From a humble family retail business to becoming the Co-founder of NEARMEDIA.co, Mike Blumenthal's journey in local SEO reads like an odyssey. Born into the vibrant ecosystem of a retail business, Mike tasted the bittersweet symphony of commerce early on, watching the doors of their family venture close in 2001. However, every end marks a new beginning. This spurred him into creating an open-source content management tool, and soon, he began crafting websites for businesses in his bucolic surroundings.
Mike's love affair with SEO was born out of sheer necessity. Nestled in a rural setting, the only way for these websites to see the light of the digital day was through robust SEO. But his eureka moment came in 2005 with the advent of Google Maps. To Mike, it wasn't just a tool – it was a revolution. Suddenly, local businesses could flex their muscles on a global stage, and the once-mighty yellow pages felt a seismic shift.
Brimming with curiosity, Mike embarked on a mission to demystify this game-changer. His blog, blumenthals.com, became the canvas where he painted his insights, research, and questions. While he began as a seeker, he soon emerged as a beacon for many. This journey introduced him to industry stalwarts like David Mihm, Mary Bowling, Mike Ramsey, and Don Campbell, culminating in ventures such as Local U and GatherUp.
2019 marked another transition, giving birth to NEARMEDIA.co. With an eye on consumer behavior, Mike's venture dives deep into the world of Google and website user experiences, drawing actionable insights for large businesses.
Mike isn't just about business; he's a crusader with a cause – to uplift and empower local businesses. Whether it's decoding Google's enigmatic strategies, optimizing images, consulting on local search for SAAS enterprises, or demystifying Google Business Profile (formally Google My Business), Mike's expertise is all things local.
In Mike's words, "All local, all the time. What else is there?" Quite aptly, Mike is the go-to Local SEO maestro with a mantra: "My goal? To help local business do better and be better." Dive into his treasure trove of insights thrice a week at Near Media, and get ready to be enlightened!
The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Mike Blumenthal
Watch the interview
(click on the 'cc' icon to view subtitles)
Listen to the podcast
(60 minutes long)
The unscripted questions Mark A Preston asked Mike Blumenthal
Who is Mike Blumenthal, the Local SEO?
Has the local SEO space changed much over the years?
Does Google use a different algorithm for local SEO?
Why should a business work with a local SEO specialist if they have already ticked all their local SEO foundation tasks?
How important are Q&As and Google Posts on the Google Business Profile?
Are Q&As on the Google Business Profile a ranking factor or a conversion factor?
Which tends to drive more organic exposure, the Business Profile or the actual website?
How can a local business use blogging to drive local people through their front door?
How do Google determine what to show on a Business Profile when there is a mixture of User Generated Content and information posted by the business?
What is the process of getting rid of unrelated user posted photos from your Google Business Profile?
What steps would you take if two local businesses who provide the same services are merging together to create a new brand?
How much local online brand presence does a business need to have before Google will trust that you are a real business?
What local SEO tools do you personally use?
How do you handle Google randomly changing things on a Business profile that are not correct?
How important is it to keep a record of the CIDs of each Google Business Profile?
How important is adding local schema to your website?
Why do you have such a passion for local SEO specifically?
What are your thoughts when some SEOs say that local SEO is simply a tick box exercise and simple?
Do local SEO consultants need to be a lot more focused due to the fact that they must work within a certain geographical area?
How can a local business target all the towns around them without opening a new location in those towns?
Does targeting a town your business is not located in, have a negative context for the user?
What local SEO foundational things do most SEOs miss?
What are the three main advanced local SEO tasks beyond the foundations?
<<< Back to The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast
The unscripted conversation between Mark A Preston and Mike Blumenthal
Mark A Preston: Welcome to the Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast. Yes, it's 100% unscripted, 100% unrehearsed, 100% unedited, and 100% real. I'm your host, Mark A Preston, and today we have a special guest. Who's personally, I've been advised that he's one of the most advanced people in local SEO.
Mike Blumenthal: So rather than me... Advanced in age is one of the the advantages. Been in it so long that I'm now advanced in multiple ways.
Mark A Preston: Likewise. I'm on the retirement plan. So could you just so I don't do you any injustice. Could you introduce yourself and your history and your background and how you got to where you are today?
Mike Blumenthal: Sure. Mike Blumenthal, and I've been doing local SEO one form or another since I was a child. My family had a retail business 50 employees, 5 million people that got our arses kicked and we had to close up doors in 2001. When that happened, I started, created a open source content management tool and started building websites for local business, local businesses, and realized that I needed to learn SEO because I lived in a rural area, and if these had any chance of being seen, I needed SEO. So they were local websites, so I did. Regular SEO for localized websites. And in 2005, when Google Maps came out, I was very intrigued by it, particularly after they merged the business listings and the map components in early 2006. So I started writing about it. I thought It was the most, I thought it was the most significant development in the internet to come along because it allowed local businesses to be visible globally and as opposed to what historically been global businesses visible locally.
