruling national body is that if you are going to do a review that has incentives, you need to note the incentives in the review which you can’t do in Google and TripAdvisor. You can only do that in first party reviews. So I guess given that- that matrix, where Google, where incentives are banned at Yelp and Google and TripAdvisor and the FTC says you can use them but you have to make it bold and include the fact that you had an incentive. Then, I think incentives are off the table and to a large extent I find them unnecessary. I just, you know we ask, we see a lot of review requests going up.

Robert O’Haver [00:29:34] Mike, we have to take a break real quick.

Mike Blumenthal [00:29:35] Sure.

Robert O’Haver [00:29:35] Hold that thought. We’ll be back right after this message.

Mike Blumenthal [00:29:39] Sounds good.

[00:29:45] Today’s episode of Search Talk live is sponsored by –.

Matt Weber [00:29:49] Hey Robert. You’re here early for the show.

Robert O’Haver [00:29:51] Yeah, I got a ton of SEO work done this morning and I got it done way ahead of schedule. Couldn’t have done it without HREFS.

Matt Weber [00:29:57] Yeah, so much easier than using multiple programs and having data in a bunch of different places.

Robert O’Haver [00:30:02] Plus being able to see what is holding a page back from ranking in HREFS, is so much faster than picking through each part myself.

Matt Weber [00:30:09] Oh yeah I agree. We use HREFS because it’s so easy to teach people at our agency how to use it. Their youtube tutorials couldn’t be better. It’s one thing to have a tool. It’s another thing to know your team is using it to its full capacity. I don’t think there’s an easier or more complete tool than HREFS. Hey Robert, why don’t you hit them up to be a sponsor of the show?

Robert O’Haver [00:30:27] I am way ahead of you.

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[00:32:38] Get your questions in on Twitter. Type hashtag search talk live and your question. Now back to the show.

Robert O’Haver [00:32:46] Be sure, if you have a question for Mike, you can go on Twitter and type hashtag search talk live and we’ll ask those questions live on the show. But Mike go ahead and finish your thoughts.

Mike Blumenthal [00:32:56] So, incentives are a bad idea all the way around. They-the worst thing about an incentive though isn’t that Google prohibits it or the FTC prohibits; it is that if one of your clients gets suspicious and has a bad experience, and mentions that you have incentivized them, that goes into a review. Then, that reviews there forever and everybody’s going to question the quality and integrity of your business and your reviews. So it’s not just that, they’re against the rules, it’s that other consumers find them- might find them objectionable and if that gets mentioned that can really be there forever. Right?

Robert O’Haver [00:33:31] That’s what they should have is sponsored reviews.

Mike Blumenthal [00:33:35] But if you’re looking to-to-to, you know to mean to me the thing, that’s the most highest integrity and easiest way to get more reviews is even if you’re going to follow up with an email, is you ask them during the sale if it’s OK if you send them an email and they give you their social agreement. That social agreement is a huge commitment that people will make and if they do the likelihood of getting a review goes way up. Even though, you know, when you follow up with that email. If you’re going to incentivize anything, perhaps you can incentivize your salespeople. The problem there is you run the risk of it overtaking the sales process and customer experience process. So, you have to be really careful, they don’t get weird about it and ask 27 times, which has happened to me and the other possibility is you could incentivize somebody leaving you an email address. Those are legal incentives that can then lead into more reviews. But in both those yet to be, you know have to be cautious to not compromise your brand.

Robert O’Haver [00:34:35] How do you how do you feel about automated system? Let’s say you have your- your-your CR- your-your content manager, not content manager. What do I tell him?

Matt Weber [00:34:47] Your CRM.

Robert O’Haver [00:34:49] CRM. Thank you. Your CRM automating the process, so like your client has used your service. At the end of the service agreement, then it automatically sends out an email to that client saying, hey you know if you were happy with our service, please you know, you’re free to give us a review.

