Greg Gifford will be speaking on Local Search at Engage which will take place March 7–8 in Portland Oregon. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click here.
1) Please give us your background and let us know what you do for a living.
I’ve been playing around online for almost 17 years now… I actually started as a Flash designer. I was a film major in college, and when Flash first came out, it just “clicked” with me because the timeline-based editing was incredibly similar to editing film. I made some (at the time) really badass sites that were like nothing else (of course now, looking back, they were incredibly garish and annoying). I started my own company making Flash sites and then rolled that into a larger company doing Flash sites and hosting with a few guys I knew.
We realized pretty quickly that the sites weren’t showing up in search engines, so we figured out a way to make them visible (not knowing that what we were doing was really nefarious cloaking stuff – so really, I started in SEO as a hardcore black hat). After a few years, things didn’t go so well with my partners, so I left. I ended up getting a job as a Flash designer for an automotive website company. I quickly rose through the ranks and was running their marketing department within 6 months. That’s when I got into more legitimate SEO.
A few years later, they decided to start selling SEO as a service. We interviewed lots of people, but no one had the knowledge level we wanted, so I decided to switch roles and run the SEO department. Local was just becoming a “thing”, and I immediately fell in love with it. That’s when I started speaking at automotive conferences, and a few years later, started speaking at SEO conferences.
Now, I’m the Vice President of Search for DealerOn, one of the biggest website providers for auto dealers in the US. I also speak at conferences all over the world teaching people the ins and outs of Local SEO.
2) David Mihm wrote (https://tidings.com/vault/2019-predictions.html) that Google My Business will become the starting point for SEO (for at least small businesses). What are your thoughts on his thoughts?
I agree with David – except I don’t think it’s a prediction, I think that day is already here. We’ve been telling dealers that their GMB profile is their new home page for quite a while now. Dealers used to get tons of traffic from people who simply wanted a phone number, wanted the address, or wanted to check out reviews or photos of the dealership. That’s all available in the GMB profile now. The dealership’s first impression with customers is that panel on the right of brand searches, so it’s absolutely imperative that dealers put their best foot forward.
Everything needs to be filled out completely. Great photos and videos need to be uploaded on a regular basis. Google Posts should be shared weekly, and Q&A should be monitored and even pre-populated with common questions.
GMB is hugely important – we’ve seen tons of instances where customers will ask questions in Q&A that could be EASILY answered on the site, yet users won’t go to the site to get the answer… They just submit a question and expect the dealership will answer. That’s an unmistakable sign that most users view the GMB profile as the definitive “answer set” for the business – not the website.
3) What are a few easy to do things that can make a local listing “pop” for a business?
Three things are of equal importance here: media, Posts, and Q&A. Sure, a great review score is important, but most businesses have been playing the review game for quite a while now, so that’s not really anything that’s going to set you apart from competitors. Uploading awesome photos and videos, and continuing to upload those photos and videos on a regular basis, will make a huge difference to both human users and Google. Remember, if people aren’t going to click through to your site as often, you need to be sure you’re showing them your business in your profile.
Q&A is another huge opportunity. The vast majority of business owners don’t know that Q&A even exists – we see tons of dealers who have multiple questions submitted, but no owner answers. And, for the small percentage of business owners who know about Q&A, only a small fraction know that they can load their own questions into the profile. We’re telling dealers that it’s like a pre-site FAQ page – every common question should be pre-loaded AND answered by the dealership. That way, potential customers can see the answer to the common questions before they even click through to the site (which makes it more likely that they WILL click through)
Finally, Posts are a huge opportunity that many businesses either don’t know about or have stopped using. At the end of last year, Google moved Posts to the bottom of the GMB profile – they used to show up right under the contact info, and now they’re at the bottom of the panel. Mot people gave up, since they saw engagement drop significantly. However, many Local SEO experts have seen visibility boosts for businesses who post on a regular basis. Posts still show at the top of the profile on mobile, and Android users have the option to follow businesses, which results in Posts being served front-and-center when users log into the Maps app. Even with the drop in engagement, it’s still a huge opportunity for conversions. If you’re sharing the right promotional posts and you’re getting a few conversions a month, it’s still worth the time to post.