It’s fairly common, for more volume-based and competitive business like plumbers and HVAC technicians, for a business to not have #1 rankings on Google. Does this mean that they aren’t generating leads and customers online? Of course not. We never recommend focusing on Google rankings to measure online lead generation efforts for any businesses.
For a local plumbing company that we started handling plumber SEO efforts for 3 months ago, they don’t currently “dominate” in the Google Local Snackpack, however their phone calls have gone up month after month for 2 different locations.
When we launched the client’s website, we focused on local SEO signals from the start.
What did we do to focus on improving their local SEO?
Optimized Google My Business profile by specifying operating hours, services, and adding additional photos.
Implemented advanced schema.org microformat data, including both business address NAP (name address and phone number).
Focused on improving how the client’s business information appeared on important third-party citation sites. This includes verifying that phone number is correct, suite number in address, business name is correct.
Built additional third-party citation sources, to prove to Google that the business is a legit, verified business that should be visible for local search users.
Focused on improving Google Pagespeed Insights score, especially for mobile. More people are using their mobile phones and searching for “plumbers near me” than ever before.
As a result, the client’s Google My Business phone calls (calls generated from Local Google results) have improved for both locations in the first few months.
This past October, the client’s existing location’s phone calls improved by over eighty percent:
While the client’s new location has improved month after month, generating more calls in October than ever before:
This is all while we have explained to the client that, according to traditional keyword ranking reports, they are not “dominating” the SERP’s or #1 in the Local Snackpack.
The client is a solo one-man truck, so competing with larger regional plumbing companies with larger marketing budgets will always be an uphill battle. However, with more people searching for plumbers near them on Google directly from their mobile phones, showing the client that it’s very possible for them to compete for market share without obtaining “top rankings” has been very effective.
Very seldom do keyword rankings tell the entire story. Will the client obtain better rankings as we continue to work on their project? Yes, very likely. However, we would never recommend judging a company’s online lead generation efforts based on keyword rankings. Instead, focus your time and attention on how to improve mobile experience, especially heading into 2020 where mobile will be more important than ever before.
Why Client Communication and Education Remains one of the Biggest Obstacles in SEO in 2020
During this year’s Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have been forced to review their marketing budgets and make some necessary adjustments. This includes trimming back on monthly expenses, and making decisions regarding what to continue to invest in from a marketing perspective.
As an SEO provider, trying to keep clients updated on everything that has been completed each month, and why those tasks and implementations are important, has always been one of the leading challenges. Communicating everything that has been completed, from analyzing data and competitors, to various on-page SEO implementations, can be an obstacle for two reasons: 1) it’s almost impossible to document everything that has been completed, and 2) explaining why those implementations and tasks were important almost always goes in one ear and out the other when you’re working with clients who don’t fully understand what SEO is.
What is SEO?
SEO isn’t focusing on 5-10 keywords, improving rankings, and calling it a month while your monthly client retainers come pouring in.
There are so many different aspects of SEO that most agencies have dedicated teams in place to manage multiple facets of such a complex marketing campaign. Just a few of these different aspects:
Local/Google My Business
As a small agency, we manage clients’ websites and their full-scale web marketing efforts. This includes website maintenance, hosting, on-page SEO, off-page SEO (link and citation building, inbound link profile optimization, etc.), content development, conversion optimization, local strategy, advanced SEO (schema.org implementation, load time optimization, etc.), the number of different factors related to managing a client’s website and SEO efforts can seemingly grow each day.
It’s difficult enough for SEO’s to continue to have a full grasp on all local and organic SEO ranking factors as Google continues to evolve. Trying to educate clients on SEO, which is inevitable whenever you give clients a break-down of tasks completed each month, can be one of the more stressful aspects of an SEO campaign. You can show clients how keyword rankings and organic traffic improves, but if they don’t understand what you’re doing each month, it leads to confusion and questions regarding the ROI of our SEO efforts.
