What Works NOW in Local Search – John Paglio

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Looking to rank higher in Local Search? Want to reach page one in the Map Pack (aka the Local Pack?) Should you focus on reviews or on Google Posts?.

In this interview, Local Search Marketer John Paglio answers all these questions and more as we look to help you get found for all your local searches.

Rich: Today’s guest is Flyte New Media’s own digital marketing specialist. He specializes in local SEO and SEO, but has a strong knowledge of digital advertising, like Facebook ads, Google ads, and Instagram ads. He helps local businesses obtain their goals and get them excited about their own marketing. I’m very excited myself to have on the show. John Paglio. John, welcome to the show.

John: Thanks rich.

Rich: John obviously is here at Flyte New Media and he’s heard me many, many times interviewing other digital marketing rock stars, but here you are in the spotlight today. How does that make you feel, John?

John: Hmm. I don’t know if I’m a rock star, but I’m like a mini rock star.

Rich: He’s so humble. John, you’ve been working here at Flyte now for a couple of years. So my first question is, am I the greatest boss you’ve ever had? Before you answer, I want to remind you that your annual evaluation’s coming up next month.

John: You are the best boss I’ve ever had.

Rich: That feels so sincere. Excellent. So tell me a little bit about the work you do here at Flyte for our clients.

John: Yeah. You did a good job of summing it all up. When I first got here I started basically learning it all, wearing many hats in the company and now, few years into it I’ve kind of zoned in on what I want to do and SEO and local SEO is really where I want to be and want to learn more about. It’s just so fascinating. There’s just so much data and I’m a pretty big data nerd.

Rich: Yeah, you seem to be taking to that very well. Now, we work with a lot of clients here who have local businesses, doggy daycare’s, law offices, remodeling companies. What are some of the changes that you’ve seen in local SEO over the past few years and what are you focusing on now that you didn’t pay as much of attention to as little as two years ago?

John: Well, I’d say two years ago, a lot of… The most important things they talk about with local SEO is your title tags and meta descriptions. And when I first started, I remember them being so structured. It was your page title, city, state, brand name. Now you can give a lot of flexibility to try to play around because you’re really trying to grab the attention of the audience who is really probably not going to click through on anything. Google has that… Who was it? Rand Fishkin just came out with that report about how that a little over 50% of people aren’t clicking on Google anymore.

Rich: Right.

John: So, you really need to attract those people to your page with those title tags, with those meta descriptions, as well as making Google happy with all those keywords. So it’s really changed that way.

Rich: When you talk about local SEO, are you thinking about having somebody come up in the organic listings, but for a local search? Or you thinking about local pack or… The local pack being for anybody who doesn’t know, those three lists of the three businesses that show up next to the Google map, when you do a search on say hair salon. So are you putting your focus in both areas or do you think when people think of local SEO they should just be thinking about the maps or just be thinking about local organic lists?

John: It’s both. They work hand in hand.

Rich: Okay.

John: I’m sure we’re going to get into Google My Business, but that’s… Your Google My Business listing works hand in hand with your blogs, works hand in hand with your website copy, and so on and so on, and you need to stay consistent through all channels.

Rich: So you mentioned Google My Business. I had it down as one of the questions I want to talk to you about today. What do you want people to know about the Google My Business dashboard and just Google My Business in general? What should the average business owner know?

John: All of it. It’s got so many tools that I’m not sure a lot of people understand. Yeah, when people set it up, they put in their business information, but there’s so much more. You can add services, you can add your products with product description, with pricing. You can add your photos. You can add as many photos as you want. And Google’s getting better at trying to serve the right local business photos as well. So it’s just filling out that profile as best as possible. And you also have the Google Posts.

Rich: So let’s start, before we get into the Google Posts, which is a little bit newer, let’s just start with some basics. So somebody is listening to this podcast, they have a local business, they’ve never done any of this stuff. They’d like to start ranking higher. Where do they even go to go to Google My Business?

