As a local bricks and mortar business, your brand SERP is your new Homepage
Jason: Hi and welcome to another brand SERP webinar, the second in the series. Today it's “As a Local Bricks and Mortar Business Your Brand SERP is Your New Homepage”. What I like here is that we're getting a bit more aggressive, if you like.
The last one was it's your business card, and I think as a national or international business your brand SERP is your business card. As a local business, your brand SERP is your homepage, and we've got Andy, Claire and Greg to tell us all about it.
I'm really excited because there's so much I don't know about exact match brand searches. I've got absolutely boatloads to learn. If we can share the screen, we're looking at “who's looking for whom?” One often forgets to ask the question who is looking, and who are they looking for.
You've got types of users, types of business, and I broke it down like this. You've got uni-location businesses, i.e. a local business that only has one single outlet in one particular town, then you got uni location multi-town where somebody's got or a company's got multiple outlets in multiple towns, and then you've got multi-location multi-town where you've got multiple outlets in a specific town or multiple towns. For me that's the three types of local businesses we're talking about.
Then we even move on to types of users. For me there are only two types. One is existing clients who are looking to find your business having already found it once, and new clients who know your name but don't yet know where you are or who you are.
Basically as a business if you've got just one location you've just got to look after what people in your area are looking at. If they're outside the area, it doesn't really matter. If you're a national brand with multiple outlets in multiple towns you really need to look after all those multiples outlets, which is a really big problem, because who looks after them? The local people in the shop, or somebody national level to make sure it's all coherent?
Greg: I think it depends because you do have, if we're talking the national chain, you do have some of them that are very SEO-focused and they understand that they need to look out for that, and sometimes it's more of like a franchisee type situation where there's not as much oversight from national headquarters, and then it's up to each individual location to look, so there's no hard and fast rule.
Jason: Okay, brilliant. I was oversimplifying once again.
Andy: David (Mihm) did a great quote just the other week, probably a couple of weeks ago when he was talking about local search, local SEO in 2020, and this is one of the quotes. Basically saying...too many companies are trying to rank for their classic products they're selling et cetera, and not focusing on their brand.
If you're given a company name to do this brand search, just make sure that you look good when somebody Googles your name. You've got your GMB, and everything else that goes along with it. Make sure that it's a positive experience and not a negative experience when somebody's looking you up as a brand.
Jason: I mean you've done all the hard-selling, you've talked to them, or somebody's talked to them. Somebody's recommended you. They search your brand name and suddenly you look rubbish.
Jason: It's the easiest sell you're going to get, and all those keywords as you rightly say, people look at it, don't really do a good job on it, and the first thing you should be doing is making sure your brand SERP looks amazing.
What Google Shows Users on the Branded SERPs
What does Google show these people searching your brand? What does Google show people searching your brand name? For exact match brand searches, Google is showing the results it considers the most helpful to its user.
It knows that the user is somebody who knows your business who's searching to navigate towards you, either your site or in this case more possibly the actual outlet that you're trying to attract them to. It's looking for what's most appropriate and helpful to them, and they want to serve the immediate need of that person in their current context, and that context is likely to be local or mobile.
That often now means keeping them on the SERP. I think from my point of view from outside local search, I'm looking at it and thinking, "Do I really need a website anymore?" I think that's a question we can look at as we go on. What I hadn't realized on the brand SERP of local businesses is how much there is to do for somebody when they search a local business.
Google's really made this very rich, very interesting, lots of information, and very little need to actually go to any websites beyond what we already see on Google. We don't need to go further, because it's already given us so many options of what to do. Do I need to visit the site? Do I even want to visit the site? And this is the example I found, which is the richest one I could find, and I'm sure you guys have found other rich ones that are even richer, and I broke it down into chunks.
We've got the rich site links, which I love. They've got a great site, well organized, they've got the rich site links. That takes up a big chunk of real estate that they own, they control, and when I'm searching for it I can immediately navigate to the different parts of the site. That's very attractive as a user.
Then they've got some ratings. This one's from Facebook, so immediately think as a user, "Okay, they've got these great reviews. I think they're impressive."