It can be pretty frustrating to be honest. I have had clients stay with me for 8+ years. They gave me time to show them results, trusted the advice and information I gave them, and appreciated the organic growth that we have helped them to obtain. But for every client who wants to form a long-term strategic partnership, there are five clients who want immediate results because they see SEO as a short-term solution to “making the phone ring”. They want to know, in detail, what you’re working on every month, and when they don’t understand, you end up spending an abundance of time trying to educate them on SEO. This may not sound like a big deal, and you might be thinking to yourself “why wouldn’t you want your clients to know more about your service?”, but unfortunately sometimes it isn’t that simple.
If you’re working with a marketing manager or someone in-house who has some kind of understanding of websites, search engines, or technology in general, then your life will likely be a lot easier. But the majority of the time, especially in the legal field, you’re working with solo attorneys or managing partners who aren’t as knowledgeable. You end up spending the majority of your time and mental energy trying to combat negative and confusing issues, educating clients on SEO 101, and each month seemingly trying to justify your monthly SEO spend, all while trying to run an agency and manage other clients which can lead to “burnout”.
SEO Isn’t Traditional Marketing
Print advertising, social media marketing, radio and TV advertising, and other traditional advertising and marketing channels are nowhere near as complex as SEO.
Because in SEO you’re battling both your competitors and Google. You’re trying to prove to Google that your website and business are more trustworthy than your competitors. In traditional advertising, the amount of visibility your campaign receives is usually dependent on adspend and grassroots promotion. In SEO, you’re trying to improve your business’ visibility by doing more than your competitors, and staying up-to-date on the constantly evolving algorithm that is Google.
Even as an SEO consultant who has been doing this for 15 years, I am still sometimes left dumbfounded when a client’s search engine rankings suddenly drop off. These decreases could have been a result of:
Lost inbound links
New potentially negative inbound links
Inconsistent information in Local (phone number changed, location/proximity changed)
New duplicate content pages
Website load times (maybe a new script was installed on the site and the website loads 10 seconds slower)
Google algorithm update
Just to name a few. So in addition to managing clients and hoping to find a balance between clients who see the value, and clients who have questions every month and seemingly want to know how you’re spending your time, putting out fires and battling the constantly evolving algorithm that is Google and Google local has been one of the biggest obstacles over the last 15 years.
Do You Still Enjoy SEO?
I originally started doing SEO in 1998. I ran a website selling “designer” fabric….Gucci, Burberry, Fendi, etc. I sold it by the yard to car upholstery shops and clothing stores. And I put “designer” in quotations because it was all imported from China, and was far from authentic. That being said, I made this clear on the website.
I taught myself SEO from 1998-2001 as I obtained top rankings on Yahoo! and Altavista for keywords related to my website. These were in the golden days when link building was basically the Wild Wild West, meaning that anything went.
But it wasn’t “duping” search engines that got me excited about SEO. It was the opportunity. The fact that there were millions of people out there looking to access the “World Wide Web”, and search engines were almost certainly going to be their starting point for accessing the services, products, or information they were searching for.
Fast forward to 2020 and that excitement still remains. Google can be extremely stressful, just this past week they had a “glitch” in their search engine algorithm that led to extreme amounts of stress and anxiety. Their algorithm changes a few times each year, and with the number of people referring to themselves as “SEO experts” and marketing agencies offering SEO increasing 100x each month, it can be a very challenging profession to be in, especially during Covid-19.
However, the opportunity to help small businesses grow is something I’ll always be excited about. My parents were both small business owners. My father owned a commercial flooring company throughout my entire life, and I grew up understanding the value of networking and establishing relationships for a B2B business. My mother owned a small gym in our hometown of Clinton, MD and I learned early about grassroots marketing and lead generation for a small B2C local business. My brother and I used to help her design fliers and would go and put them on car windshields a few times a month. We would watch how different advertising and marketing campaigns (Pennysaver, local Church bulletins, shopping cart ads, etc.) provided an ROI. We learned the value of referrals and how providing a service to the local community that others see a value in would naturally help to grow the business, before the days of leaving a Google or Yelp review to improve online reputation management.
That desire to help businesses grow and improve their lead generation efforts is still there. There are just a lot more obstacles and daily issues.
