Optimizing for Local Search – Interview with Mike Blumenthal [Video]
Related to this topic are some Frequently Asked Questions from our customers about Google+. The transcript to the video can be found below.
- Should I create a Google+ account? Google already created Google+ Local pages for every business (with limited functionality). We recommend waiting for Google to enhance these pages, then get involved. In general, it is a great idea to include Google+ as part of your social strategy.
- My Google+ Local page has broken links and a bad user interface. How do I fix it? Google is addressing these issues and fixing them; you should see changes shortly.
- I already have a Google+ Business page. How do I merge it with my new Google+ Local page? Make sure you have the same email address registered with your Google+ and your Google for Businesses accounts, then request a merge here.
- What if I have created a Google+ Business page and claimed my Google+ Local (Google Places listing) under different email accounts? Transfer ownership of your Google+ Business page to the email used to claim the Google Places listing.
Benu Aggarwal: We are here with Mike Blumenthal. I think that everyone knows Mike, if you are all are watching local; he is a world-renowned persona in local search. I managed to grab Mike after his hardcore local session in SMX Seattle – thank you so much Mike for taking out time. We really enjoyed your session. Let’s discuss crucial information people want to know.
The most crucial information people want to know about Google Places and Plus – Google has changed Google places profiles to the Google+ interface for all businesses. Should businesses be creating Google+ pages?
Mike Blumenthal: Google has moved every places page to Google+. They now call it Google+ local pages. Google+ has had the ability to have Google+ business pages which can claim a local listing.
At this point if you don’t have a Google+ page and you just have a Google+ local page, you have a choice to either create a Google+ business account or to wait for Google till Google adds the capability to their Google+ local page to function properly as Google+ account. You can do it either way.
I think the reason you might want to start a Google+ business page now is to learn the environment so that when Google does merge them, you are familiar with it and you can get it off the ground running. I think if you’re going to do it, you want to be sure the same email is used for Google places dashboard and the Google+ place business place that you claimed. Otherwise it’ll delay the merge somewhat. Google is going to merge all these ultimately, but, the other side of it is to wait until it’s merged and learn it then. At some point I think it’s going to be critical to learn Google+ because I believe that as a review environment, it’s a dramatic shift from the past, and offers businesses a lot of access to the posters of the reviews so now they can interact with them. I think it’s going to be very powerful and very important going forward.
Benu: Awesome, if you’re going to be actively using Google+, only then should you create a listing, you don’t need to create a listing for the heck of creating it and not doing anything on it. Google has already created a listing for you; just wait until they enhance their functionality. I believe there is a is a post on your blog which talks about address and emails where people will submit and whenever Google merges both the profiles, they’ll let you know.
Mike: That’s right, there was a post called Google+ Local: Q’s and Some A’s that the form addresses. That, if you do have both pages, you should definitely fill the form to get notified about changes happening.
Benu: They can merge it. So I think another thing we noticed with all these listings which Google created with Plus, a lot of this information is off – images are somewhere from some planet and then coupons and offers are not working. What is your gut feeling? Do you think this is just a broken interface to begin with and they are finally fixing it?
Mike: My read of the situation is that the dashboard is undergoing a major revision at the moment. We know that they recently upgraded the bulk upload, upgraded offers and they put Google AdWords express someplace else. We think that’s all in anticipation of integration with the Google+ backbone. There are a lot of initial issues with the roll out, for example, links to websites and links to 3rd party review sites were broken over the weekend, so when Google rolls out a big update like this and moves data from one place to the other, they have a tendency to bring in more data from multiple sources, but their algorithm will ultimately clean that up. If you find that you have a lot of duplicates, use the new problem report form to report the duplicate, but other than that, I would sit tight and wait for the merge if you can
Benu: Very last question: tell us five to six, seven most important factors – impacting your local search, anything, on page and off page?
Mike: Majority of results being shown on Google local results, are being called blended results. To ensure good blended results, it’s really important to optimize both on page and for organic with traditional inbound optimization on your local pages and because of the way that blend is triggered, it’s important also to use traditional, local prominence type optimization.
So, in the case of local prominence, citations, good links for your business name and all that traditional stuff, listing with the primary data suppliers, important local websites, and all the directories are all very important. Reviews continue to be important, and then certainly on the organic site, we’ll have the blend. It’s important to have a well optimized site for local with extra inbound links.
Benu: We talked about the five things business should do before they think about social. And what small businesses should do…Can you explain?
Mike: The issue in marketing always should be about return. Some businesses have a limited amount of time and a limited capacity and there’s always this temptation to do the hottest, newest social network whether it’s Google+, Facebook or Twitter. Here are five things you should make sure happens before you think about new social tool or channel:
- You’ve have properly optimized your website onsite and offsite;
- Properly optimized your Google places listing and have done local optimization;
- Are actively collecting emails and communicating with your customer base via a direct communication;
- Managing the review process; and
- Putting in place a good blog; good blog. If you have those five things, then I think you’re ready to pursue Facebook and Twitter and really benefit from them because you’ll be building equity around things you own rather than giving Facebook all of your content.
Benu: I promised you that that was the last question, but last question. Why blog?
Mike: Blogging generates 50% links and about 70% more traffic [than sites without blogs]. It’s an opportunity to position yourself as an expert. My career literally changed because of my blog. I started blogging in 2006.
Benu: But let’s talk about it as a business, right?
Mike: I was a local business selling local websites to local businesses and not making a lot of money doing it. And I started blogging about local marketing and my life changed; so there’s an opportunity for life changing events. But even without that, there’s a tremendous opportunity to get inbound links; to get recognition as an expert from others in your field. It adds tremendous value to your website because Google loves fresh content and loves fresh links, and so it will help your website and your local listing do much better.
Benu: So in other words, if you don’t have a blog, really, there is no use of trying to use Facebook and Google+ because you are diverting traffic on other channels rather than pulling the traffic to your channel.
Mike: Right, there are some use cases. I wouldn’t say never – there are some use cases where it makes sense to work on Facebook, but even then, you want to be trying to drive people back to an environment where you can do the analytics, hopefully catch some info from them, hopefully convert them to a customer. It’s very difficult to convert a customer on Facebook. I’ve seen some recent research where customers on Facebook don’t convert anywhere near as well as customers on Google and the reason for this when someone goes on Google and does a search, they’re ready to buy. So if you’ve done the optimization on your website and you’ve done the optimization for local, which for the most part are a one time deal (although there are some continuing exercises), you will be getting people [from search] when they’re ready to buy. Facebook is more of a social environment, and people are there learning, sharing, and they’re not necessarily in a buying mood. So if you do manage to get traffic from Facebook, it’s probably not even going to convert as well. I look at Facebook as an incredible resource but only after you’ve done the basics correctly.
Benu: Awesome, thank you so much Mike!