Podcast | Building local SEO into your wider strategy with BrightLocal

Building local SEO into your wider strategy with BrightLocal

This month we’re talking to Myles Anderson, the CEO of BrightLocal, to discuss the importance of incorporating local SEO into your wider strategy.

We explore:

  • What is local SEO
  • The biggest challenges for local SEO
  • How local SEO fits into your wider search strategy
  • local SEO and omnichannel

Listen on Apple podcasts and Spotify.

AI Transcription

This podcast has been transcribed using an AI transcriber. There may be some errors and this is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Can you tell us a bit about BrightLocal?

Yeah, so BrightLocal, which is 10 years old this month, actually. We are a local analytics and marketing platform, primarily used by professional marketeers either working agencies, working freelance, working in house at brands, and we help them understand their visibility online, so where their ranking in Google, where that ranking in Google Maps, kind of cruising native, BrightLocal, it’s about locals, and other brands and agencies that we work with are businesses that get their customers from a local area.

So what exactly is local SEO? 

So local SEO is essentially the practice of making a business much more visible, usually within search, within Google, but also within Google Maps and mobile, for relevant search terms. And the fact is local, requires some slightly different tactics to let’s say, an ecommerce business or business that doesn’t have a local physical entity, where it meets its customers. And by the way, it’s not just a clinic, or let’s say, a legal practice, or a cafe where customers come into the building, it could also be a plumber, or a cleaner where they go to you. But technically, they traditionally will serve customers within a certain geography, or in around where they can operate. So local SEO is essentially a series of tactical channels and practices that help you rise up the rankings for relevant search terms. And as well as doing that it extends into things like reputation management, so helping you not only appear high at the results, but once people can see you and find you, because you’re the most attractive listing, because you’ve got a great star rating and a great visible reputation online.

When it comes to algorithm updates, we know in our line of SEO, that is a huge thing that affects the visibility of hundreds of brands, do you foresee an update coming for local SEO? 

So algorithm updates, there was a broad core update, I think about 10 days ago, we saw a ripple effect. In local, tracking the map package, we have a thing called rank flux, which tracks the impact of algorithm updates on about 15,000 local results. So we wanted that kind of quite closely, we saw a very minor impact of the latest one, the algorithms between organic SEO organic rankings and maps are very closely linked, for example, content on site performance and links make a huge part of the local algorithm as they do with the kind of organic algorithm. So you would expect to see when there are major changes around those two pieces, would have a big impact on the kind of local results in this in we didn’t see that much we don’t tend to see so much within local, mainly because a lot of the local sites are quite small, you don’t tend to have things like large scale duplicate content issues, they don’t do large scale link building kind of campaigns, they don’t tend to get hurt, or hit in the same place sometimes. And also really about local search is not just a map pack, you’ve also got the local organic results. If you search for, plumber near me, you’ll get a pack of results, which is essentially kind of Google My Business results. And then you’ll get all the organic listings as well. So the organic listings can can get hit by panda algorithm updates. But also there’s organic listings, you’ve got local businesses, and then you’ve got sites like Yelp, and then you got mechanic advisor and those types of sites. So there’s bigger large scale kind of content sites, and you will tend to see more fluctuation in their performance. But an algorithm happens, whereas local sites tend to not get clobbered nearly so hard, they tend to be slightly more genuine, and less going to SEO orientated in terms of how they’re structured. 

With that in mind, SEO is always changing and there’s always new challenges. What would you say is the biggest factor affecting local SEO at the moment?

So probably the biggest thing on on the horizon is Google’s continual quest to monetize its results. And traditionally, Google has not got that much PPC revenue out of local businesses, because local businesses tend to dip in and out of local marketing, while they’re also doing that alongside running their own businesses. So they haven’t got large budgets, they don’t have consistency. Google has traditionally really under monetized that kind of small to medium sized business market. So they’re looking at ways to access more revenue. So there’s a lot more pay per lead now then sort of local search. So for example, in the US there’s a thing called local service ads. So let’s say you’re a plumber, or a locksmith in certain cities, they have, essentially a pay per lead solution now. So that appears right at the top of search results, you do also get the map pack, but essentially dominated by the results of these kind of pay per lead. So that’s an example of how Google is kind of diminishing the amount of organic ranking opportunity in favor of paid. So for local businesses, they’re kind of getting slightly squeezed out of the search results, because Google wants to reduce the opportunities they have to pay to get that visibility and get those leads. So I think that’s, you know, you think of all the commercial pressures that Google’s under, that’s certainly not going to go away, they’ve got to increase shareholder value. So they need to find new ways to monetize that kind of local product. So that’s one thing that the industry is sort of battling with. 