Educating clients has always been one of the biggest issues when it comes to managing an SEO campaign, however in 2020 more businesses have been taken advantage of by promising immediate results, not doing what they promised, and setting false expectations. The solution to the problem is to find more clients who see the value in the service you provide, and being in a position where you can be more selective in the projects you work on. However, during Covid, there is a lot more of a challenge as marketing budgets are cut back.
One thing I learned from both of my parents’ entrepreneurial ventures growing up is that you’ll never keep everyone happy. All you can do is try your best, offer value, and hope others see that your time is worth investing in. Don’t undersell or try to compete by making your product or service less expensive. If a time consuming client needs to be let go, then it’s time for them to go. If a potential client only wants to try you out for 3 or 4 months to see how things go, your time and expertise aren’t being valued.
Only work with clients who see the value in the services you provide. It isn’t your job to play retention manager every month because the client’s in a bad mood, or doesn’t want to take the time to review the information you sent him or her.
You’re a service provider, not a teacher. Rely on third-party resources such as articles and blog posts written by industry experts when clients have questions. If you spend the majority of your mental energy answering basic questions and trying to convince your client every month why investing in SEO is a good idea, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle, and you’ll almost certainly eventually experience burnout.
“The customer is always right” was a phrase that started in the early 80’s. This is 2020, and while your customer service needs should always be focused on the customer, there are plenty of clients out there who won’t value your time or expertise.
If you don’t appreciate your own value, why would you expect clients to?
The Google Guaranteed badge was supposed to cost $50/month, but this appears (from what I’ve found thus far) to be in addition to what you would pay to be included in Google Service Ads, which requires lawyers and other types of small businesses to submit insurance information, State Bar Association information, agree to a background check, and set a monthly budget which appears to be far from inexpensive.
When we went through the preliminary budget for a criminal defense lawyers who is a client of ours, the weekly budget that we selected would generate an average of $25/lead, with personal injury lawyers and law firms in extremely competitive markets likely needing to pay more as time goes on. The $50/month to be included in Google Guaranteed is likely in addition to the monthly Google Screened and Local Service Ads weekly adspend, so be prepared to spend more than the advertised $50/month to be included.
How Do Attorneys Sign Up For Google Guaranteed?
We registered a domain which will redirect you to the page where you sign up for Google Service Ads and Google Guaranteed, the domain is:
We also recorded a video on how to sign up for Google Local Service Ads and Google Guaranteed.
Need Help Signing Up For Google Guaranteed?
If you need help with your lawyer SEO campaign or with signing up with Google Guaranteed, please fill out a contact form or call us at (410) 929-5610. We work with law firms across a wide variety of practice areas, and also work with non legal businesses in Maryland and surrounding areas. Our monthly SEO prices are competitive and we also offer hourly SEO consulting.
As SEO has continued to evolve over the years and consultants are looking for the next big focus or buzzwords, indexing continues to be one of the most overlooked factors as it relates to both organic AND local SEO.
When a new prospective client contacts us and asks for an SEO audit, it’s almost guaranteed that if I spend 10 minutes in the SERPs (search engine result pages) I’ll find at least a handful of pages indexed that shouldn’t be included.
This is especially true when it comes to WordPress websites. Tag and category pages, archive pages, individual media pages, and other types of pages that WordPress creates as part of their back end structure continue to cause indexing issues, with SEO consultants overlooking these basic factors while focusing on content, link building, and other advanced SEO methods.
How Do I Know Which Website Pages Are Indexed in Google?
There are a few ways to figure out which pages on your websites are currently being indexed by Google. The first would be to dig into the SERPs themselves, if you do a “site:https://www.yourwebsite.com” search in Google you can get an actual look at what pages are being indexed.
If you perform that search and the majority of pages indexed are tag or category pages, you may want to consider reviewing which pages on your site Google is presenting to search engine users. One thing to look out for are potential 404/not found pages, if you see URL’s which you don’t recognize, click through the results and be sure to implement a 301 redirect for any URL’s being shown in Google’s index which are either removed, or which you plan on removing following your inspection.
Another way to have a better understanding of which pages are being indexed is to look at Google Webmaster Console. Go to the “coverage” page and you’ll get a better idea of which pages Google considers valid, and which pages are currently being excluded.
