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How You Can Leverage Google's Local SERP Features

Don't forget, you can follow the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud

The In Search SEO Podcast Poll Question of the Week!

Poll Question Episode 12

Do you use Google Posts? If you don't, would like to? What makes you more/less predisposed towards using Google Posts? Let us know so that we can feature you on the next episode of In Search! 

Summary of Episode 12: The In Search SEO Podcast



In Search SEO Banner 12

In this episode we talk to Brodie Clark of Optimising and delve into how businesses can best take advantage of Google’s Local SERP features:

  • How can a business best leverage some of Google’s latest updates to the Local Panel and Local Pack? 
  • Should you opt-in to the message feature in the Local Panel? 
  • How can you capitalize on Google Posts and to what extent? 
  • How should brands go about product placement in the Local Panel? 

Also, we look at some new and exclusive data on hotel Local Packs!

How Businesses Can Best Leverage Google’s Local SERP Features: A Conversation with Brodie Clark 

[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Let me start off with a general sort of question: How effective is the Local Panel on its own? How valuable is it on its own? That is, if it were not accessible via Maps or via the Local Pack/Local Finder, how significant would your business listing be?

Brodie: I believe it is still important for the research state of finding a business or service. Meaning, if a user can see that panel and all the relevant information it instills a lot of confidence in the user.

M: How significant then is search query analysis within GMB? How do you utilize that data for your clients?

B: It’s handy to see how many branded searches you’re getting compared to service-based searches. How good your brand is compared to people searching for your service on its own.

M: In the more recent past, Google has in a way turned a corner with its business listings in that they’ve evolved beyond just basic info. In a way, Google has made the Local Panel a bit more interactive and downright connective.

It was just recently that Google was testing a more prominent messaging button. Which is interesting, because the ability to message back and forth with users has been available inside the Local Panel for a bit of time at this point. I’ve hardly seen anyone use it, nor have I seen businesses set it up…. So it makes sense Google was testing a bigger button, but in my eyes, that thing better be well huge because no one seems to care.

My rant aside, do you think it's worth opting in to have the messaging option show in the Local Panel? Where do you see this feature going?

B: The ability to receive messages by Google is great, but it will only be a small amount of audience who will see it, given that it’s only on mobile and the message button is too small at the moment. And if you compare it to other messaging tools that you have to pay for, this is nice as they’re giving you the same functionality for free. I set it up for a couple of the businesses I managed and they have received messages from potential clients. So I would recommend businesses set it up. And obviously, if you do set it up you have to make sure someone is managing these messages.

M: And you get the messages on your phone?

B: Yes, you get the messages through the Google My Business app.

M: You mentioned messaging tools that people pay for on their site. People who are on your site are people who are engaged with your business. It’s hard for me to imagine users wanting to message the business on the SERP. Usually, they’re looking at the Knowledge Panel for information, not to contact the business (outside of making a reservation or the like).

B: Yeah, for some businesses, like a restaurant, I understand it won’t be useful as people will use it to book a table or to know what’s on the menu. But for other businesses, it definitely can be useful. It’s really in its early days. You should definitely test it and use at your own risk.

M: Let’s piggy-back on this a bit and talk about Google Posts. I love Google Posts. I’m a big proponent of them. [And shoutout to you who found out you can put an anchor text hyperlink in Google Posts.] The "Story” version is awesome, downright awesome. Even, a GIF post or standard post is a great thing. It is one of the ONLY ways to throw your own content inside of a Google SERP feature. That said, how effective have you seen them to be? What can a business do to leverage them, particularly since they’re not a "thing” in that the average person does not even know to look for them?

B: So I use them for a few different purposes. For one, I have a client who is a mortgage broker, whose company name is called Mortgage Broker [Location], where their company name is basically a keyword. So if someone is searching on mobile for a mortgage broker in New York City, the first result is Google My Business, which is their listing that shows. And there is no Map Pack because Google thinks that this is the business people are looking so it’s a little confusing for Google if they should show the Map Pack with 3 results or the Local Panel for that business. And their website is ranking number one on the SERP. Then there’s another result of a review website for their business. And just below that, they have a Google Post being shown. So we have them showing up in four different spots for their most important keyword which is insane and if you have the Google Post there it’s great as it’s the size of two organic spots.

Also, if a client does their own social media, we’ll give them their training on how to use Google Posts and they can just copy and paste their Facebook or Twitter posts into Google Posts.

I also use frequently the ‘Call Now’ Google Post option and people do call.

Everyone has their own strategy and I don’t want to spend too much time on it [post creation], but I know I need to do something on there for a bunch of my clients.

M: Google has offered more data for Google Posts in the past couple of months. How have you been able to leverage that data or is it more about visibility? How have you used the data you now have on them? Can you do anything to improve poor Google Post performance or is it all about getting more people to your listing to see them to begin with?

B: There is an issue with Google pushing Google Posts down towards the bottom of the Knowledge Panel on mobile (which impacts traffic). Right, you don't see much interaction on Google Posts, it's mainly for the impressions. But that's pretty important.

M: And where do you see this going for brands? For example, sports teams use GIFs. Do you see it taking off for brands - to be able to use this?

B: The Google Posts you’re referring to are when you’re a Verified Author so for them it’s great and they now have more functionality to play with.

