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SEO&PPC - Yin and Yang #2 (Local)


Greg's slides >>

Samantha's slides >>



Halide: Welcome to our SEMrush webinar today, SEO, PPC-Yin and Yang. Thanks for joining. It's our second episode from this series. In today's episode, we will talk about local marketing. Whether local SEO is better or local paid ads; what are the pros and cons. What's more important for me especially, is to find out if and how both can work together. 

I'm co-founder of The International SEM and SEO agency, Kubix Digital. I'm also running a community called Women Digital, a community to support women working in online marketing. I am in this industry for about 15 years.

First of all, why are we going to talk about local search today? I think the following statistics say everything. Almost every second search on Google is a local search. This is a very high number, I would say. And 78% of local mobile searches lead to an offline purchase. 

What I've also found on Google is that “near me” and “close by” type of searches grew by more than 900% over the last two years. Just think about all the small local businesses near you like bakeries, restaurants, groceries; they all need a local marketing strategy. Their business depends mainly on how much traffic and clients they drive from local “on the go” searches.

The reason why the number is so high is actually the growth in mobile searches in the last years mainly resulted in a boost in these local search volumes. Users are looking for immediate results while they're on the go and want to find the answer right away. Just imagine they are on the way to have lunch and they are looking for a nearby restaurant, or they have a problem with their car and they are looking for a car repair to get it fixed. Businesses who just show up when these searches happen have a pretty high chance to gain these searches as customers.

But how can businesses show up for these searches? This is what we will find out in our webinar today. I have two great guests today. First of all, Samantha. Sam, she runs the Biddable Moments, a dedicated paid media consultancy agency based in the UK. She has worked in the paid media space for over 14 years and she regularly shares her knowledge at conferences across the globe. 

My second guest is Greg. I call him Mr. Local SEO. A real master in Local SEO, I would say. We will learn a lot from him today hopefully. Greg is joining us from the US. He recently joined Searchlab as a Vice President of Search. He speaks a lot of international and conferences, mainly about SEO and Local SEO in specific. 

And last but not least, today again I want to prove that SEOs and PPCs are actually friends. This is very important to me. Because usually people are expecting some fight and they think SEOs and PPCs they don't get along with each other, they're like two separate departments and they don't care about each other. But I really want to prove that this is not the case. Greg, would you like to start first? I think you prepared a presentation.

The Advantages of Organic over Paid Traffic in Local Search

Greg: I would love to start first. We're talking about how in local, SEO rules, PPC drools. The first thing we really want to talk about here is, we all know PPC stinks when we're talking local. If you want to show up, you've got to do it with search.

One of the problems with PPC is PPC is always limited by budget. You're only going to be as visible as the amount of money that you have to spend, and a lot of SMBs don't have that much money to spend on PPC.

When you want to show up and you don't have a budget, PPC is not always the best way to go. And if you want to show up in different searches with city keywords, you’ve got to do SEO. When you want to show up in all those near me searches as well, you basically have to be doing SEO. Another interesting thing; a lot of phrases that used to have purchase intent or E-commerce intent now have local intent.

Perfect example, Patio Furniture used a to all pull shopping results and now we get a Map Pack. Google is assessing local intent to more and more queries moving forward. Winning in mobile is all about being there immediately whenever people decide they need to search. People are going to pull out their phone and do the search and you have to be there. 

The search results on mobile are displayed based on your physical location...and so it's a lot easier to target showing up in as many of those results as possible when you're doing SEO. Because you're not constrained by budget or by a certain set of keywords or concepts. 

You don't hit a budget and run out and stop showing up. You're paying dividends over time, you continue to show up, you're building your relevancy to stay relevant and continue to show up for lots of different phrases over time. SEO results in placement that's more visible. You get more visibility, you control more of your brand SERP. 

It's really important to understand that nowadays it's not about the homepage of your website, it's about your brand SERP. When people are searching for you and looking for your specific business, you have to control as much of the page as possible, and that's both on desktop and on mobile. 

SEO also helps you to show up in the map. And showing up in the Map Pack is incredibly important because it shows up at the top of the search results. It shows the user, "Hey, this guy is nearby to my location," and you see the reviews, all of that hours information, the phone number, quick contact stuff.

It's also important to understand the concept that specifically talking local, your Google My Business listing is your new homepage. All of the traffic that used to come to your site to get your phone number to call you, or to get your address, to figure out how to get to you, or to see some pictures, or read some testimonials, that can all happen in Google search results now. 

You've got to be paying attention to your Google My Business and following SEO best practices so that both your Google My Business is optimized and you're also going to show up well in those Map Pack results. It's your new first impression with potential customers and you've got to make a good first impression if you want to grab those customers.