So it gave local, and it kicked the yellow pages in the knees at the time, which I was very much in favor of. So I started writing about it at my blog at blumenthals. com and I wrote about it with the intention of learning about it. I didn't really know that much, but I felt if I could ask questions and answer those questions through my own research, I might get someplace. Through that, I met a number of really wonderful people, David Mhim and Mary Bowling and Mike Ramsey. We started local you in 2010, which was a local digital marketing. training webinar, seminar that went around to mid size businesses, mid size cities around the United States. Through that, I met Don Campbell in 2012, started a company called GatherUp, which was to help businesses with managing and optimizing their reputation, both around reviews and around net net promoter score. And throughout all of that, Was consulting in local doing research in local still doing my web hosting and web design business. In 2017, I sold my web hosting web design business. In 2019, I sold local you to Joy Hawkins at Sterling Sky. And Don Campbell and my other partners sold gather up. In 2019.
And then I started a new company called near media, which is whose goal is to under is to optimize user experience on Google and websites through consumer market research. So we actually look at how consumers behave on Google and on websites and track that tabulate that. Anecdotally and structurally and provide insights to large multi location businesses how to best optimize their efforts to maximize their returns. I also currently write at Near Media where we do three times a week newsletter and other research.
Mark A Preston: Wonderful. I'm going to say, that's quite a backstory there. I'm going to say. In the local SEO space, have you personally, do you feel as though it's actually changed a lot during those years or not really?
Mike Blumenthal: The competitive landscape changed. In 2006, 2007, 2008, it wasn't clear that Google would establish the monopoly that they now have. Now that Google has established that monopoly quite clearly and the other players have largely left the field, Google hasn't changed that much. They never throw an algorithm away. They may twist the dials and change parameters, but their basic algorithm is largely the same as the elements that I discussed in 2007 and 2008. Certainly it's more sophisticated as. They are able to gather more information to bring into the algorithm, but the basic algorithm is largely the same. The answer to your question is the industry is largely different because it has, Google has essentially wiped out almost all competitors. And yet, Google, to a large extent, is the same. Now again, there's variations and there's certainly more and more information they're looking to get and that brings new variables into the mix, but the basic underlying... Ranking algorithm hasn't changed. All right.
Mark A Preston: Now, is there a different algorithm of Google for local SEO than there Is it a totally different algorithm to use?
Mike Blumenthal: The local algorithm is based around three primary attributes prominence, which is also used in the national algorithm relevance, which is also used. But the thing that is unique and local is proximity. The other thing that's unique in the local is they're looking at web pages. They're looking at entities in a knowledge graph and sub entities in the knowledge graph and sub entities of the sub entities in the knowledge graph. So what Google brings to local is different in that it looks at This proximity issue. It also looks at a knowledge graph and oftentimes will evaluate things like mentions of a business and a brand and those mentions might provide or reviews which are not as prevalent in the national algorithm. And those reviews and mentions of a business are then aggregated into relevance and prominence and used in ranking. So it is Based on the same logic, particularly the prominence aspect, which looks at how popular is a particular web page or location, but they do it slightly differently. And then they add to it proximity, right?
Mark A Preston: When, say a local s e o advisor or a business has done all the foundational work, so they've got the business profile all sorted and pretty, they, got the pages right on the website and everything. I want to talk a bit more about then what, because a lot of people I speak to, they think I've ticked all the boxes. So why should we work with the local SEO specialist? Because we've already ticked all the boxes. What, how, what happens after that?
Mike Blumenthal: So there's a number of things that happen after that. Firstly the market in which That business exists is constantly changing. The competitors are constantly changing, constantly evolving. One of the big attributes of all of Google's algorithms are our links and links around location. Whether internal or external links are critical, and it takes a serious amount of work. If you're in a competitive market in local and need to develop a good link profile. That's typically best done by a trustworthy and I underline that word professional. Similarly. With mentions of your business name, which are a local attribute where you are become visible in the local press or in your trade press. Typically, that's best done with a PR person who is also likely a professional and very difficult to do that. If you're a single business or a single practitioner. Obviously, the world of reviews, which is critical and local, both for rank initially, but ultimately for conversions is an ongoing process doesn't end after you get five or 10 and you achieved whatever rank benefit there is the benefit of reviews continue to accrue in terms of increasing Google's understanding of your business.
