It is a proven fact that one of the largest influencing factors for gaining local visibility in Google is by optimizing your Google My Business listing. After all, Google My Business is essentially your nerve center for controlling how the way your business’s information is displayed on Google and Google Maps during searches.
If getting search engine traffic is important to your business, then Bradley Benner of Semantic Mastery has a thing or two to teach you about diving deeper into SEO to help build a solid foundation for tour business that will translate into marketing success.
Rich: My guest today is co-founder and Senior Partner at Semantic Mastery, and a self-proclaimed digital marketing addict. In 2010 he recognized that the marketing landscape had shifted to the digital space, so he left real estate and began learning web design, SEO, and social media.
He realized his passion for online marketing and built his consulting business, Big Bamboo Marketing, into a total digital marketing solution for small businesses.
He also founded Sematic Mastery, an online SEO and semantic web training and education site. He regularly holds private and group training sessions to educate marketers on achieving results through online marketing activities, as well as best practices for succeeding with the semantic web.
With his partners he consistently delivers proven results-oriented training to help marketers and business owners succeed. I’m very pleased to be speaking with Bradley Benner.
Bradley: Rich, thank you for having me.
Rich: It’s great to have you on the show. Tell me a little bit more about what you’re doing over at Semantic Mastery, I saw they had a couple of cool looking programs over there.
Bradley: Well yeah, thanks. We teach basically SEO and digital marketing for people to get better results. Our primary audience want to be digital marketing consultants and agency owners, so they’re either aspiring to get into the business or trying to get better results.
My partners and I, I’ve got 4 additional partners spread all around the world, only one of them is in the U.S. I have one in Austria, one in Costa Rica, and one in Argentina. We kind of hooked up through a digital marketing agency Mastermind way back in like 2011, might have been 2012. I had created a weekly accountability meeting where we would just meet and share ideas. We each have our own agency, we each do some form of digital marketing – whether it’s SEO, paid advertising, content marketing, or email marketing or whatever – so each one of us kind of have our own businesses and we decided we wanted to meet on a weekly basis to just kind of share what was working and what wasn’t working and improve each other’s businesses.
We invited some of the other people that were in the Mastermind that we were in just to come and share their information, too, but what was funny was within a few weeks really there was only the 5 of us that were sharing information regularly. Everybody else was just coming and listening and gleaning information from it.
So after several months of this we realized that what we had, we could monetize it and turn it into a business. Funny enough, we think our material that we were sharing, was actually better than the high level Mastermind information that we were receiving from that Mastermind. So we ended up forming a company, Semantic Mastery, in 2013. And ever since then we’ve been teaching agency owners and digital marketing consultants to get better results.
Rich: That’s awesome. And I also belong to an agency Mastermind, so it’s interesting to see the direction that you took yours in. And is that what ‘Hump Day Hangouts’ are, or is that something else that you’re doing?
Bradley: Yeah. Well ‘Hump Day Hangouts’ is our free webinar series, basically a digital marketing Q&A session, it’s an hour every single Wednesday at 4 P.M. Eastern. In fact, yesterday was our 259th episode, which means next week is our 5 year anniversary.
Bradley: Yeah. So we do that just because, honestly, we primarily started it for lead generation into our own funnels. But at the same time we’ve come to really enjoy that. This industry has been good to us and it’s our way to give back.
Rich: Awesome. Now let’s shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about Google My Business. And I know a lot of marketers think Google My Business (GMB) is a ‘set it and forget it’ tool for SEO. But you claim that you generate leads with GMB. How are you accomplishing that?
Bradley: Well through activity, primarily. And I would disagree wholeheartedly with ‘set and forget’. If you use GMB properly – which is activity-based primarily – you can get a lot of leads from it. Obviously there are some other things you can do to kind of facilitate that, to help speed things up, for better results outside of GMB. But specifically inside the GMB dashboard there’s a lot of tools that Google gives you now and they’re free to use.
The mistake that I see most businesses – again, I still own my own agency so I do a lot of SEO for clients – and I notice that most clients that I onboard have not fully fleshed out their Google My Business profile. And that’s one of the first things you can do. Why not go in and optimize all of the different sections that are available and use the tools that Google gives you for free.
Rich: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So what are some of the ones that you are using right now that kind of fall into that activity category?
Bradley: Well GMB posts are one of the most powerful things that you can do if you know how to do them right. Now GMB posts are very much like creating a post on your company Facebook page. So it’s basically an update, it’s like a small blog post but it feeds directly into the Google My Business profile, the knowledge panel. So obviously if you go to Google and do a search for your company’s brand name, it’s going to pull up a knowledge panel on the right side of the screen and the post will show up right there.