John: Yep. You can go to business.google.com and it’s a free listing. All you have to do is put in all your information, fill out your name, your address, your hours of operation, add some photos in there. You can put business categories in as well. And then they’ll actually send a postcard to your physical address so that you can verify your listing. Your listing will not be live on Google until you verify it.

Rich: So this is almost like the modern day equivalent to making sure that you’re in the yellow pages except with a lot more interactivity going on.

John: Correct. And for all the local businesses out there who don’t have a physical location, we work with a lot of service based companies who work out of their garage or work out of their basement. You can actually hide your address. Once you get that postcard and verify your address with Google, you can then hide it, your address. And what that will do is you can tell Google the areas that you serve. So if you serve Southern Maine, you can do Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, so on and so forth. And then when someone searches for you, instead of it zoning and write on your address in the map, it will have a big circle of your radius.

Rich: What’s keeping me from saying that my local business serves all of the Tri-state area, if it doesn’t, but I just want to rank well? Is there a way that Google has to check on us to make sure that when I say I’m a local business, but then I put my area down as like the Eastern seaboard that they’re going to be like, “No.”

John: Well, I mean, in my opinion, if your target is the Eastern seaboard, I’m not sure you want to be focusing so much on local SEO.

Rich: Okay.

John: You probably want to just start looking at your services and your products and start ranking that way.

Rich: What if I have more than one business location? There’s a lot of places who open up a second, third, or even a chain of stores. Can I put them all under one Google My Business or do I create separate entities for each a storefront?

John: It would be separate entities for each store front, but it would be under one umbrella, so it would be under Flyte New Media, but then you have Flyte New Media, Portland Flyte New Media, Dallas.

Rich: Excellent. Probably not the second city we’re going to open in, but you know-

John: Hey, you never know.

Rich: … nothing wrong with Dallas. Just other places I’d also like to check out. So you mentioned briefly these Google My Business Posts or Google Posts. Tell me about them. What’s going on there?

John: So Google+ died in what? 2013? 2014? Not soon enough. Probably when I… I’d never used Google+, but I just always heard terrible stories about how Google could never get it off the ground. But what Google’s trying to do now is make Google a social media platform, in my opinion. So basically they’re… You know, you’re now able to post blog posts, your product updates, coupons, discounts, events happening. And what’s that’s doing is it’s keeping users on the Google page without clicking through. So now your Google My Business panel on the right side…

Rich: The Google search results pages.

John: Google search row, yeah. Now your Google My Business panel on the right side is now two times as long with the Google Posts. And just recently, I’d say about a few weeks ago, people started to see the Google Posts show up in search results in a map pack. So you would show up in top three and then let’s say your Google Posts from two weeks ago shows up.

Rich: Within those search results?

John: With the bold keywords that you were using.

Rich: Just to give me a little bit more real estate on that search result.

John: Correct. Yeah. It almost drives home the fact that you do what you do and those are, those are your services.

Rich: So how do I put those Google Posts together and how do I get them onto my Google My Business account?

John: When you’re in the Google My Business dashboard, down the left hand side, you have your info, your photos, your services and all that. And then there’s one tab that says posts. So you just click that and it’s just making a post. And my suggestion would be to make it short and straightforward and only about one topic.

Rich: So, for example, we have a… I’m doing a presentation coming up on thought leadership. A thought leadership webinar. So, is that something that we should create a Google Posts about?

John: Yep, yep.

Rich: Okay. And so I put in what? Date, time, detail and maybe a photo or something like that?

John: In the photo and then you can also have the linking URL to the go to webinar landing page. So if you are linking out to a blog post to a product, to a webinar, you definitely want to put a URL builder, you know a tracking code, on that because Google’s not going to tell you that that came from a Google Posts.

Rich: All right.

John: So you definitely want to put a tracking code on it so you can start tracking those.

Rich: All right. So those UTM codes that we put in there, so then when it shows up in Google analytics, we can see this actually came from a post and not the Google search results.

John: Correct.

Rich: Excellent. And before you mentioned that that they’re starting to show up in the local search. I was going to ask you about this because when I go… First of all, the only time you see these is if you search on a company name and it pulls that up, right?

John: Correct.

