Apple Maps iOS 15 Update: What Should Local Marketers Be Paying Attention To?

This September, iPhone users around the world were treated to the arrival of iOS 15.

This much-anticipated update delivered on a number of promises from Apple, such as:

  • Security enhancements
  • Bug fixes
  • Changes to the interface
  • New features and functions
  • Improvements to native apps

When it comes to app improvements, Apple Maps users have not been left behind by iOS 15. There are noteworthy developments for local SEOs to be aware of.

These improvements to the Maps app have prompted some in the tech industry to declare that Apple could finally be offering a worthy alternative to Google Maps.

“Far from the fiasco of a launch it experienced in 2012, Apple Maps has recovered to become a legitimate challenger to Google Maps” – Neuf.tv

“Apple Maps hot on the heels of Google Maps with new iOS 15 updates” – T3.com

The Google Maps vs Apple Maps battle has been ongoing for many years, with the consensus generally being that Google has remained the champion throughout. However, the Apple Maps revamp through iOS 15 is already proving popular to Apple users. What’s more, it is clearly already enticing some people away from the Google alternative.

What’s new with iOS 15 for Apple Maps?

There have been a number of exciting improvements to Apple Maps with this latest upgrade, including:

  • Better filtering options for local business searches
  • Enhanced navigation and travel experiences
  • Updates to curated guides

Better Filtering Options for Local Business Searches

Apple Maps users now have access to better filters for local business information, and this update should catch the attention of those responsible for enhancing discovery of a local business.

For example, search results for a nearby restaurant can now be filtered according to a number of options. Users can filter by those that are currently open, or by the type of cuisine on offer.

Ios 15 Apple Maps Updates

These new filter capabilities mean that users can enjoy more relevant results. This will be an important time-saver when making decisions.

The filter upgrade makes it even more important that local business information is comprehensively provided and accurately kept up to date. If it’s not, then customers may easily overlook a good match in favor of one that they can clearly see meets their needs.

Many aspects of the Apple Maps experience have enjoyed a 3D upgrade, making it easier for users to identify their real-life surroundings. The improved navigation system, which now offers turn-by-turn direction instructions, gives users greater confidence in the route.

Enhanced Navigation and Travel Experiences

The navigation upgrades have clear benefits for those who are walking, driving, or taking public transport:

  • Walking – iPhone users on foot can now scan nearby buildings to better understand their current location. Doing so enables them to obtain more detailed directions, which are demonstrated by arrows superimposed onto the screen.
  • Driving – Drivers will appreciate that the conventional 2D map transitions into a 3D model when approaching an interchange. This will help drivers to better identify which lane they should be in, which could reduce mistakes and increase road safety.
  • Public Transport – Public transport users now have the option to pin their favorite routes and obtain up-to-the-minute departure information. What’s more, alerts will be received as a user nears their desired stop.

Ios15 Apple Maps Update Navigation

Source: Apple

Updates to Curated Guides

Although Curated Guides is not a new iOS 15 feature, it’s still worth knowing about as a business owner or local marketer, and it has been enhanced with this latest update.

Since iOS 14, Apple Maps users have had access to information on great local places to visit. All of the Curated Guides are regularly updated, so users can be sure to discover the latest and most relevant information.

The Curated Guides are crafted using the expert opinion of brands such as Time Out and The Washington Post. Users also have the option to create their own Guides to share with friends and family.

Being featured in a Guide—whether an expertly-crafted one or one that has been created by individual users—could lead to greater exposure and more customers.

What does this mean for local business owners and marketers?

As Apple focuses on improving its Maps app—by introducing new features and continuing to enhance existing capabilities—Google Maps users may be increasingly tempted to jump ship.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to have the best experience with each of the apps they use. This means brand loyalty may take second place to the desire for a seamless experience.

Apple Maps currently boasts up to 100 million users in the US alone, and this number looks set to grow as the improvements keep coming. As more people embrace Apple as their map provider of choice, it will naturally become more important that the businesses you manage are easily discoverable on the app. By paying attention now, you can ensure you are not going to be left behind in the future.

How can local businesses enhance their visibility on Apple Maps?

The first step to being visible on Apple Maps as a local business is to add or claim your Apple Maps listing. The process of claiming this business listing is incredibly quick, especially in comparison to Google My Business, so there’s no reason to put off getting started with Apple Maps.

Once the listing has been claimed, a local business can begin building a strong presence. Providing accurate location information—such as address and opening hours—is essential for a positive user experience and should always be a priority.

It’s also important to optimize business listings to make them more discoverable by users seeking a relevant product or service. While considering how to do this, it’s useful to know that Apple Maps still relies on third-party review data, primarily from Yelp, Foursquare, and Tripadvisor. So in order to optimize your listing with positive reviews and photos, it’s important to build a presence on these sites. 

A Word on Voice Search

Since Siri uses information from Apple Maps for location-based queries, being visible here is important for local businesses. 

More than 500 million devices around the world have the potential to use Siri to find information, with as many as 62% of iPhone users reporting that they use this voice assistant to get answers while driving. This means that if someone is searching for a local business while at the wheel, those succeeding at Apple Maps are going to be front and center in the results. 

Ready to take action?

Now that you know all about the Apple Maps update, you will want to consider how to use this information to your advantage.

By evaluating your existing strategy for Apple Maps, you can determine how you can enhance and optimize your presence.

With the long-reigning dominance of Google Maps, you could be forgiven for overlooking the Apple alternative in the past. Getting ahead of the curve now could prove invaluable in the not-too-distant future!

NEW in Local Search Grid: Primary and Additional Business Categories

Understanding the competitive landscape is a key part of any marketing activity, and local search is no different. To learn how to beat your local competitors in search, you don’t just need to find out who’s beating you, but crucially why.

This is where Local Search Grid‘s competitor tables come in: each one provides you with an overview of how well your local pack rivals are performing in key SEO metrics like citations and reviews.

Beyond these objective performance metrics, though, it’s worth keeping a close eye on the Google My Business (GMB) categories your competitors are using. Why? Because the categories you select have the chance to significantly impact the relevance of your business to searches.

Did You Know? According to research carried out in 2020, ‘Primary GMB Category’ and ‘Additional GMB Categories’ are considered two of the top five most important ranking factors in local search results… and the former is Number One!

Local Search Grid has always done a great job of surfacing GMB categories in reports, but from today you’ll see an update that, for the first time, shows you both Primary and Additional Categories in the Top Ranking Competitors table.

Until now, there was no easy way to collect all category data on competitors in one place. You would have to access source code or use a Chrome extension on a laborious page-by-page, profile-by-profile basis. This update brings all these insights together, allowing you to see with ease how these additional categories might be influencing rankings for certain keywords.

How does it work?

As you can see below, we’ve split out the existing ‘Category’ column in this table to two new ‘Primary Category’ and ‘Additional Categories’ columns. I’ve highlighted ‘Additional Categories’ in the screenshot as that’s where the new data sits.

Lsg Additional Categories

If you’re thinking “that’s not many additional categories,” you’d be right! That’s because we’ve made the full list of Additional Categories for each business available with a quick click of the ‘arrow’ button. This way you don’t have to contend with an incredibly long table until you’re ready to dig into this data.

Lsg Add Cats Expanded

Ready to see Additional Categories in your report? Simply run the report again to see the new data!

How can I use this new data?

Looking at the example above, we can see that the (amazingly-named) Storm Balgeman Miller Klippel is a law firm not currently ranking in the local area for the search term ‘law firm’.

Their Primary Category is ‘Legal Services’, which is particularly suitable if they don’t specialize in a particular area of law. One of the things they might want to look at, based on the findings of this report, is adding additional categories to their Google My Business profile.

Where do they get inspiration for these categories? From the competitors in the report, of course! Looking at which additional categories might be helping competitors leap to the top for different keywords allows you to map out the additional categories you should be using.

In the above example, the business could consider adding categories like ‘family law attorney’, ‘civil law attorney’ and ‘personal injury attorney’, where relevant, to get some added visibility in SERPs.

Let me at those Additional Categories!

BrightLocal customer? Just set up a new Local Search Grid report and see this fresh data for yourself!

Interested in trying out BrightLocal and Local Search Grid? Start your 14-day free trial here!

Knowledge is Power

With this new information, available on all new Local Search Grid reports, you can see the finer details of your rivals’ GMB profiles, allowing you to understand the playing field better and making strategic decisions about the GMB categories you choose for your own, or your client’s, business.

It’s good practice to know who you’re up against in local marketing. With this new feature, we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know them a whole lot better

Find out more about Local Search Grid in our dedicated section of the BrightLocal Help Center.

