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In Search [Episode 26]: How to Effectively Build Local Links

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The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!

SEO Community Question 26

What are some of the best ways you know to build up your backlink profile with local links? 

Summary of Episode 26: The In Search SEO Podcast 

In Search SEO Banner 26

This week we speak to link building maven Garrett French all about local link campaigns:
  • How to target a local site for link outreach
  • Making even the blandest local business a linkable proposition
  • Making sure your local link campaigns are diverse and location appropriate
Plus, we take a look at the development of Google’s Topic Layer in the Knowledge Panel.

The Mobile Knowledge Panel’s Topic Layer Gets Smarter

As you may know, if you listen to this podcast, Mordy likes both Star Trek and NFL football. This delectable dichotomy has served him well in his SEO life as entertainment queries, as well as sports queries, bring up a lot of interesting SERP features and the like.

In this case, it’s his fervor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, an American Football team, that clued him into an interesting development inside the Knowledge Panel.

Just so that everyone’s on the same page, back in September or October of last year, Google at its 20th anniversary bash announced the Topic Layer. The Topic Layer is a topical look at a given entity that allows for custom tabs to be placed inside the Knowledge Panel. The "classic” example are dog breeds with long hair getting a "Grooming” tab whereas breeds with short hair do not (for obvious reasons).

Now, from what Mordy has seen outside of a few examples, the Topic Layer has yet to get highly specific. Meaning, there are some categorical tabs. For example, "Fictional Characters” gets a tab for the actors/actresses who play them. So you can see in that tab that Chucky, the psychopathic killer doll, will be voiced in the new movie by none other than Luke Skywalker.

The point is the Topic Layer in the Knowledge Panel has yet to really show itself off the way Mordy thinks Google ultimately wants it to be.

That said, Mordy is seeing signs that we’re on our way.

Let’s bring it all back to NFL football, and as we said, Mordy’s a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Now, the Steelers are famous for having very good wide receivers (aka the dude who catches the ball). In fact, during the 1970s the league changed its rules to favor throwing the ball. You see, until that point running was the most dominant means of moving the ball down the field. The Steelers won 4 championships in the 70s because the rule changes that favored throwing the ball coincided with them having the two best receivers in the team’s history. They dominated. Even since the 70s, the team is famous for having Hall of Fame caliber receivers as well as being able to spot new wide receiver talent and developing it.

Why are we telling you all of this?

Because the Steeler’s Mobile Knowledge Panel now contains a tab that says "American Football Wide Receivers.” The new tab shows you a whole slew of image thumbnails representing the teams best ball catchers over the past 40 years or so.

And you may ask, "Does not each team get this tab?” No, the NY Jets don’t, nor the NY Giants, nor the Arizona Cardinals, nor the Jacksonville Jaguars. Why? Because, according to Mordy, they suck and they don’t have a long history of anything aside from losing.

Other teams do however get this "American Football Wide Receivers” tab, like the San Francisco 49ers, which makes sense as they had the best receiver who ever played and for whom the most famous catch in Football history was made (the play is even called THE CATCH).

Now check this out, The Dallas Cowboys have a similar tab called "All Time Receivers.” Check out that nuance! It does, and Mordy admits this begrudgingly, make a bit of sense because the number of great receivers who have walked through the doors in Dallas is almost endless. Mordy did not have time to research this, but he would bet that the Dallas Cowboys have had the most Hall of Fame wide receivers walk in/out of their doors than any other team.

Mordy’s point here is, the Topic Layer seems to have taken a nice leap forward. It seems its ability to differentiate between very similar entities has gotten more advanced.

It is interesting to note what topics are NOT showing up. You see that the topic layer is focused on wide receivers but not the quarterback, aka the dude who throws the ball. Which is interesting since the quarterback is a) the most important person on the field and b) are generally famous, often appearing in movies and so forth. So why isn’t there a tab for quarterbacks in the panel?

Mordy thinks this too is a testimony to how smart the Topic Layer is. If a team has two really outstanding quarterbacks over a 20-year period it’s almost a miracle. For example, Mordy’s team has won the 2nd most Super Bowls ever, yet they only have had two quarterbacks of note over the past 40 years. The Patriots, who have the most Super Bowls wins ever have only one!!!