All these other results, the question there is, "Do I control them? Can I make them look as good as I possibly can so that when somebody does search it I've got A, a degree of control, and B, make sure that it's accurate, positive and convincing?" I think they've done a very, very good job.
Then they've got the video boxes. Gary's going to talk about that later on. Video boxes from my point of view make the brand look incredibly professional. They actually look like they're going out there and doing things. They've got these videos that are reaching out to their audience. I see that and I think, "This is a great brand who are actually doing something."
Then we move on to the right-hand side and we've got all these products that they're selling. I don't know how common that is on local search brand SERPs. I'm sure you guys can tell me later on.
Then the Google My Business, and I think this really dominates the local brand SERP. Google My Business, how do you optimize it? How do you get these products there? How do you get the categories there? How do I get it so that when I click, when somebody clicks on these products they actually see all of these products?
They're being pulled, I assume, from the Google My Business. The individual products, these descriptions. They've done an amazing job with the idea of buying, so they're kind of mixing the buying online and also visiting the store offline.
Questions and answers, this is something that I think is incredibly important. Obviously it feeds Google with information that Google doesn't already have, but it also provides me as a user with questions, well, answers to questions that I might have. Very common questions. And if I'm right, as a business you can ask your own questions to yourself and answer them yourself to preempt questions that other people might ask.
This is all from Android tracking to know...when it's popular, when it's full of people, how long people spend in it. That's kind of scary that they're tracking my Android phone and everyone else's Android phone, but it's also as a client, as a user incredibly useful, because then I know if I go at 10 o'clock in the morning there won't be many people there.
Reviews, obviously incredibly important. Always been incredibly important. They're shown there right on the SERP, with the little popup window. Once again, I don't need to visit the site. I can stick on Google and I can actually see what people think about “The Bushcraft Store”, right on the SERP. I still haven't gone anywhere near the site.
The posts. I know Greg loves these and he's got tips about the sizes of the images that I saw in one of the talks that you gave. Once again, I can see the products, I can see what's happening, I can see the offers. The site becomes redundant as far as I can see.
The “people also search for”; that's the one that worries me most. It's where you have absolutely no control, and I'd be intrigued to know if there's any way of controlling that. Any way to influence what Google is showing. That's my run-through of all these rich elements, the things that you can do on the SERP, and the reasons that I no longer feel I need to visit the site.
Should Local Businesses Only Optimize for Zero-Click Searches?
First question then is to Greg. What's a good approach? Do I as a business optimize for the no-click, which is what I've just basically explained, or do you fight back and try to get them to your site?
Greg: I think it depends. Because think about when was the last time you went to a restaurant's website? You don't, and you don't need to. You want to look at pictures of the food, and you want to see reviews, and you don't need to go to their website to do that. If you're a restaurant, you optimize the heck out of everything else so that everything makes the best first impression for you.
But if you're an attorney, or a car dealer, or anything where there still is a reason for people to come to your site, I think you optimize for both.
I mean, you optimize Google My Business and everything that shows up in the search results to provide a great first impression so that people will choose to click through and do further research or decide to potentially call you. But there's definitely the need for every local business out there to at least consider the fact that a significant bit of their traffic is going to not click through to the site.
You will have some people that click through and that's great, but I don't think that any business out there should do the, "I'm going to fight back and try to get people to click through," because I just don't think that that's natural behavior anymore. I think Google's going to continue to show so much information there that for a lot of businesses, maybe there's just not a need to click through to the site anymore.
And that's not bad. You're still getting the conversions. You're still getting those phone calls. You're just not getting them from the phone number on your site. You're getting them from the phone number in Google.
Jason: Which becomes much more difficult to measure, and also if you don't have a site you don't get that first spot. Can I get rid of my site, Andy, or do I need to keep it?
Andy: Greg just said no. Well I've got a toyshop example. There's a toy shop in a local town I used to live. They don't have a website. They dominate with Facebook and their GMB. They don't have a website, but that's because they're very interactive with their clients, but I know my attorneys can't just have a Facebook page.