And so the need for Implementing some sort of processes. Now, if you're just a single location with just a few customers, that might be easy to do off the cuff. But as soon as you get beyond that and scale or size, you really need to implement a professional system. And that might require a SAS product or a professional to do it. Photography is another example. Photographs are playing a huge issue in Google's understanding of your business customers, willingness to. convert when they see your business. So regularly getting new photographs, professional photographs brought in and implemented that requires professional. So a lot of what is now helping a listing stand out. Gee, I could keep going here products. Obviously Google and local is going very granular to down to the product level, if you do a search for cameras, you're going to see Google surface, say a Nikon digital camera. You're going to see Google surface, both national and local results for that even down to the product level. So if you've got some e commerce capability, you may need a professional to implement a good POS or e commerce site. And then you need a professional to help you integrate that into Google Local so that you can play in those searches. And even at the level of communication or reservations.
For example, Google has messaging in Google Local. It's often its own silo, and a lot of times you want one messaging system to manage all of your leads, then you're gonna need to work with a company that, something like Lead Ferno that I help you know that I'm a founder of and a advisor to. They help you take all of your. Text incoming messaging, whether it's on Facebook or Google or text and consolidate them into a single place and respond to those leads. So you can invert them, those local leads more quickly. So in every aspect of competing in this from rank to relevance, to reputation, to visual stuff, to communications, to product display, typically. It is getting increasingly complicated and can't be done without a professional because there's so many sort of knobs to turn and buttons to push that you need a professional, often multiple professionals, to do that. Your job is safe.
Mark A Preston: Wonderful. So on the business profile side how important are things like Q and A's and Google posts?
Mike Blumenthal: I view of those things as table stakes. When a customer starts looking in a category for business, Having more information there rather than less helps you find the right customers and get rid of the wrong customers helps you qualify them so that and if keep you in the running for consideration. Q&A and Google posts are a way to communicate some of the more common things that. Your business does so that you can stay in the running so that you can hopefully win this customer at the end. For example, I just did a bunch of research in the United States and health care. Every customer wanted to know if they were still taking new patients, if they, which insurances they carried. Those are questions that could easily be answered in Google Post or Google Q& A. If you upvote the Q& A, they then show on your knowledge graph, and they can then be seen by searchers right then and there, so that they can feel comfortable continuing to develop a relationship and decide that you're the right place to come to. So you take the, those things are, but they're table stakes. They're not. Something that's going to help you rank higher or but they will help you not to lose potential consideration.
Mark A Preston: Oh, so not necessarily a ranking factor, but more of a conversion factor. Is that what you're saying?
Mike Blumenthal: Yes, more of a conversion factor, right? And to keep people moving along the direction of getting to the point where they're going to hit the contact you, the message you, or the call you button which is the goal.
Mark A Preston: The way I see, obviously. Local ethics, one big picture, but you have your website and you have your business profile is how much of an impact does each have? Are you seeing that the business profiles are generating a lot more exposure than say top ranking websites for local phrases?
Mike Blumenthal: It's very category dependent. So if it's very category and need dependent, there are what I call high consideration queries. We did some research with an employment lawyer, where we posited to people that they were having difficulty on the job and they might need to hire a solicitor, a lawyer. And for people like that, a website is incredibly important because they need to, their life is in the balance. So they're going to do more research. They're not going to just stop at a picture on a, on Google and make a decision. On the other hand, if it's somebody who's OBGYN, they might go in. There, they might look in Google Local, see how close the business is, make sure it's adequate that way, make sure it deals with the questions they have about insurance and new patients, see how many reviews they have, get rid of anybody that doesn't have at least, 10 reviews and a 4.7 or 4.8 average, and they're going to pick from that short list.
Now, interestingly, In that category, what we saw was people going very deep into the local finder. People didn't just pick from the top three. Once they were in the local finder for something like a new primary care physician or a new OBGYN, they would go very deep looking for businesses that met their criteria. So in that case, again, reviews or lack of information. Could lead to somebody rejecting you as an option, but they could also contribute to them picking you, but they didn't stop at the top three. The long tail was very deep and very wide. They went down 6,7,8,9,12,15 places to find people that met their criteria, and then they would make a decision from the four or five there. So it depends. So from a user conversion point of view, it depends on category from a ranking point of view. Google can't rank your local listing your profile without having a sources to do that. Now, with a knowledge graph what they're actually ranking is an entity in a database. In other words, and that your website contributes to it, but so do articles in newspapers contribute to it. So do reviews on websites contribute to it. So it isn't just. In terms of ranking, just Google listing and website, it's Google listing and website and all of the other stuff from around the Internet that contributes to Google's understanding of your entity, both in terms of relevance and prominence.
Mark A Preston: On the website side, I've not, I've seen a lot of websites that's gone on the local website, Bricks and Mortar, and the idea is they want to get in physically through the front door. So them sort of businesses, and they've set a blog up, and they've started writing about their industry. Now when I've looked at the stats around that, I'd say only 2%, are their target audience, as in geographical. So if a local business wants to move forward and build the brand up through the blog, what, does every article have to have a local entity in? In order to make sure it's matched to their geographical location.
