Local SEO is an art all of its own. For businesses with a bricks-and-mortar presence it’s the key to competing in this digitally disrupted world. Reaching your customers online, means they’re more likely to reach you offline, and luckily, there are a few techniques you can master to help you on the way. Local SEO is all about playing to a specific audience in the vicinity of your business. So, you’ve got your site optimised for location searches, you’ve set-up your Google My Business listing, and you’re working your local outreach campaign like there’s no tomorrow. What else should you be doing? Let’s dig into the world of Google Maps Optimization, shall we?

Are you optimising on Google Maps? If you’re not, you should be. 67% of smartphone users use Google Maps, which is a massive proportion, and far more than the second choice, Waze, which has just 12% of users. With such a huge audience, you’d be mad not to jump on the opportunity to optimize your presence on Google Maps.

What is Google Maps Optimization?

If you’re familiar with SEO, you can probably work out what Google Maps Optimization is. You’re still taking advantage of a specific kind of visibility, and pushing your business to your customers, where they are searching, but this time you’re making the most of this puppy:

Google Maps Optimization las vegas restaurants

With Google Maps Optimzation, we’re not just optimising for the SERPs, we’re aiming for the top listings on the Google Map results. Because, let’s face it, when you’ve got a hankering for southwestern food, you’re not messing around – you’re going to go straight to your map so you can get there ASAP.

Some users will be opting for the ‘near me’ auto-complete Google suggestion, while others will be choosing the ‘Maps’ tab of results. Whether you’re in the vicinity of your potential customers or not, the results that they will be shown are ranked based on your Google My Business listing.

It’s the most important thing for Google Maps Optimization, so let’s get your Google My Business listing right.

Google My Business

If you’ve even scratched the surface of Local SEO, you’ll know how vital your Google My Business (GMB) listing is. Google gives every business a chance to claim their Google My Business listing, which automatically enables your company to appear on Google Maps.

Mesa Grill Google My Business

This is where you share valuable information with potential customers – the essentials, like your contact details, business descriptions, and hours of operation. It’s also a great place to showcase customer reviews of your services.

Once you’ve covered the basics, you can also implement Google Posts. Think of these like a kind of social media post and share offers or events that your customers want to know about. Pro tip: Make sure you get the image size and positioning right, because the dev guidelines aren’t quite right (where have we heard that before?). Test your Google Posts before you publish them.

So, how do you optimise your Google listing? Start with the simple stuff: fill out all of the fields in your listing profile. I know, I know, that’s obvious, but people forget the obvious things when they are trying to get clever. The more information you can provide, the better. By the same token, optimise your images and any media associated with your listing through your keywords, and make sure you categorise your business using Google My Business tags.

As with anything in the world of SEO and digital marketing, Google is constantly updating the capabilities of GMB listings. Not only that, anyone can use the “Suggest an edit” button to not just suggest a change, but actually make it then and there, and you would never know. So make sure to monitor your listing carefully and add details as they become available.

Once you’ve got that in the bag, it’s onto the fun stuff. Google My Business listings have a lot to do with review portals and customer feedback. To really optimize your listing, you’ve got to integrate a review strategy that stays on top of citations.

Take their word for it

Real customer reviews are a big part of your GMB listing and the summary shown in Google Maps Results, so when it comes to Google Maps Optimization, you’ve got to nab those reviews. Think about it, if you see a listing with a ton of reviews that score well, you’re going to be much more likely to trust that business, right? The key is to gather a host of local citations on review platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, even Facebook and Google itself.

You’ve got to invest time in this. Put in as much effort fleshing out profiles on these review directories as you did with your Google listing – it will pay off. By making sure that all contact information and details are consistent across platforms, you’re going to look more professional and reliable. Plus, being more present on review platforms gives the impression that you care about your customers’ experiences. Which, of course, you do.

Speaking of being present, you can’t just put up your profile and then harvest the reviews. You’ve got to engage with your customers. Not only is this good business practice, it’s also an opportunity to amp up you SEO game. How? By responding to reviews and incorporating your keywords in the responses.

Here is an example. Let’s say Mesa Grill get a glowing review from a happy diner. Here’s something they could respond with:

“We are so glad you such a great meal with us at Mesa Grill. We pride ourselves on our authentic southwestern cuisine, so we’re thrilled that you enjoyed the food. It was delightful to serve you and we hope you return soon!”

Note the searchable keyword “authentic southwestern cuisine”? You’re being given these keyword opportunities by the people who have already spent money with you – don’t waste them!