Key Learnings from LocalU Advanced, August 2021

 I’ll let you into a little secret.

If you’re super-duper into local SEO, and you’re not already attending LocalU Advanced you’re missing a trick. This is where the top minds and actual practitioners in the space get together and share ALL-NEW content including research, case studies, how-tos, and much, much more.

I got the chance to attend the last event on August 31, and, as always, I bloody loved it. So much that I wrote up the key takeaways from my favorite talks from Joy Hawkins, Rachel Anderson, Greg Gifford, Dana DiTomaso so that you can enjoy them too!

Joy Hawkins: Make Your Images Worth a Thousand Words

Ah, I do love Sterling Sky’s Joy Hawkins, I always get some great takeaways any time I listen to her speak, and using images more effectively is something I’m always looking to upskill on!

Joy starts by summing up three objectives for having great images:

  1. Look better
  2. Rank better
  3. Get more leads

Let’s start with ‘Look better’

Marketers often forget to check how images are showing in mobile SERPs:

How images show in mobile SERPs

This doesn’t show for all queries—and not many people talk about these and how to get them. For the best photos on mobile: 

1. Make sure with the images your head isn’t chopped off
2. Don’t use a ton of text on the image
3. Don’t use stock photos
4. Use it to highlight awards or coupons, for example:

Using photos of coupons in SERPs

5. Make sure the image is a square
6. Size doesn’t appear to matter
7. Make the image appear high up in the HTML of the page to have a better chance of it showing in the SERP

Joy uses BrightLocal’s Local Search Rank Checker to keep a record of the mobile results as screenshots. She uses it to identify opportunities in the SERP where competitors have photos showing and her clients do not for multiple keywords.

Joy noticed when she was conducting her research that there were two different types of ‘Image 3 packs’.

The first shows when you add a query, and Google chooses to show you photos that match this—like in this example for Michelin tires where Google chooses to show photos of tires in the SERP:

 Product-based images being used in SERPs

The second type shows the cover photo instead. This second type formed the majority of the results for Joy’s research: 

Cover photos being used in SERPs

If you’re struggling to get Google to show the cover photos you want, Joy recommends trying Ben Fisher’s method.

(A personal note: If you’re situated in one of the countries where Google chooses to show an ‘image result’ rather than your profile photo this won’t work (usually EU and the UK). You can read more about that here.) 

Let’s move onto ‘Rank better’

Let’s talk about ‘geotagging’. Joy quotes Joel Headley when he says, “The ‘tagging’ is happening upon upload. It doesn’t matter if the meta data exists.”

Joy wanted to test this. She tracked 15 keywords and saw zero change in rankings when she geotagged photos she uploaded to Google My Business.

Next, she tested geotagging photos on businesses’ websites. For the ones where they were able to tag the photos and upload them into the CMS, there weren’t any changes to rankings (WordPress allowed them to do so, a custom CMS a client was using stripped them out).

TAKEAWAY – don’t bother!

After this, Joy investigated the impact adding relevant photos had on local (map pack) ranking. Photos that were relevant to the search terms being tracked were added into GMB. However, nothing happened in terms of ranking changes.

Next, the photos were added onto the website page that the GMB listing was linking to. For example, photos of tires were added to a page, but tires weren’t mentioned anywhere else on the page (including in HTML or meta data). Within three days they saw a slight ranking increase in the local organic listings—this grid used to be all red and then it changed to this:

Geo grid changes due to adding images

When looking at the SERP Joy found that Google was using the image alt text as a justification for that business:

Image alt text being used as GMB justifications

They replicated this across a couple of clients and saw very slight ranking increases.

Next, it was time to test the impact of images on local organic rankings. Joy added a relevant image with alt text to the top of a page about lawn care. As well as grabbing the featured snippet, the page also saw a little bump in rankings.

However—don’t get TOO excited—she saw the result with a lawn care client, but not with a law client.

And finally, let’s look at ‘get more leads’

Joy showed the example of a dentist. Adding images to a page that previously hadn’t had an image saw an increase in traffic to the site via Google Images:

Dentist example: adding images to pages grew traffic from Google Images

When they looked at the increase in traffic they extrapolated (in Google Analytics) that the bump in organic traffic from image search represented a big chunk of cash in terms of conversions:

Growth in organic from photos led to conversions

N.B. I don’t know at what rate organic traffic via Google image search converts against organic traffic—I guess it all depends on the conversion that’s being tracked and the searcher intent for the query. My key takeaway here is that images are important, and that sometimes image search could be useful for your business and drive conversions.

Rachel Anderson: E-A-T is GREAT but have you tried CUSs(ing)?

I’ve been in awe of Rachel Anderson for a while, from back when she taught me to use the CASE function in Google Data Studio to tidy up borked UTM tagging in GMB.

Rachel covered the concept of E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust)—but explored the fact that websites are ranked by machines, so there must be some way that Google is measuring these (or similar) concepts in order to judge the fit of the page in their results.

Are there therefore ways that we, as marketers and data analysts can measure this? Enter CUSs(ing).

CUSsing: Content Usefulness Signals

It’s different from E-A-T because it’s not based on feelings. Like ‘awesomeness’, E-A-T isn’t measurable! Content Usefulness Signals, or CUSs, differs as it is measurable, and starts with the assumption that we can measure and make specific content recommendations based on content differences across multiple sites. 

Rachel shared some examples of content usefulness signals that can be seen on the site Seniorly:

  • Reviews
  • Content blocks with community information
  • Bulleted list of amenities

Content usefulness signals on Seniorly

And then some other examples of Content Usefulness Signal from around the web:

  • Parking directions
  • FAQs
  • Content blocks on eCommerce sites

Rachel then went on to talk about how she’s measuring these things by building out processes to measure content in different circumstances. What followed was some clever shizzle which even I could follow. So—listen up!

1. Entity extraction

There are many models for entity extraction—some specific to particular industries and some applicable across industries (e.g. BERT)

Entity extraction

The salience score is how sure it is that the data is about that entity.

2. Clustering methods

Like entity extraction, there are many clustering methods. Clustering models are able to identify themes within datasets and group the data by topic.

3. K-Means

K-Means takes many data points and determines clustering groups, and we can use K-means to compare topic clusters between sets of pages. This allows us to see topics that a competitor with a higher market share is covering.

Anyone feeling lost yet? You don’t need to be a super whizzy data genius to understand the topics—after all, when you’re working with SMB clients you’re quite probably doing this to an extent—but perhaps in a much more manual way.

For Rachel, who works purely with enterprise clients, these activities need to be done at scale—they can’t spend years looking through pages and making manual (and less empirical) assessments!

Real-world examples:

Rachel goes on to give some real-world examples of Content Usefulness Signals:

Patio furniture category pages on two websites

Rachel gives the example of taking content blocks from the pages and comparing entities that exist within those content blocks using XPath.

They chose just the main content ‘SEO text’ block on that page and the categories, but not products or the full page as they didn’t want the data to be cluttered by ads, filters, and navigation, etc.

Home Depot content blocks

They took the patio furniture from each site and ran it through entity extraction, and looked at the number of unique entities, and ordered them by salience scores (how important or ‘central’ that entity is to the text).

Home Depot entity extraction

Although the Lowe’s page ranked for MORE keywords (according to SEMRush), Home Depot ranked for queries with higher search volume and ranked higher—which means more impressions and higher CTR.

Location pages from big box stores: Entity + K-Means

Rachel took content clocks from location pages for big box stores and ran entity extraction:

Extity extraction for big box stores

Location pages are notoriously thin on content, and here entity extraction allowed Rachel to identify the pages with the richest content.

She then ran those individual domains content blocks through K-Means to identify topic clusters:

Finding topic clusters using K-Means

As you can see above Lowes was mainly hours, pickup options, and addresses, whereas The Home Depot had specific products, services, and store attributes.

SEMRush showed that home depot ranked for a lot more keywords on their location pages. The primary differences between these pages were that The Home Depot page included store reviews, plus lengthy (and/or dense with important keywords) content blocks.

Rachel then spoke a bit about different clustering models, if this is making you feel excited about clustering models you can go do some research—see the models named below: Clustering methods examples

Rachel rounded up the session by reminding us that as an industry we need to stop talking about unmeasurable concepts like E-A-T and focus on how to instead measure pages in the same way that search engines do.

Greg Gifford: The Wyld Stallyns’ Guide to Link Building

Links are still important, yo.

In Greg Gifford’s talk, he told us that most local business websites have fewer than 100 pages. They don’t need a gazillion dollars in budget for huge link dev campaigns. Local link building is a different process.