Mike Blumenthal: Obviously every business has to define their reality for themselves. As a general purpose, blogging in local is not, again, depends on the business. Give me some examples. Are we talking about a single location business? Are we talking about a multi location business?
Mark A Preston: The one that I've got in mind is, one brand, they've got four locations within a 50 mile radius.
Mike Blumenthal: As you pointed out very little, if they're looking to build a national brand, for some reason, then blogging makes sense. If they want to build, because they have Partially local and partially online. Like me, for example, I speak nationally. I get customers locally and nationally and internationally. So for me, blogging made a lot of sense because it allowed me to expose myself to a very broad audience. But. From a pure local point of view, if you do not have a goal beyond your market, then I'm not sure any blogging is worth it. I think you're better off writing long tail content in the silos of your business, where that content is relevant. So you have a product a, you want to write more about that product, a put it in products, a content silo, linking back and forth to the main page, adding nuance and detail to that, rather than isolating it out on a blog. That isn't going to get read or is going to seem to be seen by Google as. Not permanent information, so it depends, but if you're strictly going after a local audience and you really know your product well, and you want to make that understood, then I would, rather than blogging, I would bring those extended articles into your main website as sub pages in the silos in which that content is relevant.
Mark A Preston: Wonderful. Now, again. With the local entity on the business profiles, the fact that anybody can basically update your profile and add images and everything, whether it's relevant or not relevant, I find that I spend a lot of time filtering out what I call And I think that's Unrelated rubbish, they're not genuine customers. They're not, even photos of the business or anything. It's just, I just find it frustrating that people that have nothing to do with your business can impact. What's happening and showing. So how do you deal with that?
Mike Blumenthal: Yes. So Google, first, let's step back and help people understand why Google allows that to happen. They have a lot of faith in their ability. Faith beyond their actual capability to parse what's meaningful information and what isn't. They want multiple sources of information that, and then they throw it all together with their magical AI and decide what's real and then present that. And they do that in an effort to keep the listings current. So users can contribute reviews, photos. Information hours whether you're open or closed to a listing. And Google does all of that with the goal of making sure that their business listings are more current than anybody else's in the market. And to some extent they have succeeded at that, but it creates headaches for people. I typically recommend tools to do that because it's hard to remember to go out and check your business. Dashboard every day, you're listing every day. So there are two tools that I like that do this. One is WhiteSpark and the other is Plepper. Both of these tools actually look at the changes that have happening on your listing and send you alerts. And then you go in and see whether you need to deal with it. And this, the more locations you have, the more critical tool becomes because otherwise you're wasting a lot of time.
And then. Depending on what it is that was posted, you need to make business class decisions about whether or not to dispute that information at near me. I've written a number of. Post about how to, get rid of fake reviews, for example, or how to recover missing reviews. But to some extent, those are costs. You have to make a cost benefit analysis. If you have 50 reviews and somebody leaves a fake rating. Which nobody's ever, that's negative, nobody's ever going to see, and it actually takes you from a 5.0 to a 4.9 rating because of that fake rating. Should you spend time to fight it? My answer is no, it actually helps you. And you shouldn't spend any effort trying to get rid of it. Now, if somebody writes a long form review that is full of untruths and other issues, then you probably should, because that might be highlighted, but a rating is going to get buried by Google, never seen by anybody, a 4.9 rating is going to be more believable than a 5. 0, and you actually should be thanking that person that gave you the fake one star rating, not worrying about whether to get rid of it, as opposed to the very detailed, but inaccurate or maligning review that might violate terms of service, That review, you might want to spend time dealing with. I've again written, articles how to get rid of these reviews. And if it's a review attack where a competitor is going after your business repeatedly, that for sure you want to deal with. Yay. It depends a little bit on what the content is, back to the original question, and how much impact it has on you. Sometimes the impact is emotional, not real, like in the case of a negative rating. But I generally like to use tools to keep me apprised of these changes.
Mark A Preston: And would you say it's relatively easy to get rid of them if it's going to cause harm to your business? And it's not genuine.
Mike Blumenthal: What relatively easy is a relative term. Google has, particularly since the advent of more regulation in Europe, DSA and other regulations in Europe, has made forms available to deal with these inaccuracies. If the form fails because you're dealing with some person in India that doesn't know what they're doing or somebody someplace doesn't know what they're doing, you can then escalate them to the form. But you need to know to go to the Google contact form. You need to know which phrases to use to get the right form. You need to get the right form. You need to submit the right form. You need to follow up. Perhaps even do an appeal in the case of review. And then if all that failed, then you need to go to the forum and ask for additional help. So is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. All right.