Don’t forget the basics of Local SEO

It’s all well and good focusing a ton of effort on your Google My Business listing and pouncing on every review you find, but it will be worth exactly nada if you forget the basics. Powerful on-page local SEO is critical.

All of your content and your key pages have got to be optimised for Service in Location searches. If you aren’t optimizing for the location your business is based in, what the hell are you doing? You’ve also got to build those links, get your citations in order and make sure your general on-page SEO is top notch too. No excuses!

It also seems that Google are now including images in the local pack. If you don’t know what I mean by that, it’s the boxed off map with three local results that shows under the ads and before the organic results in your SERPs. Images are now starting to appear next to the contact details, so make sure you’ve got high quality images, relevant to your business, with excellent meta data, uploaded on your site.

TL;DR? Google Maps Optimization in brief

Google Maps Optimization essentially comes down to 3 simple steps:

  1. Make the most of your Google My Business listing
  2. Monitor reviews, gather them in and respond to as many as you can
  3. Keep your Local SEO basics ticking over too – there’s no excuse to forget them!

There you have it, Google Maps Optimization really is as simple as 1,2,3!

If that’s got your motor running, then you’re going to love Greg Gifford’s Local SEO masterclass. There are still a few tickets left, bag yours before they’re gone!

What if we could know exactly what ranking factors Google favors for a specific keyword? What if we could understand exactly how much content, backlinks and technical work was needed in order to outperform the page 1 results? What if we could turn our keyword analysis into competitive research that gives us a roadmap for successful SEO content campaigns?

There is one overlooked fact of SEO that is so obvious that we tend to forget: The answer to successful SEO is hidden in plain sight.

We can listen to gurus, podcasts, articles, the experience of coworkers and professionals, we can guess, optimize and hope. Or we can see what actually works.

The answer is: What is working for Google is ranking on page 1. As easy and obvious as that.

It never ceases to amaze me how many marketers and SEOs don’t analyze page 1.

Do you check page 1?

The reality is: Page 1 holds all the answers. The better you can understand the most successful search results, the more targeted your SEO and content strategy will be.

A thorough analysis of page 1 allows you to understand what ranking factors are important for your specific keywords. You might read advice like “write 1000 words for a blog post” and whilst that is certainly true for a keyword, it is most certainly not true for your keyword.

Investigating the scope of work to rank on page 1

Base your SEO strategy on what works and create your roadmap backwards.

What does Google favor for your specific keyword?

  • Do we see knowledge graphs, map packs, shopping, ads, pictures or videos? Google is getting better and better at understanding user intent and what they are really looking for. Serve the content Google wants and your rankings will thank you.
  • What is the word count on page 1 and how are they optimizing their ranking factors? It might be 500, 1500 or 5000 words that take you to success; a category page or a skyscraper. Your chances of getting lucky grow as you understand the content types Google favors.
  • How much technical work and how many backlinks will be involved? Those are time consuming activities that depend on developers and third party website owners. Why not start with the easy wins of content creation and on-page SEO that are 100% in your control?

Keyword difficulty like you have never seen it before

We all use keyword difficulty to determine which keywords are easy wins for SEO. And whilst they provide guidelines, they do not provide the full picture. Some metrics for keyword difficulty focus on backlinks, some focus on content. But what if we could use a keyword difficulty score that factors in more than 500 ranking factors?

This is where correlational SEO comes to play. More and more tools are hitting the market that allow us to compare ranking factors on a large scale.

Those tools measure how factors are used throughout page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… and use statistical analysis to determine whether or not a factor is correlated with ranking success.

Those new tools go from measuring 10 to 15 on-page SEO factors (like Page Optimizer Pro) to measuring more than 500 on- and off-page factors as well as hypothetic ranking factors (like CORA).

They end the guess work and sometimes emotional discussion about what works. We can simply see what those search results on page 1 have in common – as well as where our page is deficient and which factors we need to update in order to be competitive.

Come to my session on November 6th, to learn the exact workflow we use at Flow SEO and White Light Digital Marketing, to make data-driven decisions and use correlational SEO for our benefit.

Instead of manually analyzing page 1 by scraping competitors (e.g. with Screaming Frog and SEO plugins), you can now get your own competitive analysis within minutes.

CORA compares the first 100 search results. Page Optimizer Pro allows you to enter relevant competitive websites. With this complete picture, we can create a road map and strategy that is much more accurate in determining pricing and resourcing for an SEO project.