Greg’s top tips:

  • Don’t worry about follow and nofollow
  • Don’t worry about metrics like domain authority
  • Local links are hard to reverse engineer
  • Local links can look crappy but they work
  • Local links are often based on relationships

Easy tactics

  • Local sponsorships
  • Local meetups
  • Local clubs and organizations
  • Local business associations
  • LGBTQ business directories
  • Neighborhood watch websites
  • Use advanced search operators

Using advanced search operators for link building ideas

But what’s the PROCESS?

You need a process for local link building. Keep a record of what’s been done so you can follow up, and also so the management and team members can see what’s been done.

1. Onboarding clients

You need to ask the right questions when you onboard clients—see Greg’s useful resource for this. Asking detailed questions helps you uncover plenty of easy opportunities.

2. Research phase

Use as many tools as you can (Greg mentions Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush) to pull the client’s link profile. Drop them into a spreadsheet and dedupe. Then pull your competitors’ link profiles and do the same.

Remember though that you’re looking for unique opportunities—not just to replicate your competitors’ links (even though you can crack on with that first for quick wins!)

Greg linked to this useful sheet for analyzing your clients’ and competitors’ links in bulk in order to understand the relative domain authority distribution:

Comparing domain authority distribution to competitors

Break out of your competitive bubble by looking at small businesses in other geographic areas and other verticals to find inspiration for different tactics to build new links that your clients’ competitors don’t have.

Localized informational blog content can really help with link opportunities.

Create a spreadsheet that details the opportunities as you uncover them. Include the source website, the cost of the link, the target page, the timeline, and the contact information. If you find any ‘free’ immediate links during the research phase go ahead and get them!

Finally, show the opportunities to the client and explain the value of the potential opportunities.

3. Outreach and acquisition

Call a prospect (using an actual telephone) when you can. If you DO have to send an email, keep it short and simple, and explain why it’s valuable to them. You won’t typically be speaking with web-savvy people.

Rinse and repeat the process every quarter.

Dana DiTomaso: Let’s Get Cosy with Google Analytics 4

Ah – Google Analytics 4 (GA4)—that ‘thing’ that happened in GA that I haven’t had a chance to think about yet, and every time I think about it I’m filled with dread. I’m looking forward to this talk so Dana DiTomaso can help GA4 and I get acquainted, and maybe even learn to love each other!

"2020 wasn't busy enough... let's change Google Analytics!" - Dana DiTomaso

Yep, this sums it up.

Dana covers ‘how did we get here?’

GA1: Urchin, 2005
GA2: Classic, 2008
GA3: Universal, 2013
GA4: 2020

Changing from GA3 to GA4 is a painful switch, but it’s necessary because eventually, Google is going to force you to change. GA4 is a fundamental rethink of analytics. It measures things very differently.

Universal tracking—you have the Google Analytics code on your page. Universal is all built around the idea of SESSIONS. Everything is a session. A session is 30 minutes long by default (tab hoarders—you are a problem on the internet!)

If your computer hits midnight while you’re on a site, that will also be two sessions. This can be an issue if you have a website with a lot of international traffic—contact Dana if you do and she’ll send you some resources on dealing with this issue.

GA4 still has sessions, so doesn’t completely remove the idea of them. But it does change how sessions are calculated. Because GA4 records more events it’s more likely to accurately capture the length of the session.

Sessions do turn off after 30 minutes of inactivity, but you’re less likely to have the problem where people could spend 50 minutes on a page but they didn’t make any ‘actions’ as far as the browser or GA is concerned.

GA4 doesn’t start a new session if someone comes back to the site via a new campaign. For example with GA3, if you’re on a website researching stuff via a paid ad, then you open a new tab and make a search to investigate their hours of operation, then you click the website link in their GMB profile (which of course is UTM tagged because you’re a great SEO!) that’ll be a new session attributed to organic search.

GA4 handles this a little bit better. It also handles multiple tabs better.

Everything is an event in GA4. Everything is more equal so it’s easier to be able to measure people along their path from start to finish.

And the best news, BOUNCE RATE is gone in GA4 – yay! GOODBYE!

However—there is a new metric which is called ‘engagement rate’ which I am sure will become the new bounce rate!

Engaged sessions in GA4: Having the website open for 10 seconds, completing a conversion event, or viewing 2+ pages.

At least these will be slightly more accurate than the horrible bounce rate we have now.

GA4 has automatic event tracking, which is great. Before you had to use something like Google Tag Manager to be able to track things like click to email. Automatic event tracking is added by default as soon as you set it up:

Automatically collected in GA4: Pageviews, 90% scroll depth, outbound clicks, site searches, video engagement, file downloads

Here’s a list of everything that GA4 tracks out of the box.

If there’s something you want to track that GA4 can’t measure in the default event settings you’ll need to set up custom events:

Not collected in GA4: Other scroll depths, form fills, tel: or mailto: clicks, non-YouTube videos, other user engagement events

GA4 also has a list of recommended events—this will give you ideas of things you could track as well as a good format for naming conventions.

Looking at the GA4 interface (with a caveat that GA4 changes the interface regularly), you’ll see there are NO CHANNELS in the ‘Acquisitions overview’ tab. Maybe they’ll add these back in later?

In the ‘Library’ section you can set up different reports for different users so people can see only what they need to see when they access GA4.

According to Dana, the built-in explorations are excellent—you’ll find these in the Explorer tab on the left—including a template gallery.

Path Analysis is the thing we always wanted in GA3 and we never really got it. In GA4 you can look at both ‘pages’ and ‘events’—so you can do an event-based path analysis. You can also choose the END of the path (which wasn’t possible in GA3)—for example, if you want to see people that ended up on your contact page and the path they took to get there.

The funnel report is also great—click around and find out!

Configuration for GA4

Events look like this:

Events in GA4

These are all tracked by default, and have more privacy built-in. For events, you can ‘Mark as NPA’ which means that event can’t be used for retargeting and personalized ads.

You can also create events based on events! You can trigger events based on people doing certain things. One thing you could do is create an event to trigger when someone scrolls 90% down your blog post and then signs up for your newsletter:

Event trigger configuration in GA4

You can also create events based on several conditions. For example, you could create an audience using the Audience tab which is very granular. When you have your audience set you can fire an event based on people entering this audience. This can be really useful for things like repeat businesses – for example, someone booking an oil change.

Goals are now based entirely on events. You just click the slider to make your event a conversion. But be careful—the only things you should be setting as goals are things that RELATE to your goals. A page view isn’t a conversion!

Conversions in GA4 are now much more flexible, in GA3 you could have 20, and that was it. You can’t delete conversions in GA4 but you CAN shut them off.

How to set up GA4

You can click the Upgrade button in your universal property. But Dana instead has been creating a separate GA4 property and ‘double tagging’ – running the tags for universal and GA4 in the same Google Tag Manager container. You need to be using GTM if you’re going to use GA4. Dana has some resources to help you with this – tap her up if you’re a GTM newbie.

When you set it up make sure you have ‘Enhanced measurement’ enabled:

Enhanced measurement in GA4

Add a trigger in GTM with the measurement ID that GA4 gave you and BOOM, you have data!

Next, you need to add your events. If you have events already set up in GA3 you’ll need to rename Universal Events to GA4 Events. Dana is working on a course in LinkedIn that’ll explain how to do this.

In a nutshell—event names should be all lowercase using underscores as separators. And remember, you’ll need to document everything!

How do you know it’s working?

GA4 has a great debugging mode. You can turn on preview mode in GTM or there’s a GA debug extension for Chrome.

Use GA4 to see every single event as it comes in:

Events coming in on GA4

You can click on those events to see exactly which parameters and user properties are being sent along with the individual events.

The best way to learn is by testing—so crack on!

That’s it for now! There were 7 great presentations and some awesome Q&A and panel discussionsI’ll be covering some of this in the next roundup.

Get your discounted access to LocalU

LocalU is offering a 10% discount for BrightLocal readers to access on-demand videos and/or 10% off tickets to November 30 LocalU Advanced – just use BRIGHTLOCAL10 on checkout. These offers both expire on October 15, 2021.

New Academy Course: How to Master Local Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the most important activities in SEO, and should be at the top of any priority list when it comes to digital marketing. 

For any beginners, keyword research is the process of finding the words that potential customers use to find solutions to their problems. 

Essentially, every time somebody searches the internet, they are using keywords. 

This means that keyword research is a prerequisite for building an effective local SEO and content strategy. If you don’t know the types of terms people are searching for, how are you going to plan and write content that attracts and converts them?

