Must-Do Tactics to Improve Your Local Search Rankings Part-2 with Darren Shaw

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In this episode, we bring you Part 2 of Joe’s interview with Whitespark founder Darren Shaw, in which he provides a wealth of information on the most effective ways to boost your local rankings.

Darren is a recognized authority on local search. Whitespark provides software and services to help businesses improve their local search rankings and conversions.

Topics Discussed

  • How reviews and reputation impact rankings
  • The 80/20 and Must do Tactics for Local SEO
  • Why uploading photos to your Google listing is important
  • Darren’s take on rank trackers
  • The safest bet to get links

People and Resources Mentioned

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Joe 0:51
Alright, so, when you think about reviews, how do you think reviews or reputation impacts the rankings inside of GMB and

Darren 0:59
it's a pretty big one, it's one is way up there for us. And so when we first launched our Google My Business Management Service, we didn't want to tie it to rankings because you kind of need to control the Website and Links to really have an impact on rankings. And so we didn't really advertise that his rankings. But the main thing that would impact rankings, if we're really talking about the Google profile is, of course, the categories because if they didn't have a category set, right, we'd have an impact there. But then reviews, so we really put everything into reviews and Hunter like we're seeing like 200% increases, massive, like 300 400%, increases in in the GMB insights data, like clicks through to your website, calls, all the all that goes through the roof when you really invest in reviews. And so it's, it's a really significant ranking factor.

And I saw something really cool recently. I don't know, if Joe Huggins is Lizzie, she may be mad at me for spilling the beans on this because it's coming up in her presentation. But it's actually really cool thresholds. There's like a thing that happens when you cross a threshold from nine reviews to 10 reviews, it's like you, you get this instant boost in rankings. And then it happens again, and 100. So once you kind of cross a threshold of 100, it's like another ranking booster. So you can think about that in terms of the algorithm and how that's actually baked into the algorithm. So, so being aware of those review thresholds, and the ranking boost that come with them is pretty interesting. So you should still go see Joyce Joyce presentation at local you Denver, which is coming up on in July, I think July 28. So she's gonna she's gonna give a great presentation on reviews and their impact on ranking.

Joe 2:43
Nice. Yeah, I mean, I love that. I've never heard any data quite like that. I think that's super interesting. Do you think that like the, the reviews, help drive rankings as well, because of, let's say the the click through rate manipulation almost in certain industries, right. You got, you got, you know, a three pack. And the reviews aren't great, right. But people are ranking. And then in the 10th spot, you got somebody with 105 star reviews, right? And they're real, right? And then you see people quite literally jumping to see more results seeking until they find somebody that stands out. What's your thoughts on like ranking factor, potentially, with like the click through rate manipulation, like real, not fake click through rate manipulation. But what's your thoughts?

Darren 3:36
It's a thing. It's definitely a thing. I've tested it. And I'm like, you know, I'm just kidding. Yeah, it's really cool. Because I actually tested this at a presentation I gave at Dallas state of search. And so we used a bot to do it. And what's the impact? And so we built a bot, that that rotated through IPS clicks on a listing using a headless browser. And every time it would click, it also took a screenshot of the ranking results, right. And so the amazing thing I was able to do, is over the course of a week of hitting it, I think we were hitting it like every half hour, like click, click, click from all these different things.

Or even like, I don't know, maybe we did like 10 clicks per hour or something. You could see by the screenshots, I took all the screenshots and I put them into an animated GIF of the page. You can see the rankings go like this climb up as the clicks came in. The cool thing about click through rate is that it's it's a temporary boost. So as soon as you stopped the clicks, the rankings dropped back down to their sort of natural position. But yes, click through rate is a factor. It's just a temporary factor. But to your point is if you're listing it you know, you got a bunch of low star reviews your ranking position seven people are 100% drawn to your listing and you will get more clicks and because of the boost that I just talked about apps Literally, it's a ranking booster, and you'll continue to get it naturally right rather than some kind of bots. So yes, 100%

Joe 5:06
Yeah, I have a client that has like, I don't know, 330 reviews and they're like, you know, four and a half stars, and their nearest competitor has like 60 reviews, right? And so like their ranking, like, without me doing, like any real SEO website, it's fine. But I've never really done anything intentionally besides just get them reviews. And, and they rank pretty well, because of it. They could be better. But they don't know. They got all the business. They need their roofing companies after 14 million last year, because of a moat. They built with reviews. So yeah,