I think one of the biggest sort of movements at the moment is around reputation management, Reputation Marketing, people are really waking up to how important it is to really take control of that reputation online, and it can do multiple things that are really positive for a business. If you’ve got good reviews, it also gets you the one that gets clicked on in the search results. But then also utilizing that star rating on your landing pages on your own site can help increase conversion. So suddenly, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving reputation management, you can utilize it in so many ways. So lots of businesses are waking up to that opportunity.

So how does local SEO fit into a wider SEO strategy would you say?

So it depends how you look at the kind of local SEO. Local will characterize it as purely Google Maps and that kind of map ranking, that is really a very narrow view of it, it’s certainly a key part and Google My Business is the hub point within, and map to ranking working together for a really nicely optimized Google My Business profile, to have any skin in the game, therefore, to have any ability to appear in those results. But also local SEO, it’s really about taking your content pages and making them start to rank for terms that are relevant to a local area.

So for someone in Brighton, you need to make sure that Google understands that you can serve them in that particular local area. So it does fit quite nicely into a wider kind of content strategy. And where it gets difficult – and it can benefit small businesses and large businesses – small businesses, like a small independent chain that might have two or three stores around Brighton, they have a great advantage actually locally, because they’ve only got to optimize for that one area, which means they can really understand about Brighton, about the Brighton community, Brighton landmark, and start to utilize those things in their content, so that Google really understands where they serve their customers. If you got somebody like Argos in there, and then maybe they’re operating in 150 locations in the UK, it’s a lot harder for them to really understand each location, the same way that independent business can, then also to optimize their content at scale becomes a much, much bigger task, and they don’t tend to do such a good job of it, because they’ve got to try and do some job at some level, it’s a bit more kind of lowest common denominator for a lot of for a lot of brands. So, local search, I equate it to a bit of a sort of tactical warfare – independent businesses, like the guerrilla warfare, they can really go under the skin of the local community, and they can really exploit this, that small scale, whereas larger brands, they’ve got the big weapons, they’ve got the brand, they’ve got Google proxies brand into domain authority. And there’s other kind of key factors on that side. So you’ve got these these big domain heavyweights versus the small contenders and the local businesses, but each of them is actually trying to compete for the same set of local consumers. And so I think in terms of strategy, I think local businesses just can go directly at kind of local search. And they don’t need to think, necessarily of wider implications. But when you’re working in a bigger brand, and you move a little bit slower, you’ve got probably loads of technology overhead in terms of how your site is structured, and making changes can be quite arduous, because you’ve got lots of other factors that come into play, you’ve got to reconsider what impact it can have. 

And who owns local search within a business? I think, a problem that many larger scale businesses have had is understanding who owns local. Is it a technical thing, because it’s part of the website is the website responsibility, the digital marketing team, or is local marketing responsible? It should be owned by someone in a branch level, who knows that kind of community. So that’s always a key thing is who are the stakeholders who owns it, who has responsibility, who has the ability to influence where work gets done. So what is interesting is I think local search is becoming more and more widely considered within businesses that operate locally. And it’s, it’s definitely a tactic in my view, I don’t think it’s really strategic play doing local well, because, for example, your Google My Business listing, once you’ve got that well optimized with the correct information, you don’t have to do too much more than that, you can make use of the exact kind of Google posts which a little promo that you can put out there. Obviously, managing your reputation is an important thing. But it’s very much a kind of tactical play, as opposed to, let’s say, a strategic rebuild of your entire site, which probably gets more interest at a board level within a large organization. So I think the first thing for bigger businesses to do is to get their head around who owns it, who’s the best placed team, to own local search, and then to kind of go through the motions of what they need to sort out. And a big part of it is about getting your Google My Business right, making sure you’ve got good landing page content for each branch that you serve, and each area that you serve, and then all it comes down to things like reputation management. 

Omnichannel is becoming really like prevalent. Have you seen a peaking interest around local SEO as a result of omnichannel strategies?

What has had an impact is businesses realizing that consumers want to be spoken to at a local level, where they’re located in is important to them, and they’re not a homogenized blob of customers that you could just serve up the same sort of generic campaign, you can’t speak to them in the sort of same voice. So businesses are waking up that they need to understand local audiences better and target them much better with relevant tactical sort of campaign.