There are also things specific to local SEO that will help take localized organic performance to new heights. 

How to Master Local Keyword Research

Which is why we’re proud to announce the next free course to land in BrightLocal Academy: “How to Master Local Keyword Research”.

This highly-practical course has been created in collaboration with local search expert Claire Carlile. Newcomers to the local keyword research game can use this course as a step-by-step guide, while industry veterans will find a wealth of new techniques and tools to take their skills to the next level.

Over nine lessons, Claire shares her knowledge on what types of local keywords you can, and should, target, and also how to:

  • Write a keyword seed list 
  • Expand your keyword list using free tools
  • Create a comprehensive keyword profile
  • Bucket your keywords and prioritize them

“I’ve always found keyword research to be a fascinating process of discovery, and I loved the opportunity to take a deep dive into the art and science of putting together a keyword list for a local business.

“By the end of this course, you’ll have assembled a solid list of keywords, you’ll have mapped those keywords against user intent and the marketing funnel, you’ll have prioritized your list and you’ll be ready to go about optimizing your existing content and putting together new content to plug your content gaps. I hope you enjoy watching this course as much as I enjoyed writing and presenting it!”– Course Leader Claire Carlile

Watch this video to find out what it’s all about… 

Enroll today to start gaining a wealth of expertise on one of the most important activities in local SEO.

How can I join?

Whether you’re a BrightLocal customer or not, you can enroll for free. Here’s how…

If you’re a BrightLocal customer, you can access the Academy via your BrightLocal account. Simply log in, click ‘Learning Resources’ at the top of the screen and select ‘BrightLocal Academy’ from the dropdown menu.

BrightLocal Platform Academy

You’ll be taken straight to your Academy account page where you can enroll on the ‘How to Master Local Keyword Research’ course.

If you’re not a BrightLocal customer, you can join BrightLocal Academy for free here and follow the same steps above to enroll on the course.

Want to know more about BrightLocal Academy?

Check out the official BrightLocal Academy FAQs here:

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us or leave a comment below. We hope you find this fresh new course useful, and we can’t wait to hear how it’s helped you improve your local SEO skills!

Google My Business ‘Photo Updates’: A Great Way to Get Customer Pics

In March of this year, Google announced a ‘photo update’ feature that gives Google Maps users on Android devices a new way to upload photos to your Google My Business profile.

I’ve only just spotted it being used ‘in the wild’, and haven’t seen much in the way of coverage, so I thought it worth sharing some details on how it works, what you need to know, and what it could mean for the future of GMB (specifically Google Posts).

After all, the features you know about but your competitors don’t are the ones that make you stand out when searchers compare businesses. Read on to find out more!

What are Google My Business ‘Photo Updates’?

We’re all familiar with the contents of the ‘By owner’ tab in the updates section. This is where we see our Google My Business Posts, new photos and updated hours:

Google My Business Photos Update Screenshot 1

The Google Maps update introduced the ‘By Visitors’ tab:

Google My Business Photos Update Screenshot 2

I hadn’t read anything about this, and Stefan Somborac pointed me in the direction of this post on Google’s blog, which explains that this feature was launched in March 2021:

Share your photos

Digging around in Google’s guidance on GMB posts, I found this section:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 3

What’s interesting here is that the guidance wording suggests that it’s only possible to add a photo update when you’re leaving a review. However, it is possible to add a photo update without leaving a review if you click here, on ‘Add a photo update’:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 3

When a user adds a ‘photo update’, Google prompts them to ‘say something about your photos’:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 4

When a user adds an image using the ‘Add a photo update’ button, the image (and optional caption) shows on the ‘By visitors’ tab, as in this example below, where no review was left:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 4

When an image is added by a user using another method of image upload (for example via ‘Add a photo’ on the ‘Photos’ tab), it does not currently show on the ‘By visitors’ tab.

Replying to a ‘photo update’

This feature is only active in the Google Maps app on an Android device, and businesses are only able to comment on these user ‘photo updates’ via the Google Maps app when they’re logged in with a user account that has management level access to the business listing in question.

Businesses can ‘reply’ to the photo update by clicking here…

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 6

…and leaving their reply, which then shows under the customer image in the tab:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 7

Just like best practice with Google My Business reviews, it’s a good idea to monitor this section, and to respond appropriately and in good time.

If the photo is great, then a quick thanks might suffice. If the photo is less than flattering in terms of its reflection upon your business then you’ll need to think carefully about how you’ll respond, exactly as you would do with a negative review.

What can I do if I, as a business, don’t like the photo?

Not much, sadly. You don’t own this content and as long as it’s a ‘valid’ photo from a user, taken at the location, and it doesn’t contravene Google’s format specific criteria for user uploaded photos (see below) it’s pretty much a case of ‘hard cheese’.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to encourage your customers to upload photos via this method, so that you can keep a fresh stream of images coming that will push any of your ‘not-so-favorite’ photos lower down on the scroll.

Like all user contributed content user, uploaded photos do need to be in line with Google’s format specific criteria:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 9

An issue with the current setup on the photo updates tab is that if a business flags an image to report a violation of format specific criteria for images, the reporting criteria that Google shows in the popout applies to reviews, not to images. When you click on the three dots on the ‘By visitors’ update, like so…

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 10

…you see these options:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 11

Instead, to report an image (or indeed a caption) according to the guidelines for user uploaded photos, you have to click on the image itself, then click the three dots:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 13

A click here triggers the image and caption specific popout:

Google My Business Photo Updates Screenshot 14

What does this mean for local businesses?

This functionality suggests that businesses would benefit from continuing to encourage customers to upload photos using the ‘photo update’ prompt.

However, Google now has so many options to upload user-generated photos, it’s going to be hard to get your customers to understand the nuance between an image upload via the ‘add a photo update’ prompt rather than any of the alternative methods to update images.

It’s worth noting that, within the Google Maps app, Google is prompting business owners to get their users to populate this tab by sharing their Business Profile:

Google My Business Photos Update Screenshot 14

Top Tip: Want to share your Business Profile to encourage more photo uploads from customers but don’t know where to find the link? BrightLocal’s Google Review Link & Place ID Generator allows you to easily search for your profile and find the link.

However, as already noted, the standard routes to customer image upload don’t currently populate this tab. Though, of course, like all functionality that’s GMB related, this is always subject to a quick-fire change!

Ideally, your customers would annotate those ‘photo updates’ in a way that is in line with the way that you’d want someone in a review to describe your attributes, products, and services.

The ‘photo update’ tab presents another layer of opportunity for current customers and potential customers to view user-uploaded photos, so it is in your interest as a business to keep these fresh and new, compelling and attractive, for you to carefully monitor the content, and to respond appropriately to image uploads and image captions.

What might happen next?

The introduction of this feature earlier this year could suggest that Google’s looking to add additional user-generated content in GMB. Think of it as a little like being able to write a comment on a business’s Facebook page. If users are consuming content within the ‘updates’ tab as part of their discovery process, then user ‘photo updates’ are going to be one of the things that they’ll see.

Google’s documentation on ‘photo updates’ lives in the Google Posts documents folder, so for the moment be aware that maybe GMB posts won’t remain a feature that can be so carefully curated by a business.

So if you, as a watcher of GMB functionality, were playing at predicting a future where users could comment on GMB posts… perhaps this is a step towards that future.

As always, I’m surprised that Google Maps users pick up on the small changes in the user interface and try them out, especially considering Google never really keeps consumers in the loop about how these features can be used to their benefit.

If uptake on this feature is low, then perhaps it’ll just disappear. But GMB watchers did say that about the ‘follow’ button… so just keep your eyes peeled and have a think about how this feature could present an opportunity for your business, and how you’ll manage this feature moving forwards.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

Approximately 22% of customers will leave a business after receiving just one negative review, whereas around three negative reviews can drive away 59% of customers.

Reviews assist consumers in making quick decisions about purchases in their research by providing a clear picture of your company. Studies show that of businesses who respond to bad reviews, 33% turn around and post a good review, and 34% delete the original negative review. Whether a review is good or bad, it makes sense to respond.

When someone leaves a negative review about your company, it can be really difficult to know how to respond. There are many ways you could handle the situation, but one of the best responses is simply asking for more information and trying to find out what went wrong.

Despite your natural feeling of frustration, make your best effort to remedy the situation. Resolve the problem by apologizing and repairing it. If you resolve the issue, many customers will be happy to change their reviews.

Below I’ll run through the steps to consider when responding to a negative online review.