In other words, Mordy’s guess is that Google is very aware of the category and because of that awareness knows there is not enough content to fill a "quarterback” tab. What we have seen Google do, though, is go a bit more general with a tab like "Famous Players.”

All-in-all, some pretty neat stuff that should get neater as time goes on.

Best Practices & Novel Ideas for Building Your Local Backlink Profile: A Conversation with Garrett French

Mordy: Today we have with us, Mr. Local himself. He is the founder of both ZipSprout and Citation Labs. He's been a contributor to Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and Search Engine Watch. I'm sure many other places as well... I could go on, but I won't. He is Garrett French, and he's here to talk about local link building. Welcome!

Garrett: Hey, thanks Mordy!

M: Before we get into the heart of local link building, tell us, what are you up to these days?

G: Oh, my gosh. Where to start. Okay, so there’s one thing I'm especially excited about and has got me out stumping a little bit. (And thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak with you and your listeners.) We just launched a new tool for finding all the local opportunities within a given city. So it's kind of more of a self-serve sort of approach to being able to see the whole marketplace of opportunities that exist on a city by city basis. It is especially useful for anybody doing local SEO or if someone owns a business in a location and they want a few more links to their site to help with the rankings. But the other piece that we found, is that there's just a whole boatload of visibility opportunities or local branding opportunities that don't necessarily come with links or that have a direct impact on your rankings but can have a direct impact on business. So our ultimate goal for this is to kind of open up local visibility events and sponsorships as kind of a channel in and of itself because it's disparate right now. The market place itself is just an absolute fragmented space. So we're kind of trying to bring them all together into a single location. So the first step for world domination is just making them accessible and you can get in and view each one and make your assessments because even stuff down to pricing is very difficult to find on an opportunity by opportunity basis. We've got about sixty thousand organizations across the United States for whom we do have pricing information. We've got a lot of machine qualified opportunities too where we don't have that kind of information, but where we helped people. But, you know, for whatever city you're working in we should have something, some opportunity there for you. Now, some of them will take a little more qualification work from the user but we've got sixty thousand that we've looked at by hand. I think the real value is that you don't have to go knocking on doors to get pricing. You don't have to go knocking on doors to find out if they link or not. We've got that information all in one place.

M: Now that sounds like an amazing opportunity.

G: Yeah, I think so. It's in beta now, so come on in while we're basically free and tell us how to improve so we can take your money.

M: Okay, so let’s get started here. Please highlight for us, for those who may not know, the importance of a local-focused link building initiative just so that we're on the same page.

G: Absolutely. So just to frame this up, I have spoken with people who have impacted their local rankings with links from websites and content that were not local related. So it's possible, it could happen. But what happens, though, is that there's a dissonance. So if I'm a Google quality rater or anybody else, I'm going to be looking at that link and say, "Wait a minute. This is a link to a city-specific page that's from an article that has nothing to do with that city.” Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not. Are people doing it all day? Absolutely. So we're not dealing in absolutes here, but if we want to build up a backlink profile that feels organic, that’s natural, that has a justifiable backlink profile, then we really are going to have to shift our focus to getting links from a city-specific linker. And not all of them have to be like that. If you're having great success doing what you’re already doing then don't listen to that. But what I've found about the local link graph over the past four-five years is what we call an inch deep and a mile wide. What I mean is, you’ll find linking opportunities in every city, but you can't go to them with the same kind of content or the same kind of offer. There might be five opportunities that you might need a badge for. There might be five that you would need a great piece of content about helping seniors do something in this local area. It's scattered and all over the place. And so what we were looking for was more of the scaled type of opportunities which we see is being these events and sponsorships.

To bring it all the way back, I am always advising anyone who's trying to build local rankings that they should be building links from websites that are local to them, that are specific to the page that they're trying to rank higher for. Again, I have confirmed that you don't have to do it that way. But if we're talking about a natural backlink profile, then I absolutely would say you at least need a layer of local links to support and justify that you, your business, or this specific page is about this location and is related to the location.

M: Yeah and it only makes sense because a user who is coming to your page will see a link and we’re hoping they stay and click on that link. If the link is to a local business it’s only the more relevant and it creates a bigger and greater association of your business to other businesses as well as to the local scene - where obviously a non-local link doesn't do that.

So if you're doing this, you're specified, and you're focusing on local. Obviously, you're limiting yourself and your opportunities to get links, right?