Another big concept that everyone's talking about lately at conferences is Zero-Click Search. Everybody's wondering why it seems that for a significant number of searches are no clicks. Well, that's because a lot of Google My Business traffic doesn't go to your website anymore. The address, the phone number, the things I just talked about, the people don't need to go to your site. 

Think of the last time you went to a restaurant website, you don't have to anymore. You can do all of that in the Google My Business experience...so that's a big contributor to Zero-Click Search. PPC doesn't really help you if users aren't going to be clicking through to your website. Another issue that we see for certain verticals and certain types of terms, sometimes users are just going to skip the ads and they won't click the ads.

You've got to make sure that at a base level you're following SEO best practices, you have to have great content, you have to have awesome links, you've got to have good reviews. That gives you long-term success and all the PPC in the world isn't going to matter if you don't follow those best practices and have great content on your site once those potential customers land on your site. 

I was kind of dogging on PPC just to be funny. Actually in local, paid local is pretty damn awesome. There's some really cool stuff that Sam's going to talk about here in a second with paid placement and Map Packs. 

The proximity bias is a problem in local. If you're in the suburbs and you want to show up in the city, but your location is in the suburbs, it's difficult to show up in the city. With paid local, you can beat that proximity bias and show up somewhere. Sam's going to talk a little bit more about that, that's all I've got on the SEO side of things. Thank you so much for watching.

Halide: Thank you very much, Greg. Sam, Greg said that people don't click the ads, do you agree?

Samantha: Working together and sort of dominating both the paid side and organic is where businesses are really going to win. But I've got lots of stuff to share with you on things that you can do.

Halide: Okay, go ahead then. Thank you very much.

How PPC Improves Local Search Success

Samantha: When we're thinking about how many businesses, how many people are actually searching on the internet, 86% of those consumers are actually using the internet to find a local business. Whereas, 29% of consumers are searching for local businesses every single week, and at least once a week. When you actually think about how many people have downloaded Google Maps, there's more than 1 billion downloads of this app now. But when you're also thinking about local search, you need to consider the rise in 'near me' searches.

What this means is, if our business has got a physical location, we have to make it super simple and easy for people to find that business online. Like Greg was explaining, it isn't all about just having a website when it comes to local; the Local Pack and the GMB listing is absolutely vital, not just for organic search but from a PPC perspective as well.

Now, back in 2006 when we first saw adverts appear within Google Maps, they weren't around for too long and then they disappeared off, and then they reappeared back in 2019 and they came back with a bang. 

Initially, Google was saying that they would only have one ad appearing at the top of the search results, within Maps we're actually seeing two. It does beg the question, how many more ad placements we're going to start to see in there if it follows in a similar path to what we've seen with Google Shopping. 

We're now seeing anywhere between one and two ads appearing at the top of Maps. So where do they appear? It isn't just on Maps. In this example here, a search for car hire with one ad at the top, also on the mobile interface as well. We're also seeing ads appearing on Google Maps desktops, so here we've got two ads that we're seeing at the top here.

But what we mustn't forget is from a local's perspective where we can really dominate isn't just on the Map Listing, it's in the standard search ads themselves. Any term that somebody is searching for that's got local intent, we can have ads appearing for that.

We can target people by keyword that they're searching, ie hairdressers London, or if somebody's in London and they're searching for hairdressers or hairdressers near me, that's where the local intent comes into play. 

Four main benefits of Local PPC. The first one really is to drive footfall into that store. If you're doing local, you're going to want to actually have customers coming into your business. The second really is to encourage your customers or potential customers to call, whether that is a restaurant or a hairdresser's or a beauty salon, anything where you can actually take transactions or bookings over the phone, trying to encourage people to actually pick up the phone and give you a call. 

Next up, we've got people just needing to be educated. PPC comes in really useful from that perspective because you've got full ownership of the ad that you're writing. Organic search, we have control to a degree, but it can be dictated by what Google wants to show. Whereas PPC is purely...we have that full control. 

Then finally, which Greg mentioned, we can compete within that local search space against some of the bigger competitors. A lot of people aren't necessarily using the paid element of Maps at the moment. If we are able to compete against some of those bigger players that have always been dominant in position, running Google Maps for smaller players, they can now start to try and capitalize on that. 

An Overview of Local PPC Ad Formats and Features

It's becoming a lot more of a pay to play market. Something that we have seen grow massively over the past couple of years is the different ad formats that are available. Google Maps only started showing these ads last year. And we can see how far we've actually come with this because we can see ads that are sitting just on standard Google Maps. But we've also got what they call branded local pins.