While in Google Webmaster Console, you should also dive into the sitemaps that have been submitted to Google. If you’re using a WordPress website, I highly recommend clicking through your XML sitemap to get a better feel for which pages, posts, and custom post types are being indexed. You’d be shocked if you knew how many times a website is developed using a pre-developed WordPress theme and demo content, and once the website is launched the developer or their SEO consultants forgot to remove the initial demo content from the website or from Google’s index.
Can Indexing Make a Difference For Google Local/Snackpack Rankings?
Indexing is the first thing we focus on for new clients. Below are local search engine rankings for a new client we took on 3 months ago, we’ve been working on improving website load times and Google My Business optimization, but our main focus has been removing duplicate and thin content pages created as a result of tagging and categorizing blog posts over the years.
Local rankings before we started (April 2020):
Local rankings in July 2020 following sitemap review and content indexing audit:
Now again, indexing isn’t all that we worked on, but following our initial audit it was identified as a primary focus.
If you went through a list of Local SEO ranking factors, I doubt that “duplicate content” and “indexing” would be in the top factors to focus on in order to break into the coveted Google Local “snack pack”.
Here are a few resources that are generally accepted by the SEO community in terms of what local SEO factors you should focus on to improve local rankings:
Generally accepted for years as one of the top surveys among SEO industry experts, the primary methods that survey participants said you should focus on to improve local rankings are fairly predictable
Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 25.12%
On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 13.82%
Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 10.82%
Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 9.56%
Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 2.82%
A few mentions of indexing and cleaning up redirects, but I wouldn’t say that indexing was a primary focus as opposed to “well that’s a typical organic ranking factor, shouldn’t make much of a difference for local rankings.”
Once again, a respected SEO publication (and a vendor that we have used for years) but not many mentions of indexing or improving user experience by presenting more relevant, quality content in the SERPs.
Typical local factors such as “proximity” and “write more website content”, build citations, and traditional on-page factors such as page titles and meta descriptions.
Typical local SEO factors, but no mention of improving which pages are being presented to search engine users.
Prove to Google That You’re Making an Effort
By only focusing on local ranking factors that will hopefully skyrocket you into the top 3 of the Local Snackpack results, you’re ignoring one of the most important Google ranking factors of the last few years: improving user experience.
If Google sees that you have tag and category pages, media pages, outdated archive pages with broken links, and duplicate content pages in their index, you’re not improving user experience for their search engine users.
To continue to be thought of as the world’s best search engine, it’s their job to provide a product that users are confident in. If you’re not adding value to their search engine index you’re going to have a hard time breaking into the top local search engine results even if your business name in Google My Business has keywords and your office is in the middle of downtown. Take the time to get a better idea of which website pages are being indexed, make the necessary adjustments and take the time to make an effort to prove to Google that you’re presenting users with relevant and valuable information that users are searching for.
In 2020, we’re always looking for the new shiny red ball in the SEO industry. Recent news regarding featured snippets and links in PDFs being treated as nofollow links is all great. But sometimes. it seems like the industry as a whole is overlooking traditional and obvious ranking signals in favor of new and exciting methods and techniques.
NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency is one of those traditional ranking factors which I don’t think we pay enough attention to.
What is NAP Consistency?
NAP consistency refers to the name, address, and phone number of a business being consistent on a number of third-party citation websites. These citation sites are important sources of information that Google crawls for local business information as they attempt to determine the legitimacy and accuracy of a local business that their users are searching for.
If you have a business name, address, and phone number listed on your website, that same NAP should appear on your Google My Business profile, as well as on important third-party citation sites such as:
If you have a different phone number, or missing suite number, or missing “LLC” on a variety of citation sources, this could negatively affect both your local AND organic search engine rankings.
Does NAP Consistency Only Affect Local SEO Rankings?
So if you recently changed your business phone number, you can just wait a few months to update it everywhere because it won’t make a huge difference to actual organic rankings, right? It just affects local rankings?
While NAP consistency has almost always been referred to as a local ranking factor, there is quite a bit of data and client case studies that we’ve been working on over the past few months that might suggest otherwise.
Moz does a “Local Search Ranking Factors” study every 2 years, and in the 2018 version you can see that NAP consistency is listed as the 8th most important local factor, but the 24th most important organic ranking factor.