Mike Blumenthal [00:35:12] I mean, I think automation is really helpful, particularly if you’re more than a mom and pop operation. If you have more than one location or more than a couple employees, automation becomes critical. It’s one of the reasons we built Zappier and an API into gather up, so that we could automate and what we find is every industry and every business has a sort of natural flow of reviews, and just the process of consistently being sure that you do in fact, ask, is a great contributor to success because reviews are a long haul game. Right? They are a three year, five year game, they’re not a one month, two month game, consistent steady asking on a regular basis is a recipe for long haul success and automation. Like I said I mean, we’ve built an API and JSON feeds and you know Zappier and our pride, because we think automation is a great contributor to that because the business doesn’t have to put in place one more process.

Robert O’Haver [00:36:06] Yeah, very good. All right. Well, before the segment, before the break, we were supposed to do what is called who “influences the influencer”, and now we want to know, you the influencer, who influences you? Where do you get your information and who’s your mentors?

Mike Blumenthal [00:36:25] So, to me in local space, there’s two that I turn to regularly. One is Joy Hawkins or I think it’s one of the smartest people in the space and does some of the best experiments. Most rigorous testing and documenting of the outcomes. She has a great book. So I- joy has been-she was sort of a-I used to mentor Joy. Now she mentors me. So kudos to Joy. Bill Slawsky, when he writes on patents in local space is very-I follow him closely and then I like looking outside the local space because the local space is part and parcel of a bigger environment. So, I look at two people regularly one is Horace Deidu who analyzes the apple space which has a huge impact on local. He also analyzes the automotive and mobility space which I think is a big play in local and then Ben Thompson who writes Stratechory, which is a very sophisticated analysis of sort of one level up again, sort of looking at the higher order functioning of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon way works, et cetera, Uber, those kinds of places. So those are the four that if I could only pick four and go to a desert island, thats who I’d go with.

Matt Weber [00:37:41] That’s a great list. Now, Joy is gonna be a guest on the show in just a couple weeks.Mike, so, if you want to e-mail us a question that you’re sure is going to stump her, just e-mail that and we will not tell her it came from you.

Mike Blumenthal [00:37:52] There is a little question that’s going to stump Joy. Like I said I think she is a leading luminary in local these days. You know I spend a lot of time on reviews. You know I used to spend more time in local and she really has picked up that mantle and done a great job with it. I mean she’s really worked hard at being the expert in the field. I mean singular, in the sense of really very few people can touch her.

Matt Weber [00:38:16] So joy coming up as a guest on search talk line.

Robert O’Haver [00:38:20] Next week.

Matt Weber [00:38:20] Next week. Now Mike, you know we’ve got a lot of folks listening to the show who took a kind of a set it and forget it stance with their GMB profile. What do you think is the most underutilized feature in your experience in GMB?

Mike Blumenthal [00:38:33] Well, I think there’s two if I can pick two. Well, in terms of the most underutilized feature, probably the messaging features is the most underutilized because Google has sort of screwed it up, so royally off and on over the years, in terms of underutilized. In terms of benefit, back to this idea of conversion optimization photos and post. I think that posts are now showing up in answers to Q and A they’re showing up in the three pack. So, I think that posts have reached beyond just the posts themselves. And I think photos, great photos, not stock photography, great photos can have a huge influence on sort of the subconscious decision to pick you over the next company. And I think conversion optimization at the point of interaction on Google, we’re seeing, I’m seeing in case studies, I’m seeing 70, 80 percent of digital leads happening right on Google, not coming to the Web site, not going someplace else, happening right on Google. If that’s the case across your business or for your business, then looking the best you can look at Google is critical. And like I said photos, posts and the other sort of ancillary tools, that they give you products and services etc..

Matt Weber [00:39:47] We’ve got to step into the great debate Robert which is the FAQ schema debate right. So we’ve got folks on one side of the debate that say now that we’ve crossed the line that 50 percent of search engine results pages don’t get a click.

Robert O’Haver [00:40:02] Yeah.

