I attended my first MozCon in June. Since I got started in SEO I’ve wanted to attend, partly because it’s the preeminent search convention in the United States, but also because Seattle plays host to Din Tai Fung, the greatest restaurant in the world. Have you been? You should go. It’s amazing. Din Tai Fung is life.

But I digress. When scouting out the talks on the schedule, I was surprised at how many focused on Local SEO. This is a topic that is central to what we do here at Clicks and Clients, and any opportunity to gain a little bit of insight that might help my clients is welcome indeed.

So off I went to the glorious….*looks up name*….Emerald City and prepared myself for three days of talks, networking, and as I came to learn, a Hell of a lot of free food.

Local SEO is and Always Will Be Annoying as Hell

I’m not one to mince words, so I’ll just say it: Local SEO is a giant pain in the ass. While its algorithm is similar to traditional organic search, there are enough variables and Google black magic in play that improving your position local search results (the “snack pack”) is its own wicked beast.

Rob Bucci, CEO of STAT Search Analytics outlines in his talk “Near Me or Far: How Google May Be Deciding Your Local Intent for You,” Google’s interpretation of a search query can lead to drastically different results. A few call-outs from his talk:

  • Google almost always knows where you are, and cares more about your current location than any modifiers added to a query.
  • In a test performed by Bucci, “near me” modifiers returned a snack pack 96% of the time.
  • Geomodifiers change snack pack results by roughly 20%.
  • Getting on the first page of organic results can improve your chances

Okay, so optimizing for local is a challenge. There are so many variables in play that it almost seems like a task not worth undertaking. But! – there’s always a but – there is one relatively easy thing that can be done to help improve your snack pack performance: Reviews.

Easy to dismiss but absolutely essential to your local performance, reviews are a critical signal to Google and, if you’re a local brick-and-mortar business, should be one of your top priorities. This is especially true if you’re seeking to gain some new clients via “quality” modifiers such as “best,” “recommended,” “top,” and others.

Download Rob Bucci’s presentation here.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Darren Shaw, founder and CEO of local Whitespark, a local search software provider and consultancy, delivered a presentation titled “Convert Local Searchers Into Customers With Reviews.” In it he discusses how Google is working to provide users as much information as possible within the SERPs. Part of this is in the form of reviews.

Have you seen this in search results?

Those little stars are absolutely critical in cultivating a sense of trust with your potential customers. As Shaw points out in his presentation, the majority of searchers will err on the side of public testimonials over one that has no reviews at all. This improved trust can thus naturally lead to an increase in leads. So how do you get reviews?

Well, you should start by just asking for them. The worst thing people can do is not give them to you. After you ask them, you should follow up with them. Shaw recommends creating a branded short-link that you use literally everywhere. Business cards, emails, sales collateral, business receipts, skywriting, tattoos, subliminal messaging, hiring Freddy Krueger to infiltrate your customers’ dreams. There’s no real shortage of ways to solicit reviews, so any and all options should be explored (provided they align with Google’s best practices).

There are, of course, wrong ways to ask for emails. Dream infiltration might be among them, but Google has yet to confirm one way or the other. You definitely don’t want to gate review (prevent negative reviews, essentially), and you don’t want to send mass emails to customers asking for reviews.

However you do it, if you’re not doing everything in your power to get happy customers to leave you reviews, you’re leaving the potential for beaucoup bucks on the table.

Download Darren Shaw’s presentation here.

Need some help with your Local SEO? Our team has extensive experience helping clients get positive reviews and improve their position in the local listings. Contact us today for a free consultation.