1. Keep calm and take a breath

It can be hard not to take personal insults and low-star ratings as being directed at us, but it is important to remember that sometimes people are venting their frustrations about something else. A good way of responding might be to thank them for taking the time—yes, even if they didn’t like your business or service—and to ask what could have been done better in order to make things right with them.

Before responding to an angry customer, take a moment to breathe deeply and think about it. If necessary, get up and walk around the block. The best thing to do is to settle your emotions before responding, as being angry is never a good outcome.

You might find it helpful to have a list of standard responses to refer to when responding to a customer who’s had a bad experience. In writing a reply to the reviewer, you can use these “canned” responses as a starting point. Then tailor your canned responses to each reviewer’s feedback to ensure people reading your reviewers don’t see too much repetition.

Taking a moment to think about what you want to say, or the kind of response you want to use, can be incredibly helpful—especially if you’re upset. 

Take the below response, for example. If emotions had been settled before responding, the responder might have delivered a better response, without the sarcasm. It would have been better to look at this situation from the perspective of asking if anything could have been done better to make things right with the reviewer.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online 1

2. Remember that you must respond to the negative review

Bad reviews actually have the power to improve conversion rates, so it would be a shame not to take this golden opportunity to respond. Taking the time to respond to a negative review can result in a 16% boost in customer advocacy.

Remember that the most effective form of marketing is word of mouth. Businesses experience a 37% decline in customer advocacy simply by the act of not responding to a negative review.

Be empathetic in your approach. Reviewers often just want to be heard. Sometimes, all it takes to make a customer happy is to show them that you have heard them and that you want to solve their problem. Customer satisfaction can be doubled by resolving a customer issue in a single contact, as you’re far more likely to get a repeat sale.

Over 70% of buying decisions are based on how a customer feels they are being treated, so do your best to make all of your customers feel valued – even the unhappy ones, as below.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online 2

3. Consider the type of reviewer you’re dealing with

There are many different types of reviews and reviewers, but there are a few categories into which most people fall. You’re guaranteed to make the response process faster and more effective if you take advantage of BrightLocal’s tips on different types of reviewers, like first-time, sharpshooters, and serial complainers, for example.

First-time reviewers: Consider whether the negative feedback is accurate. If it is, make internal changes to remedy the problem. When applicable, explain how you will prevent this issue from occurring again in the future. Also, if you disagree with the reviewer’s assertions, politely and professionally present your point of view.

Sharpshooters: When dealing with a short, confident review from an expert, keep in mind that brevity is the goal. Condense your response into clear and concise sentences rather than lengthy ones to better reflect this type of reviewer’s communication style.

Serial Complainers: The serial complainer can really hurt your business, so tread carefully. These reviewers have experience with similar businesses and know how to make them look bad in the process. To avoid this, take note of what other companies did when responding with them as well as avoiding making mistakes they made!

Top Tip: If you’re working with Google reviews, click on the reviewer’s profile and you should be able to say all the reviews they’ve left for other businesses. Looking at how other businesses have responded to these reviews (and how successful they’ve been in turning the reviewer around) will give you a great idea of how to approach their review of your business.

4. Resolve the issue

Sometimes customers leave reviews because they are disappointed or disgruntled, and not because of something you’ve done. If possible, try contacting them privately with a response that politely addresses their message.

Work to solve the problem with more than just a response. Discover what went wrong and why the reviewer was so dissatisfied. Search your database for their email or phone number and contact them. Instead of addressing the issue online, you’ll be able to speak directly and resolve it “in person.”

Efforts to resolve the problem show the customer (and others) you mean business. When customer trust is broken, it is critical to go the extra mile. Fixing the problem not only makes the customer happier, but other potential clients will see how important your customers are to your business, as you can see below.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online 3

5. Get a second opinion

Though it’s tempting to jump into defending yourself against unjustified complaints, responding with anger will do more harm than good. Responding in an informative manner, that acknowledges the customer’s frustration, will help you to avoid escalating any unnecessary problems.

To ensure that your response to the review is accurate, let an impartial third party read it before you post it online. Double-check your message and tone by sending the response to several colleagues to ensure that it “reads” well to a third party. This is important because your response may be interpreted as overly defensive or aggressive, and this would not help to win over the customer.

Share an example of what you have written with friends, family, and/or a private business network. Be transparent and open with the feedback you receive and make adjustments accordingly.

6. Remember that a well-written negative review response can increase sales

Look at the positive within the negative. Negative reviews will stay negative forever if you do not respond, and we all know that nothing is lost on the Internet. How you respond to negative reviews can provide consumers with insight into your business’ credibility.

In addition to fixing problems raised by negative reviews, there is another benefit. You gain the trust of potential customers. If you fix your mistakes, they will see that you are thorough and responsible, and that is certainly something to be valued as a business. 

This is a good time to gain insight into what your company may be doing wrong. Seeing the potential hidden within a negative review may help you improve your business. Look at the review and carefully consider what the person wrote.:

  • Did they have a problem with a staff member? 
  • What was their experience like at your location? 
  • Has your product or service failed to meet their expectations? 

In analyzing what the customer says, look for larger issues that need to be addressed at your business, as in the example below.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online 4

7. Take the discussion offline

On the other hand, negative feedback can provide a wealth of useful information, because what your product or service lacks is sometimes more obvious to your customers than you.

Have you ever tried to collect customer surveys to get this information? A task of this nature is near-impossible. Although people may sincerely want to answer all the questions, sometimes they just forget about it when the daily rush gets to them. So reviews give you a lot of valuable feedback in this respect.

Additionally, this type of feedback gives you time to resolve issues before the problem escalates with other customers. The best cure is prevention. Your customers know better than anyone what is missing from your product, so pay extra attention to what they have to say.

According to Harris Interactive, 75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone. Increasingly, people use online reviews, social media, and other online methods for customer service and to voice their opinion publicly since it gets higher attention.

The best way to handle attention-seeking people is to take the discussion offline as soon as possible. Simply let the customer know you heard them, like the example below, and then ask them to call or email you personally so you can resolve the matter. 

How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online 5

8. Ask for a do-over

As long as you’ve taken steps to resolve the situation with an unhappy customer, you shouldn’t hesitate to politely request that they update/change their review to reflect the resolution.

One of the best ways to do this is to send an email outlining what happened, what you resolved, and the steps you’re taking to improve things going forward, and then politely asking if they would mind updating their review.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews Online 6

9. Get more positive reviews to push down the negative reviews

The vast majority of people read an average of 10 reviews before they decide to use a business. The review process is usually ordered chronologically, so if you keep a steady stream of positive reviews flowing in, you will see those negative ones extinguish over time.

The best way to counteract one negative review is to get a few more positive reviews to “push down” the negative review. Provide an easy way for your customers to write positive reviews about your business.

Your business is worth a searcher’s time when it has online reviews. Easily and quickly create a steady stream of positive customer reviews for your company with Brightlocal’s Get Reviews tool.

Say Hello to a Bolder, Brighter BrightLocal

You’ve probably noticed that things look a little different around here. That’s because we’ve just launched our new brand identity!

Say Hello to a Bolder, Brighter BrightLocal

Taking our brand forward

We’re big believers in the power of brand, which is why we’ve continued to invest in ours over the years.

We’re confident that we have one of the most recognized and trusted brands in local SEO, but as with everything we do, we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We have a restless nature that urges us to always question what could be improved and how we can do things better.

This isn’t the first time we’ve refreshed our brand. After all, we exist in an industry that is constantly evolving. Sitting still is not an option.

Our business is constantly evolving, too. In the years since we last refreshed our brand identity, we’ve welcomed over 70 new faces to the BrightLocal team and expanded our offering with Local Search Grid, Showcase Reviews, BrightLocal Academy, BrightLocal Agency Directory, Local RankFlux, and much more.

Whereas previous rebrands have mainly been motivated by the need for a visual refresh to reflect changing design trends, this time we’ve gone much deeper and asked ourselves to really think about who we are, who we’re here for, and what’s important for our customers to know about us.

So without further delay, let me guide you through the new BrightLocal brand identity.

No change of heart

Our logo has undergone a subtle change. It’s an evolution more than a revolution because, quite frankly, we really liked our logo!

Brightlocal Logo

The ‘Heart Pin’ is one of the most recognizable and iconic aspects of our identity. It proudly displays our love of all things local and communicates the importance of teamwork, community and generosity within the business.

It’s also the symbol of our monthly team awards, The Big Heart Awards, where we recognize the team members who have done exceptionally amazing work and gone above and beyond for their colleagues and/or customers. Each month, BrightLocal makes a donation to a charity that’s important to the winners. Since the launch of the awards last year, we’ve donated $10,000 to 24 charities.