Correlational SEO allows you to:

  • Understand which rankings factors matter for that specific keyword term
  • What content length is needed
  • Which content elements (images, headlines etc.) are needed within a page
  • Which on-page factors need to be optimized and how
  • Create a page outline based on statistical relevance

Instead of randomly creating spam content for thousands of individual keyword strings, why not optimize and own the main target keywords that matter for your client or business?

Every head keyword comes with thousands of variations and long tail versions. Getting the SEO right for those important keywords will have a cascading ranking benefit for all those related terms as well.

Integrating correlational SEO into your workflow

Using correlational SEO is an advanced on-page SEO technique that will give you an easy competitive advantage. On-page SEO updates usually take a low time investment and are easy to execute. They are usually low hanging fruit, excellent for quick SEO wins when on-boarding new clients or going through a content upgrade project.

In my session at UnGagged Las Vegas, I will walk you through the process of integrating data-driven decisions, correlational SEO and content upgrades.

Find out more about my session here.

See you in Las Vegas!

Across the globe, there are over 3 billion users on social media. Competition is fierce. So knowing how to brand yourself and your business for social media is crucial if you want to set yourself apart in the digital world.

Building your brand has to be part of your social media strategy. It’s all well and good to share your story, but you need to make people pay attention. By creating a tangible brand, you are creating the opportunity for brand loyalty. But how, exactly, do you do that? We’ve put together 5 tips on how to brand yourself for social media results.

1. Define Yourself

You’ve no doubt spent a chunk of time figuring out your niche and building an identity for your company. Great, now it’s time to tell everyone about it. Your social media presence needs to reflect your business: it needs to showcase your ethos, your mission statement and your goals.

The simplest place to start is your bio. Keep it clear and concise, but make it unequivocally you. Here’s a clothing brand that are smashing their Instagram bio:

Joanie Instagram bio defines brand

The essential contact details and information are covered, but you also get a feel for the company’s style, and they’ve got their very own hashtag. #killingit

2. Build your visual identity

Next, you need to define your visual identity. What colour should people associate with your brand? Are you playful and bright or serious and sombre? If you don’t know, your customers won’t either, so choose a visual palette and stick to it.

But it doesn’t stop there. A solid brand identity is all about the details. What filter do you use on your Instagram posts? How are your photographs lit? What image overlays do you use? What genre of music do you use for your video content? Have you got the same username on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook?

If you don’t have a definitive answer to these questions, you need to lock down your brand in a lot more detail.

GAP have got their visual identity nailed.

GAP Instagram feed shows visual brand identity

Even without the logo, you’d be able to guess this was GAP’s Instagram feed, based on the clean, plain background, the font they use, the clothes themselves and the models they feature. They have a distinct visual identity.

3. Be authentic

Once you’ve defined who you are as a company, you’ve got to stick to your guns. Any brand identity without authenticity is worth exactly nada. Zilch.

You are a pro in your niche, right? That’s why your business exists, after all. So prove it.

Share content that earns you a place at the table. Play to your strengths and talk about the things that are relevant to your industry. Don’t just post for the sake of it. Yes it’s important that you post regularly, but if you post any old thing, it will do more harm than good. Nail down your themes and keep your strategy strict.

4. Stay Consistent

Consistency is key, across all of your content and all of your channels. Once you’ve reigned yourself in and focused on only what is relevant, you’ve got to think about how you are speaking to your followers.

Honing the tone of voice for your brand can be particularly challenging. Here’s an exercise to make your life easier; write a list of every adjective that describes your brand. Everything you can think of, the more the merrier. Good. Now cut that list in half. And again. Keep cutting this list down until you have four words left, the four that are core to your brand. Those four words steer your tone of voice.

So is your business brash, bold, sarcastic and outspoken? How about kooky, friendly, conscientious and optimistic?

Whatever words you choose, they will become the touchpoint for every tweet, post and caption you write on social media. Ask yourself if your writing consistently marries up to those four words and you’ve got yourself a tone of voice.

There are a few big brands out there who are smashing their tone of voice. We’ve all heard about the hilarious tweets from Wendy’s, but have you seen Seamless on Twitter? They are an online food ordering service, and they are just as entertaining.

Seamless Twitter feed shows brand in tone of voice

All of their tweets tie in seamlessly (see what I did there?) with their audience. By using memes and references their demographic will connect with, they are putting their brand at the forefront.

5. Engage with your Community

Sometimes social media can feel like a digital version of shouting into an abyss. With so many businesses and influencers dominating the game, how on earth do you make sure your brand stands out? You’ve got to engage with your audience.

Whatever channel your demographic lends itself to, your social media presence should be about conversations, not just showboating.