The majority of organic ranking factors that are listed in the study are related to links and domain authority, but not much importance is given to NAP consistency on citation sources for organic search rankings. I believe this has changed over the past year or so.
SEO evolves just like every other industry, but as SEO professionals we are always trying to make sure we stay ahead of the curve. We want to make sure we stay updated on BERT and A.I., but sometimes I believe that we lose track of the core focus of SEO.
Going back to 2005, search engine optimization (SEO) has always been about optimizing a website and doing more than your competitors. The early days of SEO were basically all about optimizing page titles, meta descriptions, alt image tags, and meta keyword data. But, as someone who has been doing this for a long time, I always thought during those early days: “what will happen in 5, 10, 15 years when everyone is able to easily update meta descriptions and page titles? What next?”
During these years, link building methods evolved. Free article and press release sites, directories, and blog commenting were easy ways to obtain Dofollow links in bulk, and from a wide variety of domains. But after the first Penguin update launched, it was the beginning of the end of bulk link building. In comes content as the main focus, along with citation building and mobile-friendliness.
As we continue to look for new and evolving ways to perform SEO on a website, it’s easy to lose focus of the main goal of SEO: to make sure your (or your client’s) website is more optimized than your (or your client’s) competitors, from an on-page and off-page perspective. In other words, make sure your (or your client’s) load times, mobile-friendliness, link profile, on-page optimization, content, and every other ranking factor is optimized better than your competitors.
Fast forward to 2020, and I do sincerely believe that NAP consistency is important for both local AND organic rankings, as Google continues to battle spam and filter out websites and local businesses which they see as less legitimate.
Why do I believe that NAP consistency is important for both local and organic rankings?
I have two recent client case studies that have inspired me to write this post.
The first is a personal injury law firm who recently added a second office location. This transition was a bit on the difficult side, but because they’re one of our longest and most favorite clients, we had no problem with assisting them with the transition.
The law firm was moving their previous office to a new city, with a new phone number. They then wanted to add a second location in the city they were currently located, in order to maintain their presence. The move involved two new addresses, and two new phone numbers.
Luckily, the client uses Yext, so we were easily able to add the new office location’s new name, address, and phone number to the majority of important third-party citation sources. Same goes for changing the address for the existing location in the city they were already located in, along with the new phone number.
However, fast forward to 2 weeks after rolling out a new phone number and we noticed a drop-off in both local and organic rankings. We identified a number of important citation sources where the phone number needed to be changed. BBB, Facebook, Youtube, Justia, LinkedIn, the list goes on.
We updated the phone number across the majority of citation sources last week, and after checking search engine ranking reports yesterday, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in ORGANIC search rankings. There were some improvements to local rankings, but the most noticeable difference came on the organic side for both of the client’s two office locations.
The second case study is actually our business office address. We moved a few months ago, updated the address on our Google My Business profile but didn’t spend much time updating the address on important third-party citation sites because we were spending the majority of time on client work. I decided last week to keep the old address listed and use it as a “by appointment only” address, updated the Google My Business address to our old location and noticed an immediate improvement in both local and organic rankings, but the most noticeable difference was definitely on the organic side. Organic traffic, rankings, and inquiries all improved.
So does Google only use NAP consistency when determining which websites or businesses to include in the local “Snack Pack”? In my opinion, no. While the case studies I presented are still on the early side, it’s always been theory of mine that Google uses NAP consistency as a ranking signal, and one that might be a lot more important than you think.
How do I check my NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency?
If you’d like to see how your business name, address, and phone number appears on third-party citation sites, here are a few ways to check:
If you’ve changed your business phone number, do a Google search for the old # to see what citation sources still list the old information.
WhiteSpark Citation Finder is a useful tool, it allows you to search for a business phone number or name to see which citation sources you’re listed on. We have been a long-time Whitespark user, if you’d like for us to run a check on your business simply email us and ask.
Request one of our free local SEO audits, which include important third-party citation data, along with consistency. We can check to see which citation sources you’re listed on, along with name, address, and phone number included in the listings. Simply request your free local SEO audit here.
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