G: Right, it’s a much smaller pool.

M: Right, that’s an obvious one. But other than that, what are some of the challenges that face someone trying to go through and execute a solid, strong local link building campaign?

G: I mean, if you're starting from scratch, one of the hardest things is to get a sense of what kind of tactic should you be using. What should we be guest posting? Should we be getting links from resource pages? Should we be trying for a data-driven local media angle? Should we go for the events and sponsorships? So my answer is all of them. But I think the starting point is asking what are my pool of opportunities that are city specific? Often, what we see on the SEO side is that they know what pages they want links to but that doesn't make this page linkable. It doesn’t give it a reason to have links. So a lot of this is figuring out who are the publishers and who are their audiences? And then how do we make a seamless approach to these existing potential publishers. And everybody's a publisher. When I say publisher I mean that you know the links and resource pages, the local blog, the local news, the town hall, the city website, etc. Any of these are all publishers to me.

So we're really just asking is what do we need to get in front of this specific audience and how do we earn our way in front of this particular audience?

M: Forget even that. Take a good step before that. How do you even decide which sites to target?

G: Well, it's going to depend on what pages we want links to, Mordy. I'll just say by and large when we have a client come in the door, they have a city-specific page that they want to have ranking higher for local searches to that location. So the starting point is, how do we create justification on this page for a link to exist to it? A link is a big choice, right? It's a huge choice! If I'm a publisher and I've decided to link to something there has to be a justifiable reason for that to have happened. Now we're often doing guess placement work. So the first thing we're saying is how do we get in front of this publisher’s audience effectively? Because you know there are so many different kinds of groups that we've got to please here. There's the publisher, there's the publisher's audience, and then there's the page we’re trying to get links to. So what we're almost always trying to do is look at how do we get some data on that page? How do we get a data point on that specific target page that we can then justifiably link to or cite from the placement that we're executing?

Now that's our starting point. So typically people come in with a list of URLs they want links to so that's how we attack it. I think if you're really just getting started in the city, I think the easiest kind of on-ramp to local would be local sponsorships where, ideally, you could have a booth at an event. We think we know our market, but when you actually get out there, when you put yourself out there, that's when you really learn that I stepped off on the wrong foot here, or there are some other things that people are interested in. I think if you're looking for link opportunities that also have a real-world benefit where you're actually going to an event with a booth trying to drive leads, well now you could potentially be doing some block content about that, right? Like some pictures of your booth, some of the conversations you had, the learnings you had about the local market. You're also potentially driving leads for yourself. I guess what I'm getting at is if you're going to be executing a campaign, one of your first questions is how else do we benefit other than just the link? And so from an SEO perspective, we almost always stop at the link. What other benefits can we create for ourselves or for our publisher or the community with this kind of work? And when we look at engaging with the community in a productive way I think you'll start to find more link routes that way as well. I definitely believe that you're going to need some content capacity. Meaning you either need to like to write or have somebody who does like to write or video or photography. You're going to need a smattering. Ideally, you've got a generalist who can kind of do all of those things for you. So any kind of local presence that your building you can document. Let's say you’re a plumber and you do an event and you put up a blog post on your site about it. Well, you've got a huge point of differentiation already against the hundred other plumbers in that city! You’ve got pictures of yourself, you've got a booth, you've got something that's kind of interactive, and you're engaging with people and you got the pictures to prove it. Well, you've done something that 99.9% of other practitioners in your space probably don't do.

Now we do see all manners of people at local events like insurance agents, dentists, and gutter installers. I always see a real gap between the booth and me. What I see is a lot of opportunity for businesses as in how are we interacting with the community at these event opportunities? Because nine times out of ten, I'm walking past, I've got a kid on my shoulders. He's hitting my head, probably, or dripping ice cream all over me and I got one kid hanging on my leg. And so how you are you going to get me in your booth and sell me insurance? Well, you're going to need to have some balloons. You're going to need to have something that's interactive for the kids, and you've got maybe twenty-five, thirty seconds. And I think a lot of what we see instead is a booth with a table and somebody who looks bored or anxious. It doesn't invite me. If you go into events and you're really asking, "How can we drive leads here?” What you're also really asking, "How do we engage more effectively with people? With passers-by at the farmer's market or wherever you found a booth opportunity. This is where I would start with link building at the local level.

