The Hidden World of Local SERP Features: In Search SEO Podcast


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The In Search SEO Podcast ‘Tip Share’ of the Week!

When it comes to getting the most out of your Google Posts, what’s important to think about?


Summary of Episode 23: The In Search SEO Podcast 

In Search SEO Banner 23

Joining us is Niki Mosier of SEER Interactive to get us caught up on the hidden world of local SERP features.

  • What to consider when creating Google Posts
  • What local features are we all forgetting about & how can you capitalize on them?
  • Where we stand in tracking local SERP feature progress

Plus, we take a hard look at how advantageous it is for multinational companies to focus on voice search. 

Should Multinational Brands Really Be Focused on Voice Search? [2:11 – 10:07]

Search Engine Land recently published an article citing an
Uberall study that shows but 4% of all businesses are ready for voice search. That’s pretty low! We could ask a heretical question such as, “Why in the world should businesses spend the time and money worrying about voice search at this point?!” Crazy question for we all
know voice search is bigger than John Lennon. Local businesses should definitely consider voice search (which by the way, is why the study predominantly focuses on local metrics for voice search readiness). We do, of course, know that there are more business types outside of local. Indeed the study mentions that enterprise companies are the least ready for voice search.

Let us pose a radical thought. These multinational companies are not dumb and if they’re not focusing on voice search it’s because it would not be efficient and purposeful at this point.

Heretical… perhaps, but let’s explore this idea.

Why would a company not think voice search is important? Maybe because outside of local, which again, we think is super relevant to voice search… voice search is a novelty.

Just think of it. Do we really need a $75 device to tell us what the weather is outside?

Voice devices, voice search, and responses, as it exists now outside of local, are a novelty. It’s no wonder voice search is off the radar of big-time companies!

Google backs us up on this. For example, the search engine pushed to have news publishers optimize their content for voice search. It created a great new way to act as an interpreter via Google Hub. It even partnered with Walmart (did you know that?) to offer a shopping experience.

We could go on and on. The reason why Google is doing all of these things is not that it wants to “be better and offer more.” Rather, we believe it’s because Google knows it has to offer something deeper than just the weather. It has to become integrated into your life. You need to need it. You need to be able to shop with voice devices. You need to be able to get deep answers, deep content, deep exploration. You need to be able to follow a recipe step by step with your Google Hub. You need to be able to turn the lights on and off, and so on and so forth.

Whatever it is, so long as Google’s voice devices offer a deep level of engagement and personal integration! Only then do these devices become a need and not a novelty.

By the way, we think this is why Google will win this war over Amazon. Amazon figures they have the “need niche” down via the shopping experience. Google is forced to look beyond the shopping experience (and to it as well). This will ultimately form a more profound product for Google.

In terms of the here and now… If we were a big brand we’d much sooner focus on audio content. We think big things are coming for audio on the SERP. With Google auto transcribing content we think this is the next undiscovered country. But that’s just us…

What Are You Overlooking When Optimizing Your Business Listing?: A Conversation with Niki Mosier [10:28 – 34:45]

[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Today we have Niki Mosier on the podcast. She is a Technical SEO Manager at Seer Interactive and a former Sr. SEO Manager at Two Octobers. Welcome to the show!

By the way, I did not forget you’re a Packers fan! As a fan of a team who is also draining a ton of their talent and who also employs a Hall of Fame quarterback who’s a bit of… well, a bit of a brat… I feel you’re a kindred spirit… despite
ya’ll beating us in Super Bowl 45…

Niki: Yeah, well, I also learned last night that Rand Fishkin is also a Packer fan.

M: Really? And I really held him in high esteem. Well, we’re not here to talk Steelers football… as tempting as that is… actually, it’s not… it’s been pretty frustrating lately… so let’s move on to local SEO!

There’s a lot of talk about Google Posts… and I’m guilty of this myself… we talk the feature up but then don’t offer much by way of tips. Which is why I’m so glad you’re here. What are some concrete things businesses should be doing when creating Google Posts?

N: The number one thing is consistency. What a lot of people may not know is that they disappear after 7 days within the Knowledge Panel. They still exist but you have to click deeper to get to them. So we suggest to our clients that every 7 days to put up a post whether being a blog post, or an event, or something going on so no matter when they’re looking at your listing they will see that post.

Especially now with posts being moved down in the Knowledge Panel. I just noticed now that on mobile that posts are showing on that scrolling menu at the top of the listing. So it is getting a little more visibility, but yeah, consistency is key. You want your posts to be promotional.

You want people to click on them, engage with them. Obviously, Google hasn’t said they’re a ranking factor, but like with anything else like search engine results and clickthrough rate, if people are engaging with those and clicking to your website then it can’t hurt.

Another thing to think about is the clickthrough rate. Look at your AdWord copy. If you’re doing both Google Ads and Google Posts then play around with it and see what kind of impact you’ll get. That’s really the best advice I can give. Just test things out and see what happens.