Matt Weber [00:40:02] We’ve got Google doing a masterful job of answering searchers’ questions right on the SERP, which means more businesses are losing out on website traffic on that and whereas Google with that. So some folks say FAQ schema, you’re giving the user a chance to be satisfied on the SERP. And then, therefore not be exposed to deeper additional information you have on your website. Opposite side of the argument is- all right-so you give the user what they want at the earliest possible level on the journey. So you’re making the customer happy on that, Robert where do you stand on that?

Robert O’Haver [00:40:35] My stance is that it’s better to be there, than not to be there. You know, what I’m saying? So given that chance for them to possibly click through to your site then not at all. I mean I- I that’s that’s where I stand.

Matt Weber [00:40:50] So the battle is going to be elevated on the SERP itself is in your mind, which is pretty consistent with what Mike is saying right now.

Robert O’Haver [00:40:56] Yes.

[00:40:56] And Mike is that your sense too when it comes to FAQ scheme? Do you land on the side of you know if the customer wants the information at the earliest possible point, then give it to him even though they won’t be exposed to your additional messaging on your website?

Mike Blumenthal [00:41:10] I mean in local I see FAQ schema as a little bit further down the task list. I would see event schema as more critical because it’s more likely to show up in the knowledge graph and have its own knowledge panel. But ultimately you have to realize that your Web site is feeding these results and you want to feed them as richly as possible. If your business is complicated enough that they need to go beyond Google, you want to look as good as you can at Google to attract them to your website where,, because you have a complicated goods or service you can close them. But if you have a simple thing where the decision isn’t that big a deal like in a lot of bricks and mortar. Should I visit this retailer? That’s not a life changing decision. And if the bulk of those decisions are going to be made at Google, then by all means give it to them. So, it depends a little bit on your business. But regardless of whether you’re in the more sophisticated business or not, you still got to give them the information at Google. So.

Robert O’Haver [00:42:05] And you know, and I also think the other thing is you have, as you well know, there is informational type of searches that really aren’t applicable to the service that you offer or maybe they’re just trying to fix a toilet or-or something like that. It’s, you know, those worthless visits to your site anyway.

Matt Weber [00:42:26] Except for long term brand exposure.

Robert O’Haver [00:42:27] Correct.

Matt Weber [00:42:28] Right, so if the cut consumer sees that you are the subject matter expert in that particular topic? There’s a value to that. Mike, I think you’re going to shock people with the answer to this next question, but what’s your sense of how-how big of a deal is fraudulent local GMB listings? How rampant is that?

Mike Blumenthal [00:42:45] Well so local is hype is really hyper local. And by that, I mean that the problem is worse in certain industries and certain geographies. And you know, Google themselves admitted that in some geographies in locksmith;the problem could be as big as 80, 85 percent right? But so you know and it’s-it’s worse in in sort of urban areas. It’s worse in certain verticals like garage door openers, appliance repairs, locksmiths, lawyers. Depends on what you call spam. But in others it’s you know it’s- it’s you know in bricks and mortar. It’s a relatively free environment. You know it’s hard to-to spam a bricks and mortar location because the call at the conversion is the visit. Right. So what good does putting a fake listing up there do? So it’s-it’s very dependent on a million things. If you asked me, what percentage of all of Google’s hundred fifty million listings are spam? I’d say that’s sort of-I mean well I think it’s probably about three or four percent. I think that’s that’s not a great way to look at it, because the question is what percentage of businesses that people search on and see are spam is probably a better question. Only people that can answer that is Google and the other side of it is look if it’s in your business, in your industry, and in your market, then part of your SEO strategy whether it’s you or the agency should be to take those spammers down because you’re being cheated and consumers being cheated. So, I have no trouble you know aggressively focusing on a market that serves a client to be sure that the spam is reported and taken down.

Robert O’Haver [00:44:27] Yeah. I call it sniping. I go through listings for specific keywords and then, in the location local areas. And if I see somebody trying to get by with, hey here’s the keyword yadda yadda, whatever it may be.

Matt Weber [00:44:40] In the title of their name.