M: By the way. I don't even like calling it link building at this point as it’s really related to relationship building because that's really what's happening. You have two businesses that merge together in some sort of relationship and move forward together. And that could be a financial relationship or it could be a content relationship because you just relate to each other naturally. It's a natural thing. It should happen naturally. It's all about growing relationships. So the booth idea is a great idea.

By the way, I’m full on for the full stack content writer.

G: And you could go around to other booths, take pictures of them, and send them to that business and say, "Hey, why don't you put these on your website and give us a link?” Because we took pictures of you. Or, "We did a five-minute interview with you, here's the video. Put it up on your site and give us a link.”

M: I'm thinking back to the days where I used to do property management (another lifetime ago). We’re talking like fifteen years ago, whatever it is. So one of the things we have in the middle of New York City are housing violations. It's when the city of New York hands you a violation. So we had this company we used to work with that helped you get rid of these violations. Now I wasn't doing content back then, but we had a really tight relationship with this company. I can imagine if I was doing content and I was to write a whole blog post to all of my residents about how to handle ‘x’ problem I would definitely link to some content this other company wrote to show them that if they have this problem in their apartment, a leak or whatever, then don't call the city first. First, call us. Don't get us a violation. And I'm sure at some point down the line that my relationship with this violation removal company and the content they put out and the content I would put out would naturally interlock. It meets, it connects. And there's your link. And it wouldn't have happened if I didn't go to the New York City Real Estate Expo and meet this company.

G: Bingo. It's getting out there. You don't know what the connection will be. We have this neighborhood association block party thing. So if you're the plumber there and you go shake hands with the realtor. Then you start talking with him a little bit and you talk through the main plumbing problems that a house for sale usually has in that neighborhood. Low water pressure, for example. So you could write about it. Now you've got an opportunity. You can say, "Hey, we specialize in that? Can I write you an article about how to tell if the house you're considering has a plumbing issue?”

M: I'll give you a good example. My next door neighbor is a photographer for events. And I was looking at his website and I told him that I noticed he has no content there. He has all these nice pictures but no content. So he asked what should he write about. Well, I answered that people who are looking for the best photographer are also looking for the best event hall. Now I'm assuming you know some good event halls because you go around the whole area. Why don't you write an article about the top ten event halls to have your next wedding at and then you can link to them so people can go visit them.

G: Or the most photogenic places. The lighting, the setting.

M: Perfect. I could tell him that. I'm going to use that. I'll quote you.

G: Do it. Because that brings in his expertise which is having that ‘eye’. And so how do we quantify or qualify that? So he’ll give his ranking of each hall, each with a picture, and then a little bit of detail about each one and why it ranks where it ranks. And all of this is just his opinion, but that post will rank.

M: For sure. And it's natural, it's organic, it's seamless and it segues from one topic right into the other topic.

Let me ask you. Okay, so these local sponsorships. At what point is the return on investment worth it or not worth it because obviously, you have to pay to play, right?

G: So sponsorships are more expensive. People are usually asking us to focus on links as the primary benefit. I would say the average cost is probably closer to seven hundred to eight hundred dollars. That's expensive. Especially for a small business. This is another reason why you don't just want to go in and just get the link and not go for the event also. Because the added benefit is really probably even better than the link will be. So one of the things you're going to want to try and quantify is about how many links are we going to need?

Now people ask me this all the time and I don't have an algorithm. We did a project for a company called Open Door where they asked us to find them event opportunities where they could reach a certain number of people. And for them, it was much more about building relationships at the event and, this was shocking to us, they didn't even want the links. They didn’t care about them. This was when we started to see "Oh, hey, there is this other reason to be at events, this other business reason of lead generation.” You know, there is a lot of value to be had even without the link.

But I will say it’s pricey in terms of time. And that's what we saw with Open Door where they did a streak of Saturdays in one location and their poor team in that city was sick of being at events by the end of that. It's not what they wanted to do with all their Saturdays. So there's that cost as well, the quality of life cost. I think if you're spacing them out it’s better.

The other part I’ll say about event link building or sponsorship link building is you're not going to get a quick return. If you need cash, you need a return within a month, then you should be doing paid search. If you had four or five events you were doing and they were spaced out once a month or once every couple months and you're getting that brand return, you're getting lead return, you're learning the market, you focus less on the actual links and the quick return on investment from a link building perspective, and you just put yourself out there, I think that's a stronger approach.