Darren 5:43
if you just and so there is a click through rate thing, but I think that's actually a minor piece of it. I think that the the larger piece of it is that it's actually a ranking factor in the local algorithm. And quantity of reviews seems more important than rating. So just having the 300 versus 60. That's that's a huge signal for Google. And I do think it's all relative within your industry within your SERPs space, right? So, you know, you go to auto dealers or hotels, 300 reviews is incontinent, because everyone else has 10,000. So it's really it is it is that relational thing in the algorithm. And then a huge one is keywords in the review, I do believe that Google is parsing the content of reviews. And it's like, if your roofing company mentioned metal shingles or something like that, in most of the reviews, it's like that has a huge impact on your ability to rank for that specific term.

Joe 6:39
Yeah, you definitely see it coming up in the search that reviews mentioned, whatever keyword phrase that you play exactly,

Darren 6:43
you see it's called they're called place topics, they get those little pills above your reviews, those are a real good signal that you are driving good keywords in your reviews.

Joe 6:54
Cool. So we talked a lot about ranking factors with Google business with reviews with the listing itself. When it comes to other ranking factors. What do you think is like the, the 8020, so to speak, or the 64? For if you apply at 22? itself? Like what are the top big things that that you guys focus on or that you'd be focused on?

Darren 7:18
Yeah, there's, there's like a handful of real must do SEO tactics. And so primary category mentioned that one, additional categories, huge keywords, and business name, take your risk, if you want, then there's then I think, then you do Shift to website tactics and subtitle tags, getting keywords in the title tags, if you've got a client and their homepage, title tags as home, what that's like golden ticket, you're like, I can get you ranking tomorrow. Because you're, you're gonna finally optimize their homepage, Title Tag, content is a big one, right?

So you'll see a lot of brands that are bid small businesses that you know, they've got one services page, and the Services page has a bullet point of the different things that they do, you're never going to rank for that. And so building out service pages of content is a big, big one. And then this is a topic that I think a lot of people are missing these days internal linking, and I'm not like, okay, great, you've got a link to every page in your top level navigation or in your footer or whatever. Google does page segmentation. So those links are less valuable. You want links in content to all of the other key pages, you want to you want to boost the rankings for a page. For by next week, go through all of your existing pages and say, Where can I link to that page within the text content of these other pages? Because I heard recently that Google doesn't differentiate between an external and an internal link.

A link is a link this, the algorithm just looks at links between pages. And so that's a fascinating thing. When you think about it, you now have 50 links at your disposal. If you've got a web site with 50 pages on it, you can potentially drive 50 links to a page that you want to get ranking. Isn't that amazing? You will now have control of 50 links, and so on. Cyrus Shepard did a fantastic study recently where he did an analysis of internal links and he found that one of the biggest correlating factors with better rankings is variant anchor text of internal links. So and this actually is really interesting when you think about like a header or footer link, like in your navigation, every link has the same anchor text.

But if you now go through all your pages and in content you variated like you know one time you're let's say you're linking to your hot water tank installation page on a plumbing or HVAC site. So once on one page, you'd be like, you know, best hot water tanks you'll link to that page with that anchor text on another page a link to it with you know some variation like hot water tank installation, hot water tank service, you know, repair your hot water tech, you're gonna vary that anchor text throughout your website. So you Got these 50 links that you have at your control, and you're very manly protects. This is an untapped SEO opportunity for I think a lot of people. They're not thinking about that and not putting in the effort to do it. And it has a big impact on rank.

Joe 10:11
Definitely. I mean, you look at a lot of bloggers who do that like really well, right ranking really well. And I don't think like that strategy has transitioned to your local SEO, so to speak exactly how they do things. But yeah, they, you see lots of bloggers, or big sites out there. A lot of the big news sites as well, affiliate sites, like their internal linking structure is on point. And they need a lot less than Alex to rank. So yeah, that's super interesting. I like that.