Jason: So they're using their Facebook page to rank number one in the place of the homepage I just mentioned, and then they're looking at that and saying, "We don't need the expense." I think that's the important thing. We don't need the expense of running a website, because it's complicated and scary for a lot of people. But then Google My Business offer that opportunity. They offer you the website you can create through Google My Business.
Greg: In Andy's example of the toy shop that just doesn't have a website, it might be valuable for them to throw up a quick little website if they even care. If they already dominate it may not matter, but for most businesses out there you're going to want your own website that you control that is not owned on Google.
I would always suggest having your own site, not using the GMB site. If you have your own website and then you try to set up the GMB site, then the GMB site is the one that gets linked to from your profile, not your actual site, so you most cases don't really want to touch it.
The Importance of Mobile in Local Search
Jason: Yeah, so you're locking yourself in which is never really a good idea. Keeping some kind of independence is going to be incredibly important.
Moving on, we're going to talk about mobile. Andy was talking about how many people actually click through to your site, and one way to see that is through Search Console, and I'm looking at mobile specifics.
My immediate reaction was to go straight to Search Console to see how much of the traffic for one of my clients was actually coming through mobile. I've got my method which is...I identify my brand name in the query, and then the page which is my homepage, and then click on devices, and I can see that here we've got about half and half is desktop and mobile. There's two questions there, Andy. Number one, is that typical for a local business, or is my client getting more desktop traffic than is usual?
Andy: It depends. Yes I use GSC for the queries, but I also look at the Google Analytics data for the percentage of audience on mobile and desktop. I'm seeing all the time an increase from desktop switching over to mobile even for my attorney websites. The other thing with mobile is the examples you were showing were on desktop, but the GMB and the organic listing looks very different on a mobile device because the GMB is fragmented within that first page when you look at a brand search on mobile. That's something people should realize; that if they're getting more traffic from mobile, look at the mobile experience first and see what the users are seeing there, and obviously also consider desktop as well.
Jason: When people are optimizing or looking at what people are searching for, they would tend to be sitting at their laptop computer or their desktop computer. That's a big mistake.
Jason: And you rightly point out, as a user what do we do? I think sometimes as marketers or business owners we don't act or think in terms of being a user. And this on-SERP experience, it strikes me that as marketers we're saying, "Oh, oh it's terrible. We're not getting the visits." But as a user we're going, "Isn't it great because the experience is better?" Which is a little bit contradictory. What do you think, Claire?
Claire: I think I've just started always making sure when I look at anything I'm using something like MobileMoxie, or using my phone, or using Chrome tools to resize my screen so I'm looking at everything, desktop and on a mobile. I do agree, we do get a bit…”Everything is desktop”. But I've escaped that trap myself personally now.
It's quite seasonal as well. If you're an attraction for example you could have 80% of your visitors are looking at your site on a mobile because they're on holiday, so it's not just, "Are you a bricks and mortar business? Are you a service area business?" It's like, "What's your niche? What type of business are you?" It's all going to be very specific to your niche I think.
Jason: Brilliant. I hadn't thought of that. For an attraction I'm doing my research for my summer holidays I'm sitting at my desktop at work instead of doing actually some work, and I'm checking it out on a desktop, and then as soon as I'm actually on holiday there's no way I'm going to be using a desktop, so there's the seasonal aspect of the mobile desktop ratios.
Dealing with Ambiguity in Local Branded Search
We're going to move on to the problems of ambiguity. This is one of my favorite things, and you were talking about, I think it was Holly Farm?
Claire: Folly Farm. This is just taking the example of Folly Farm Adventure Park & Zoo. Just staying with the business profile, because that's what we were touching on earlier on, obviously, this one makes a pretty much exact match brand name search, you really want your business profile to be showing for that. So you've got your Google Posts, you've got your reviews, you've got events, you've got all of those things that you've just talked about that we use to enrich that profile for our people that are looking at our search engine results page.
But I think this is a trap that marketers fall into perhaps is we trigger the business profile for our client or for ourselves, but don't take it as given that that’s what everyone is going to see. It does depend on so many different factors as to what people see, but one of those reasons might be that there is a level of ambiguity, because maybe the names are very similar.