Now we’re talking specifically on a desktop or a laptop, but really what the tools are designed for inside the Google My Business platform is for mobile users, mobile searchers. Remember, about 70% of searches with local intent originate from mobile devices. And so what that means is that people that are searching with mobile devices, Google My Business platform and the tools they give you now are really developed to serve that local market.
And so Google My Business posts are very powerful because if you do them correctly and consistently, then a GMB post will be served for a search query. So it will show to the Google searcher and what happens is it ends up taking up a lot of the screen, and it’s very powerful. There’s some very specific tactics that I think we’re going to get into today that you can use to get much better results from those.
Rich: Well let’s get into them. What kind of things are you doing that you’re seeing make the biggest impact? And I’m also curious to know how many times a week or a month do you think the typical business should be adding Google posts to their GMB listings?
Bradley: Well that’s a great question. So to answer that question first – and we’ll get into some very specific methods – I think it depends. That’s the standard SEO answer to every question, “it depends”. But in this case it really depends on the market and the level of competition and kind of what the other players in your space are doing. In other words, if it’s a very content heavy type of business or industry, then you’re going to need to post a lot more frequently. What we call “frequency of publishing”.
If it’s something like a roofing contractor that doesn’t generally do a lot of content marketing, you can get away with less. But what I recommend as kind of a rule of thumb, is to start off at the very minimum 3 or 5 posts per week. If it’s a 7 day a week business, then why not do at least 1 post per day. They’re very easy to do, you don’t need a lot of text, they’re image and/or video based posts, but you should still include text. And we’re going to talk about how to get much more traction out of them by using specific keywords and certain text types. But again, it’s about frequency of publishing. More = better is the way that I look at it.
Rich: I’m really amazed that you said one per day, and then also doing things like video. So can you walk me through maybe an example with a client or something like that, that you’ve done in the past where you’re really seeing it? And feel free to work in the benefits of the text as well as the keywords or hashtags that you might be using in these posts.
Bradley: Ok great. So there’s a couple things that I would talk about here. To start with we’ll start with the text portion of it, which is very powerful. For example, if you go in your My Google Business dashboard and you look at the left hand panel – which is kind of the navigation menu – there is what’s called “GMB Insights”. And Insights, if you click on that and open it up it’s like analytics for your Google Maps listing. And it will tell you right at the very top of that Insights page, it will show you the search queries that people have typed into Google that has given your Maps listing exposure in Google search.
I deal primarily with contractors as my client base. I see a lot of “near me t type keywords. In other words, “pet store near me”, or “plumber near me”, or “tree service near me”, something like that, or variations of that “near me” keyword such as “nearby”, “close to me”, that kind of stuff. You’ll see a large percentage of the impressions that your Maps listing gets from search are “near me” type queries.
Now those queries are great opportunities to use within the text of your GMB post, because it’s almost like Google gives you the keys to the kingdom. It tells you these are the queries that are giving your Maps listing impressions. If you use those more, you get even more impressions. So all you have to do is click and drag and highlight and copy and paste them into a spreadsheet, and then you can extract all of the keywords.
You can even change it from a 1 month report to a quarterly report so you can extract all the different search queries that have given your Maps listings impressions, put them in a spreadsheet, have your content marketer – whether you’re doing it in-house or you have somebody doing it – give them that list of keywords and then have them work them into a posting routine or posting schedule for your GMB posts.
Now using those “near me” keywords, often the follow up question I usually get when I talk about this is, “Well how do you use a ‘near me’ keyword in the text to make it sound readable?” Very simply put a question in, “Did you just search for…” – and then put in quotes, “plumber near me?” – “Well look no further, you’ve called Joe’s Plumbing for drain cleaning and any sort of plumbing repairs in Fairfax, Virginia. Contact us here”, with phone number and a link to the website. So a call to action and a very short amount of text. That’s all that’s needed as far as the text.
The idea is to start to build that kind of portfolio or library up of GMB posts that contain those “near me” keywords and variations thereof, so that when somebody searches for that specific query Google wants to serve those posts up.
Rich: In this example you’re not creating a post like, “Oh, we’re running a special on plumbing supplies today”, or something that’s timed necessarily. You’re just creating a daily post the same way you might put up a Facebook post or a tweet, and you’re just regularly creating content around keywords thaty9ou feel are most likely to be used to find a business like yours. Am I getting that correct?
Bradley: Yeah. Now don’t get me wrong, if you have specials and things you absolutely should still post those as well. Remember like I said, more = better. So any excuse you have to post a GMB post, do it.
