MOZCON Local – Public Notes on the Best Local SEO Conference Ever!

Well, I’m just back from MOZCON local, which I have to say was the “best local SEO conference ever.” MOZCON Local SEO ConferenceI’ve gone to my share of conference on search engine optimization, AdWords, social media marketing, content marketing… and just marketing in general… and I always consider it an awesome conference if over half of the presentations are good. Let’s face it half the presenters are usually vacuous, often getting a gig at the conference because they work for some high-brand, big company and/or they’re some type of industry guru… and they are soooooo disappointing that you want to throw tomatoes at them. And then the other half are good and wonderful. Like Amy Porterfield, who I saw at Social Media Marketing Worlds, and is AMAZING – if you ever get the chance to see her, go.  She’s incredible…

But I digress.  So MOZCON local.  It was AWESOME.  FULL of meaty, useful information on local search engine optimization tips and tricks from real experts. The cognoscenti of local as it were. NOTE: I have embellished some of the content, so it’s not necessarily true that the person I am talking about actually said or indicated what I say they are talking about…  It’s just me talking folks!  So these are ROUGH NOTES.

Video on MozCon Local SEO

Links from MozCon Local SEO

Here are my rough notes, things I took away and want to play with…

  • Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark.  Darren shared with us their upcoming local ranking factors, which will have a new and improved format for 2016-2017.  You can see a sneak peak at their local SEO ranking factors, here. The take-aways… #1 links / local links matter a lot, more than you’d think, more than in years past. #2 reviews.  (here’s it’s a huge DUH.  Reviews matter!). Then #3 proximity of the searcher to the business (again sort of a duh). In my humble opinion, everything else is an after-thought. So your todos are #1 get links, #2 get reviews, #3 you can’t impact your proximity to the searcher, and #4 NAP consistency / citations.  YES get those, but the BIG ones in your industry are what matter, not that 64,000 NAP consistency also ran fourth-rate directories. Some talk about increasing importance of local links / relevant directory in your industry links.
    • Be Afraid of Google. Google is experimenting in markets like San Diego with 100% paid listings in the snack pack for plumbers, locksmiths, etc. The money-hungry YES WE ARE EVIL crowd at Google is eyeing the $$$$ in local and is keen to take that away from SEO. So be afraid, be very afraid of what Google might do in local vs. AdWords over time.
      • TODO: Keep an eye on Google My Business changes by logging in (periodically) to your GMB listing, and paying attention to the Google blogosphere.
    • Keyword in the Business Name. YES having the keyword in your business name / listing at Google My Business helps. A LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOTTTTTTT.  BUT….  over time, Google may crack down on this as SPAM (which it is)…  So who knows? If your business legitimately has a keyword in the name (Joe’s PLUMBER of Dallas), then you’re probably OK. If not, not. Who knows?
      • TODO if you’re listing a NEW business, consider a non-spammy inclusion of the keyword into your business name on GMB.
    • Behavioral Factors.  Google is snooooooppppppppppppingg into our lives like Snoop Dogg.  So buzzword: BEHAVIORAL FACTORS like how many clicks, how many clicks back, how many click backs, how many time on site, how long do people hang out at your restaurant, how much do they spend via credit cards (GOOGLE PAY), how long do they spend in the bathroom, who knows what Google knows they are evil and snooooppppp at everything, so behavioral factors are INCREASINGLY important to local SEO because GOOGLE KNOWS EVERYTHING about your website, your customers, time on site, and Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s relationship with the Russians.  GOOGLE IS GOD.  If you want to freak out, read this post on Tidings on Google Local SEO factors.
    • Cool resources from WhiteSpark – top local citation services by country, and by category.
      • TODOchoose the RIGHT categories, and don’t oversubscribe – “less is more”.
  • Link Brainstorming Panel.
    • Links matter for local SEO. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • Local links matter. Duuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • RELEVANT industry links matter Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        • TODO Get links, especially local / relevant links!
    • Mike Blumenthal’s local links blog, here. A guru of Local SEO.  Worth watching, read his blog; I don’t agree with everything he says… Some of it was a little too “pollyannaish” about Google like always play by their rules, etc., but reasonable people can disagree right?
    • Incredible list of local link-building ideas, here.
  • Mary Bowling – On Page Local Factors.
    • Her take emphasized the importance of local, relevant links over just crappy links. She also indicated (as did a few others) that they are skeptical that Google ignores NOFOLLOW links; emphasizing that if users actually READ a local blog, local directory then that is in itself relevant, and reading between the lines here… it’s not clear that NOFOLLOW is a 100% negative factor in the algorithm.  I have thought, for a long time, that Google does take into account NOFOLLOW links, perhaps deprecating their value like 95% or something like that.
    • Rich Snippets.  Mary pointed out how important having accurate data was for your local business, and here are some links on that., how to do SCHEMA markup for a local business, SEO structured data plugin (may not work with local), and here.
      • TODOrevisit incorporating / microdata on your website, especially around local issues such as open times, geographic locations, etc.
    • Other takeaways –
      • Add a Google maps link to ALL pages in the footer, or at least the contact page.
        • TODOadd a Google maps / find us / link at least on your contact page.