I'll search on one device and that triggers the business profile, if I search from different places or different people search, they're going to see something different. One of the ways that Google is going to deal with ambiguity is probably giving users a choice. I'm not looking at the organic localized results here. I'm thinking purely of this map pack that we've got here.
Depending on where you're searching from it's going to give you different results there, and those are taking businesses that have got similar names, so they've all got “Folly Farm” as part. For example, there's a place, I think Bristol, will give you another two results because there's another couple of small businesses also called Folly Farm. What I would do with that is obviously Google wants to give the most relevant results for that, so what are you trying to do? You're trying to make your business relevant for that result.
You can have a look in Search Console, have a look at your exact match brand queries and your near exact match. Have a little look at what type of things you're getting impressions and clicks for, but basically what we're trying to do is build the relevance in the eyes of Google for those brand name searches.
So the bit underneath where you've got the red circle and the yellow rectangles, I'm not an API person so I haven't set this up myself. There's a couple of websites where you can basically have a dig around in the API, so put your brand name in and see what it spits out.
It's interesting to see that this one has 34 results, and then you're having a look at the relevance score, and obviously the more relevant the better. You're looking to build that, and you're looking to build that with good marketing. That's how a lot of the time we build our relevancy. It’s citations, mentions. It's anchor text links. It's so many different things.
The last thing on that subject talking about naming and brand names is...a unique name that includes keywords is obviously going to be helpful, so think of that when you're naming a business. Don't be “Wales Marketing Agency”. Be “Amethyst Marketing Agency”, because you've got something unique, but then you've also got something which is very relevant to your name. It's not going to suit everyone, but just think of it in terms of when you're naming a business, just don't give it a generic name that's going to cause this ambiguity.
Andy: Google it first and then see what appears for the name you want to choose.
Jason: What I loved about what you said and I think it's really important, I really want to push that home is: this is traditional marketing. It's marketing, getting citations, getting your name out there, getting people to appreciate you. I love the idea of traditional marketing, and we're coming back to that and less in the cheaty world of exact match domain names and exact match local searches, which I've seen loads of.
Claire: I was just going to say keep checking this, because if you think about how, well, how I imagine Google is testing this is with user testing. If it's giving users a choice then it's probably learning from the choices that people make, so if someone is seeing this result in one place one month, it doesn't mean that six months down the line it's going to be the same result, because it all depends on the relevancy factor I guess. If you're not winning, then don't worry. Just keep building your relevancy and just keep building your brand.
Geo-variations in Google My Business Pages
Jason: That's ace stuff. Now we're going to move on to geo-variations, which is something I was kind of curious about, because obviously local is incredibly geo-centric. What happens when you move from place to place? And you were giving us examples, Andy, of clients of yours, different places, completely different results.
Andy: Yeah, obviously this is United States specific, and obviously, we've got a lot of US watchers right now. What I'm trying to stress here is don't assume that your GMB is going to appear everywhere when somebody searches for your brand name in the States. Even from state to state. Even from states next door to each other your GMB might not appear.
For example, what we've got here where it's my top left is the Taylor & Ring. I'm looking for Taylor & Ring. In New Jersey, I have the Taylor & Ring in the organic, but I've got a completely different GMB listed there; that's a jeweler's.
Bottom left for me is, that's me doing a search in Georgia, so no GMB at all. Top right is somebody doing a search in California, still no GMB. But because they're multi-location they've got the map pack there showing each office.
But to actually see the GMB you've got to be very specific with that...I think it's “Taylor & Ring Manhattan Beach” to actually see the GMB listing for that brand term. What I'm saying is don't always assume your GMB is going to appear when someone's looking for your brand.
Jason: How do you actually see what people are seeing in different geo-locations?
Andy: Well just for people out there, the Chrome extension is called GS Location Changer. Very, very accurate. A great little extension for local SEOs.
How to Control What Google Shows on Your Brand SERP
Jason: Brilliant stuff. We're back to the main SERP, and for me you've got the main SERP, which is the left-hand side, which has the homepage, the rich site links, potentially video, potentially images. We saw that on the Folly Farm example earlier on from Claire.
I wanted to ask you, Greg, to what extent can we shape the anatomy, and by that I mean get those rich site links, get the video boxes, get the image boxes, get those “people also asked”. How far can we bully Google, in inverted commas, or convince Google to give us those?