Rich: Like, if somebody searches on web design, even if we were the first result, our Google My Business knowledge box is not going to show up in the right hand column.

John: Correct.

Rich: It’s only if they search for Flyte New Media. So they have to know about your business first. And I was going to say, the last time I looked, our Google Posts were showing up yet. You had to scroll down the page so they weren’t above the fold. And I was going to ask you what the value is here. Have you been tracking what our, and some of our clients’ click through rates are? Are you seeing interactivity on those Google Posts? Are they driving traffic?

John: When Google Posts first came out, Google Posts were actually higher up in the knowledge panel, in your own knowledge panel. So, since then Google has sort of devalued them in a way, but now they’re bringing those into the actual map pack. So when you’re searching for web design in Portland and we have a Google Post about web design, it will actually show in bold under our… Like, in the three pack, they’ll say like Flyte New Media in our listing and then below it’ll have web design Portland, if there was something that you wrote about in a Google Post.

Rich: I would say then that anybody who’s doing things like, whether you’re selling something or promoting something that if you include a Facebook post on it, if you’re doing an Instagram post on it, you 100% should be doing a Google Post on this as well these days.

John: Yeah. And I tell all my clients, it just needs to be part of your social strategy.

Rich: Right. It’s just you should have a checklist of everything you do after you have a new blog post or something to offer and that should be on there.

John: Yep. And to get back to how we’re tracking these for clients, Google doesn’t really give you a whole lot of information. It only gives you impressions and clicks. So the unique thing about Google Posts is that they’re only around for seven days, so then they expire on your knowledge panel, they expire after seven days. But what people have been seeing is that your Google Posts from like maybe a month ago are still coming up in those search results when you’re in the three pack.

Rich: So, are Google Posts primarily for a temporary things like a sale or a new blog post or an upcoming webinar? Is that why they expire after seven days, do you think?

John: More than likely. Yeah. Basically, yeah. It’s for one of those like, it’s happening now, you better come see it or you better come by it now.

Rich: Or like any social post really. It’s got to like… So, if I’ve got a webinar coming up in three or four weeks or if I’ve got a sale that’s going to last all month, should I plan on putting into my scheduling calendar that I’m going to do a new Google Post for that each week because it’s going to expire?

John: So for the posts that have dates on them and have an end date, they actually stay until the end date. So it’s kind of how you can game the system a little bit, if you want a blog post that’s a hyper [crosstalk 00:12:01]-

Rich: I’m going to set up a webinar for 2023.

John: Exactly. It will stay there until 2023.

Rich: Excellent.

John: So yeah. So Google will only give you analytics for seven days on the posts.

Rich: I see. Okay. But you definitely want to use those UTM codes so you can gather some more information.

John: Correct. Yes.

Rich: And there’s no way to know because you’re just creating one UTM code. So it’s going to show up in your knowledge panel and it’s going to show up hopefully in the local pack. You’ll never know which one caused somebody-

John: Well it doesn’t… The actual post doesn’t show up in the map pack.

Rich: Okay.

John: It’s just like a strip of text and it has like a exclamation point with a badge below it. You’ve probably seen it before, just never realized.

Rich: I’ve never really asked. So if somebody clicks on that… I don’t like to use-

John: You can’t click it.

Rich: You can’t click it?

John: You can’t click it. And it just… You know how like if you type in… I noticed this a lot for, like we have a few wedding vendor clients and if you type in wedding venues in Maine, it will be like this website mentions wedding venues or barn menus.

Rich: Yeah.

John: So, in that strip right there, sometimes it’s a Google Post, sometimes it pulls from your website.

Rich: But there’s no way to click through on that.

John: No.

Rich: That seems very strange, John. You should look into why that’s happening. All right, so we’ve talked a lot about Google Posts. Let’s talk about reviews for a moment.

John: Yes.

Rich: Would you say that reviews are more important, less important, or about the same level of importance for local visibility today as they were a few years back?

John: I would say they’re more important.

Rich: More important today. All right, so why is that, do you think? And then what can we do to encourage reviews?