Rich: But if you’re the kind of person who regularly posts to LinkedIn or Facebook, depending on your type of business, what you’re suggesting is just add these GMB posts to that mix. This should be part of your ongoing content creation online.
Bradley: Absolutely. As well also if you’re posting blog posts to your money site or your primary website, every time you post a blog post take a snippet – even if it’s just the first paragraph of that blog post – create a GMB post out of it and link back to that blog post URL. Because whenever you create a GMB post there’s the option to create a call to action button. And the button can be a book or “learn more”, there’s different call to action button text that you can select, and then you can place a link in there. So now you’re getting a direct link from a Google domain back to your primary money site or whatever it is you want to direct traffic to. It’s very good for SEO.
Rich: And now I’m realizing I’ve got to talk to John in my office because I’m publishing 2 podcasts a week between Agents of Change and Fast Forward Maine, that’s two good pieces of content because although they’re under two different brands, they’re really all part of flyte new media.
Bradley: Absolutely. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be linking back to those two GMB’s.
Rich: Very cool. Any other tips around posts?
Bradley: Yeah! So we just talked about “near me” keywords, let me give you another great opportunity for GMB posts that works very well, and then we’ll talk about images and geo-tagging images, because that’s very powerful as well.
Frequently asked questions. So you should probably have a good idea of questions that your customers ask you on a regular basis as a business owner. You should probably have those somewhere listed on your website or at least have your sales stuff and that kind of stuff have those so that they know how to answer those kind of questions. Well those are great opportunities for GMB posts. To post the frequently asked question as well as the answer. Even if it’s just a short version of it that can link back to a website where it gives more of a full answer, or to a call to action to call us today and we’ll help you, whatever the case may be.
My point is, those are very good posts as well because more and more people are using Google voice search to actually speak in questions – whole questions – as opposed to just short little search queries. And those are a very good way to have, especially for mobile devices, because you know right in the Google search bar field there’s that little microphone icon. So a lot of people are just tapping the microphone icon and then speaking their question right directly into Google search.
And if you have those questions and answers as GMB posts, that will get served to them. Especially if they’re in close proximity to your business when they do the search. Does that make sense?
Rich: It does. And I also know that there’s a section where people can ask and answer a question within your post. I thought that was actually the direction you were going with to frequently asked questions. How much attention should we be paying to that section of our GMB listing?
Bradley: It depends on different industries. Different industries have different functions or features available within GMB. Some are common across all of them, but again, any tools that Google gives you within the GMB dashboard, I would recommend you utilize them. And here’s why.
Part of the reason that Google rolled all of these features out is because – I’m not much of a Facebook marketer, I’m the Google guy of my team – however, if you’ve ever done any Facebook marketing you know that you have a company page and you have a number of followers. If you do image or video posts with no external links, it’s quite a bit of exposure, a lot of the people that follow your page will see it.
But the moment you put an external link into a Facebook post, Facebook severely restricts its exposure. And that’s because Facebook doesn’t want people clicking an external link and taking them off their platform. Because then they can’t serve them more ads. And that’s logical.
Well think about what Google always has been. Google has always been an index of external links. So people would go to Google, they’d see ads, but they would search for something and see ads, but if they clicked the link it would take them off of Google so Google couldn’t serve them any more ads. At least not in Google search.
But the GMB tools were really developed because now Google can serve or satisfy the local query, the local search, right within the Google platform, the Google ecosystem. So that people can get their answers or contact a business directly from within Google without ever leaving the ecosystem. Does that make sense?
Rich: It makes a lot of sense. Google does definitely seem to reward people for using more of the Google ecosystem.
Bradley: Absolutely. I did want to mention very briefly about one of the most powerful things that you could do – especially as a service area business – now service area businesses are businesses that serve the customers at the customer location. So think about contractors, for example, which is primarily what I work with.
The other type of businesses are what we call storefront businesses, which is where customers come to the business location. So for service area businesses, one of the biggest issues with GMB is within the last almost year and a half now is that it’s highly proximity based. So in other words if you’re physical location is in Culpepper, VA, and if somebody in the adjacent town of Warrenton, VA is searching for “plumber near me”, or something like that, they’re not likely going to see my Google My Business listing because Google is going to serve them plumber listings that are near Warrenton where they’re located when they do the search. So its proximity based.
But, you can overcome that. It takes time and some effort to do it, but this is how you do it. The photos that you upload to the post – and it can be videos as well – if they’re geo-tagged. So the next question is always, “What’s a geo-tag photo, how do you do that?” Well if you’re taking photos from a cellphone or a mobile device that has GPS enabled, then the GPS data is imprinted in the metadata of the image or video. So it shows the geo-coordinates, and all of that stuff gets embedded in the metadata of that image.