Robert O’Haver [00:44:42] Correct. I change it because I’m a contributor but it doesn’t help. But uh, you know-.

Mike Blumenthal [00:44:49] That’s just a tactic on this. If, uh-one of the things that Google responds to better is when you find spam at scale, right?

Robert O’Haver [00:44:57] Yeah.

Mike Blumenthal [00:44:57] They-they like to take it down in scale rather than onesies. So, one of the things I’ve developed, I did a blog post on this but if you go in to the local finder, not logged in and managed to identify some sort of phrase that frequently seems to be associated with a lot of spam listings-let’s say I don’t know, locksmith plus city quote, kind of things. And you go into the- you click through into the local finder and then you do an all in title and zoom out, you can quite frequently find massive numbers of these across broad expanses. Then, you turn those into Google, you put them into a spreadsheet, you communicate with Google via Twitter. So, it’s private. Then, you have a chance not just at taking your own local ones out but of taking the broader and having an impact on the broader network. And Google is more likely to respond because you’re doing it dealing with it at scale.

Matt Weber [00:45:52] Some of these are so good, people don’t even know they’re looking at a spam GMB listing. What-what are the two or three common indicators of a spammy GMB listing?

Mike Blumenthal [00:46:02] So, when I’m looking, I look for non-brand keywords instead of obvious brands. So, in the title and then I often click through the reviews – if a lot of the reviews are hidden, their review profiles are hidden. That’s a good- you know those two things together are a pretty good sign. And then if you see this pattern of keyword plus city, that’s you know a deal sealer, you’re dealing with a spam network. But those three things. Now those aren’t the only things. But those are quick high level indicators and I would say this to the consuming public if your- I wouldn’t use Google for a locksmith, garage door openers or appliance repair because those verticals. It’s brutal.

Matt Weber [00:46:50] Yeah. I like your perspective that it is costing you as a business. You may think OK. You know, I’m not spammy. I’m not really affected by this problem but actually you are when you think about the limited inventory of slots available in the local pack. And if one or two or three of those has been taken up by illicit or illegal or unregulated listings that’s pushing you out of one.

Mike Blumenthal [00:47:13] Potentially. Absolutely. And more importantly- I mean typically local search is done on a phone within a radius of a mile or two, you’re gonna show up. It’s on the broader searches; we are more likely to be impacted because the spammers have used the city and the keyword in the title. You’re more likely to be impacted on those broader searches, which are happening less and less but they’re still important and justifiably a business should be angry about that and defend their turf.

Matt Weber [00:47:42] My success rate, by the way, for me is like less than 5 percent of the ones that I’ve contested, that I’ve been actually been known to follow and seems to take less than 5 percent. Yeah.

Mike Blumenthal [00:47:52] Yeah, well, I don’t track them personally but I do-am a member of a reporting cabal where we’ve put together-

Matt Weber [00:47:59] Wow. That sounds great.

Mike Blumenthal [00:48:00] Four-four or five people with high local guides standing that help each other validate and report spam and that seems to increase the chances of success.

Matt Weber [00:48:11] I’m so glad you were a guest on the show because I thought the word cabal was only a word used on the show blacklist but I now know that it has a broader meaning.

Mike Blumenthal [00:48:20] Well, it’s any group of people that can aspire to an end.

Matt Weber [00:48:23] That’s so great. I feel enlightened. Less about blacklist now. Now I feel a little less about the show.

Robert O’Haver [00:48:31] All right, so it’s that time.

Matt Weber [00:48:32] It’s that time for believe it or leave it. Mike, and what we’re gonna do is give you three statements we found on the internet about local search and I’m going to ask you to ask-tell our audience whether they should believe it or whether they should leave it. Are you ready?

Mike Blumenthal [00:48:48] Well, I’m ready. Can I say no comment or is that all-.

Matt Weber [00:48:52] Noo.

Mike Blumenthal [00:48:52] I have to answer?

Matt Weber [00:48:53] That would be too easy because Joy has already told us she’s going to answer all three of them, so you can’t bow out.