Heart Pin

It was a no-brainer to keep the ‘Heart Pin’ sitting proudly within our logo.

The text in the logo is now lowercase, and the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the font type has changed. The lowercase text is less formal and more approachable, which better reflects our welcoming culture.

While the logotype is changing to be lowercase, rest assured we’re not changing the company name formatting. Everywhere else, we’re still good old ‘BrightLocal’, with the capital B and the capital L.

Color me impressed

Color was a major area we wanted to look at. Over the years, our color palette has expanded considerably, so it was important for us to question the role that color was playing within our identity.

We’ve used color to distinguish between different products within our platform. We also slightly diverted from our palette when creating the identities for BrightLocal Academy and BrightLocal Agency Directory. It’s fair to say we had had a lot of colors competing for attention!

Our previous primary colors

Our old primary colors

 

When it came down to it, there were two colors that we felt were most strongly associated with BrightLocal: green and blue. So while we still needed a variety of colors to paint with, green and blue needed to be leaned on more heavily, and elevated within our identity.

Beyond having too many competing colors, our previous palette felt too muted. After all, half of our company name is ‘bright’, and these colours were definitely not that. We like to think we’re a bold and vibrant bunch, and we wanted colors to reflect that.

I won’t go deep into color theory here, even though it’s a fascinating topic. Instead let me introduce you to our core brand colors: Bright Green and Local Blue.

 

Our new core colors

Our new core colors

 

Our core colors needed to stand alone and work in a variety of different contexts. And importantly, they also needed to work together.

Asset 6@2x Asset 5@2x

We also have new secondary colors, which complement our core colors and create a more harmonious palette.

Our new secondary colors

Our new secondary colors

 

Color isn’t just about making a statement—accessibility was a big part of the decision-making process. We want our website and platform to be accessible to as many people as possible. Around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women suffer from “red-green” color vision deficiency, which makes it hard for them to distinguish between shades of red, yellow, and green. That’s a lot of people who might have been finding it difficult to use certain parts of our website and platform.

Many accessibility issues have been resolved with our new palette, but there are some things we’re still working on. Over the coming months, we’ll be updating many of the charts in the BrightLocal platform to ensure the great insights included are instantly obvious to many more customers.

Just our type

Accessibility also informed our new typefaces, which you’ll now see across our website and platform.

Our new typefaces

These typefaces are easier to read at any size, which allows them to work perfectly in any context—whether that’s making a long-form article easier to digest, helping our website copy sing, making it quicker to navigate our website and platform, or ensuring an important notification doesn’t get missed.

Picture perfect

We’ve been a little guilty of relying on tried-and-tested illustration styles. If we’re honest, we were getting a bit tired of seeing the same whimsical, long-limbed people that are living rent-free on every SaaS website under the sun. It was time to get a style we can call our own.

We explored a number of different approaches, and in the end we landed on two that would work in a variety of contexts.

Photography

Photography is the perfect medium for celebrating the people who make BrightLocal what it is—whether that’s our team, our amazing customers, or the broader local SEO community.

We chose a photography style that is dynamic, real-to life, and shows the impact that BrightLocal has on our customers’ working lives. We also wanted to ensure our photography represented and celebrated the diversity within the local SEO community.

Additional Photo Asset Local Seo Tools Hero Copy

 

And this is just the start! We want to celebrate even more of our amazing customers, so if you’re interested in getting featured on our website with a testimonial, drop us an email.

Illustrations

Illustrations were still going to be key within our visual identity, particularly in Bright Ideas, our content hub for everything local SEO. Our amazingly talented Visual Designer, Ken Iizuka, explored various styles that would help elevate our content and one stood out as the clear winner. The style is vibrant, playful, and offers a lot of flexibility to reflect the variety of topics we cover.

Illustration

Illustration

Illustration

You’ll start to see these custom illustrations appearing on Bright Ideas, which itself has been fully redesigned with better readability and new-and-improved search functionality.

The new Bright Ideas

Consistency is king

Over the years, our visual identity had become slightly disjointed. That’s understandable. Things had been created at different times by different designers who all suffered from a lack of defined brand guidelines. The visual disparity between our website and platform was the most stark example of this.

Old brand touchpoints

Our old brand touchpoints

 

But there were also inconsistencies playing out at a much smaller scale. A full brand audit revealed a vast spread of styles being used across our icons.

Asset 1@2x

Our old icons

 

Our brand plays out across multiple touchpoints: there are big hitters like our website and platform, but there’s also email, social media, video, our podcast, presentation decks, and so on.

So when we approached tackling the rebrand, we were adamant that this wouldn’t be isolated to our marketing website—every inch of BrightLocal was going to be scrutinized.

Bringing consistency to such a broad set of touchpoints is a major undertaking, and there are still a few things to tackle, but today when you use our website and platform, you’ll be treated to a more visually-aligned experience.

Our new brand touchpoints

Our new brand touchpoints

 

Even the smallest of icons are now singing from the same hymn sheet.

BrightLocal Tools Rebrand

Celebrating our culture

A big part of this rebrand is the launch of our employee brand.

Our people are key to our success, and bringing awesome new people into the business is obviously a huge part of that.

How Do We Do This

However, if you came to our website before today, you wouldn’t know much about what it’s like to work at BrightLocal (spoiler: it’s awesome), and you wouldn’t have been able to see the exciting opportunities to join the team (we’re hiring btw).

So we’ve changed that with our ‘Working at BrightLocal’ careers page, where you can learn more about our culture, what life at BrightLocal is like, and browse our open vacancies.

Show me the swag!

No rebrand would be complete without some swag, right?

Here’s some of the team modeling our latest swag.

Swag 1

Swag 3

It would be cruel to show you these highly desirable items without giving you the chance to get your hands on them. And you’ll be able to do that very soon. Keep an eye on on our Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook for your chance to win a BrightLocal goodie bag.

20210726 153841

 

A BrighterLocal

So that’s it for the tour. We really hope you like our new look.

Under the hood, we’re still the same BrightLocal, but we’re confident that our new brand will do a much better job of showing off who we really are.

Even though things look a little different now, you can still find everything on our website and platform in the same place as it was before.

Over time, we’ll be making further visual updates within the platform, such as improving the accessibility of our charts, and we’ll be sure to let you know when these changes are happening and, importantly, why.

If you want to learn more about the process behind our rebrand and see more of what’s changed, look out for our in-depth overview coming soon.

A thank you to the team

Every part of our rebrand was handled by our internal team, so I’d like to finish off by saying a massive ‘thank you’ to the people behind it.

Dom, our Lead Designer, was the driving force behind this rebrand. He undertook a huge amount of research to ensure we really got to the core of what our brand should stand for, and you’ll be able to read about that soon.

Ash made the rebrand a reality on our website. This wasn’t just a case of simply updating some CSS; our website was feeling the strain of technical debt and Ash rebuilt the site to ensure it’s running faster than ever.

Ken only joined the team earlier this year, but he quickly got to work developing illustrative styles to bring a playful and memorable look to our identity.

Inzi and Yurko handled all user interface updates within the platform to ensure our ambitions for a consistent brand identity was fully realized at launch.

This was a big team effort and many more people played a part in getting get us here today. Thanks to everyone for your commitment and passion.

So… how do we look?

We’d love to hear your feedback on our new brand identity. Head to the comments to let us know what you think.

Google Now Shows ‘Ranking Factors Box’ in SERPs to Explain Results

Want to find out why your competitor’s page is No. 1 in Google organic SERPs? Well, now you can! (To the extent that Google is willing to tell you, anyway.)

That’s because Google yesterday announced a feature that shows a selection of reasons for ranking individual pages in SERPs, bringing some much-needed transparency to search.

via GIPHY

Source: Google

This feature is a section called ‘Your search & this result’ but it doesn’t have a catchy name yet, so we’re calling it the ‘Ranking Factors Box’, simply because, well, it’s a box that displays ranking factors!

The Ranking Factors Box is an extension of the ‘About this result’ box, which is accessible by clicking the ‘three vertical dots’ at the end of a search result and was originally launched back in February of this year.

Where is the Ranking Factors Box currently live?

According to Barry Schwartz’s excellent overview for Search Engine Land, the feature is currently live for around 10% of English-language queries in the USA, and Google aims to have it 100% live by next week for both mobile and desktop.

pic

Source: Google

When will the Ranking Factors Box be available outside of the US?

Google’s own page says:

“This expansion of About This Result is rolling out in English in the U.S. to start, and we look forward to bringing this and other related features to more people in the coming months.”

