Behind the Scenes at Brighton SEO: Major Disruptions Afoot for Local Search, SEO and Content

BrightonSEO is a twice-yearly search marketing conference built around workshops and expert talks. This month, as with previous events, localisation, data and social were key themes. David Mihm from Moz (@davidmihm), and Vincent Coyle (@vincecoyle) from Zoopla were both delivering talks, and I caught up with them both to find out a little more.

  • Moz director, David Mihm, forecasts a major disruption in local search
  • David Mihm’s three steps to local business optimisation
  • Q&A with Vince Coyle, head of SEO at Zoopla

Diversify your local online presence to optimise your mobile power

David Mihm, MozBusinesses must diversify their local online presence, David Mihm Moz director of local search strategy believes as he forecasts that the rise of mobile will create fragmentation between mobile and local search within Google.

“Organic local search visibility within Google will decline as a result of mobile,” Mihm told Fresh Egg at BrightonSEO last week. “I think in all categories Google will lose traffic to apps. 90% of mobile time is spent in apps and there are a number of apps that are providing search results that are as good as Google’s.”

Mihm says he doesn’t believe Google’s organic local search would see a dramatic drop, but that it’s inevitable that the search engine giant will see a steady decline.

Mihm says Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook are all crucial for local search optimisation, not just because they are authoritative sites, but because of the power of the app.

It comes after Apple launched its latest iPhone update, iOS9, on 17 September 2015, which enables its Spotlight tool to search apps without the user needing to open them. This could mean that many users turn to Spotlight first for search, rather than opening Google in their browser. Meanwhile, voice-activated technology, such as Google’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo, could transform how we search in future.

“The concept of what is a search result is going to change, and even the concept of what is a search is going to change,” he adds. “Google drove so much traffic single-handedly in search that you didn’t need anything but Google. If you did a good job with a traditional SEO campaign you didn’t even need a Yelp profile. I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”

"90% of mobile time is spent in apps and there are a number of apps that are providing search results that are as good as Google’s"

UK businesses are up to four years behind our US counterparts when it comes to local search optimisation, Mihm explains, although he said it was not clear why this is. “It’s really surprising to see the number of companies of all sizes that haven’t taken care of their basics,” he adds.

Mihm believes this is most likely due to time pressure and a lack of knowhow. He says: “I can’t imagine being a business owner right now and trying to figure out Google and Pinterest, and Apple and LinkedIn and Instagram. [I’d be asking] what should I be doing and what should I be spending my time on?”

However, it isn’t just because businesses don’t understand local search. Mihm says that Google’s “complex and opaque” structure, when it comes to advertising, has put many off. Instead, many businesses are choosing to advertise on Facebook instead.

“Facebook is a lot more intuitive for business owners to understand,” Mihm adds.

“Google AdWords is way too complex, the automated solutions tend to bid on keywords that small businesses with limited budgets shouldn’t be bidding on; it takes way too long to set up an AdWords account, and there is a lack of education by Google to small business owners.”

But organic local search via Google is still hugely significant for businesses, although many are yet to really take advantage of the exposure they could receive. But through some very simple steps you could really set yourself apart from the rest of the online high street, and safeguard your business to make the most of the future of search.

Brighton Beach small iStock

David Mihm’s three steps to local business optimisation

Before I said goodbye to David, I asked him for any advice he could impart that might help local business ensure they have a solid foundation in place. He left me with the following tips:

1. Start with your website, the thing you control. If you are a small business with one location put your name, the name of your business, your address and your phone number on HTML on every page of your website. It helps Google to connect the dots from other sites on the web. If you’re a big brand you need a single authoritative page for each location that you operate that just has the name, address and phone number for that single location. It needs to be accessible to a Google crawler. If you have those pages but they’re in a JavaScript store locator, Google can’t discover them, so you need to ensure you have an HTML page for each location

2. Make sure NAP (name, address and phone number) is prevalent and consistent on other sites across the web, especially on local directories like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Scoot, TouchLocal and Thomson Local. Google expects to see a small business on these sites, and if your business is not there, then it may be considered a new business that isn’t yet trustworthy. If there is conflicting information across these sites, further distrust may ensue. If Google itself doesn’t trust the data, then why would it direct a user to a business?

3. Businesses should aim for a baseline layer of social proof, and by that I mean reviews. I think you should have at least five reviews on Google and at least five reviews on some other sites across the web, no matter how big your business is or what line of work it does. In the hotel and restaurant industry, you’d need hundreds of reviews for the social proof to carry any significant value and give your business a chance to compete

Q&A with Vince Coyle head of SEO at Zoopla

Vincle Coyle, ZooplaIn between rushing from one talk to the next, I caught up with Zoopla’s Vince Coyle for a quick chat about content and SEO.

TH> What is the biggest hurdle to getting buy-in for large scale SEO projects at Zoopla, and how do you overcome it?

VC> The biggest hurdle is calculating a return on investment. Search engines use complex algorithms, which means that pinpointing cause and effect is tough. In most cases, we can forecast a return based on correlations in data.

TH> SEO has changed considerably over the past few year, what do you think the future of SEO holds?

VC> I think areas such as artificial intelligence and voice search will improve a customer's experience of search and improve relevancy. We're only just at the beginning of SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile). I see lots of opportunity to better integrate online ecosystems into search preferences and vice versa. In organisations around the world, I think SEO teams will form closer relationships with Product teams in the future as the features, functionality and value a website delivers becomes more important than old fashioned SEO concepts such as anchor text ratios and PageRank. SEO will become more of a data science and less of an art form.

TH> What impact do you think the growing importance of content will have on SEO and content teams?

VC> In my opinion, content always has been and always will be king. However, it's essential to have a solid technical architecture to support the content. In the future, I see content teams as being much closer to the customer, heavily vertically integrated into areas such as customer service and feedback sessions, social monitoring and listening systems, and internal search engine data – really getting under the skin of customer needs.

TH> How important is content at Zoopla for your SEO?

VC> Content at Zoopla is key to delivering value to both our property searchers and estate agent members/partners. As property experts, we take pride in delivering the very latest property news and buying guides that our consumers need.

Read about what other speakers discussed with our blog post BrightonSEO: 7 Important Lessons That Got Fresh Egg Talking. Want to know more about any of these topics? Fresh Egg can help you and your business. Contact us today.