The basics are the basics for a reason – they work. So remember:

  • follow other accounts: anyone who follows you, other like-minded businesses, anyone who falls into your key audience
  • pay attention to what they are doing: are they creating content that ties in with your product or service? Comment or reply to it and start engaging with your audience. If their content ties in with your visual brand, retweet/regram/repost the heck out of it
  • monitor mentions of your name: respond to their messages and keep your communication on brand

Once you’ve got that down pat, it’s time for interactive content, and thankfully, it’s becoming easier than ever. Facebook and Twitter have had poll functionality for a while, but Instagram has recently joined the fray with their polls and Q&A tool. You can use your Instagram stories to ask your audience questions or flip it to an AMA style approach. People love it when they feel like they are being heard, so give them the chance to reach out to you and make sure you respond! There’s also IGTV, so the 10 second limitation on Instagram stories doesn’t have to hold you back any more. Branch out, either live or recorded and give your audience something to react to.

There are a bunch of tools out there to help you engage with your audience, so you’ve got no excuse not to!

How to Brand Yourself with Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Edge

So you’ve found your niche, developed your brand name, and gained a loyal band of followers. It doesn’t stop there. You’ve got to keep an eye on how the channels are evolving and changing, pay attention to what your audience is actually responding well to, stay agile and keep your presence fresh.

If you don’t keep up with the game, building that brand identity has all been for nothing.

If that’s whet your appetite, you’re going to want to get yourself to Dennis Yu’s Facebook masterclass on 7 November. He’s going to be delving into how Fortune 100 brands use their social ad strategy, and he’ll show you how to do exactly the same, no matter what your budget.

With just a month to go to UnGagged 2018, it’s time to start planning your trip to Vegas. Organising most trips starts with the budget. We all want to get a good deal, and the trick is to spend your money wisely. Sure, you could find bargain basement deals for cheap hotels, but that’s actually a false economy and could end up costing you more in the long run.

Let’s look at the costs

We’ve managed to get a special deal with Caesars Palace Las Vegas – the conference venue – where attendees can book nights for $129 on November 4th, 5th and 6th.

Rooms at Caesar’s normally cost anything between $200 and $400 per night, so you’re making a huge saving. Plus, let’s not forget that this deal is for Caesars Palace, arguably the most famous hotel and casino complex in Las Vegas.

Caesars Palace is all about luxury, with an amazing environment that makes everyone feel like a star the moment they walk into that shining marble lobby.

Did Caesar Live Here?

Whenever people tell a story about Las Vegas, they use Caesars Palace as a setting. Ocean’s 11, Iron Man, The Hangover – I could go on – they all use Caesar’s as a location. Caesars Palace embodies the luxury, decadence and risk-taking lifestyle that makes Vegas what it is.

Sure, you can book hotels way at the end of the Vegas strip and save yourself $50-$60 per night. But why would you? You’re making the trip, why not get the conference hotel to match and experience the best of what Vegas has to offer.

Not only that, by saving a few bucks, you could be missing out on huge opportunities. And actually, that well-intentioned thriftiness could end up costing you more money.

Stay where the action is

UnGagged provides sessions on the most relevant and topical subjects for you. But our speakers live at the cutting edge of the industry and you can learn so much more from them than is possible in an hour’s conference session. Imagine being at the heart of the action, staying at the same place as the speakers and other attendees. You would be able to take full advantage of the networking opportunities we offer.

No paying extra for extortionate taxis from your budget hotel, or worrying about saving enough cash to make sure you get back at the end of the evening. If you’re staying at Caesars Palace, you can stick around as groups splinter off over drinks, and as the conversations really start to kick off. If you grab a room somewhere cheaper, you’ll have to leave early to get back to the boondocks, suffering from FOMO while the conversation continues without you.

Where would you rather be? Get yourself a room at Caesars, and you can sit back, relax, absorb the information, enjoy the company and know that all you have to do is stumble upstairs at the end of the night. You’ll be (relatively) refreshed the following morning, without worrying about a 30 minute commute to the conference.

At UnGagged, there’s no knowing who you could meet. Maybe a potential customer who gets the value of your service. Possibly a speaker in your arena – someone who’s happy to tell you their experiences and mistakes to keep you on the right track. Maybe a great contact who can introduce you to someone else. The possibilities are endless, but why rely on chance alone? Why not enjoy yourself and have great stories to tell by staying in the legendary Caesars Palace? And maybe, just maybe, you could win big. You could make the most important business connection of your life.

If you’re not there, it can’t happen. For the trip of a lifetime and to improve your odds, stay at Caesars Palace . Don’t take a chance on missing out when it’s Vegas, baby.