Mike Blumenthal [00:48:58] How about if I say test it yourself, damn it.

[00:49:02] Laughter.

Mike Blumenthal [00:49:02] No, ok yeah go ahead.

Matt Weber [00:49:03] Here we go.

Mike Blumenthal [00:49:04] I’ll give it my best shot.

Matt Weber [00:49:06] All right. Number one, if your businesses’ physical address is outside the main metro area you want to compete in, it is better for you to choose a service area in your GMB listing, as a business whose customers do not come to your physical location, even if they do?

Mike Blumenthal [00:49:29] There is a great question but I would suggest to the business that they’ve missed the mark by putting their business where there are not-no customers. If they are truly a walk-in business, then you’ve got to be where you’re convenient to people. Like you know either, you’re a walk-in business or not. If you are, then locate correctly, so the area go up one level and fix your frickin business.

Matt Weber [00:49:49] But you know-I think in situations there are slight geographical lines. Like, you know, there are-.

Mike Blumenthal [00:49:54] There are absolutely geographical lines that get arbitrarily drawn by Google but like I said the bulk of searches in Google these days are non geo modified, people looking on their phone, Google knowing where your phone is and giving you a radius around the phone. And if you depend on walking traffic for your business and then-you know, you need to realize that. Now you’re talking about sort of a mixed metaphor here, somebody who wants a phone call but doesn’t care about walk-in traffic or somebody being able to drive to them. You know, that’s a very small segment of the population and maybe for that small segment that meets that criteria, feel free. I think it’s better to run your business better myself.

Robert O’Haver [00:50:39] I agree. Yeah. All right. Number two, you do not need a website to show up in local search results.

Mike Blumenthal [00:50:48] Well that’s true, as far as it goes, right. I mean my case study earlier demonstrates that although I have a Google website which they give you as part of the GMB, it’s sort of a page. But you are giving up the ability to influence Google on-with your internal links and your internal content which Google looks at very closely. So the ability to link to-using keywords on your website. like you can link keyword stuff-your links on your own website all you want. Google is good with that. They figure if you’re saying, it’s about engagement rings, the page is really about engagement rings and that will help you. So, I think internal linking is one of the strongest tactics in local so giving up a Web site is a mistake but it’s doable.

Robert O’Haver [00:51:31] Yes. All right. Now I – Oh, I’m sorry.

Mike Blumenthal [00:51:34] So, are these answers too complicated? Or am I supposed to say just yes and no.

Matt Weber [00:51:37] No you’re actually doing great.

Robert O’Haver [00:51:38] That’s great. Go ahead.

Matt Weber [00:51:39] All right. Number three, the best way to rank for local search in a city where your business is not located is to acquire a temporary physical address in that city.

Mike Blumenthal [00:51:53] Well, I would say the best way to rank in local search would be to take out an ad, but so beyond that saying OK, we’re not taking out ads then yeah. Getting an office is-would be the best way to do it. But there’s still real office staffed with a person. If you want it to be sustainable. Right? In other words, it has to meet Google’s criteria if you want it to last more than this Christmas season. Whatever. You know, if it’s just a short term income thing , you know you can do it at we work? But if you really want a sustainable solution, you need a staffed office with a phone number and a sign in the city that you want a business. But like I said you can do it with Adwards and test it, if it works for Adwords. Great. Then, invest the amount it takes to build a real office.

Matt Weber [00:52:40] So no USP boxes, no Mailbox, Etc boxes although they’ve been rebranded and virtual offices right now.

Mike Blumenthal [00:52:46] Yeah, Google’s been cracking down on them left and right. So it may get by for a little bit but it’s not a sustainable tactic.

Robert O’Haver [00:52:52] Now, I have a question for you and I get this question quite a bit, now is it worth it to do your local listing for Bing, Yahoo and all those other places? It’s a two part question. I’ll let you answer this.

Mike Blumenthal [00:53:08] If the average age of your customers is 72.

Robert O’Haver [00:53:14] Well you have to think that Bing is is a default on a Windows computer.