Darren 10:40
Yeah. Another factor that is a kind of a big overlooked opportunity are photos. So uploading photos to your Google listing, forget about geotagging, but uploading the photos, is important. And actually the issue entering reason why you don't need to get geotech you don't need to add keywords to the EXIF data, whatever. Because Google using their vision AI technology, they actually can understand what's inside your photo. So if you upload a photo, let's say you're a dentist, you upload a photo of happy people smiling.

What does Google think that's a photo of Google thinks is a photocopied? Oops, does that gonna help you rank for dentists? No. So what you want to upload to your Google listing is dentists doing dentistry that now is kind of like a way of like keyword stuffing your photos without actually having the keywords and just the content of the photos. And you can test this yourself, you can go, you can just Google it, Google vision, AI, and then it has this thing called tribe tribe in API. And you can drag a photo in there, and Google will tell you what they think is the content of that photo. It's amazing. And so Joel Headley at our last Whitesburg local search summit gave a presentation where he showed it's almost the identical photo.

And so they took the photo, and Google identify the contents of that photo as man with glasses. Then they asked the guy to take the glasses as a dentist in the chair working on a patient right? Within dentistry, they said take your glasses off, and then they shifted the perspective a little bit. So you can see the patient a bit more. And they took another photo and upload it number one sort of hit on that photo was dentist. So people have no idea that Google is doing this. And so you can upload that one photo and think, Oh, great, I uploaded a photo of a dentist. But Google thinks that's a picture of a man with glasses. So by adjusting your photos by running them through the vision AI API, you can actually get a sense of what what does Google think this is a photo of and upload those photos to your Google listing. Massive untapped opportunity. Most people aren't thinking about that.

Joe 12:45
Wow. Yeah, that's crazy. That's an easy one to you know, go through all your clients images on their from their Google business profile. And you know what? Everything is?

Darren 12:55
Yeah. Yeah. And actually, there's a much simpler version of how do you execute on this, the simple version is you don't care, you're not going to run into vision AI, what you're going to do is Firehose photos into your Google listing, because some of them are going to be hit, right. And so people are not uploading photos to their Google profile. If you get onto a cycle, and you're uploading photos weekly. Call it today, just to put that on the on your process list. And make sure uploading photos regularly because every photo is it's almost like keyword stuffing your Google business profile.

Joe 13:32
That's beautiful. I feel like a lot of people out there are using rank trackers these days with like the geo grids. Oh, yeah. What's your what's your take on that being like in this space for so long? Obviously being relevant in an industry leader in local SEO, you guys have your own Rank Tracker? What's your take on? on that?

Darren 13:56
I love it was genius idea. Actually, we had the idea before local faulting came up, but then we never executed on it. And then local parking didn't like that. Dang it. That was the it's a really smart way to understand how you, you're you what is your ranking radius? You know, how far do you rank? And it sounds really smart. From a local SEO perspective. We don't have it, we don't have it our white spark we don't have the grid rank is on our roadmap, we'll eventually have it. But you know, lots of tools have it that the only trouble you run into is that it is an order of magnitude more expensive. Because imagine how Rank Tracker works like you put in Okay, I want to see how do I rank in this zip code for this keyword.

That's one crawl to Google. Now, if you run it through a Rick grid thing, you if you set a big grid instead of one, cause now 96 crawls because you got to do every single point, right. And so what I think people should do is have a regular Rank Tracker setup where you Track daily, because then you can actually see fluctuations. And you're tracking, I always recommend tracking from the zip code, and then set up the grid rank, like a local fault and type thing for a monthly a monthly recall. And then you're only paying for a once a month, rather than, like on a daily basis. And so that that way, you can do it.

And then again, like you're in a rank tracking application, you might track 500 keywords, and try to do 500, keywords, and Griggs is gonna be really damn expensive. So the thing that you want to do is, you know, take your like, top five keywords, put them on a rotating, you know, monthly grid, that's a really smart way of monitoring your rankings over time understanding fluctuations, identifying drops on your larger keyword list, but then still getting that like, are we expanding our radius? Because that's what those grid ranks will tell you. It'd be like, you know, before, you know, month one, this was your grid. And it's a beautiful deliverable for the client to write. It's like, month, why did you were here. Now after six months? Look what we've done? Yeah,