But to your point, it's definitely more expensive and if we did a guest placement campaign it's at least half the cost, half the average cost per actual link that you earned.

M: Which is also tricky because you have to be careful as this is the grey area of link building. You can't say I'm going to pay you to go and post on your blog because that's of course against Google's guidelines and theoretically you could get penalized and we don't recommend you do that. But at the same time, there is a real reality for posting a guest post. Let's take my photographer friend, for example. The wedding venue might have in mind to write about photography and let him write about it for their website.

G: And he’s photographing well at the venue. What a fantastic piece of content that would be. Here are the seven great places at XYZ Hall to take these photos.

M: Right, which is great because you want it. You're coming in. You want to meet the caterer, the photographer, you want to know how is it going to play out with your pictures. Well, we could take a picture by the lake over here. We have a fireplace over here. There you go.

G: And there's a lot to be said for the photographer. There's a lot of work that a photographer does upon entering a location. It's a lot of scouting work. So if that work is pre-captured in a block placement than that's really beneficial to this event venue and it's something that should be known. And it's generally helpful and a real value for anybody who's trying to capture this wonderful moment of their lives. I think that would be a great piece of content. Let's say, he even went to all ten venues in your area. Is that a link building campaign? Kinda.

M: Yeah, and it all goes back to relationship building that ends up with links.

G: Right, because if I’m getting married and I could see that this guy knows what he's talking about. Well, why don't I just go with this guy?

M: Right, I like this venue. Which photographer am I going to hire? Probably the one who wrote the top ten places to take pictures at this venue!

G: And that's something you could do. You could go scout locations or pitch first before you scout and make sure they're open to it. We've got photography figured out.

M: So I have to ask you... What about this photographer case? And it's a great case. There's tons of content that you could figure out what to create and who to partner with. But let’s say a gas station. What are you writing? Who are you partnering with? How do you go about local link building? The local Citgo?

G: If it's a national chain you're going to have sponsors. You’re demonstrating that you give back to the community. Now for a mom and pop gas station who is trying to build links: if it’s a mechanic shop then I can look at writing stuff for local mechanics around gas selection like the grade or what impact that could have on engines. Or perhaps my local climate can impact the gasoline selection. Like if we’re in a seaside town should I have a different engine or should I use a different type of gasoline? What you're looking for is what is my real knowledge differentiation? How do I differentiate what I know a lot about that most people don't so we could get into a potential linking circumstance.

M: That's pretty good, by the way, for being off the cuff for a local gas station.

G: Here's the other thing. There's a handful of gas stations here locally that have a really good craft beer selection. Now, this is a point of differentiation. And then there's actually been some that have had to expand because they've really gotten good with the beer. They figured out what kinds of beers to have to attract the local beer community. There's actually a group here locally called the Beer Snobs. So if there are local beer aficionados you should try to find a way to get on their sites. Or give them a little badge that says, "I get my beer at the such and such.”

M: I think that if I was a gas station and I'm selling craft beer, or rather, if I'm a craft beer reviewing website, a local website, I would want to know that "Hey, if I'm out and about and need to get gas, you might want to go here because you can also get a beer.” If I'm running the review site, I would want to list that gas station on my website because that's valuable to my readers.

Obviously, don't drink it while you're driving. We at the In Search SEO Podcast do not advocate drinking and driving.

G: Yeah, Mordy. The other thing that we really are looking at teasing out here is what differentiates you. What is a genuine differentiation between you and the competition? And how do we turn that into content that’s placeable elsewhere?

We talked about what kind of gas to select for which engine. What difference does it really make? And that might be something that a local mechanic will be interested in linking to. Another one might be if there was a local motorcycle race you can sponsor. It might make sense that your gasoline is selected by these racers that drive these little gas powered golf carts. It’s great to find things that are quirky, fun, a little different, and culturally specific to your area.

M: That's actually perfect. What gasoline goes in a golf cart (assuming they're running gasoline)? I have no idea. So a local golf course would probably want course members to know not to put diesel in the thing. Here's a blog post from Al's gas station.

G: There's a lot of ways to look for tying in firstly what we sell which is really the starting point. Secondarily, what is a value that I can add? What is something I know about that's specific to me or specific to running a gas station? Here's another one for the gas station. How to start up your gas station. How to run it effectively and efficiently. You're going for the small business association in your area or the entrepreneurs.