Mark A Preston: Now, personally, I deal with a lot of businesses that merge together. So they're in the same town and they provide the same services but the two different names and emerging into a new name. And I've found recently that the merger process within the business profiles. Has become a lot more frustrating, it's like Google will say you need to rename that one to match that one and you do that, then they penalize them, they suspend them both because of duplication. So it's like the whole merger process just seems to be a bit crazy because we're trying to follow things. And it's just we've followed them, but then you've pulled both of them.
Mike Blumenthal: So over the past two years, Google has implemented much more rigorous tracking to try to guarantee both verification and more rigorous suspensions to try to clean up the index. The index had a lot, has over the last 15, 18 years, been abused by people thinking they should be able to use Google maps as a marketing tool, whether legitimately or not. And as a result of that, and as a result like I said, of additional European sort of oversight, Google around two and a half years ago, first started cleaning up service area businesses, any change you made would lead to a suspension, and then you'd have to get reincluded, improve your bona fides. By providing, proof of existence and where you did business, your business documents, etc. Subsequent to that, or maybe simultaneously with that, they also upped the verification procedures. For example, now, unless you're a long standing business With a lot of exterior signals and Google Search Console implemented with the same email as your Google My Business and, you're not going to get a postcard anymore. You're going to be forced into some form of video verification and even things like Again, to prevent fraud name changes and moves have been made more difficult, often requiring re verification again to limit fraud because they have confidence in the old business. They don't have confidence in the new one.
So yes, it has gotten more difficult. Some, a lot of that is more rigorous combined with an obtuse system makes it really hard to know which path you should follow, and it really is unique depending on the situation. For example, I was working with one in the forum where. A new business within the same category and a similar name started up where another business existed. The other business had 400 reviews. They decided to close the other business. Now, the problem with that, as opposed to renaming it, is that it's going to, that closed business is going to retain its prominence and visibility. For six to nine months a year, while the new business struggles to be seen and in fact can't be seen because the it's in the same category as the closed business and thus is being filtered by the. What they should have done instead of closing the old business is just renamed it, sucked it up on the reviews, gone through the new verification process to prove they have a new name and moved on. But instead, they chose to close it thinking that they would get rid of the old business. They didn't. And now they're struggling with both this ghost business and their business being hidden. So every one of these merger situations is unique, and the outcomes are not totally predictable because the way the algorithm works isn't predictable, but one of the things I would say is before you start the mergers, one is be sure that your website is totally accurate, that the old websites are either taken down or changed. That those have been re indexed in Search Console. That you have done, that you've gotten citations at the sources that Google looks at for business trust. Now in the United States, that's InfoUSA. com slash DataAxle. I don't know who it is in other countries. It's, sometimes it's a government agency, sometimes a government agency, plus a primary data supplier.
But you need to be sure that this new business... New phone number to website is well documented in both general citations, but more importantly, in the primary data supplier that verifies the existence of this business. Cause Google, like I said, is looking for orthogonal information to verify the reality of this business. And this has to happen month, six weeks before you attempt to merge. Now, once you then have these two businesses, one I assume is at the location and one isn't, or is that in a new location? It can vary. Both? It can vary. If it's at the same location and the name is changing, like I said, it's best if you, in part of the buyout, get access to the business. Profile and change the name, right? But if you bought another business and it's closing, whether or not it'll merge depends on how far away it is, if it's too far away, Google's just going to mark it as closed. And you're not gonna be able to recover the reviews. You're not gonna be able to cover whatever value it has. If it's close enough, you may be able to rename it and merge it. Maybe it's unpredictable because we don't know what the other parameters, the hidden parameters are.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, that makes total sense about... Oh, hold it.
Mike Blumenthal: It never can make total sense with Google. No, the most sense I've been able to make of it.
Mark A Preston: No, what's triggered there, where I said it makes total sense, is that before you start merging the profiles, you need to create an existence of...
Mark A Preston: One of the scenarios with a business profile and running a main profile with lots of. businesses in it is I've come across once or twice that Google's randomly just merged two profiles without me even asking them to merge them. Like two separate businesses, two separate brands, two separate phone numbers, two separate addresses.