Mike Blumenthal [00:53:19] That’s right. And who’s still using Windows with a default browser? Age of 72. So you know, like I said, if your demographics older. Probably is. We didn’t bother for this person, you know. When I look in- and look in and well when I look in analytics-I see Bing at significantly less than 1 percent of conversions. These are people that have invested in putting in their say, claiming the listing in Bing, so you know less than 1 percents up to you. I mean I think there are better ways to increase your Google visibility by less-less than 1 percent. A whole lot easier. Right. So to me, it’s an issue of time and money and those fall to the bottom of the heap in my money-time scenario.

Robert O’Haver [00:54:10] Now, to the second part of that question, now with people, we’ve covered google reviews and how important they are. But I mean when you have review places like Yelp and Google and Bing and all these other places.

Mike Blumenthal [00:54:25] Bing doesn’t do reviews.

Robert O’Haver [00:54:27] OK, yeah they aggregate them. We have multiple sites where people place reviews, lawyers have lawyer.com and all this other place where they get reviews. What would you tell somebody? Do you get reviews on all these places or focus on one?

Mike Blumenthal [00:54:43] So, here’s the longer story if you don’t mind. The longer story is the general review sites. There were 11 of them or 12 of them in 2009. Now, there’s three general review sites, maybe four depending how you count them, right? So there’s-used to be Super Pages and Yellow Pages. They still take reviews. Now, there’s Google, Yelp. Facebook is sort of half assed, Better Business Bureau very half assed. So there’s really two general review sites. You can’t ask for reviews at Yelp. If you try, you’re gonna get your hand slapped. So at least Google. So there’s one there. But in the verticals, there are you know most verticals, there’s one or two review sites. And what you see happen in is that Google will-if you get a few reviews at these sites, Google will elevate those pages to the first page of the brand search result. So, I do believe picking one or two vertical sites is useful for lightweight efforts. I don’t think you should put a lot of work into it but to me the most important thing beyond say Google and one vertical site is your own site. I think getting your own reviews is the unheralded technique of this timeframe because you get one, you get stars in the SERPs, if they’re done correctly with rich snippets, so you get increased conversions at Google.

Mike Blumenthal [00:56:05] They show up in the Google Knowledge panel as reviews from around the web on many searches and they also provide social proof and content for your website. So to me, it’s Google, your own reviews and some lightweight focus on a vertical, so that you at least look good there. So, the brand story looks good. You fill out the reviews on the web with two or three sites so that people looking at you get a consistent story. So, it’s Google your own and one or two verticals sort of mixed into the mix on occasion.

Matt Weber [00:56:42] Great answer.

Robert O’Haver [00:56:43] Charles, are you getting all this?

Robert O’Haver [00:56:47] Charles is our sound engineer; he owns the studio that we do our show from called Heat Labs in Orlando. But one of the things we did is-I you know I ran across his- I found him from Google my business but he did, he’s one of those guys that set it and forget it. But once I walked him through it a little bit, he had added photos and all this other good stuff and hes started getting more and more calls. So I was like-.

Matt Weber [00:57:12] And he has yet to add photos of us by the way.

Robert O’Haver [00:57:15] Right?

Matt Weber [00:57:18] I mean I just find that as a major slam.

Robert O’Haver [00:57:20] I mean hes on his phone right now.

Mike Blumenthal [00:57:22] That may affect your conversion optimization negatively.

Matt Weber [00:57:26] Mike, have you seen us?

Mike Blumenthal [00:57:26] I’m only guessing.

Matt Weber [00:57:31] And guessing well my friend.

Matt Weber [00:57:33] Well, we are just about at the end of the show.

Robert O’Haver [00:57:34] It’s time for the tattoo.

Matt Weber [00:57:35] It’s time for the search talk live tattoo. Mike, we’re looking for your most powerful, most distinct piece of advice for our listeners about today’s content.

Mike Blumenthal [00:57:43] Conversion optimization rules.

Robert O’Haver [00:57:47] Wow. That’s a pretty good one.