Google, ‘Learn more – and get more – from Search

However, after witnessing the glacial pace of other rollouts (I’m looking at you, Local Services Ads) some are understandably not holding their breath on playing with this feature any time soon.

Want to see this in action outside the US? If you can’t wait to find out why your page ranks, try out BrightLocal’s free Local Search Results Checker tool, which emulates a location to show results as if you were there!

What sort of information does the Ranking Factors Box show?

In the aforementioned Search Engine Land piece, Barry Schwartz discovered the following (non-exhaustive) list of factors as reasons for ranking a page:

  • Search terms that appear in the result
  • Search terms related to your search
  • Other websites with your search terms link to this result
  • This result has images related to your search
  • This result is [Language]
  • This result is relevant for searches in [region]

I’d encourage you to head over to his post for more detail on each of these.

How are SEOs reacting to the Ranking Factors Box?

It’s my tendency to catastrophize (I more charitably call it ‘black-sky thinking’), so my initial response to the announcement was to immediately decry the end of SEO as we know it.

via GIPHY

I figured that with potential SEO clients now being able to see why they rank, and getting keyword ideas from competitors right there in the SERP, smaller businesses would have much less need to invest in assistance with understanding their online visibility.

Luckily, I’m alone in my cries of “Ranknarok is here!” (hat tip to my colleague, Mark Crowe, for that one). Judging by the online response to the Search Engine Land piece, SEOs are split between being excited…

…justifiably cynical…

….or nonplussed.

Don’t let your hot take cool down: let us know what you think in the comments below!

What does this mean for SEO?

While I’m cautiously optimistic about the positives of such transparency, I personally share Mordy Oberstein’s concerns about a race to the bottom:

I’ve been in this business long enough—*strokes gray beard*—to know that your average SEO will do anything to make their job easier. (Understandably—it’s not an easy gig!)

My concern is that easy access to the keywords that Google itself says will lead to a top spot will just mean SEOs optimising for the same few terms and chasing the same links; potentially to the point that high-ranking websites are indistinguishable from one another. 

However, this is precisely why having access to digital marketing tools like rank trackers, keyword research tools and the like could become, if anything, more important.

Free access to this information technically leads to all parties playing on a level playing field, and so it’s more critical than ever to one-up your competitors. And that’s true whether you’re an in-house marketer for a small business, or a nationwide digital marketing agency.

Besides, Google might be telling you which keywords are leading to a result, but it’s not telling you how to optimise for those keywords, how to structure your site’s architecture around them, or how to get those all-important links.

This is where creative SEOs, and the tools they use to get more insights than their competitors, can truly shine.

Will we develop new SEO practices thanks to this update? Probably not. None of the ranking factors uncovered so far are a surprise, but this does provide fantastic ammunition for anyone looking to prove the worth of optimization to their clients.

What does this mean for local SEO?

“Yadda yadda organic SERPs blah blah whatever…” I know, I know: you’re here to find out about how this impacts local search and your local business clients.

If we’re talking purely about Google My Business rankings in the Local Finder and Google Maps, then no, this doesn’t really change anything. Google’s organic and local algorithms function separately, and this feature isn’t available in the Local Pack… yet (who knows?!)

As with anything Google, it’s always good to consider what even a small change might bring. Knowing that Google is starting to take transparency of search results seriously (perhaps at the behest of its army of lawyers, perhaps not), could mean that SERP transparency could be coming to the local pack?

After all, Google has already made a start on this by including ‘justifications’ in local SERPs, using info from everything from Google My Business Services, to customers reviews, to the content of the linked website, in order to show the searcher why it’s shared a particular local business.

What do local SEOs say about the Ranking Factors Box?

Whether or not this update was going to impact local search right away, I was still interested in the opinions of the local search community, and so reached out to some local SEO pros to get their takes.

Their responses range from interested and intrigued to the comparatively unruffled:

“It’s important to remember that most searchers won’t know this exists, and don’t really care about how things rank. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine thought Google ranked results alphabetically! So I think this is only really going to be of interest to SEOs. For SEOs, though, there is a lot they could do with this information: it’s great for looking at the competition in SERPs and seeing what you need in your content to compete, it highlights the importance of geo-focusing your content for local SEO, and can help with image optimization. It also proves, once and for all, that links do matter to Google. And we might finally be able to see why that terrible website ranks higher in the search results!”

Andy Simpson, Digital Law Marketing

“I think it’s interesting that Google is showing their cards by showing why a search result was ranked the way it was. I feel like they could be doing it for a couple of reasons: 1. It could be to give everyday users a better idea of the difference in ads and search results (although, people would have to know to click on the three dots and I doubt a lot of non-marketers will do that). 2. Maybe they are trying to help marketers a bit? Either way, I’ll be very curious to see if it sticks around.”

Niki Mosier, AgentSync

“As SEO’s, it seems to me that this feature has the potential to help provide additional insight when trying to reverse-engineer why a competitor is outranking you. I don’t think it would be wise to base a full strategy on the data, but at the very least it provides one more data point to consider, which is a good thing. Google’s never going to give us the inner workings of its mind, but when we take all the available information, we can make better decisions for ourselves and the businesses we work with.”

Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky

“I like that Google is doing this but I don’t think it changes our approach to SEO. I’m guessing someone is going to figure out a way to scrape this info and package it as some cool new tool to improve your rankings, but it’s really just ‘SEO with training wheels’, and the wheels are plastic.”

Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide

“At a high level, I doubt that it’s going to be anything insightful – it’ll likely be just the basics, so it might be cool for someone who doesn’t know SEO, but will likely be painfully obvious to anyone who knows how Google works.”

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

Conclusion

What this all means for Google and SEOs remains to be seen, but while it’s a feature that’s left many cold, I do believe it signals a seachange for Google’s relationship with SEOs.

Now almost slyly acknowledging the practice in a format accessible to all (who know to look for it, admittedly), Google might be warming to the good that most SEOs try to do in their work.

Agree? Disagree? Impatiently waiting to see this feature for yourself and just want to vent? May I cordially invite you to the comments below?

Google Now Shows ‘Ranking Factors Box’ in SERPs to Explain Results

Want to find out why your competitor’s page is No. 1 in Google organic SERPs? Well, now you can! (To the extent that Google is willing to tell you, anyway.)

That’s because Google yesterday announced a feature that shows a selection of reasons for ranking individual pages in SERPs, bringing some much-needed transparency to search.

via GIPHY

Source: Google

This feature is a section called ‘Your search & this result’ but it doesn’t have a catchy name yet, so we’re calling it the ‘Ranking Factors Box’, simply because, well, it’s a box that displays ranking factors!

The Ranking Factors Box is an extension of the ‘About this result’ box, which is accessible by clicking the ‘three vertical dots’ at the end of a search result and was originally launched back in February of this year.

Where is the Ranking Factors Box currently live?

According to Barry Schwartz’s excellent overview for Search Engine Land, the feature is currently live for around 10% of English-language queries in the USA, and Google aims to have it 100% live by next week for both mobile and desktop.

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Source: Google

When will the Ranking Factors Box be available outside of the US?

Google’s own page says:

“This expansion of About This Result is rolling out in English in the U.S. to start, and we look forward to bringing this and other related features to more people in the coming months.”

Google, ‘Learn more – and get more – from Search

However, after witnessing the glacial pace of other rollouts (I’m looking at you, Local Services Ads) some are understandably not holding their breath on playing with this feature any time soon.

Want to see this in action outside the US? If you can’t wait to find out why your page ranks, try out BrightLocal’s free Local Search Results Checker tool, which emulates a location to show results as if you were there!

What sort of information does the Ranking Factors Box show?

In the aforementioned Search Engine Land piece, Barry Schwartz discovered the following (non-exhaustive) list of factors as reasons for ranking a page:

  • Search terms that appear in the result
  • Search terms related to your search
  • Other websites with your search terms link to this result
  • This result has images related to your search
  • This result is [Language]
  • This result is relevant for searches in [region]

I’d encourage you to head over to his post for more detail on each of these.

How are SEOs reacting to the Ranking Factors Box?

It’s my tendency to catastrophize (I more charitably call it ‘black-sky thinking’), so my initial response to the announcement was to immediately decry the end of SEO as we know it.

via GIPHY

I figured that with potential SEO clients now being able to see why they rank, and getting keyword ideas from competitors right there in the SERP, smaller businesses would have much less need to invest in assistance with understanding their online visibility.

Luckily, I’m alone in my cries of “Ranknarok is here!” (hat tip to my colleague, Mark Crowe, for that one). Judging by the online response to the Search Engine Land piece, SEOs are split between being excited…

…justifiably cynical…

….or nonplussed.