John: Well, if people attended the Agents of Change 2019…

Rich: Nice plug.

John: Cheap plug. Mark Schrieffer really kicked off the day in talking about the most human company wins. So, with reviews, people want to see how other companies are handling bad reviews, how they’re handling good reviews. And if there is a string of reviews that are the same, like if you go to a coffee shop and there’s grounds in your coffee and there are 10 reviews about grounds in the coffee, then you probably want to stay away from that coffee shop because you don’t want grounds in your coffee. But if you see one or two and then the company responds like, “We’re so sorry, we’ll make sure-

Rich: We’ll use filters going forward.

John: We’ll use better filters, we’ll buy not the cheap ones. Yeah, basically. And then there are no more negative reviews about that, people understand that the company is listening.

Rich: Right.

John: And being able to listen to the bad reviews, and being able to better your company, and better your staff and your products, it’s going to go a long way.

Rich: Do you think that also then plays into how Google ranks these websites? Like, is Google taking a look at the reviews? Is this a ranking factor when it comes to the map pack?

John: Overall reviews are a ranking factor. I’m not entirely sure about interactions, if that has a huge ranking factor. I’m sure there is.

Rich: Right.

John: Because it’s Google.

Rich: Right.

John: But I would say that reviews as a whole is a big ranking factor. And for every one bad review, you need at least six or seven good reviews to offset that number.

Rich: I remember Dale Bertrand saying something about like customer service was the new SEO for eCommerce sites and that if you have an eCommerce site, whether it’s got the best prices, whatever, it doesn’t matter because if you’re getting terrible reviews, Google doesn’t want to serve up your site as a go-to site because its job is to get you to the best possible result. So if that carries through with reviews, it might make sense that right Google only wants to show off sites with the best reviews.

John: And you want to push reviews onto your customers because they’re almost like an influencer for you.

Rich: Yeah.

John: You see influencer marketing on social, but reviews can almost act as just as powerful.

Rich: Absolutely. So I know that you’re working with some of our clients. You’ve got a piece of software you’re using right now. Tell me a little bit about that.

John: Yeah, it’s a great piece of software. It’s called Greatus. Great.us. There’s plenty out there, that’s just what we chose here at Flyte. It basically… So what we do is we have a client who gets a list of emails every week from they purchased something or they’ve had installation done on their house and we actually send an email out to those customers asking them to review and it’s an automated process so all we’re doing is uploading those emails into the system. It’s sending one email out immediately and then another email out three days later for the people who hadn’t clicked through or left a review. And then if they still haven’t after the three days, they’ll get another one five days later.

Rich: Okay. And are you seeing results with this? Is it actually working? Are people leaving reviews?

John: We’ve gone from, I would say, I think we’ve generated at least 35 to 40 in the last two or three months. New reviews.

Rich: All right.

John: And mostly all good reviews, which is always good.

Rich: Always a point, absolutely. So does it matter where these reviews are posted? They have to be posted to Google or could they be posted to Yelp or TripAdvisor?

John: Yeah, it all depends on your industry. For the client I was just talking about, he’s in the home remodeling business, so we pushed a… We try to push a lot of the reviews to House.

Rich: Right.

John: Now we do give the customer the option. So, if they click through them, a landing page comes up and it has Google, Facebook, Angie’s List and House, and the user can choose where they want to leave the review. So it’s giving the power to the user, not just forcing them into Google or forcing them somewhere else.

Rich: And whenever we end up forcing people into one thing, that usually kind of sets off some sort of red flag at Google anyway. It’s like, “Why are there suddenly 20 people leaving a review on Yelp?” Or whatever the case may be.

John: And the great thing about this piece of software and all the other pieces of software out there is it actually helps you game the system a little bit with bad reviews. So you can set a limit. So, if someone leaves a one or two star review instead of pushing it into Google or House, it actually pushes them to a direct email that comes right into your inbox so you can handle it internally.

Rich: Right. And you know, it’s a little manipulative, but at the same time, you’re giving people an opportunity to raise a flag about your business, abut how you can be doing better and then you have this opportunity to actually fix it.