Here we can see an ad for Dunkin' Donuts, and people can click on that and they will see an actual advert popping up that's talking about the fact that they've got some special offers, or people who will actually come into the store. You can add that as a stop in your journey. 

Likewise, we've got what they call promoted pins. We've got Walgreens, MAC and we've got Starbucks. When you click into any of these adverts and people to come into the business and redeem the voucher, or actually come in and buy something from us. These are called promoted pins. Another example is where we can take our shopping feed, and a lot of businesses will look at it and say that we upload our Google Shopping feed and we can sell products online.

You've also got what we call a local inventory feed that we can upload and it's based on the stock that a local store has got. You would upload different feeds for different locations that you've got. When somebody searches for a particular product, your ad will appear within the shopping results and you can actually see whether that product is in stock or not. 

Something where it's more of a high-value ticket item, like a TV, for example, somebody may not want to transact online, they may want to go into store. Having that ability to show somebody whether something's in stock is really, really powerful.

Next, we've got local search appearing within the Google Knowledge panel. You can see that somebody searched for the brand and then they can actually start to search that store and see whether a product is in stock in that particular store. 

We then got service ads. Now, these are only in the US at the moment, I believe. But these are ads where if somebody has got a specific service that they're looking for from a local reseller. In here we've got Boston Plumber, and rather than showing the ads, the standard text ads, they are in little cards that are showing the star ratings. Where somebody can actually click through and check out the reviews of somebody before they decide to get in touch.

We mustn't forget, as we briefly mentioned earlier, the standard text ads. Those ads that appear at the the search results and the ads appear at the bottom that are all very much geared around local intent as well. 

One of the really powerful things when it comes to paid...it's super, super targeted and it gives us a real degree of flexibility to reach our potential customers and our customers within really, really tight-knit locations. Google have given us the ability to actually target people based on a whole magnitude of things, including postcode, district, neighborhood. We can target people that are within close proximity to an airport, a town, a city, a country, that list goes on, and we can get really, really granular.

Not only can we target people based on those locations, but we can also review the data and say, "Well, let's see how our campaigns have performed." Break them down by campaign, by postcode level. And we may see that some campaigns perform better, as some postcodes perform better than others. 

Therefore, we can update our bids on those postcodes that are performing well and decrease our bids on those that aren't. One thing to note on this is that it's really important when you're doing any form of Local PPC that you don't just target people within a set location. If I'm looking to reach people that are in London, because I've got a business that I'm trying to promote in London, I will target people that are within proximity of my business. But then I will also target people across the whole of the UK, as long as they are including the word London within their search query.

Something more recent that's come out from Google is their Google Local Campaigns. This is Google's way of trying to automate a lot of the optimization and setup of local campaigns. It's designed to help bring our shop front to the forefront of people's minds, but in a very automated fashion. What we need to do here is just add a few lines of ad text, a bed, a few assets, and then you kind of leave the rest down to Google. What they'll do is they'll look at the user that you're trying to target in a location, they'll look at all your historic data and they will try and drive views of your ads across all of their different inventory.

Now, one very, very important thing across all of this is you need to ensure that you're optimizing your Google My Business profile. If you are not doing that, then these campaigns are not going to work anywhere near as well as what they could. 

Finally, how can we track that? What Google will do is once you're launching a local campaign and we've linked up our Google My Business listing with Google ads, it will automatically start to track various conversion metrics. Once we've got all of that information there we can then start to look at our campaigns and look and say, "Okay. Well, how has this specific campaign, or keyword, or ad group performing by the conversion action?" You would come into your Google ads reporting, click into segmentation and then break it down by conversion action. 

So SEO/PPC? Definitely both. The last thing I want to share is within PPC you can actually track and see how well your paid campaigns are working against your organic. In this example here, the Paid and Organic Report, you can look and you can say, "Well, somebody has seen an advert." It will tell us whether we've also got an organic keyword ranking for that particular term as well, it tells us how many paid clicks we're getting through, and it will also tell us how many organic clicks we're getting through.

If we're seeing that a certain keyword is ranking quite well organically, it might be that we want to try and decrease our bids from PPC and let's check out what that does to our click-through rate. Working together is absolutely key. Having them siloed off into individual teams or individual departments I would not recommend. 

Halide: Thank you very much, Sam. We need to optimize Google My Business. And Google is frequently adding new features, new assets and new updates on the Google My Business accounts. And you need good reviews, you need relevant information. If your paid search is landing on the Google My Business, if the user don't see what he's looking for, then you will miss this traffic. 