M: Let’s hop on something every business cares about and that’s service and/or products. Again, in the recent past, Google has offered businesses more opportunities to showcase or link to their services and products. What are some of the ways a business should go about these opportunities? What should they showcase? What pages should they link to? I’ll give you an example. Trader Joe’s has a section entitled "Store Savings” in the mobile Local Panel for some of its branches. What I’ve seen them do is just link to their home page. That’s a place where it’s supposed to link to a product/service. Is what they did good, bad, or it doesn’t matter?

B: So it depends. For Trader Joe’s, does that homepage link have any information within the header about their savings?

M: For them it’s just a homepage and they already have a button taking users to their homepage.

B: Well, in that case, it should link to a targeted page. For Google My Business I like to link to a more targeted page while for the Local Panel I will link to the homepage. Mainly because whatever’s in the content of that page will make it into the "website mentions”.

M: I’d like to talk about "website mentions”. For those who don’t know, and for those who do, you’re obviously not excluded, Google has tested what’s being called "website mentions” - Here, within each Local Pack listing, Google tells if you the website associated with the business "mentions” that which you put into the search box. For example, if you searched for ‘organic pest control services in Timbuktu’ Google might tell you if a listing within the Local Pack for the query has a site that mentions "organic” or "organic pest control” - Sort of a way of telling you the site is relevant and therefore the listing is relevant.

Without putting my thumb on the scale here, what do you think the impact of this actually is?

B: I would start at a higher level than that. If I’m linking to the homepage and not a landing page that contains content related to the query, I won’t be able to rank as well if Google can’t pick up the content. I’ll give you another example, we put content in the header on the homepage of a site that talked about Boxing Day sales. Google was able to see that content and when the site showed up in the Local Pack Google put "this site mentions Boxing Day sale” within our listing. Now searchers could see that the site was running a sale right there within the Local Pack.

M: What are some other new elements you see within local SERP features that businesses should take notice of? I know you can now add an opening date to your business listing (though, seems some spammers have had a good old time with the feature as well). At the same time you have a new agency dashboard that came out over the summer, how can you take advantage of that?

B: I definitely recommend agency owners or people who work with over 100 Google My Business Listings to look into the Google My Agency Dashboard. When it was first released there were a lot of bugs some of which impacted our own listings. It’s very helpful. For example, previously, when you had hundreds of Google My Business listings you could only have a certain number attached to one Google account and you would have to keep switching accounts to find the listing you needed. But with the Agency Dashboard, you can assign users based on their work email to an account manager. Basically, if I have a client with 60 different locations, I can put them all in one location group and assign them to an account manager through the Dashboard instead of giving him an email address and asking him to find these listings.

Optimize or Disavow It!


M: NAP (name, address, phone number) or solid reviews.

If you had to pick to have just one thing… either correct and consistent NAP or improving your currently shoddy reviews…. Which would you optimize for and which would you forget about, which would you "disavow?”

B: I’ll have to choose to optimize the shoddy reviews over the consistent NAP as they are important for conversions, important for rankings, and can be reused for marketing materials. Having consistent NAP will improve rankings but won’t likely improve my conversions.

M: Right, if their phone number is wrong I can’t call them, but if their reviews are terrible then I don't want to call them.

B: Exactly.

M: Well, thank you very much for coming on the show. Don't forget to check out Brodie's blog for some really great content!

B: Thank you for having me.

Rank Ranger Hotel Pack Tracking

In the recent past, Google has dramatically altered how hotel Local Packs look. They do not look like your average Local Pack. Now they are more visual, include a highlights carousel, have 4 results, etc. Thus, and in addition to the hotel Local Pack rank tracking we offer inside the Rank Ranger platform you can now track the percentage of SERPs that contain a hotel Local Pack. Currently, the data shows that hotel Local Packs appear on about 4.5% of both mobile and desktop SERPs in the US. That means that hotel Local Packs represent 12% of all mobile Local Packs and 9% of desktop Local Packs.

SEO News 

Google My Business Update Helps SABs: Google has made a change that makes it easier for SABs (Service Area Businesses i.e., those that do not have a brick and mortar shop) to indicate the actual areas they cover. Now SABs will be able to tell Google which areas their company services!

Lightbox Video Feature on Mobile SERP: Google has been testing a video lightbox feature inside mobile Knowledge Panels. Instead of tapping on a video and heading over to YouTube, you stay on the SERP and the video plays within an overlay screen. This makes sense as having the YouTube app open to see a video is a clunky UI.

Hyperlinks in Google Posts: You can now add hyperlinks to anchor text within Google Posts should you be the verified owner of a Knowledge Panel. This was found by today’s guest, Brodie Clark!

Fun SEO Send-Off Question

If Google wore a hat, what kind of hat would it wear? 

Mordy said that Google would wear a fitted Yankees baseball hat with a scarf and sunglasses much like a celebrity strolling around LA who wants to keep off everyone’s radar without much fanfare because fanfare doesn’t generally go in Google’s favor. With the Yankees hat Google is going incognito.

Kim agreed with the idea of a baseball hat (though questions Mordy's state of mind when writing this absurd question) but thought it would be a plain black one as the only reason Mordy suggested a Yankees hat is because... he’s a Yankees fan! (Which Mordy admitted was true, it doesn't have to be a Yankees hat!) 

About The Author
In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

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