M: Which just goes to show you there's always something to write about. Always something you know about that no one else does.

G: Right and even if they do, Mordy, they might not have thought to write about it or reach out to the Chamber of Commerce. They never thought to try and get a placement there on how to how to run an efficient, effective gas station. Do you think the Chamber of Commerce would publish that? Absolutely they would. Because think of all the local hoops you have to jump through and all the ordinances. And how do you even do it? Well, I've done it. And here's how I did it. It could be an enormously useful piece of content.

M: Let me ask you a question about doing this at scale. Let’s say you’re working in an agency in the middle of New York City and you're talking about Al's Gas Station in Kansas. So obviously, you're trying to build links locally and content locally which means you talk about the local culture, local situation, local contacts, local whatever. How are you supposed to know that? How are you supposed to be able to create a diverse set of content if you're sitting somewhere in New York City?

G: We're frankly still working on that problem. I love that question though. It's an important question. What we're really looking at is what kind of data points and what kind of information can we scrape at scale that we could repackage and then put into a spreadsheet of sorts and rearticulate into a way that's going to make a compelling, citable data point.

So if I’m Citgo I will ask myself what do I know about my local area and about my gas station that no one else could possibly know that could be a useful citable data point? Well, I know the busiest times for my gas station. I know when you've got the longest wait, the shortest wait. So what if I told people the best times of the week to come to my gas station. Now, how do we get links to that? I don't know. Maybe that is a local PR play. Maybe that's a play for anybody who has a hotel that's nearby. Who is going to want to get gas at the least hassle time? The answer is pretty much everybody. But how do we slice into that from a publishing perspective?

M: There's going to be a way because you don't live in a Robinson Crusoe economy. One thing depends upon the next thing which is dependent on the next thing.

G: It's a chain, absolutely. So my first angle of attack is how do we create value that relates to our service that is ideally scaleable. If we could discern this for every single Citgo we could use the same approach in every city, i.e., the same pitch to whoever ends up being interested in our data point. And how do we make that data point compelling enough? And I think that's great. If you have multiple locations in a single city, like if I was Citgo and I have ten locations. Well, I think it's practically newsworthy. I'm not a PR guy so any PR people just don't say anything right now. I think there's a story in the best times to go get gas at Citgo in the city. I think you might get that picked up.

I don't know the exact play for each case, but from a scale perspective, the first thing I'm asking is what is going to justify a link? I always refer back to when we were instructed in college when to cite information in a research paper. Well, these are justifiable citation circumstances. It’s a definition of something. It's a data point. It's a quote. It's a source. So we're asking what do we need to be a source?

M: That's funny and I'm so glad you put it that way because it’s a funny thing that people don't think about links that way. One of the ways you could think about a link is as a citation. It's simply a citation. It's supplementing ancillary content that supports whatever it is you're writing about.

G: Listen, we're not talking about the citations that our local folks are looking for like usually the address and phone number.

M: Right, I mean, like a real academic citation.

G: Right, a formal citation. That's at the core of how I believe Google even developed it's linking algorithm which is thinking about who's getting cited the most frequently. It all came from data studies. Eugene Garfield saw what was happening in law journals and applied that to scientific journals. And so you could discern from that the most frequently cited scientists, the most frequently cited journal, the most frequently cited article, and the most frequently cited data point from within an article. And from the ocean of knowledge of a certain area you could see what's the most important. What you're really asking is how do we create something that’s citation worthy within our journal of study (i.e., the journal of location of where we are)?.

We are really going back to the roots of what a citation really is and what and why they occur. In the scientific arena, you’re citing for a very hard, specific concrete reason. And so we as the link builders are saying, "Okay, you're not building a link. You're building a reason to link. A justifiable reason to link.” And then you’re citing. You're going out and trying to promote that. You created something of value ahead of time.

M: Exactly. For the content creators, it’s the same thing. When should you link? There are various theories and ways you can go about this but one of them is as a way to extend knowledge much the same way as a citation would.

G: Right. And that will bring us back to the best time to get gas at this Citgo. Now, if I'm a local blogger and I'm telling people, "Hey you got to go check out this concert, but you need to get gas first. Here is the best time to go to this Citgo according to the Citgo.” And where does the link go? It goes to that local page that has that data point in it. To me what we'd be looking for at the local level is how do we justify this link? We're not, to the best of our ability, just stuffing that thing in there and hoping for the best.