Matt Weber [00:57:50] I like it and because I think Mike talked about the perspective of optimizing for conversions on your GMB and on Google which is a segment, we haven’t heard people really explore that deeply. That was great.

Robert O’Haver [00:58:02] Yeah. So Mike, I want to thank you for being on the show. if you could tell everybody how they can reach, you where your articles, where you post and where you’re gonna be appearance wise and that type of stuff.

Mike Blumenthal [00:58:14] So public presentation, September 19th, Denver part of the local U Crew which includes Joy speaking, Joy Hawkins, Cindy Krum, Mary Bolling, David Mihm, great speaker lineup, September 19th and in Denver. And that’s the only public speaking, I’m doing-I’m doing a number of private ones. In terms of blogging, Blumenthals.com, forward/blog, localu.org. I do a weekly podcast there and a weekly email list there, and then I write about reviews at gatherupdot.com forward/blog if you’re interested in reviews, specific content. And then bi-weekly, I do an article at streetfightmag with David Mihm, sort of a big look, at sort of a 10,000 foot view of the industry of Google, of the issues that agencies and businesses confront.

Matt Weber [00:59:08] Mike, I just want to mention, before we close, so far in this past hour, I’ve learned that you have an article at streetfight magazine and also you’re speaking at duct tape conferences. It’s painting a different picture than I had of you before the podcast.

Mike Blumenthal [00:59:22] Ah, well. I’m actually like you. Fortunately, you can’t see my real pictures so it may be disappointing in reality.

Matt Weber [00:59:31] Well, awesome job, Mike we really enjoyed having you as a guest and you were immensely informative.

Robert O’Haver [00:59:36] Yes, thank you very much.

Mike Blumenthal [00:59:37] Thank you very much. And people can also reach out to me. My email is [email protected] I-uh.

Robert O’Haver [00:59:46] Are you on Twitter?

Mike Blumenthal [00:59:46] I’m on Twitter, M Blumenthal, so email or twitter. Feel free to reach out to me.

Robert O’Haver [00:59:52] All right. Well thanks a lot Mike.

Mike Blumenthal [00:59:55] Thank you for having me.

Robert O’Haver [00:59:56] You’re welcome. Well guys, thank you for listening to show. Be- mark this down on your calendar. I want you guys to be ready; we have Joy Hawkins next week followed by Keith Goode. He’s the head of Google or head of Google- he’s the head of search at IBM, and the following week we have our good friend John Mueller from Google.

Matt Weber [01:00:22] Wow.

Mike Blumenthal [01:00:23] He is the searched web. What is it? Webmaster trends analyst at Google.

Matt Weber [01:00:29] I might come to that one.

Robert O’Haver [01:00:31] I hope you do.

Robert O’Haver [01:00:33] So get your questions ready again, you can go to Twitter and type in hashtag searchtalklive with your questions. I think a lot of you are going to have good questions; I want to have some questions. You know I listen to his-his videos and his, he kind of took over the reins for Matt Cuts? Back in the day but I want to ask him some real questions. You know something that he doesn’t get all the time.

Matt Weber [01:00:59] You know when he kind of threw the gauntlet down when he e-mailed you, you we’ve got some new stuff coming out and people typically ask me about the new stuff.

Robert O’Haver [01:01:05] Yeah. Exclusive stuff. It’s going to be cool.

Robert O’Haver [01:01:09] But anyway, that’s stuff to look forward to. He’s going to be on the first of the month and obviously next week, we have Joy who’s going to be on the 18th, and then not the 18th-I’m sorry the 17th. And then the 24th, we have Keith Goode. And yeah, lots of great content coming your way. So mark it on your calendar. And we’ll see you next week.

Matt Weber [01:01:35] Thanks for listening everybody. Bye bye.

[01:01:45] Search Talk Live is sponsored by the Robert Palmer family of companies. If you have questions for Search Talk Live or you’re interested in being a guest or a sponsor of the show. Email Robert at searchtalklive.com. That’s searchtalklive.com.