So here’s a very simple tip that works incredibly well to overcome that proximity issue with GMB is start getting exposure in Google Maps for a broader area. And what I do with a lot of my clients – again most of my clients are contractors, so for example a plumbing company that has multiple technicians that go out and service a broad 3 or 4 county area – what I’ve trained my clients to do is have their plumbing technicians when they’re out in the field and they go to a job site, is just grab their cellphone and take a photo of the job that they’re doing. A before and an after, or just one image, or a short video. Then you upload that photo as a GMB post that there’s a GMB app that can be installed on iOS or Android phones, and its super simple for that employee to upload a photo to create a GMB post directly from their phone. Very quickly upload that photo or video that’s geotagged, put in a little bit of text with a call to action and include the keywords, and then hit ‘post’.
And from there what happens is over time you can start expanding the centroid of that GMB to where you can start getting exposure. You’re training the Google bot to recognize that there’s a broader larger service area so that you can overcome that proximity issue.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. I’m almost envisioning basically an old school map on the side of the wall, and every time you do a job you put a tack in there.
Bradley: A pin, yeah.
Rich: To train Google to say this really is our service area.
Bradley: Absolutely, very cool.
Rich: Before you and I got on the call today you mentioned to me that you’re finding a lot of success in offline marketing and its impact on local SEO. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Bradley: Yeah, so this is something that’s crazy. For years I thought that offline marketing was a dying thing. And actually I think for a period of time it was, because everything was shifting online. But it seems like Google over the last 1.5-2 years, in an effort to combat spammers, traditional SEO tactics has started to put a lot more emphasis on branding and brand weight. There was actually a patent that Google released way back in like 2010 that was called the “site weight patent”, that was the nickname.
What it talked about was if there are two sites that are equally optimized – which I know is hard to do – but in theory if there were 2 sites that were equally optimized at the same level SEO and all that kind of stuff. If one of the sites had more navigation search queries, which is somebody going to Google and searching for the brand name, or going into Google and searching for the domain name, or “brand + phone number”, “brand + hours”, “brand + location”, those are all types of navigational search queries. And then finding the business and clicking through, that’s called a very heavily weighted click, it gives the site more weight. So that site will always outrank the other one that doesn’t have as many navigational search queries.
I’ve known about this as a tactic for years and you used to be able to spam that. In other words, we used to be able to manipulate that by hiring micro task workers and having them go do brand searches and finding the website and clicking through. But over time as the algorithm has gotten a lot smarter, now it’s much more effective if you have clicks coming from local IPs doing those navigational searches and then clicking through.
If it’s from an IP in another country – this is specifically for local searches – but if it’s from an IP coming from another country or states away and it’s not the local market that it serves, then those aren’t weighted as heavily.
So what I found kind of by accident, serendipity, I kind of fell into this. I started another business of my own and I started using direct mail as a primary lead generation source while I was building my digital presence. And what happened was I found very quickly within a matter of like 6 weeks my website – which is really just a single landing page – and my GMB started ranking #2 position for my primary keywords with basically no SEO work done whatsoever. And I started scratching my head, what is causing this. So I dug into it and found out that it’s because of the direct mail campaign that I was doing.
A lot of people were getting my direct mail piece and they would phone the number or they would go directly to the landing page. If anybody is using a mobile device or they’re using Chrome as their browser, Google tracks that and registers that as a direct visit, which is a huge brand signal.
But a lot of people instead of going directly to the landing page that was in the postcard or the letter that I was sending or calling the phone number, would go to Google and search the brand name of the company that I had started. And then they would see the link in the index results or the knowledge panel and they would click through.
And so even though I had done next to no SEO work whatsoever, I noticed that I was ranking within a matter of just weeks with a brand new business, #2 position for my primary keywords. So I started implementing this for some of my clients as well and we’re seeing the exact same kind of results across the board. And it’s absolutely incredible.
So the reason I bring this up is because even though I’ve been a digital marketer for years I used to say, “Why would anyone do direct mail?” I’ve found that I’ve come full circle in doing things like direct mail and services like ringless voice mail. Which all you have to do is expose somebody to the brand name, and if they’re in the market or even curious, they go to Google and do a search for that brand name and then click through. It’s a huge signal and it doesn’t take many of those to start pushing your site up above competitors.
