Staying with the Maps Boost Program: How You Get Value from Ongoing Local SEO

On the face of it, local SEO may seem to be a one-time gig. You hire a local SEO agency, they fill out your Google My Business (GMB) listing, ensure your citations are accurate, set up a dedicated local landing page on your site, maybe even encourage you to get a few reviews, and then you’re set to go.

It’s true that, depending on industry, location, and competition, some local SEO work in isolation may be all that’s required. Some companies won’t be able to justify a monthly agency fee if they already dominate their local markets and where investment isn’t going to matched by revenue growth.

But for a lot of businesses, a single round of local SEO work won’t move the needle enough to have a positive impact on your bottom line. Here are the reasons why:

 

 

Google My Business (GMB) Is Important

At the foundation of local search is Google My Business (GMB). It is GMB listings that appear in local and map results. If your business doesn’t have a GMB listing then you can’t appear in local search results. What’s more, GMB isn’t just the token you use to play the game, it’s an integral part of the game itself. The information you enter into your GMB listing (its accuracy, relevance, and completion) is also a ranking factor for local search, and it’s becoming a stronger signal to Google according to the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey. Compiled by Whitespark & Moz, it’s the industry’s best insight into ranking factors for local search.

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2015 Local Ranking Factors

 

2018 Local Ranking Factors

 

Industry experts put GMB-specific features as accounting for 25% of local search ranking, up from 15% 3 years prior. Partly, this is a consequence of GMB expanding and providing ever more information. GMB is becoming your new homepage for brand searches. It’s a component of the trend towards zero click search – Google is providing answers within search results, eliminating the need to visit outside websites. A study by SparkToro (using data from Jumpshot) found that 34% of searches on desktop, and 62% on mobile, resulted in no clicks.

From your GMB knowledge panel, potential customers can take away a lot of information and take multiple actions without visiting your site. The following is on desktop while mobile offers even more features:

 

 

 

Here’s a comprehensive list of actions and information customers can collect from your GMB listing:

  • Find address
  • Opening hours
  • Read a description of the company
  • Read reviews
  • Leave a review
  • See common questions (and answers)
  • Call
  • Get directions
  • See photos
  • Upload a photo
  • See menu (for relevant industries)
  • Read the latest Posts from the company
  • See popular/busy times
  • See waiting times (for relevant industries)
  • Proof on other sites (e.g. included in top 10 restaurants on eater.com)
  • See attributes associated with the business – highlights, amenities, accessibility, atmosphere etc.
  • Send the company details to your phone (if on desktop)
  • Depending on industry, a number of other options could be available (order food, reserve a table, book a hotel room, make an appointment etc.)
  • Share the listing on social media
  • Search nearby businesses in certain categories

 


We’ve seen clients experience strong overall traffic growth but simultaneously lose branded traffic since a lot of customers’ needs are being met in search results. Nearly all of this information comes from your GMB listing.

GMB is both the starting point and the focal point of local SEO. There are a many elements of it which can be checked off and won’t need revisiting. But GMB is constantly evolvingOver the last 2 years, there has been an average of 2 new improvements or features a month (not to mention cosmetic changes and bugs).


For example, the following changes all took place in June 2019:

 

New feature What is it? What can you do?
“Products” collections expanded to most categories. Most businesses can now add their products inside GMB which are then displayed in knowledge panels in Google, local finders and maps. Add all your products! With enticing descriptions and sharp images (the correct format, size and aspect ratio).
Q&A auto-suggest answers Q&A (a feature in a company knowledge panel) is now being filled automatically, with answers generated from reviews or Posts. Create Google Posts on your most commonly asked questions to ensure a better chance of the right answer being generated.
Logo in knowledge panel Logos now appear in a company’s knowledge panel next to the company name. Google has constantly flip-flopped between cover, profile and logo photos. Logo is now back – upload appropriate an image (right size and aspect ratio).
Short names Companies can now get a short name URL to easily share with customers. E.g. g.page/{yourname} Choose a short name which makes sense. If you’re a big brand you’ll want to use your brand name. For smaller companies, including city or keywords might be more memorable. NOTE: A few days after it was rolled out, many companies that added a short name had their GMB listings suspended due to a bug – need to follow the news!
Welcome offers A type of Post, companies can offer special deals to new customers who follow their GMB listing (customers can follow businesses through the Google Maps app). Incentivize customers to follow your company and make a purchase. Tip: Use a unique coupon code to track success.
Online and offline material from Google You can download, order and share a range of marketing material directly from Google. Order signs to put in-store, share Google’s GMB highlights video on social media, or embed Google reviews on your website.

 

 

As well as Google’s own additions and changes, sometimes unforeseeable, unpredictable and, at times, frankly weird events happen that need addressing. Here are 3 recent examples from some of our clients:

 

  1. A big blue “book online” button appeared on a client’s GMB listing which they knew nothing about. This can happen in certain industries. Third parties pay Google to act as a medium (and take a cut of any booking that is made online). If the button is unwanted, companies need to contact the third party to get it removed.
  2. One client had an issue with the SSL certificate on their site. The URL in GMB disappeared (Google doesn’t want to send users to a site suffering potential security issues). We don’t know if the URL would have returned by itself, but we didn’t wait to find out. When the SSL was fixed, we promptly added the URL back in and it remained.
  3. A client’s primary category was changed (probably the most important piece of information in a GMB listing) – Google can do this either based on information it picks up elsewhere or from suggested user edits. We switched it back and kept a close eye on it in the immediate period following.