M: Exactly. It's not good for the user experience. It’s not good for Google’s guidelines. It’s not good for anything.

G: Right. And it can and does impact ranking for sure. At the very beginning, you remember I said you can get local links from non-local websites and from non-local articles that don't have anything to do with the location and that will impact ranking. I just wouldn't advise going that route. If you do it, great, go for it.

M: It's going to be harder anyway. This is the easier, more natural, more seamless way to go. This is how you're building relationships, partnerships, content flows. Everything flows this way.

G: You're really striving for that flow. Absolutely, Mordy.

Optimize It Or Disavow It

M: If you had the choice to undertake a cookie cutter local link building campaign which, of course, didn't make any distinction between the business type or location versus a targeted local ad campaign. Which would you do?

G: Well, if my goal is to impact rankings then I'm going to do the first one. Because I know that being untargeted with my link building is going to impact rankings. Now, listen to me. You never want to look at "Should I do organic or should I do paid?” I would say you want to do both and you want to be able to know that you could turn on paid search and do it in a profitable manner. And you've engineered that route to profitability. You know which terms and how many clicks you need and you've got that dialed in because then you could scale as much as you need to. But if my job is to impact rankings then I'm going the first route because the second route is not going to get me there.

Now we have seen where we do some local paid search and we'll see organic ranking results. I think Google takes that bidding on stuff as an organic ranking signal as well because it shows that there's a real business there. Google sees there’s a real business intent and a desire to be in business and they see it as a sign of a pulse so they decide to let it live.

This is my guess and I've seen it where we started paid search for my uncle's mechanic shop and the rankings went up!

M: That's interesting. You know they say that organic and paid search don't talk to each other. So that's interesting. It's one of the things I've always wanted to really study at a large scale. Any correlation between organic and paid. Because I do believe them, I get it, but I do want to see it myself.

G: So my answer is both, but I know I'm not allowed to pick that answer so I will go with the first one even though I know it could be detrimental. It could blow up my rankings because I could end up with the penalty. And it could have a short term impact on rankings and not a longer term when Google recognizes these don’t have any real relevance. These aren't really related at all. And then I’ll have to turn my paid search on anyways.

M: Thank you very much for coming on. This was fascinatingly engaging.

G: I had so much fun, Mordy. Thank you so much for having me.

SEO News

I/O 2019 Highlights!: First things first! Lots of news out of Google’s 2019 I/O conference! Some highlights for us search folk:
  • The SERP will allow for 3D models to be accessed!
  • The SERP now allows for Podcast content to be presented on the SERP
  • Google Lens will let you take a picture of a menu and then highlight the popular items on that menu.
  • A bunch of updates to Google Assistant. It’s been redesigned to be faster, more personal (for example, you can ask it to pull up your flight details), and more intelligent (for example, you can ask it to sort through your phone’s images like asking it to show all of your pictures with skyscrapers).
Evergreen Bot is Here: Google has announced the advent of the Evergreen bot. Googlebot can now support Chrome74. More than that, it will be synched to update with every new version of Chromium. This does mean that certain JavaScript elements are not as problematic as they once were.

Google SERP Bug: Another odd little Google bug brought back some SERPs that said Hmm... the results for your search don't seem very relevant…. Peculiar. 

Search’s Ad Revenue Pie Shrinking: IAB put out some interesting data. Search’s share of the ad revenue pie seems to be shrinking a bit. There was a lot of growth, but it seems other ad formats, video in particular, are eating away at search’s market share. The most interesting data was that desktop’s market share grew about 0% while mobile’s ad market share actually dipped.

FAQ and How-To Markup Added: Google has finally come up with its FAQ and how-to markup. If you remember this was a hot topic a year ago when we first heard FAQ results were a thing. Now you have the tools to create a result to offer directions of sorts as part of your organic showing.

SEO Send-Off Question

Which Children’s program does Google show its kids? 

For Mordy, the answer was obviously Teletubbies because 1) All of the Google colors are there 2) What they speak sounds like weird offbeat, hard to understand jibberish, but really has a much deeper meaning. (Sort of the way Google says things that have a much deeper meaning.)

Thank you for joining us! Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author
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