Joe 16:02
yeah. So I love the cadence that you gave thank you for that. That's like super helpful. Somebody can take that run that, you know, in terms of user Rank Tracker, like normal with this right with the zip code that they're in, to do it daily, and then monthly and kind of switch out the cadence for more keywords? Because, yeah, you're right. I mean, you got a five by five grid, a 10 by 10 grid and one keyword search term. I mean, you just start looking at like, how many credits that is, or you know, how many searches you're doing, and it gets really obnoxious really fast. So totally, back. So what's what do you think in your mind are the biggest ways to impact that that grid right, that prominence in getting the green across the five by five or the 10? By 10? Grid? What? What do you think are the biggest things there? I mean, is it just general? Is it general optimizations of the listing? What do you think are the things that help with the with the prominence in the grid?

Darren 16:59
Yeah, it's all the things I mentioned. But if you want your grid jump overnight, then it's the damn keywords and the business name. That's, that's the one for sure. Like, and whenever I see the grids, like people are like, the posted on the Facebook group, and they'll be like, Look at what I did. I'm like, Yeah, I know. It's just good job, man to give to get 10 seconds. So that that is the most impactful thing for rankings. And because usually the grids always just one keyword, right? So you put back keyword in the business name, and you can see that impact. And so how absolutely, that's that one button.

And then, you know, in general, how do you expand your radius, it's all the stuff we already talked about. It's your primary categories, your additional categories, your reviews, the website optimization stuff that we talked about. And then of course, driving links to your website, I didn't even get to that one, I got to photos, and then I forgot about links, but then, you know, to be competitive to take it to that next level, once you've kind of completed the foundational work, you can keep building links to your website for forever. And all of those links, it's like this other thing that sets you apart in the same way that you accumulate reviews. When your website accumulates links, it accumulates authority, and that's one of these differentiators that pushes you away from your competition. So it's just standard, all the standard local SEO strategies that you're probably all executing on anyways. Yeah.

Joe 18:17
I think it's funny, like if you compare, like traditional SEO to local SEO, right, and you use a tool like Ahrefs to look at backlinks and then like, they don't even show what's in the three pack. But if you actually like look at the sites in the three pack, and how they're ranking and you look at their domain rating or their domain authority, and you look at like, you know, what you would do to rank traditionally right, like how many good it content to your point, how many good in content backlinks do they have? And you will get the major markets, you know, personal injury attorney in Dallas, Personal Injury Attorney in Miami, and they got like 30 good links, right wanting links like right and by good links, in this example, Dr. 30 Plus or Dr. 40 Plus, I mean, SEO like it should be very easy to obtain that that quantity of of backlinks.

Darren 19:12
Well you say that but Link building is the worst damn thing any SEO has to do. It's not that easy for you. I hate link building. And so I understand the pain and all these agency owners are feeling when it comes to link building. And honestly, our shortcut is these guest post services. So it's like those in content links where they say mommy bloggers and the like, they sell a link for 50 to 100 bucks to the broker and then the broker charges us 200 bucks for it. That those are the links that you can use but you exhaust that strategy after you kind of get like 10 to 20 They seem to have a bit give you a boost but then they they kind of stop working. The other ones that are awesome are sponsorships. So local sponsorships are great.

And this is an interesting thing about local SEO link building is that Have, you might think I need a link from the New York Times or something like that, or, and these, like huge government or edu links or whatever those I think are potentially less valuable than a localized link. And that's where sponsorships can be quite beautiful because you've got a link from a relatively high domain authority within your city, like an organization, a homeless shelter, or something like that, that you are sponsoring, and you get a link from their website, it has that local relevance, and you can often sometimes manipulate the anchor text a little bit. So again, you want to anchor text variation, even if it's an external or internal link is a big factor. So, you know, vary the anchor text, and you can control that with sponsorship.

So you basically wherever you can trade money for links, that is your your, your safe bet, I won't like to call it buying links, but that's money. There we go. Yeah, it's the way to kind of get links. Another one that I love is actually going through your contact list on your phone. If with the business owner, so you sit down with me like alright, let's look at your let's look at your phone, contact us. Who has a website? We're like, oh, yeah, that guy. He's got his he's got because business owners, no other business owners. And then you can see that some of them might turn into pretty good link opportunities where like, I know that guy could just send him an email right now he'll put his link to us on his About Us page. Yeah, it was. I just had beers with him last week that do to link to you, he'll give you a link. So those are free links that you have waiting in your phone contact list.