 

 

GMB Is a Lot, but It’s Not Everything

The #2 (links) and #4 (on-page signals) local ranking factors are both heavily influenced by content.

Links – more content and more good content = more likely to earn backlinks from outside sites. How Google interprets and scores links has certainly evolved over time, but their importance remains.

On-page signals – All pages should send the right signals to make clear what it’s about (title tags, image tags, on-page content, headings, thinking in terms of entities and words (synonyms and related words) that relate to those entities).

Signals also go beyond single pages. E.g. all contractors in Houston will have a page about “bathroom remodeling”. All things being equal, a site that also includes pages on showers and bathtubs, bathroom flooring, bathroom cabinets, and master bathrooms is more relevant to the topic of bathrooms than a site without. This is topical relevance.

Similarly, a site that discusses trends in bathroom remodeling in Houston, the best suppliers of bathroom tiles in Houston, and the cost of remodeling a bathroom in Houston would send more location signals than a site without. This is geo relevance.

Ongoing content creation provides the opportunity to build topical and geo relevance

 

 

Your Competitors Are, at a Minimum, Covering the Basics

A one-time gig can lay all the foundations, but, if your niche has any sort of competition, all your competitors will have already reached this level.

Unless you operate in a small town or there are almost no local competitors, doing the basics (completing your GMB profile, building citations, and having a suitable landing page) will simply make you one of the crowd.

Running a search for “knee doctor houston”, I get 191 local results in Google:

 

 

Ongoing Local SEO Allows You to Find a Competitive Edge

If you are in a competitive market, you often need to do things better or do things differently. But doing the same things better or different varies by location and industry. 

By studying competitors and experimenting, you can learn what works for your business in your location. This requires ongoing commitment.

 

 

Recap: Ongoing Local SEO Tasks

  • Google My Business (to fully utilize and keep up-to-date with frequent changes)
  • Build topical and geo relevance through content
  • Gain a competitive edge in a crowded market
  • Review management and generation (react to negative reviews, review diversity)
  • Fight spam listings (varies by industry – some are so plagued with spam that the best strategy to get noticed is to continually battle spam listings to have them removed)
  • Re-audit the site periodically (especially after any site changes such as a new design, a switch from http to https or migration to a completely new domain)
  • React to any change in contact information (name, address, phone, opening a new location)
  • React quickly to any algorithm updates (e.g. Google’s Possum update whereby similar businesses at nearby addresses results in filtering) or changes in Google’s policies or best practices (e.g. with virtual offices must now be staffed by your own employee to be eligible, an employee at the office who takes calls and appointments for multiple businesses in the office is no longer allowed).

 

 

What Happens to Your Business on the Maps Boost Program

Client 1:

A dental client with a newish practice and newish website which was getting very low levels of traffic. The client came aboard in March 2018:

 

Organic traffic January 2018 – July 2019:

 

Impressions for searches that include “houston” December 2018 – July 2019 (The site changed from http to https in December 2018 making earlier data problematic):

 

 

Client 2:

A building contractor with solid yet plateauing traffic. The client signed up in March 2018.

 

Organic traffic January 2018 – July 2019:

 

Impressions for searches that include “houston” June 2018 – July 2019 (again, a move to https in June 2018 makes it a more simple starting point) :

 

 

Client 3:

A power generation company with a growing national presence organically, but its local service was under-performing in local search. The client hopped onto the program in March 2018.

 

Organic traffic January 2018 – July 2019:

 

Impressions for searches that include “houston” April 2018 – July 2019 (there’s a theme here…another switch to https means data starts in April 2018):

 

 

What Happens to Your Business off the Maps Boost Program

Here’s an example of what happens when a business leaves the program and ceases ongoing local SEO activites.

 

Client 4:

An IT recycling company with a strong local presence although not for its core services. The client joined the program in November 2018 and stayed until May 2019.

 

Organic traffic September 2018 – July 2019:

 

Impressions for searches that include “houston” September 2018 – July 2019:

 

The traffic pattern is almost just as you would expect – it plateaus. Rewards from earlier work aren’t lost, at least not in such a short space of time. In fact, it wouldn’t be unusual to witness continued growth, at least for a period of time. But, eventually, traffic is likely to flatten out or start to fall for the reversal of reasons that traffic on the program grows:

 

  • The GMB listing fails to keep up with new features and fails to serve customer needs through existing features like special opening hours, new photos, and answering customer questions through the Q&A feature.
  • Putting an end to content production likely means less topical and geo relevance vis-à-vis competitors over time. Related to this, it also lessens the potential impact of existing content through internal linking. It puts a dagger through branding for readers who regularly look to your content. Lastly, it heavily reduces link earning opportunities.
  • Any change of business information, intentional or not, may be problematic, especially if it contaminates top citation sources or important niche directories.
  • The ability to react to changes in search, industry, or the competition is strongly diminished.

 

 

HandBuiltBrands, LLC

Former address:

  HandBuiltBrands, L.L.C.
  8375 Westview Dr
  Houston, Texas 77055

Current office and mailing address:

  The Cannon
  1336 Brittmoore Rd
  Houston, TX 77043

  713-510-3922

Customer Service Hours:

Monday - Friday: 9:30 am - 3 pm

Get in touch!

inbound@handbuiltbrands.com

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