Mike Blumenthal: But the addresses are probably close. I'm not saying that... Again, this is an algorithm, this is AI. AI is a probabilistic view of reality. In other words, AI is making a decision, artificial intelligence, as to which listings are distinct and which ones are merged. If the two don't have clear internet footprints, and if the two are in similar categories, etc. If the two are in close proximity, then the AI's gonna say, it used to be much worse than it is now. The AI's gonna say, oh, it's just the same business, and merge the shit out of'em. And then if you don't have the original CIDs, the original URL, CIDs, you're never gonna get 'em on merged, right? Because Google doesn't keep track of those. You have to keep track of that. So pro tip here is when you get a business into Google, get the CID and the place ID numbers. offline in archived. So if you run into these kinds of problems, you can recover them. And this applies to reviews as well. Sometimes Google will literally nuke a listing. You don't know why somebody will create a new listing. Maybe it's consumer, maybe it's some staff and all of a sudden your reviews are gone and it's got a new listing number, new CID, a new cluster ID, a new you know, place ID. And if you, and Google is incapable of recovering your reviews unless you give them the previous place ID or the CID so they can go into their database, pull that up and merge it. So pro tip, keep track of the CID of every listing. So if these kinds of mergers take place, you can document what they were. And if reviews get lost or missing or whatever. the thing to get nuked, you can recover some of that data. Wonderful.
Mark A Preston: How important would you say local schema is?
Mike Blumenthal: So let me step back. Schema is a way to increase clarity of understanding by machines of your business, right? So they deal with schema as a structured way of delivering information to the search engine so that they can better categorize your business, put it into the knowledge graph, which is essentially a structured view of. The entity. So as the business, as the information becomes more muddled, it's the schema becomes more important. Schema is not a ranking variable per se. It's a way of increasing Google's understanding. So if you're a single location business, you've been at that location for 30 years, Google and your website's reasonably well designed. Google knows who you are, where you are, what you do, and schema is going to have virtually no impact. If, on the other hand, you're a multi location business and you're adding and subtracting locations and you're changing names and you're doing it, you want to do everything you can to help Google understand this new set of entities, then schema, location schema becomes more important in that. In the product world, schema is very important, right? If you're, if you have product reviews and you are in Merchant Center and local and Google is you know showing product reviews with product searches. You want that schema to show up. You want those reviews to show up. So product schema is very important. In that context, legitimate context where you have products and local and merchant center and you're delivering local localized product results. However, product schema of reviews as is widely used in the United States by lawyers. on their main websites. Remember back in the beginning, I said in the law category, a lot of people look at organic. One of the things that really drives conversions in that is review stars. The only way to get review stars in organic in localized results is to cheat by using product schema on your review stars and people will be attracted to those reviews and we'll click on them. So schema has both as value for conversion optimization, in many ways, for clarity to Google in terms of location. But I wouldn't obsess about it, I guess is the other side of it because Google's pretty good at parsing non schema information into appropriate fields and categories.
Mark A Preston: So why are you so personally passionate about local SEO? What is it about local SEO that you yourself It just, yes I'm I can sense it, I can feel it, the passion's coming through. But what is it about local as opposed to any other type of SEO, e commerce or whatever? Why is it local that really?
Mike Blumenthal: I grew up in a family business. We sold cameras and sporting goods and motorcycles and computers and a local family owned business. And through that learned how hard it is to run a business and maintain a business, employ people to be part of the community. And when local came out, it's it for the first time in 2005 2006 became clear to me that the power of this Internet, this could be inverted. So what I spoke about earlier, where all of a sudden the world could see my local business and I could then project my business into that, making the job of running that local business a little easier, a little more profitable. A lot of times it's just one market segment more that make Googlers. It does that for many businesses. I've helped a number of businesses, very small businesses. One was a jeweler who wanted to get into engagement rings, and we, she literally was able to expand her business 3x over the 10 years subsequent to that by virtue of listening to me and following my instructions took her time. But over some period of time, she became the go to place for engagement rings, which is a very profitable niche for jewelers in her marketplace. And so she was able to become, profitable enough to expand and serve customers. So I'm passionate about local because I'm passionate about local businesses, or I, at least I come from that world. I know how fucking hard it is. And. I see this as a way that can help push them, nudge them towards a little more success more easily, and they need to understand it. Just.
Mark A Preston: Looking at the SEO industry is some people would say in the industry that well, local SEO is simple, it's just like that, it's just, ticking box. It's just easy, for the people that believe that who's never really studied it in depth. What's your thoughts around that?
Mike Blumenthal: Marketing is important to every business, the right kind of marketing is unique. The combination of the right types of marketing is probably somewhat unique to that given business, every business needs to find the things that work for them. For some businesses. In local is very competitive. It's not a simple matter as we discussed earlier of checking boxes. But if you're in a category where people go to that local first to make the decision, and it's very competitive, then it isn't a simple thing. It's a very complicated thing because it isn't just it's a more complicated algorithm and there are more moving parts. And so it is. It isn't just it isn't just ticking a box. But it's also for in lesser competitive physical areas or lesser competitive categories. It's a relatively easy way for some businesses to actually make an entree into the market. So There's no categorical, local SEO is easy, local SEO is hard. Real SEO is good, local SEO is not. All that's just SEO BS, which there's a lot of in the SEO industry. It tends to focus on many of the wrong things, like rank as opposed to customer experience. And so anytime I hear an SEO say something, I one, want to check the source, and two, want to check what they said, and three, I want to double check everything when I'm done. Yes.
