#Pubcon Liveblog: Local Search Hot Topics and Trends

Local Search Strategy: Barnacle SEO

Will Scott @w2scott, Search Influence

Google sucks. Google treats small businesses as a rounding error in their economic equation. A strategy for local businesses is barnacle SEO: attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for customers to float by in the current. Google says the most important thing in business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Google has a weakness; they’re a sucker for big “authority” sites:

  • YouTube
  • Yelp
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Houzz
  • YP.com

Barnacle SEO in the wild:

Google, in the last several months, has unbundled results from the same domain. Previously you’d find

Here we see yellowpages.com listed 4 times.


So now he’ll show some ways we can figure out what results Google is going to show and try to latch onto that opportunity.

Query “gastric bypass surgery new hartford ny” — gastric bypass is a very competitive term and when you do this search you’ll see Dr. Graber coming up 9 times on different domains. He’s winning that very competitive SERP.

Query “bounce like beyonce” — you’ll see a plastic surgeon at the top of the page from their YouTube video.


Video is the strongest inset in Universal results and YouTube is 8/10 of those video results. Local is back to being long-tail search. Hang your local search phrases off an authoritative site, like YouTube.

Check out ranking reports for your local keyword phrase.

Think of other sites where you might be able to position your content and how you can make that work for you. Adding some links to the Zocdoc result in this ranking report may be able to get it into position 3 or 4 from 14.


Local Search: It’s No Laughing Matter (Or, the Factors of Local Search)

Greg Gifford @greggifford, AutoRevo

Greg’s presentation can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/localsearchcomedy. He works at an SEO and social media firm that services car dealerships.

There was a huge algo shift from October through November 2013 and saw a return to an old way. The map pack stabilized to 7 listings. There are more search results in the search results. Optimized vertical and local directories are ranking well now where they hadn’t been before the end of last year. Now you can get several results on a SERP (organic plus map-pack). There’s a huge opportunity by simply adding city and state to a web page Title tag.

2013 local search ranking factors: these influence rankings


Google+ Local (aka Google Places, Google for Business and every name they change it to)

Google wants Google+ Local to be like a drive-through — get in and out quick with what you need. If you are having issues you can get help in the Google Business Forums (but he says this with a sarcastic flair, as though getting Google to help you might be possible but is unlikely).

They are finally merging Google’s old Places dashboard and the new Google+ Local dashboard. If you previously forced a merge, you’ll be getting an email warning you about “duplicate listings.”

Optimization tips for Google+ Local business page:

  • Write long, awesome descriptions and use formatting and links
  • Upload lots of photos
  • New update: you can now add a single descriptor to business name (to help locate or describe) — it’s going to get spammed but hey, why not try it since it’s a new rule Google’s allowing
  • You can now add up to 10 categories
  • There aren’t many users on Google+ but do your best to engage
  • Circle users as your business


Reviews are back to stars, but now with decimals. (Zagat rating system is gone.) Reviews now appear in an isolated pop-up. Know that you can’t buy a good reputation, you have to earn it. No strategy will help you get positive reviews if you’re not good at what you do and good to customers.

Tips for getting reviews:

  • Remove roadblocks
  • Ask for reviews and tell them how (but not for Yelp)
  • Don’t ignore Yelp — it powers Apple Maps
  • You need 5 reviews to see stars on Google+
  • Shoot for 10 reviews on Google+, then diversify to other third-party review sites
  • Only you can get reviews — you have to ask
  • Tactic: handout with instructions (cheap printed 4×6 card)
  • Tactic: follow up with emails but don’t do it in an automated way because you don’t want to ask for a review from someone who left you one
  • Slow is okay — most businesses get 1-2 a month
  • Don’t copy reviews to your site; Google wants Google+ reviews to be unique so they’ll remove duplicates from their property

On-Site Optimization for Local
Landing page optimization tips (but really, should be every page):

  • city/state in Title tag
  • city/state in H1 heading
  • city/state in URL
  • city/state in ALT attributes (don’t forget photos on your landing page)
  • city/state in Meta Description
  • city/state in content
  • Embedded Google Map pointing to G+ location, not just address
  • NAP on landing page must match NAP on G+ page
  • Use schema markup in your NAP


  • Include NAP on every page
  • You must use a local number — no call tracking or 800 numbers Would you rather have tons of data that you don’t use or get more phone calls?

Create awesome content for local:

  • It’s all about branding.
  • Make your blog a local destination.
  • Blog about your community.
  • Sponsor local events.
  • Create local event guides.
  • Review local businesses.
  • Create a local resource directory.
  • Interview local figures.
  • Crazy idea: do just a little linkbuilding and social on your local content.

What if you’re not in the area that you’re trying to rank in? An example is a rehab center. “The best rehab facility in California … is actually in Texas.”

Links: You don’t need that many to succeed in local, but don’t ignore low domain authority local sites.

Citations: Are you almost in the map pack or almost #1? More citations (mentions of your NAP on other websites) will get you over the hump. Structured citations are directory listings. Unstructured citations are mentions like in a blog. Look up tier 1 and tier 2 citations.


The tool he uses for citation management and research is Whitespark. It spits out citation ideas and checks current citations by running your phone number and you can get ideas by running your competitor’s phone number. Then compare yourself to your competitors.

Local Carousel

The number of businesses in the carousel depends on the user’s resolution, dimensions.

Usually the photo that shows up is the first photo uploaded to your Google+ account. Google’s solution to this problem? Delete all your photos and start over… But that doesn’t work if you didn’t upload the first photo. So, over the last few, months Google has been changing photos and is shifting from exterior shots until, lately, it’s been interior shots. Learn how Carousel thumbnails are cropped for display: bit.ly/carouselcropping. There might be an answer coming about how businesses can choose their photo.

Local SEO Tools

    • Moz.com: Good at a little bit of everything. Open Site Explorer is a must.
    • Places Scout: Local extravaganza! keywords, ranking, reputation management (archives and reports new reviews)
    • SEMrush: Primarily for PPC intel and keyword research with a new rank tracker
    • Link Prospector: Tool for discovering link opportunities
    • CopyPress: Content creation outsourcing at $50 for 500 word article, including ideation
    • Followerwonk: Twitter analysis
    • ReTargeter: Display ad remarketing

WordPress Tools

    • Yoast SEO is vital but turn off the OpenGraph Meta info in Yoast. He doesn’t get it right. You don’t want it to pull a random image and use the same SEO Meta data.
    • Open Graph Metabox: set unique OG dat per post/page
    • nRelate Flyout: showcases similar content; increases engagement/time on site
    • WordFence Security: best security plugin available and it’s free

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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4 Replies to “#Pubcon Liveblog: Local Search Hot Topics and Trends”

Some SEO freelancers & companies pays a high attention to local citations made via YouTube, Slide share, Academia(.edu), & Foursquare (& sometimes to Craigslist) … If you’re isolating the involved profiles to a targeted location, then the authority will grow very much.

Great post Virginia! I would like to praise Majestic SEO. This is in my Local SEO Toolbox for link building and citation building! Also SlideBoom and Slideshare make for powerful unstructured local citations and should be apart of any local SEO campaign.

Thanks for adding to the list of online locations to get citations, whitehatseo10. :)

Also, some SEO freelancers & companies pays a high attention to local citations made via YouTube, Slideshare, Academia(.edu), & Foursquare (& sometimes to Craigslist) … If you’re isolating the involved profiles to a targeted location, then the authority will grow very much.


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