And, another good point, what you mentioned was also that the tracking. Tracking is a very important point I think. Because like there's local search, not everything is online. I mean, every SEO work or every Google ads work we do, we usually track online conversions, online traffic. But with local, usually people want to go to that offline business.

Q&A on Local SEO and PPC

Thank you very much for your presentations. We have some questions from our audience. Maybe we can go over to the questions. There is a question from Andy Simpson saying Google's local search ads looks like a cross between adverts and Google My Business. Where do the teams see these going over 2020?

Samantha: From my perspective, I don't think a huge amount is going to happen this year. I think it's going to be subsequent years from 2021 onwards. 

Halide: And Sam, you also mentioned about the Google Local campaign which Google introduced I think last year. And you said it's automated, you don't need to do much. But do you think there is something you can optimize with this ad format?

Samantha: Yeah, I think one of the main things that you need to be doing is making sure that your Google My Business profile is as up to date as possible and made sure that that is being populated. But then second to that, you need to manage it like you would any other campaign from a management perspective. Any ads that are appearing on display, you need to be looking at what placements ads are appearing on and removing and excluding any of those that are either A, not relevant or to your business. Or B, you don't want your business associated with. 

And from a search perspective, you need to still be looking at all your negative keywords. Are your ads starting to show for things that you don't want them to be showing for?

You still need to treat them in exactly the same way as other campaigns. But the actual setup and getting everything live is pretty quick. But as with everything automated, you just need to watch it and I don't set it live and forget it. That's the worst thing you can do.

Halide: Some other questions. What are some of the top things we can do to optimize our Google My Business page?

Greg: You want to make sure that you fill out everything you can fill out. Most importantly, make sure you're using your exact business.. Make sure you're choosing the right category. Make sure you've got a local phone number listed. That doesn't mean you can't use a call tracking number and in fact, you should use a call tracking number on Google My Business so you can see where your calls are coming from. But you want to put your call tracking number as your primary number and then put your local number as your second number as the alternate number so that you still have consistency with your citation.

You can fill out the business description, but I don't think that matters as much. You want to make sure that you're uploading tons of high-quality photos because users can upload photos to your business as well. But typically users are going to be uploading stuff from an iPhone or an Android phone. If you can get professional quality shots done that look better and are a larger file size. 

Pay attention to the questions and answers section. That's a new widget that was released about a year ago. A lot of people still don't know about it and most of the general public thinks it's a messaging system that you can ask a question and the business will respond, but it's real. It's a community discussion feature, so anyone can ask a question and anyone in the community can answer it for the business.

It's really important to pay attention to that. We see that 40-50, even 60% in some verticals of the questions being asked are actual sales leads and the businesses just aren't paying attention. 

Halide: I always see Google My Business listing like the kind of a homepage of the business. A little homepage and also a mixture between homepage and social media account because it also needs a lot of attention. You need to upload and keep it fresh frequently with new posts, with new information and I think the more you work on it, the better it is. Yeah. Is there also something else you can optimize besides Google My Business for local SEO maybe on the website?

Greg: I mean on-site optimization for locals, absolutely huge. It's a different focus because you've got to include those geographic signals. It's an old concept, but having this city name in your major elements, your title tag, your H1, in your content, in your alt text, on your images, even in your meta-description all of that together helps push through a better relevance. 

Make sure that you've got Local Business Schema on your site as well and make sure that again, standard basic SEO. Best practices have great content that answers the questions and the intent of the questions that people will be asking in Google.

And then when you're doing your link building for local, you don't have to worry about these massive sites and creating a big piece of content and doing all this PR outreach. Links from local businesses really matter, and Local SEO. You can get a couple of local links from other businesses and that makes a massive difference in your visibility.

Halide: We have another interesting question. Hi, I run a site for parents to find local activities with their kids in multiple US cities, but no physical locations. Suggestions on Local SEO that's multiple locations without a physical location. 

Greg: There's a concept called Local Content Silos where it's almost like micro-sites. You've got silos of content within your site and those silos are optimized around those target cities. You don't have a physical location in Denver or LA or New York;  you create content around activity. Activities for parents with kids in New York city. Activities for parents with kids in Denver. Fun kids, activities in LA. You create content around that so you have website content around that, blog content around that. And then when you're doing your link building, obviously we with this one it would be really easy.

Halide: We already mentioned the tracking the metrics, but there's another question from Jenny Hill. Relying on Google Analytics for metrics or do you have additional recommendations for tracking this? 