Mark A Preston: That's a great answer. Would you say that because of the nature of local SEO that You're restricted to this geographical bubble that you have to be a lot more focused, actually focused around what you do to attract the right people in this geographical area.
Mike Blumenthal: Yeah, you do need to define your geography really carefully and understand the limits that Google imposes on those geography, and you may choose to market outside of Google's limits. For example, an example of that is organic. Organic has broader geographic, even when Google localizes organic results. Let's say you, again, back to this OBGYN example, you type in OBGYN, you're going to get a local pack. It's going to be very localized around your location. Perhaps two, three miles on your location, but organic results may be 20 miles around your location, right? So the organic results may offer an opportunity for geography expansion, as do AdWords, as do local service ads. All those might offer geographic expansion. So the first thing is you need to understand what In terms of focus, your geography really is where the customers you serve and which parts of Google serve those areas so that you can then focus on the correct part of Google. Secondly, you need to really understand which parts of your business are going to do best on Google. If you type the word pregnancy into Google, you're not going to get a doctor. You're going to get a list of sites from, the Mayo Clinic or the National Institute of Health, and you're not going to be able to compete with those sites.
But if you enter the word OB or obstetrics or OBGYN, Google is going to deliver your local sites. If you write about pregnancy thinking you're gonna Compete in Google. You're not. So you need to understand which products and services you offer that are localized in Google that you can compete on. And from a digital point of view, focus on those and not worry so much about the others. You may put all the others under a single page or series of pages but you want to be sure that the work you're doing. On your website and your other local efforts reinforces what Google's capable of delivering to you. Because if you're working, like I said, on search phrases that Google's not delivering local results on you, I'm going to win it all. So yeah, not just focus on what, where you do it and what you do. And how Google delivers it and what they deliver, but then also focusing on the other building blocks of running a great business that have always been in the local space. Google has done a very good job of transmitting those to the. The internet, things like reputation, things like support for your local charities, things like memberships on boards, all of those things, if reflected in a digital world, which reflect your real world competence also influences Google's understanding of your business might show your business over a slightly broader area or give your business more likelihood of showing. PR another example, PR reputation, volunteer work, contributions, all of those things that are existed in the regular business world, translated to the digital world, help you expand that focus and do better.
Mark A Preston: Now, over the years, one of the questions I've been asked from local businesses is we're based in this town, but we want to service all the towns around our town as well. But we're not... We're just here. We're not going to set locations up everywhere. What's the sort of mindset behind that? Because I know years back, you could, geographical duplicate pages and that, they work, they work fine, but with Google now, being very much localized and centric, it depends exactly where they're searching from. Is where would you tackle that? Where would you come from?
Mike Blumenthal: So I think the way I would tackle it to start would be to understand which of those markets are more valuable than others. And I would do that via AdWords. I would start a small campaign targeting those markets, figuring out which keywords people are looking for and which of those markets are most easy to compete in and most profitable. Pick a couple of those. Once you've learned that I'd shut off the AdWords campaign and then decide what you need to do in those markets. If it's really a profitable market, then bite the bullet and open a location for Christ's sakes. You know what I mean? If you really want the business in that market and the AdWords campaign indicates it's really profitable, then do what you have to do and start a new location there. But shy of starting a new location, I would create web pages around the. Keywords and the locations for those markets and do everything you can to get them to rank and see if you can get some organic success, get some conversions to organic success, and perhaps. supplement that organic success with AdWords in those ones that turn out to be profitable. But not all of these tangential markets are going to be that profitable. And so you need to choose your battles and you need to do, I think, with data, which is why I would start with AdWords, target these zip codes, see which ones are good. If they're really good, bite the bullet and invest with a location so that you get the benefit of both local and organic. If they're just, you still want to experiment, then pick the higher ranking ones and do some web pages and target them that way. And perhaps AdWords, see where you go with it. You think there's a negative context.
Mark A Preston: From a user perspective, say somebody searching for florist in town, and you're not located in that town, but you're targeting that town. Is that sort of a negative context for that person? Because surely the reason they searched that town is because they want to go to that town to purchase.