M: That’s some good advice! I saw on mobile that Google Posts moved up, but weren’t desktop Google Posts always on the bottom?

N: Yes, they were a little further on desktop but then they pushed them down again.

M: What’s really great about Posts is that it’s one of the only places on the SERP where you can add your own content onto the SERP. I mean, once your brand is showing in the Knowledge Panel, your brand is there, your information is there, and now your content is also there which is great for brand awareness. Even if no one clicks it’s a great way to show you’re alive on the SERP.

Let’s go in the opposite direction by discussing a feature that no one seems to talk about… the Q&A feature in the Local Panel. For the audience, if you don’t know what it is, it’s a way to create an FAQ on the SERP for your business. Strategically, what should brands do here with this feature (outside of just asking some of the most basic questions related to the business)?

N: Yeah, it’s actually something I try to get my clients to use more. We have a Google Form that we sent to our clients asking what are the top questions they get asked on the phone or when customers walk through the door and then we’re populating that for clients.

I think that’s the biggest mystery for people – that you can go in as a business owner and actually populate both the question and the answer yourself.

And the voting thumbs up icon you can do yourself and you can get your friends to help too. Just be strategic about it because the three questions that have the most thumbs up will be displayed in the Knowledge Panel without having to click through to all of the questions. Think about what you want your customers to see from that Knowledge Panel about your business and then be that yourself. Google hasn’t taken this away from us yet so take advantage of it.

M: Wow, I did not know that. Besides from answering the top questions that people ask are there any specific questions that you try to get in there?

N: I think there’s value in matching it up with questions on the Q&A page on your website. Q&A pages are tricky though in figuring out the nuances of configuring Q&A schema, but having that consistency I believe is worth it and very beneficial.

Another point on Q&A pages: they can be a very good lead generation source. If someone is asking if your business offers X service then they probably are interested in getting that service. It’s important to keep an eye on it. I know a review generation platform, GatherUp, that has a package that includes Q&A monitoring where you can be notified when someone asks a question.

M: Many businesses list a lot of different “departments” within their business listing. For example, I was looking at a local listing for the Home Depot store in Baltimore that I used to frequent back when I lived there and they had about a dozen different departments listed, each being a link to another Google SERP where a Local Panel for that department appears. What’s the value in optimizing your listing as such? Is this really something that businesses overlook or is it a non-issue and if you list a lot of departments great… if not… not?

N: So I think in a situation like Home Depot or Lowe’s where they have a ton of locations I don’t think it hurts to have that information in the Knowledge Panel so if you wanted to call the Flooring department immediately and didn’t want to sit through all the prompts on the phone then that would be beneficial. So if Google has that feature then take advantage of it if it makes sense for your business. Obviously, do not create fake departments for your business.

M: Can you share another element within Google’s local SERP features that businesses fail to capitalize on? For example, one that stands out to me is events. Department stores like Macy’s do a great job here: if they have a makeup artist coming in they list it as an event or if they’re having a cologne sampling they are listed as events.

Because there are so many different elements within the local features what are businesses missing the boat on?

N: Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head with events. I and some other people on Twitter had trouble with events getting to populate with event schema just because there are so many nuances to it. I’m definitely finding that things like Eventbrite and MeetUp are pulling into the listing pretty automatically which is nice. And there’s been a recent post on Search Engine Land that anyone can post an event to a Google My Business listing from the Contributor Dashboard (Android only) and that’s a little scary.

Videos are definitely underused in Google My Business and Google loves videos being displayed in the SERP especially videos from YouTube showing up in the search results. Putting video on your Google My Business Listing is a great way to give users a full idea of what they’re going to experience when they walk through your door so it’s a great win-win.

And the Products and Services Menu I think that’s pretty underused. Companies like Home Depot and REI do a really great job of adding in their product feed which I believe can come in through the API and pull in their products into the Google My Business listing on mobile. But looking at Home Service businesses and I think there’s a real opportunity to get more of that information out in front of users. Obviously, restaurants do a good job having their menu In the listing, but for service
menus I feel there’s an opportunity to utilize it more fully.

M: Yeah and it is pretty surprising how not enough people take advantage of these tools. Do you think it’s because people just don’t know or it’s just tricky? People are doing SEO for these sites so it can’t be because of total ignorance.

N: Yeah, I think it’s because people don’t spend enough time on the SERP. I can say even for myself that I’m guilty of that both with the clients I work with and in general, you can be so much in the zone of working on things like the backend or coding and then not realize that you have control over some of these features. So just spending some time in the SERP is important in all aspects.

M: That’s interesting because Google has reasons for all of these features. For example, and this is my speculation, the reason why there are so many product offerings and ways that you can push your product in the local features is that it’s a great opportunity for Google to build that association that it, and not Amazon, is a place where you can learn about, find, and buy products. You would think Google would want everyone to know about these features but it doesn’t seem as though that’s the case.