Rich: That is really interesting. Now probably until people discover it and then start using it and Google changes the rules again. But for right now it sounds like something that people should definitely consider jumping on. Especially in the service industry, as you’ve been discussing.
Rich: This has been great, and there’s more questions I have, but I think this is a perfect place to stop. Except I do have one more question, I’m sorry. You mentioned that Google Drive can have an impact on your business. Now we use Google Drive here at flyte, for AOC, and for Fast Forward Maine all the time to share documents and stuff like that. But tell me how it plays into SEO as far as you’re concerned.
Bradley: Ok, so this is one of my favorite things to talk about, I’ll try to keep it brief. Google is the most narcissistic company in the world. It absolutely loves itself. And that’s part of the reason why GMB stuff works so well now. Most people should know that YouTube has always raked really well in Google search and that’s because it’s a Google property.
In 2015 we discovered – and it’s crazy because it’s still working today – we discovered that Google Drive you can create file folders and files and what we call “theme mirroring”. So for example however you’ve got the architecture and the structure of your website, you can go into Google Drive and create a folder with your brand name and then create subfolders that would mirror the structure of your site, and then create files within there. By the way, I don’t recommend anybody go out there and actually do all this manual work themselves. We actually have a service for that – I’m not trying to pitch anybody – but I’m just saying it’s very time consuming, but super effective too create these files now that are optimized for the keywords that you’re trying to promote on your site.
Now what I mean by that is Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Drawings, Google My Maps, Google Presentations, Google Forms, all of these you optimize and put content on them that is optimized for the keyword that you’re trying to push. Put them in the products or service category folders and all of that stuff links back to your main website, and then you turn those files and folders to public.
In other words, in Drive you go “Add Permissions”, you can have anyone with the link can view or you can turn it to public like anyone on the web can find. So you set them to public and now they become indexible files and folders. And what happens is because it’s a Google property, essentially we call it an “SEO Shield”. We create what we call a “drive stack” that we mirror the site architecture into a drive stack, set it to public, we have all of the files pointing back to their corresponding posts or pages on the website, we turn them to public, and then you can use that for external link building.
Anybody that has done any SEO for any period of time knows especially now it’s very dangerous to go out and do link building to your website unless you’re getting really natural white hat links. In this case you can still use bolder SEO tactics directly to the Google drive stack files and folders because it’s a Google property and Google will never punish itself. At least it hasn’t as of yet. And so it just works really well to push relevancy and authority from a Google domain back to your primary digital assets, and it works incredibly well. Including your GMB or your primary website, and it helps to rank them using Google’s own property. It’s incredibly powerful.
Rich: Do you worry at all about “duplicate content”? Are you having to create absolutely brand new content that’s similar to what you’re already putting on your web page?
Bradley: No. Copy the content directly from the pages that you’re mirroring into the Drive files and use that. And it’s because it’s Google property. Honestly we’ve never had any issue with that whatsoever.
Duplicate content really is only a thing when it’s on the same website. If you have 2 pages on the website with the same content, then it lowers the quality and you can be hit with what’s called a “panda penalty”. But if you have – for example – duplicate content, and that was really a thing across multiple domains, then press releases would never be effective. Because you publish a press release to get picked up and published by hundreds of media outlets and it’s the same press release, but it’s not a negative thing. Does that make sense?
Rich: Absolutely. Bradley, this has been very illuminating and I’m sure everybody who’s been listening has been taking notes, unless their driving, don’t do that. But for people who want to learn more, where can we send them?
Bradley: Well we’ve got two things for your audience. The first would be kind of a welcome page where you can opt-in for a bunch of freebies we’ll give you, that’s at semanticmastery.com/agentsofchange. And again, we’ve just got a bunch of goodies there if you opt-in.
The other thing is what we mentioned at the beginning, thank you for that, which is Hump Day Hangouts. That’s our weekly webinar Q&A series that we do on Wednesdays at 4PM Eastern. Next week is our 260th episode, which means 5 years. We absolutely love doing that. You can come post your questions anytime, you don’t have to be there live, you can post your questions ahead of time and we’ll answer them during the webinar and you can always catch the answer in our replay on our YouTube channel. And you can post your questions and see the live webinar page right at semanticmastery.com/hdquestions, which stands for “hump day questions”.
Rich: Awesome. Bradley, thank you so much for coming on the show today. You had a lot of excellent information to share and I appreciate your time.
Bradley: Thank you Rich, I really enjoyed it.
Bradley Benner excels at helping businesses to market effectively in order to succeed. Find him online answering your burning marketing & SEO questions on his webinar. And check out the cool “freebies” he’s offering exclusively to Agents of Change listeners!
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.