Mike Blumenthal: It depends on the category and the meta information that's provided and how far people are willing to travel. I think it's important that you understand that for your given market, right? For flowers, this is not a life changing decision and people are not willing to travel very far for it. So it's going to be a less successful. But back to the solicitor lawyer example, where people's business lives are on the line, because their jobs are on the line, they may be willing to travel an hour for that interaction. But if the title tags and the meta description look exactly the same as everybody else's. Then I'd say, then the user's going to look at it and say, they all look the same. I might as well pick somebody that looks that's close. So I see it as a dialectic between the searcher and the search, what they need. And I think the business needs to understand how far people are willing to travel or the service before they target it. I think that's a good point, but not. It's not a death knell. And it's it like everything with local that we're seeing in our customer in our consumer behavior research. It is very category dependent where they look in the Google world, what they look for, how far field they look. We're one of the few companies that is now doing that for multi locations is. is actually setting up panels of people, giving them tasks. We videotape everything they do. We tabulate all of those actions. We, we ask them to make comments. We struck, we track the anecdotes. We take all of that to help a business understand where and how and why certain behaviors are happening so that they can address these questions. How far people willing to travel and do they use organic results? How deeply do they go? Organic results are deep. They go and local results. Do they prefer LSA over regular? It's all those questions. Only Google up to now has known the answer. And one of the reasons we started near media was to try to answer those questions. And, So it's been fun because I've been shocked when I see some of the results of actual users using Google. They don't do it the way I would do it. Big surprise, even though I always, I tend to project myself onto their behavior. Anyways, sorry.
Mark A Preston: Wonderful. The time's rocking on. I do want to ask. I don't know whether it's a simple question or not, but once a business has done all the foundational work, as in every checklist out there, what three things should a local business. be concentrating the time and effort on?
Mike Blumenthal: So there are some foundational things that don't get broadly mentioned, and I want to just be sure those are mentioned. You want to be capturing email address and or text phone number from every client you do business with, so that you can maintain an ongoing relationship with them, so that you don't need to continually re rent these customers back. from Google or Facebook or wherever. These are your customers. You want to own that customer relationship. The way you do that is with great service and by staying in touch with them. So foundationally part of every sale should be gathering email addresses and or text numbers and figuring out how they prefer to stay in touch with you. Then I would from there move into an a review program where I then followed up with Consumers after transactions to ask for feedback and ask for reviews feedback so that you can improve your business and reviews so that other users can see that and then I would likely set up some sort of email newsletter again to stay in touch with these businesses. So this is what I consider to be foundational right once you I'm not the checkboxes of. Bear, obviously you got to verify your Google listing, et cetera, et cetera. But those things are what I see to be foundational beyond that. Then a public ongoing, you've got reviewed. So you've got reviews coming in, you're developing ongoing relationships with your customers. You have a newsletter where you're educating them regularly about upcoming seasonal opportunities or changes. If you've got an opening in a schedule, you can let them know in that email, but. Whatever deals you let them know they like that, then what I would be doing it would be at least once a year doing updated photography and not using stock photography consumers in our research are universally adamant about wanting to look at the staff they're going to be dealing with, wanting to look at the facilities, wanting to see, look in the eyes of the person they're going to be doing business with and hating state stock photography.
So once a year, I would hire a professional photographer to come in and shoot all your people and products and business and use those throughout the year. Then I would focus on public relations. Where I would once every quarter or so, make an effort to get an article in the newspaper and hopefully a link or back but minimally an article. One way to do that would be by supporting a local charity, helping them accomplish some goal, and then having the newspaper. About that charity, accomplishing that goal with your help this way, you get seen as being a strong member of the community. You get a link from the charity website. You get a mention in the newspaper, and that's going to help your business brand in front of the readers that care about you as well as in front of Google. And I would rinse and repeat that process. Reputation, email imagery and relationship link building in the community.
Mark A Preston: We've certainly had lots of golden nuggets there that don't generally get talked about in the local SEO space. So I really like to thank you from bottom of my heart for taking the time out to join us now. What can people do for you? Is there something that the people watching this can do for you? Or what conversations would you like to have and where can they find you?
Mike Blumenthal: So I'm a big believer in passing it forward. If you want, we do a nearmedia.co. We do a three times a week newsletter. Mondays are typically about Google. Wednesdays and Fridays are more industry, local industry. So if you want, you can subscribe to that. You can find me on Twitter. At m Blumenthal and at neared co e, either or both. And if you want to email me a question, I have an open email, m email@example.com. If I can help in some way, I will try to that's how to get in touch with me and if you have a question that's how to ask me.
Mark A Preston: Wonderful. And do you have any final comments you want to add?
Mike Blumenthal: None that I can think of other than I am going to be in London next week for Google's product expert meeting. I think it's Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday. So I, hopefully it'll be good weather there.
Mark A Preston: We can hope. I can't promise you that.
Mike Blumenthal: You're saying I should bring my rain jacket.
Mark A Preston: It'd be advisable. Let's just say that or a brolly. Okay. Many.
Mike Blumenthal: Thanks. My pleasure. Cheers.