N: Yeah, they definitely seem to be contradicting themselves there.

M: Let’s talk about tracking your progress in these areas. Obviously, judging the impact of how well you’ve gone about capitalizing on the Q&A element in the Local Panel might entail getting a bit “creative”- that said, what can you do to monitor your progress so you can either adjust or replicate it? Of course, now you can no longer use UTM codes to track GMB data within
Search Console. Can you explain to our audience what happened to those who don’t know and maybe offer some tips?

N: Yeah, so in early February, Google announced they will be changing how the Search Console Performance Report counts metrics so instead of looking at the exact URLs they will be transitioning to the canonical URL. This is a definite challenge when putting UTM codes on specific URLs when it’s going to go to the canonical version. One way to get around this is to track those UTM codes in Google Analytics instead of Search Console. I know there’s a controversy on to which one has more accurate data, but that is one way how to get access to that data.

There is also post metrics. If you’re doing the Google My Business posts you can keep an eye on those as well by putting UTM codes and campaign codes on all Google My Business posts and tracking those metrics on Analytics to get those insights as well.

M: I wanted to ask you earlier and I forgot. With Google Posts there’s this story format. I’ve seen the NHL use this. New York City is the only city I’ve found that uses Google Posts and they use the Story format. It’s like an AMP Story but within Google Posts. You have to have special access to that correct?

N: Yeah, I haven’t seen that outside New York City either. I think it’s some sort of special localized feature. I know there are more options for that type of content as that is content that Google wants to see so I think they’re trying to roll that out on a case by case basis.

M: I would imagine it should come out full force. Why do you think Google will roll out these cool and engaging features where it tests the feature with some people only for it to fall on its face because there was no real roll-out (at least not right away)?

N: Right and I’m wondering if it has something to with why aren’t Google Posts being monetized like Google Ads and if there’s a connection to the NHL spending money on Google Ads to it having this special feature.

M: With Google Posts, why do you think they rolled them out? Do you think it’s just to get a social media foothold or it goes beyond that?

N: Well, they kind of rolled it out around the same time they got rid of the G+ listings. It may have been connected to that. And it gave another way for businesses to promote themselves more. It gives Google an opportunity to perhaps monetize it just like Boosted Facebook ads. I’m assuming there is some sort of grand plan there.

M: And it does keep the user in the Google universe.

N: Yeah, this has been talked about a lot in the local community lately with Google making the Google My Business page take the place of the website. Now the user doesn’t have to go to the actual website to get the information they’re looking for.

M: Right because I understand why Google would at times want to put on the SERP a Featured Snippet, a Direct Answer, a Local Pack, or even a Local Panel. But why does Google want to keep the user off a site?

N: Well, if I was Google and I could keep someone in a search result enough that they will find a little bit of what they’re looking for and from there go to another search result.

M: And it definitely creates the association of Google as the source of all things, information content, and immediate gratification.

Optimize It or Disavow It

M: If you could choose one… if you could focus on just one… would you create Google Posts or set up your own Q&A within the Local Panel.

N: That’s a tough question. I think I’ll stick to Google Posts. I think they have a lot of value. You have all the different options: you have the event posts, the product posts, etc. There’s a little more value with Google Posts just in the many ways people can interact with them. And with the Q&A they might read it, but not necessarily react to it, but with Google
Posts you have products listed and coupons they can use to buy a product.

M: Niki, thank you so much for coming on the show!

N: Thanks for having me, Mordy.

SEO News [36:20 – 38:53]

Google Indexing Bug Cleaned Up: The bug that caused a substantial number of pages to be deindexed has been mostly resolved according to Google. Although, even after Google made the announcement we did hear a few people on Twitter say that their pages are still not back. By now, however, it seems all is in order (outside of some gaps in Search Console data).

Google Assistant Gets Ads: The new design of Google Assistant results also includes ads! These
are not voice ads, rather, of course, they are Google search ads.

New Look For GMB: Google tested a more icon oriented Google My Business Dashboard. The test was not widespread, but keep your eyes open for it!

Two Thumbs Up for Music Reviews: As reported by SERoundtable and as found by Mordy, Google has added audience reviews for music. Previously, the element showed for TV and movie content only.

Big News for AMP: The AMP Project announced that it will soon support Javascript.

Fun SEO Send-Off [38:53 – 42:42]

If Google were a person, what would it search for on its Google Home or Google Hub device? 

Kim thought Google would ask, “What am I doing today?” because Google would already be accustomed to not remembering anything on its own (much the way we no longer remember anyone’s phone number).

Mordy answered with, “How do I rank on Google?” That
is, since we’re breaking the fourth wall as it is, Google would ask how it would rank on itself!

Thank you for joining us and be sure to check out the next episode on The In Search SEO Podcast on April 30th!

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!

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