The author’s views are entirely his or her own (with the exception of the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
What a pleasure to experience three days of deep learning at MozCon Virtual 2021 with some of the world’s most respected digital marketing professionals. Although only one of the sessions focused specifically on local business strategy, my preference for local SEO is to see everything through that lens. I jotted down pages of notes of tips that I know have tremendous applicability to local business owners and their marketing partners.
The MozCon 2021 video package is now available to anyone who didn’t make it to the conference, and today I want to give you a taste of what you can learn from some of the most relevant and exciting presentations to use for the local businesses you promote .
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1. Studies begin to uncover Google Posts strategies
Google Posts has been around for about five years, but it wasn’t until recently that we started seeing studies that identify the winning tactics they use. Joy Hawkins was our only local expert at MozCon 2021 and used her speaker spot to present a collection of Google Posts tips for viewers based on her agency’s tests. Here were some of my favorites:
Promotion and COVID posts got the most clicks in 2020, and posts with specials are clear winners.
Don’t use stock photography, but do use text in your images to increase engagement.
Have fun with emojis in your posts – they will increase the clicks!
These are just some of the lessons you will learn from Joy’s session, with the general understanding that while contributions do not appear to have a direct impact on local pack rank, they can influence local justifications for 60 days in the clip, and of course, increase the traffic to your website!
2. Local customers need information, even in the event of disruptions
In the outstanding presentations by Shannon McGuirk, Cyrus Shepard and Ross Simmonds, I picked up on an ongoing topic: The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely Not reduced the public’s need for information from the Internet. Each speaker approaches this phenomenon from a different angle:
Shannon’s company lost 50% of its revenue in the first few weeks of the pandemic and had to move from long-term content planning to a more reactive style of marketing that can move with the times. Just like virtual businesses, local businesses encounter a scenario where it is more difficult to plan promotional activities, especially when there are fewer local journalists available. Shannon’s presentation shows in extremely transparent detail how her company learned to survive amid disruption.
Cyrus explains how the patents that Google invests in user behavior set goals for businesses to be the first click, the long click, and the last click for searchers. With the right content, your local business should be the resource that the public selects from Google results first, stays the longest, and then doesn’t have to navigate away because their needs have been met. As Cyrus explains: “User satisfaction is the number 1 ranking factor!”
Ross explains why you need to view your brand as a media company and predict what’s important to your community so you can invest in relevant content. This is a guiding principle in Moz’s Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide where we urge local business owners to see themselves as publishers.
3. Sorry, your local business website is showing a content expiration date
It may feel a little like you’re sitting in a dentist’s chair hearing this, but luckily, Shopify’s Kameron Jenkins has a solution to this scenario where traffic to your website’s older pages and posts over time naturally decreases. If your local business relies on content publishing to generate traffic and revenue, content deterioration is a huge problem (and an ongoing one) as your articles keep getting older. The solution to this is a constantly Content update strategy where you identify and update outdated articles to keep them relevant.
But the larger your content library, the more difficult it can be to accomplish this task. In fact, Kameron found that 25% or less of the time content marketers spend updating content. The good news is that a combination of free tools can make it a lot easier for you to reverse the decay. Namely:
The free Landing Pages report in Google Analytics lets you set a time period to see which of your content assets are losing traffic over time.
The Google Search Console is also free and shows you which assets are losing search positions over time.
In Google Analytics, you can see which of your assets have the highest conversion rates in the Target Conversion Rate and Conclusions columns. This allows you to prioritize the update of older assets that can generate the most conversions when updated.
When you purchase the MozCon 2021 video bundle, you’ll see all of the screenshots in Kameron’s tutorial, and she’ll walk you through thinking about how to update a page to give it a new competitive edge with original research, fresh quotes from experts, and improved internal ones provide links and more! Any local business that has seriously embraced publishing as the core of their online marketing strategy should derive significant benefits from refreshing decaying content rather than leaving it unmanaged.
4. A touch of expertise can make a big difference in a local context
Many speakers at MozCon advise large corporate clients and must constantly seek tactics that can set brands apart in extremely competitive markets. The good news for local businesses and their agencies is that our markets are inherently limited to local geography, which means that nifty tactics can generate huge profits for us within a given city or region!
See Joyce Collardé’s head-to-head comparison of a customer on the left with video scheme markup versus a brand on the right with no scheme. Imagine how your local business can achieve more screen real estate with just a touch of tech know-how:
She also has tons of great tips on B2B models, many of which are local of course!
Meanwhile, Lily Ray’s phenomenal presentation has become a must for any local business in an industry that has a direct impact on people’s lives and finances (think doctors, dentists, financial advisors, etc.). Demonstrating the massive changes that have taken place in organic search results since Google’s ‘Medic’ update in 2018, Lily favors brands that meet Google’s Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (EAT) criteria. If your business is in the For Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Category, learning to incorporate EAT into your content and marketing strategies can give you a significant boost in your local market.
Rob Ousbey mentions a favorite tool of mine for finding local links: Link Intersect. Then he turns that idea on its head with a new Moz Alpha experiment called the Topical Link Finder. Moz Pro and Moz community members are invited to play with this tool and I think it could be a huge benefit for local businesses looking for industry connections. While you’re at it, take a look at the alpha of the on-page keyword grouper to determine when to split a topic across multiple pages rather than pulling it all together under a single URL.
Finally, Casie Gillette’s reference to Recordit, which allows you to create custom GIFs, is immediately reminiscent of Darren Shaw’s recent discovery that you can use these in place of static images in Google My Business products if you save them as JPEG instead of GIF. Don’t overdo it, but subtle animation can really make your local company’s products stand out!
5. Rely on local trends and dare to be different
Several speakers at MozCon 2021 warned against running a company on assumptions. There are always new trends in marketing and shiny new things in terms of technology and strategy, but what really matters is what works for your customers. For example:
Casie Gillette, mentioned above, was a great reminder to us that there is a widespread narrative that “print is dead”. Say the Yankee Candles, whose printed catalogs played a key role in their 122.9 million sales in 2020. It wasn’t long ago that almost everyone assumed the milkman was a thing of the past. Not so! Takeaway: Don’t just get hung up on fads. You may read that your local business has to spend hours a week in social media marketing, but when your own customers tell you they really want a home delivery, or better trained staff, or a cleaner store … money there and give it to them!
Dr. Peter J. Meyers of Moz reminds us that our stationary competitors may not be the same as our competitors in the organic SERPs. You need to examine the results of the search queries that matter to your specific customers to see if you are right about who is actually competing with you for important phrases.
Wil Reynolds advises bringing a small ego into the SEO process and a willingness to be wrong and question everything. He encourages brands to make marketing decisions based on data and puts it in a nutshell: the less you understand your customers, the more money you invest in acquisition.
I believe that local business owners have an advantage over their virtual counterparts because you live where your customers live and maybe even have absorbed your city’s culture all your life. In a local context, technology is there to make the conversation easier, and what you learn from the MozCon 2021 video package will be a new level of confidence and expertise to make you a more thoughtful, equipped communicator.
Your online-only peers must bring these skills to a huge arena and compete with everyone in the world to be heard. But for you, marketing a local business, investing in education in yourself and your team can give you an exceptional boost in the worthy path of becoming a local household name.