Samantha: First from a PPC perspective, anything that you're doing on local where the traffic is going through to the website or you're saying tracking applies, I'm a huge advocate for using the Google Ads tracking over Google Analytics. When it comes to monitoring PPC performance, Google Analytics and Google Ads have two very different attribution models, so wherever possible, use the Google Ads tracking to track any conversions that happen onsite. It would be interesting to actually see if Greg says the same. 

With regards to tagging up your Google My Business profile, I would put UTM tracking on the website link on the Google My Business profile so that when the traffic is coming through to the site, you can also start to build out a remarketing audience from that as well. Then we can start to say, "Well, okay. We know that these people have come in off the back of the local listing, so let's try and target them with a specific ad."

Likewise off of that, you can also then build out similar audiences that you can then remarket to and within Google Analytics if you're, depending on how you're labeling that UTM tracking, you can then split your Local SEO and your Organic SEO out within the channel group in report so that you can then report on your Pure Organic and then Local Organic as well.

Greg: If you're using Data Studio for your reports, you can use the GMB connector to pull in the GMB Insights data. Which okay, if anybody out there that really does local, you know the GMB Insights data as bogus and it isn't super accurate. But it still gives you something to look at over time. And you can see the number of website clicks, the number of phone clicks, the number of clicks for directions and maybe they're legit, maybe they're not. But if you're getting more visibility and you're getting more traffic, you'll see those numbers go up. 

We show on our reports a breakdown of discovery versus direct search impressions, which would be whether someone is finding you because they typed your business name in or they're finding you because they type something else in and your business showed up either in the Map Pack.

Halide: And actually the Google My Business Insights information can give you also some ideas on how to optimize your webpage and also the Google My Business optimization. If you don't have an idea which photos are working best on your Google My Business, just check the photo impressions numbers and the clicks. I also look at the phone number, phone clicks and also the search clicks because the phone can give you also an idea on what days and times people are calling you the most. You can maybe use this data for your Google Ads targeting and Google Ads settings in terms of maybe setting your ad scheduling at specific times or specific days.

Another interesting question would be maybe from Mendu. He asked, Google My Business also invites you to create a Google Site, but that would compete with the business own website, so we shouldn't do that, right? Greg, what do you think?

Greg: No. That's only there for the really small businesses that don't already have a website. Local without a website. You can have just a GMB and not have a website at all and still rank because you're ranking off of other entities signals, they added that in so that if you don't have a website, there's an easy thing to create a couple of page website and at least have a website presence, but never do that. I would not want to have my website on a Google controlled property that I don't own.

It's really easy to go get cheap hosting and get a WordPress site put up and have your own site that you control. If you already have your own site, you don't want to set up the Google Site because now your Google My Business will link over to that instead of to your site, which is all bad so don't do it.

Halide: Another question from Kevin Allison. She asks, if our address isn't a suburb of the metropolitan city we sell in and service, how do we show up in the Map Pack at the top and we don't reside there?

Greg: Buy an ad. If you're in the suburb and you want to show up for searches in the main city, it's highly unlikely you're going to beat out is actually in that city. Realistically, if you want to show up in the Map Pack and you're not in that city, you're going to have to buy an ad because it's too proximity based.

Halide: Yeah, that's true. I mean, the problem with the proximity is as long as you're not close enough, it's getting difficult to show up in the Map Pack or like Google Maps, that's true. And Sam, do you have an idea how you can target these searches with Google Ads?

Samantha: For me, the biggest thing that you can do is just start to buy PPC on those particular keywords and just start to have ads appearing at the top of the steps for those kinds of local intent terms. And not necessarily be so focused on trying to appear in Google Maps and just try and dominate the actual search results themselves.

Halide: I mean for some people, if they think Google Ads is too expensive for them, for small businesses, they can also just use a very local and specific targeting. 

Do you want to add something else? Is there anything? What you want to say Greg, Sam?

Greg: I mean I was a little bit confrontational on the PPC front, but Sam was right. You really need to do both and it's beneficial to do both. You want to have as much coverage as you can. If someone is searching for you, you want to be everywhere you can be. 

If you're doing it yourself, take some classes, take some training courses, learn how to do it better if you're. If you're using an agency, make sure the agency understands how they play together well. Like Sam said, you don't want to silo it off. A lot of times we'll see people that will use one agency for PPC and one agency for SEO and they don't communicate and they don't talk at all.

Samantha: We see it in-house as well. Some businesses will have an SEO team sit here, PR team there and a paid team there and literally nobody speaks to each other. I think the more that we can break down those silos and get everybody working together, the better that becomes.

Halide: Thank you very much for joining the Webinar and hope to see you in another SEMrush webinar soon.

Greg: Thanks Halide.

Samantha: Bye.

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