John: Right.

Rich: Which, at the end of the day, is probably worth more than one more positive review on Google anyways, I would think for the health of your business.

John: Right.

Rich: There’s nobody who’s more excited about talking about a business and somebody who had a bad experience that was turned around. People love telling those kinds of things.

John: Yeah, and I mean, we just got one this weekend that was about, “We love the finished product. We love the installation. But there was a few hiccups on the communication side of things.” So really, you don’t want that being a bad Mark on your Google My Business let’s say, because it’s really not about the product. You know? It’s not about how it looks.

Rich: You mentioned House, you mentioned Angie’s List. Those are review sites that a lot of people might not think about. And you also said that this is very industry specific. So, are there some go-to ones or really does it depend on your industry and… Doctors may have their own doctor Yelp or something like that.

John: Yeah, basically. It really depends on industry, but I would always say that you want Google and Facebook, right? They’re on the forefront. Facebook is being used more and more as a search engine every day.

Rich: Right.

John: Maybe not on a national scale, but definitely on a local scale.

Rich: And I’m sure people have had this experience where they’ve gotten a review that’s bad, but not only that, it shouldn’t have been posted. We struggle with this. There’s some random person who we’ve never done business with on Facebook who left us a one star review, no comment. We’ve never done anything, and unfortunately I was not paying attention. So that review stays. What are the opportunities for us to have a review that reflects poorly on us removed by a Facebook or a Google.

John: There’s no removing bad reviews, unfortunately. All you can do is respond to them. I’m a big proponent of taking it offline after one response.

Rich: Yeah.

John: So you don’t… Say you respond to this person and then they respond back. You don’t want to keep responding. The only thing you want to do is just say, “Give us a call or shoot us an email and I’d love to talk to talk this through with you over the phone or in person.”

Rich: This may be unfair to ask of you, but where do you see the future of local SEO heading and what would you recommend to people to do to improve their own local SEO?

John: Every time Google comes out with something like a new feature, I would strongly suggest to hop on it because you never know what it could do for your business. You know when-

Rich: Google tends to reward when you use their products.

John: Right. And when Google Posts came out, a lot of people didn’t do it. A lot of people weren’t using it. People still aren’t using it. To my knowledge, a lot of people don’t even know about it. So just to trying to stay on top of what Google’s releasing to help you better your business because they want you to succeed. AK, they want you to spend money on their platform, but…

Rich: All right, so bottom line is we should try any new products that Google’s rolling out if we’re going to stay on top of this. The reviews are very important these days, more important than they used to be. We should definitely be doing Google Posts. Anything else the average business owner should be considering for his or her business when it comes to local search?

John: I would just make sure that all of your citations are accurate across the board.

Rich: So define citations for Google [crosstalk 00:21:33].

John: So, your name, address, phone number.

Rich: All right.

John: So when you are on, one on 136 Commercial street, Suite 201, we want to be a Commercial Street, street is spelled out, not ST, that can give you a little bit of a negative mark. I’ve talked to a few people saying that citations are less and less important, but you still want to make sure that your citations are strong.

Rich: I think it’s always going to be a moving target because as soon as enough people start doing one thing, then Google will either say, “Okay, you’re over optimizing this,” or, “Now that you guys have all figured this out, we’re going to move on to the next most important thing.” So now that we have put in our addresses correctly, which seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, now they’re moving on to, “Okay, let’s put up more stuff, let’s be involved in, and they’re basically rewarding people who are being more active on their platform, AKA Posts and things like that.

John: Yeah. And they just came out with, you can add your services and products now and the products is still in beta I believe, but we just did it for a few of our clients and it’s a really beautiful platform because within your panel on the right side, you have all your products and product groupings and they can click and they can go right to the product in your store and buy right there. So you’re helping them skip like four steps.

Rich: All right, awesome. John, this is usually the part of the show where I say, “Tell us where we can find you online,” but I know where your office is. Is there anything you want to share with people to wrap up today?

John: No, just go get them tiger.

Rich: All right. Thanks, John.

John: Yeah, thank you.

Rich: All right.