Greg: Very far. I mean that's what we do a lot of times when we have clients that have reputation problems is you want to influence the anatomy of that brand search so that if they do have sites that show bad reviews, or in really bad case scenarios somebody's gone and created a thisbusinesssucks.com website to troll them and flame them, you want to push those off the first page by putting elements there that you control.
Getting your Facebook page there, setting up outside blogs, doing guest posting. Definitely you can control getting the videos to show up versus not having any videos about your brand. Getting great images that are tagged and named after your business, and show your business. Everything you can. It's like Claire said earlier, it's old school marketing. You can't just expect that your website's enough anymore. It's all come full-circle, and we all have to not just be SEOs, but we have to be full-scale old school marketers again.
Jason: What I'm now hearing is you need a content strategy, you need to be a marketer. I mean, content strategy is saying..."I need to make videos to get the video boxes. I need to have images that I tag correctly and SEO correctly to get the image boxes, and if I can do that I kill a blue link."
When one of those things comes up it kills a blue link a lot of the time, and the blue link drops off the bottom and it gives me less to control. Video for example for a local business, isn't that a really big expense? Isn't that a problem?
Greg: A video doesn't have to be expensive at all. Look at the quality of the stuff we're doing here. I mean this is a simple green screen, or a green screen curtain, that I've hung up, and I've got a couple of lights. This is putting the green screen in live. It's not even video editing.
But you can get very simple, very cheap cameras. You can shoot it on your iPhone or Android phone. They've got great video. Is it the best quality? No. But what's more important, worrying about the quality of your video or having awesome videos out there that answer the questions that people are asking?
Think about those frequent questions that people are going to be asking about your brand or related to your brand, and get video content done about that, because who out there really isn't going to watch a video nowadays? Videos are so much more interactive, and for me, I do a weekly video series because I hate writing blog posts. I'd much rather go film a video than write a blog post.
I have friends that podcast because they'd much rather podcast than write a blog post, so it's all about being a full-scale marketer and creating content, whichever kind of content you prefer. But you also have to keep an eye on if you're not creating video content, then video is not going to be an option for you. But if you are creating video content, then now you're going to be able to have those videos show in the search results.
If you're going to do webinars and things like this and you can get your brand tagged by other businesses, those potentially show up. It's thinking about all of the possible ways that you can expose your brand, and make sure that those are prominent exposure so that when someone is doing a search for your brand it's going to show up in your brand SERP.
Jason: Yeah, and I've been hearing a lot about repurposing. Once you've made a video then you can make screenshots and images, and you can make a blog post. You can get it using rev.com or a similar site, or I use Descript which is actually really good for doing the transcript and then rewrite the transcript as a blog post. Once you've done a video there are so many different opportunities and possibilities.
Greg: This camera right here is great. This is an Osmo Pocket. This thing, including buying the little memory chip to store stuff on, you're talking $350. It's a steady camera, so it's a triple gimbal, so it's going to hold things steady so you don't get that shaky camera thing that you get with a cell phone. Any business out there can go buy one of these, and right there your video quality goes up 1000 notches because everything is so steady and so clean, and you can move around, and it's super smooth.
I bought a little $40 wireless lavalier mic so I can do interviews with people. For less than $400 I can go out and do really high quality looking videos and talk to people anywhere. It's not necessarily about the quality of spending lots of money. It's being smart about the equipment that you use so that your stuff looks nice and sounds nice.
Jason: Yeah, and that saves you the effort of writing a blog post if I've understood correctly. Yeah.
Andy: Yeah, you get it transcripted and there's your blog post.
Jason: What I love about that is local businesses who perhaps think they don't have the means to do it can actually do this video content, and they can actually repurpose it and use it for all different things, and get these rich elements.
Top Tips for Optimizing Your Brand SERP
Now obviously the GMB panel, the local business panel is incredibly important, and I just wanted to end before we take on a few questions. What are the top tips, just specifically in the case of exact match brand searches...what would you aim for first in terms of a local business you're working with?