Don’t let your hot take cool down: let us know what you think in the comments below!

What does this mean for SEO?

While I’m cautiously optimistic about the positives of such transparency, I personally share Mordy Oberstein’s concerns about a race to the bottom:

I’ve been in this business long enough—*strokes gray beard*—to know that your average SEO will do anything to make their job easier. (Understandably—it’s not an easy gig!)

My concern is that easy access to the keywords that Google itself says will lead to a top spot will just mean SEOs optimising for the same few terms and chasing the same links; potentially to the point that high-ranking websites are indistinguishable from one another.

However, this is precisely why having access to digital marketing tools like rank trackers, keyword research tools and the like could become, if anything, more important.

Free access to this information technically leads to all parties playing on a level playing field, and so it’s more critical than ever to one-up your competitors. And that’s true whether you’re an in-house marketer for a small business, or a nationwide digital marketing agency.

Besides, Google might be telling you which keywords are leading to a result, but it’s not telling you how to optimise for those keywords, how to structure your site’s architecture around them, or how to get those all-important links.

This is where creative SEOs, and the tools they use to get more insights than their competitors, can truly shine.

Will we develop new SEO practices thanks to this update? Probably not. None of the ranking factors uncovered so far are a surprise, but this does provide fantastic ammunition for anyone looking to prove the worth of optimization to their clients.

What does this mean for local SEO?

“Yadda yadda organic SERPs blah blah whatever…” I know, I know: you’re here to find out about how this impacts local search and your local business clients.

You’ll have noticed the ‘This result is relevant for searches in [region]’ ranking factor in the list above. This brings some confirmation that a result in organic is indeed a localised organic result, as the [region] in question will undoubtedly be based on the searcher’s location (implicit localized search) or geomodifiers in the search term used (explicit localized search).

If we’re talking purely about Google My Business rankings in the Local Finder and Google Maps, then no, this doesn’t really change anything. Google’s organic and local algorithms function separately, and this feature isn’t available in the Local Pack… yet (who knows?!)

As with anything Google, it’s always good to consider what even a small change might bring. Knowing that Google is starting to take transparency of search results seriously (perhaps at the behest of its army of lawyers, perhaps not), could mean that SERP transparency could be coming to the local pack?

After all, Google has already made a start on this by including ‘justifications’ in local SERPs, using info from everything from Google My Business Services, to customers reviews, to the content of the linked website, in order to show the searcher why it’s shared a particular local business.

What do local SEOs say about the Ranking Factors Box?

Whether or not this update was going to impact local search right away, I was still interested in the opinions of the local search community, and so reached out to some local SEO pros to get their takes.

Their responses range from interested and intrigued to the comparatively unruffled:

“It’s important to remember that most searchers won’t know this exists, and don’t really care about how things rank. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine thought Google ranked results alphabetically! So I think this is only really going to be of interest to SEOs. For SEOs, though, there is a lot they could do with this information: it’s great for looking at the competition in SERPs and seeing what you need in your content to compete, it highlights the importance of geo-focusing your content for local SEO, and can help with image optimization. It also proves, once and for all, that links do matter to Google. And we might finally be able to see why that terrible website ranks higher in the search results!”

Andy Simpson, Digital Law Marketing

“I think it’s interesting that Google is showing their cards by showing why a search result was ranked the way it was. I feel like they could be doing it for a couple of reasons: 1. It could be to give everyday users a better idea of the difference in ads and search results (although, people would have to know to click on the three dots and I doubt a lot of non-marketers will do that). 2. Maybe they are trying to help marketers a bit? Either way, I’ll be very curious to see if it sticks around.”

Niki Mosier, AgentSync

“As SEO’s, it seems to me that this feature has the potential to help provide additional insight when trying to reverse-engineer why a competitor is outranking you. I don’t think it would be wise to base a full strategy on the data, but at the very least it provides one more data point to consider, which is a good thing. Google’s never going to give us the inner workings of its mind, but when we take all the available information, we can make better decisions for ourselves and the businesses we work with.”

Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky

“I like that Google is doing this but I don’t think it changes our approach to SEO. I’m guessing someone is going to figure out a way to scrape this info and package it as some cool new tool to improve your rankings, but it’s really just ‘SEO with training wheels’, and the wheels are plastic.”

Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide

“At a high level, I doubt that it’s going to be anything insightful – it’ll likely be just the basics, so it might be cool for someone who doesn’t know SEO, but will likely be painfully obvious to anyone who knows how Google works.”

Greg Gifford, SearchLab

Conclusion

What this all means for Google and SEOs remains to be seen, but while it’s a feature that’s left many cold, I do believe it signals a seachange for Google’s relationship with SEOs.

Now almost slyly acknowledging the practice in a format accessible to all (who know to look for it, admittedly), Google might be warming to the good that most SEOs try to do in their work.

Agree? Disagree? Impatiently waiting to see this feature for yourself and just want to vent? May I cordially invite you to the comments below?

The post Google Now Shows ‘Ranking Factors Box’ in SERPs to Explain Results appeared first on BrightLocal.

What’s New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map!

In the months since we launched Local Search Grid, we’ve been hard at work adding new functionality and updates to make it the de facto geo grid of choice.

Alongside the usual, subtle quality-of-life updates you’re not supposed to notice, we’ve launched some big new features that take understanding and improving your local search performance to the next level.

Here’s why there’s never been a better time to put your rankings on the map!

New Key Metrics in Competitor Tables

One of the really neat things you can do with Local Search Grid is to track your competitors and find out why their Google My Business profiles might be winning in local SERPs. You can view the business category they’re using on GMB, see the number of reviews and their average review rating, and find out where you might have an angle to beat them.

We’ve since added two key on-site SEO metrics to this table, number of backlinks and website Domain Authority, so competitor espionage can uncover more routes to winning than ever before!

 

What's New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map! - 0

Links: This is the number of links we’ve found on the internet that direct to the business’s website. Comparing the number of links between competitors allows you to understand where you might be able to beat them in organic and local search by building links back to your site.

Authority: This number, out of 100, tells you how likely a business’s website is to rank in organic search, and is a good indicator of their overall SEO performance. If all of your competitors are beating you here, you might want to look at improving your website’s SEO.

SERP Screenshots

We’ve all been there: you’re talking about rankings and your local SEO client says “well, when I looked on Google…” With this update you can now roll your eyes back to the front of your head and calmly present your client with proof of the true picture of their rankings positions.

This much-sought-after update allows you to see what a Google Local Finder search looked like, in-browser, when our system performed it.

 

What's New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map! - 1

 

This will help you communicate rankings performance to skeptical clients and stakeholders by showing results in a format they’re familiar with. It also really helps inform and educate clients about local SEO!

Visit the FAQ to find out more.

Purchase Addons

Regularly running out of credits or tired of manually buying more?

Good news! We’ve added bundles of Local Search Grid credits to the Addons page, making it easy to customize the number of credits you get every month.

 

What's New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map! - 2

 

Note: only BrightLocal Account Owners can view and purchase Addons.

Archive Report Runs

There are many reasons why you might want to clear the decks in Local Search Grid. No longer have use for a report run but don’t want to delete it? Have a report run you’d rather not appear in your white-label report?

Well, now you can archive individual report runs with ease, and access your Report History at any time from within Local Search Grid.

 

What's New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map! - 3

 

​​Visit the FAQ to find out more.

Support for Enterprise Plans

Great news for agencies and brands managing 100+ locations: you can now set up custom plans for Local Search Grid credits!

This means no more repetitive manual purchasing of additional credits for businesses working at scale.

Speak with the Enterprise Team to get these set up in your custom plan, or read our launch article for more info.

Local Search Grid Module Added to Brightlocal Academy Course

Want to get the most out of Local Search Grid? We’ve added a module focused on doing just this to our Level Up Your Local SEO with BrightLocal course in BrightLocal Academy.

 

What's New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map! - 4

 

In it you’ll learn how to use Local Search Grid to get the clearest picture of local rankings, alongisde using the powerful competitor benchmarking features to reveal where you should be focusing your ongoing optimization efforts!

You can find out more and join BrightLocal Academy for free by following the relevant link below.

If you’re an existing BrightLocal Academy member, enroll on the course, or if you’ve enrolled already, jump straight in and complete the Local Search Grid module (you don’t have to worry about re-taking the final exam again!).

We hope you enjoy these improvements as we continue to make the most affordable geo grid on the market. Want a particular feature? Let us know in the comments below!

The post What’s New in Local Search Grid? More Reasons to Put Your Rankings on the Map! appeared first on BrightLocal.