Joe 21:30
Yeah, that's a that's a golden nugget right there. Man. That is a nugget. You know, there aren't many SEO agencies that I know, right, that are having that conversation with their client and getting links that way. So that's a that's a really good one. Thank

Darren 21:45
you. Yeah, no problem. I love that one. It's worked really well. For me. Actually, in the past, I sat down with a mortgage broker once. And he of course, who does he work with real estate agents. They all have frickin websites. So he was able to get like 10 good links from some of his very best real estate agent web partners.

Joe 22:00
Yeah, perfect. That's a great one. Well, thanks for showing us your nuggets. Yeah, no

Darren 22:05
problem. That sounds a bit a bit aren't you say that at the end of every podcast,

Joe 22:10
I try to do it occasionally. And it makes people really, really uncomfortable. And this has been, this has been really good. I really appreciate you coming on the show. I know we talked at the beginning about doing something special. For everybody that's listening. And wait, we might be able to hook them up a little bit. Can we talk about that real quick? Before we go into the last question? Yeah, super quick. Basically,

Darren 22:30
if you're interested in any of the white spark products or services that I mentioned earlier, thanks for asking me about that. Then you can find them at White And anyone on this listening to this podcast can get 15% off of our Rank Tracker, our listing service. If you wanted to white label our SEO services that are very reasonably priced, then I think the promo code I came up with was nuggets. So if you show us your nuggets, when you sign up, then you're gonna get 15%. Yeah, that's all

Joe 23:03
you got to do. Show me mine. I'll show you yours.

Darren 23:06
Actually. This sounds illegal at this point. But yes, yeah, tons

Joe 23:11
and tons of legal and we will leave this in, we won't edit it out. But definitely, I think there's lots of opportunities for everybody listening to this between all of your Tools Suite, between the citation finder, the citation services, your other SEO outsource services that you guys potentially white label, you know, we have lots of people always asking for those types of resources, your your rank tracker, so definitely guys, check them out.

Again, you'll use the coupon code or promo code nuggets, and in wrapping Darrin man, I appreciate you coming on and sharing with everybody. And in giving everybody so much value, instead of asking you to recommend three books, which I feel like every podcast does, I always ask like, what's the what's the one book right like if you just narrow it down? Like what's the one book you think had the biggest impact on the way you do business the way white Spark is ran your, your, your main philosophy, whatever it is, give me.

Darren 24:07
So this is really easy, because I've only read one business book in my entire life. It's atomic habits by James clear, love that book, it was really helpful, really taught me to the benefit of that consistency, just like you block off that hour in the morning that you're going to dedicate to this thing and you do it every day. And I'm not very good at it. But it did. It taught me that it wouldn't be valuable if I wasn't gonna I since it's the only business book I've ever read. That's That's my only recommendation.

Joe 24:36
I love it man, atomic habits. Great book. I'm curious, like what are some of the things that you try to that you try to incorporate in your habits and do more regularly and more often?

Darren 24:47
Well, it definitely makes me think a lot about my consistency in the gym. So I know like it's just such an obvious analogy that if you if you stop working out you're you lose what you've invested. If you continue working on it, it's like compound interest, right? So that makes perfect sense. And then the same thing. The same principle applies to everything in your dating life, right? So, like for me, I'm like, I want to get on this track of producing a video every every week or a video every day. And so atomic habits is always in the back of my mind. Like I just, I got to dedicate that hour that space. Another big one was actually the habit tracker. I use that for quite a bit after I read the book where I had this habit tracker was like, these are my main habits and you put things like floss your teeth on there. And then you get to check it off. And so when you get a streak, you don't want to break the streak.

Joe 25:33
Yeah, 100% I think tracking the streak and seeing it is that gamification is so vital. Yep, man, thank you so much. I really appreciate you guys coming on. If you guys are looking to connect with Darren or check out white spark definitely do we'll link them up in the show notes. Christian guys checking out another episode, and we'll see you next time.

Darren 25:53
Thanks, Darren. Thanks for having

Unknown Speaker 25:54

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