Andy: When you're looking and checking and researching your brand, exact brand, I always use incognito mode in Chrome, or Firefox has got something equivalent. Because if you're in a Google account where you're searching for your brand you could get biased search results, so always go incognito. Have two tabs open. One for desktop search. Always think mobile as well, because they do look different.
The other thing, little top tip is I also set up something called a Google Alert, so whenever there's been a brand mention out there online I'll get alerted about my brand as well so I can see if that's a positive or a negative thing about my actual company brand.
Jason: Brilliant stuff. Okay, Claire. In the Google My Business panel, what do I do first?
Claire: Tag everything with UTM parameters.
Jason: Okay. Why?
Claire: Because measurement is really important, and a lot of the native reporting in GMB is bought, so if we're thinking about... You're saying to a small business you need to invest time, effort and money into producing all this content for your business profile, then you need to know what type of content and what is giving you a return, basically.
That's the first thing that I do normally when I work with someone is make sure everything's tagged up correctly, and we know what traffic is driving and what that traffic is doing when it gets to the website measured against the KPIs for that business.
Jason: Brilliant. I remembered that. First thing I would have done is gone and made some videos. Greg, what should I do with my Google My Business panel to make it look really sexy when somebody searches my brand name?
Greg: Uploading super high-quality photos that are professional and not stock photos. Uploading videos if you've got them, and pre-loading questions into the questions and answers so you've got a pre-site FAQ page. And then doing Google Posts.
Those are my kind of four big things, because everybody's going to do the business name and the address and the phone number. They're the basics everybody's going to get nowadays, so it's what do you do to stand out from the rest, and that's awesome photos, videos, the Q&A section and Posts.
Jason: Yeah. I love the Q&A section and the idea of it's kind of pre-sales service already done, and the post which is pushing the messages out to people. And I've seen you talk about the posts a lot, so I know you love them too.
Running Two Different Business from One Address
We've got eight minutes for questions, and somebody said Brent's question is a good one. Brent Doane, "I have a client that runs two businesses from one address. The businesses are similar, outdoor, but they are also distinct businesses. Any advice for using one address for two Google My Business listings?" Greg, you said that's a good question so therefore you have the answer.
Greg: Keep in mind that it's possible that one of those two might get filtered, especially if they're similar types of businesses, but really when you're looking at your NAP, your name, address, phone number and for Google My Business you need to have two of the three elements be different. If the address is going to be the same you need to have unique phone number. You have to have a unique business name. You should have a unique website as well.
The other big thing that Google may fight you on is technically you need to have separate signage and separate entrances for each business. Now sometimes in smaller town situations you may have one entrance for multiple businesses in the same thing, so that part can get a little dicey if you start having to fight with Google support on it. But usually, as long as the business name and the phone number and website are unique then you're probably going to be okay.
Traditional Marketing vs Blackhat/Greyhat Tactics
Jason: Now we can end with the big debate. Are we out of the woods for all this cheaty, spammy, black hatty, gray hatty tactics, and back to traditional marketing, or do we still have to wait a little while before traditional marketing is going to carry the whole weight?
Andy: Well on the brand side, thankfully we're not seeing this sort of black hatty marketing that's going on, which is the good thing. With the black hat and the map spam, that's going to be around for a long, long time.
Jason: Claire, are you thinking that marketing can win the day, or not yet?
Claire: Well, what Andy said. Marketing wins the day with people doesn't it, because people are a little bit more savvy in that you recognize a true brand by clicking through and looking at elements of that brand, whereas map spam and manipulation of the Maps algorithm appears to be something that's not really being tackled.
Jason: Brilliant stuff. Absolutely amazing. I'm really happy, because my obsession is brand SERPs. What comes up when somebody googles your brand name, and in that sphere marketing wins out, and black hat spam isn't going to get too much of a look in, which makes me very happy, because then I can just deal with the nice friendly fluffy unicorny stuff. Thank you very much to you three. You've taught me absolutely boatloads.
I'm going to go back and watch all this again, because I've forgotten most of it already. Thanks a lot to the audience. Thanks for the questions. Thank you 100% to you three.
Andy: Goodbye, everybody.
Greg: See you, guys.