      • Add OUTBOUND links to key local resources – “be useful”
        • TODOadd outbound links to trusted local resources, such as the city government, parks, etc., where “relevant” for your users.
      • Add / get inbound links from trusted local blogs, directories, etc.
    • Think ANSWER BOXES.  Many of these are AWESOME opportunities for local SEO, such as ‘spot removal guide’ or ‘best restaurants in Bixby OK,” as we move to VOICE search, too.
  • Mike Blumenthal and Aaron Welche.
    • Your Google search is your NEW home page, as in Mecca Coffee Tulsa, OK. So think of how to optimize this branded / reputational search in addition to your “real” home page.
    • Ask for FEEDBACK (consider a FEEDBACK button) on your website from ALL customers… Use services like ReviewBuzz or Get Five Stars to pre-survey customers / net promoter score and all that… and then ask for reviews.
      • TODOadd a “leave feedback” button on your website and ASK for feedback.  This becomes an opportunity to then ask for a review.
  • Cindy Krum of Mobile Moxie. Mobile matters!  More and more and more and more and more…  Personally, I think the mobile-first stuff is a bit overrated, but IF you are a restaurant or that type of local business where it’s PHONE > Search > visit… then YES pay attention to mobile.  They have a wonderful emulator, here.
  • Paula Keller of Search Influence. She focused on content; it was more a “content marketing” presentation than a local presentation, but of course, content is more important than ever for everyone, not just local SEO’s. She did a deep dive into Search Terms > Proof Terms, and Relevant Terms, using an example of wedding bands (rings vs. musicians), and then semantics… IF they want the “band,” then terms like singers, party, rock, live become important vs. if they want the “ring” then terms like diamond, engagement, gold become important. Her methodology was to use ANCHOR TERM > PROOF TERMS > RELEVANT TERMS / very “semantic search” in her orientation, and wonderful food for thought on how to write better blog posts and/or long form content.
    • TODO write better content, and content that is a) useful for users, and b) is semantically relevant to Google (related words).
  • Panel on Local – Yelp, Google, and Bing.  Ok, so let’s first of all pretty much just throw out Bing… it’s not important, sorry.  Who cares about Bing in any meaningful sense.  I wish it weren’t so, but it is. So it’s Yelp vs. Google. The Yelp guy (Nate Evans) gave some good insights on voice search questions, how people are transitioning to YELP > best restaurants for Italian in SF > make a booking… so that pattern from SEARCH to ACTION occurring ALL / 100% on Yelp is something to think about.  Google of course has a complete trainwreck on its hands with Google My Business, but it’s trying as well.  I just think the reality on Google is that it’s used HEAVILY by real people to find stuff / local business BUT as a “social network” similar to Yelp it’s a failure.  I personally use YELP when I want to find good local businesses here in the SF Bay Area (e.g., plumbers, restaurants, roofers, coffee shops), but as an SEO, I realize that most people use Google.  Interestingly, reviews came up and the plethora of faked / low quality reviews on Google… general feeling was a) Google doesn’t care about them, and/or b) isn’t aware.  Yelp has a way better filter (which drives SMBs crazy), but the reality is that fake reviews are a huge problem everywhere, and Google isn’t in the same league as Yelp with its filter. Take away here: worry about “voice search,” and about the whole process occurring on Google or Yelp, from soup to nuts… AND get reviews!   There are some opportunities for “Voice search” / questions and answers on Yelp listings.
    • TODO – consider “answering” user questions on your website (for Google), and for Yelp on Yelp.  (Lots of talk about coming “voice search” opportunities).
  • Mike Blumenthal of Get Five Stars.  Are words the new links? His presentation explained that Google looks, increasingly (?), at review content, blog content, queries in addition to links to figure out how “relevant” your business is to get into the Snack Pack. So, if you are referenced, externally, for ‘best dive bars’ even if your website / listing does NOT have those keywords, you can show up in the Snack Pack.  Secondly, he pointed out that a client of his, Barbara Oliver Jewelry (G+, here) has had good success using Google+ collections and Google engagement to increase her rank on relevant Google search.  Google+ is dead / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is / no it’s not / yes it is /
    • TODO – revisit Google+, especially customer engagement on G+ and G+ collections. The king is dead! Long live the king!
  • Greg Gifford – slides are here. He “wrapped up” a lot of great ideas about Local SEO, plus WOWed the audience with the pop culture / 80s movie references. Many of the slides have awesome links to incredible videos, as well. A couple recommendations that were news to me. #1 embed a Google map on all pages (I had heard this before, but really failed to take it to heart)… #2  Tweet to Google My Business support, here. There was pretty universal condemnation of GMB’s phone support as being inadequate at best. Greg also pointed out you should “list your business where Google expects you to be listed,” which echoes other panelists who confirmed the importance of LOCAL / high value link-building for local SEO performance. Another interesting twist was that Google now looks at your business reviews not just on Google, but on Yelp, and on Facebook ( So Facebook is now “in the big three” and “back to the future” / Google is paying MORE attention to non-Google reviews than it has for a few years (as it did before GMB was very prominent)).
    • TODO – tweet to GMB if you have a serious issue, and b) pay attention to your non-Google reviews (e.g., Yelp, YellowPages).

That’s all folks!  What a FANTASTIC conference on local SEO issues!

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.