Interview with Andrew Shotland

Feb 4th

Today I get to interview one of my favorite reads in the SEO blogoshpere, Andrew Shotland. Andrew runs the Local SEO Guide blog and has graciously taken some of his time to share with us his thoughts on Local SEO.

1. You have an enjoyable, albeit unique, writing style. Lots of people write about things worth reading but much of what they write, or how the present it at least, makes it pretty forgettable. How much has your style helped you in acquiring and keeping visitors to your site, landing clients?

With the blog I just try to be myself and talk about what I think is interesting - and let's face it local search, while often interesting, is not always interesting - so if I need to talk about doing keyword research for personal hygiene products to get my point across, so be it. It's no different in how i interact with my clients. I think half the reason my business works is because maybe I know what I am doing and the other half is because I am totally myself with my clients/readers.

While I am serious about helping my clients succeed, I try not to be too serious about much else. I have a friend who ran a pretty cool web start-up. His wife was a phd focused on the palestinian situation in gaza. I remember her asking him when he was going to stop wasting his life and do something serious. That stuck with me. I used to think building companies was a meaningful way to spend your life, and I still do, but compared to trying to solve Middle East peace problems, SEO is not exactly ghandi-type work. So you better enjoy it.

2. In reading your Local Search Predictions for 2010, I found the point about Google not allowing "agency accounts" with respect to their Local Business Center pretty interesting. I imagine it would make it harder on small businesses, who likely don't have time to manage their entire marketing campaign, to do the proper things within the LBC to make it work for them, thus make them less loyal to Google.

Do you think they will eventually implement that? They do that on the Adwords side and you can give agencies access to Analytics so what is with their reluctance with LBC? Do they want to engage the business directly and cut out the middle-person?

I really think they need to do this. First off, let's face it, a huge number of businesses would rather have an agency deal with their LBC account. But agencies have to trick Google into getting control of their clients' LBC accounts. It's really just ridiculous.

Even worse is that there are so many businesses that have problems accessing their LBC accounts when they part ways with an agency. That's a big problem. So it would make a lot of people's lives much easier to have a system that solves these problems.

That said, Google's POV on this is quite interesting. Googlers that work on LBC will tell you that the reason why many businesses would prefer an agency to manage their LBC account is not because these businesses have better things to do than figure out how to use the LBC, but rather because the LBC software design is not optimal. So if they come up with a better software design, then more businesses will use the service and there won't be a need for agencies. I like the apollo-13/mcgyver-like thinking here, but i think that flies in the face of everything I've ever experienced with how SMB's operate.

So I am optimistic that we'll get some kind of agency user thing happening this year. But then again I thought health care reform would get passed in '09 so what do I know?

3. Some marketers entering the "local" scene have preconceived notions about local SEO/PPC not being worth the effort because "most small businesses are cheap, they don't want to listen, and there is no search volume anyway". How real are the concerns and was/is that something you've experienced?

A. There's a ton of local search volume and Google, for one, has made big efforts to drive more web search traffic to local businesses (e.g. the 10 pack).

B. A lot of small businesses are definitely gun-shy about spending $ on SEO and search in general, but they are not stupid. The past year was a real watershed moment in terms of the number of SMB's jumping on the SEO bandwagon. The number of companies selling these services has gone through the roof and there are plenty of success stories out there. So the questions from a lot of these SMB's has gone from "wtf is SEO?" to "I know i need to figure this out. How can you help me?" While it's still a tough pitch to get a lot of these smaller co's to make the investment, all I can say is that there are plenty who are willing to step up and these are the ones who get great results and then help bring their peers into the market.

4. You mentioned a lot of small business can be gun-shy from an investment standpoint. Is getting a commitment on the dollar amount you need to make the campaign work the biggest hurdle in dealing with local SEO clients? If not, what is?

In my experience it's not very hard to get money out of the clients who understand the value of SEO, or at least those who understand that they need to understand the value. If they don't get it, then they are probably not worth pursuing. In my experience, the biggest challenge with these guys, big or small, is getting them to work on their sites to make sure that they are set up to convert. I am constantly surprised at businesses that know how to put together a TV or print ad that is designed to drive people into the store but don't bother to apply the same rigor to setting up their web pages. This is a big reason why so many of us in the SMB marketing world use pages other than the client's website to drive leads.

5. There are lots of places to advertise a site outside of search from a local marketing standpoint. what is your opinion on twitter, Facebook, and/or MySpace for local companies? The buzz seems to be Facebook is great for local businesses and local events, Twitter can be hit or miss, and MySpace is ehhhh.

The consensus in my little corner of the search marketing world is that Facebook is the place to be these days. Lot's of cheap, highly qualified, easy-to-target traffic. I have found Twitter to be an interesting source of traffic, but you have to be pretty creative about it. You need to be a lot more socially engaged in Twitter to get a lot out of it. I think Twitter and Facebook are going to get a lot more locally-oriented over the next year so it should be fun to watch. Nothing against MySpace, but it's not really a factor in my work.

6. Have you experienced any discernible difference between using the free listings vs paid listings/premium services on some of the big IYP's you mentioned in your Top IYP's for SEO 2009 post like Citysearch, Yelp, etc?

one of the biggest opportunities for local businesses is to understand how to optimize not just for Google, yahoo & Bing, but also for the big IYP's the traffic that comes from these sites is uber-qualified and most of the time businesses that are advertising on these sites usually just set it and forget it. if you learn how to optimize your ad on say yellowpages.com, you can probably get just as much if not more business than from a well placed Google maps listing. for some of these sites there's no discernible benefit to having a paid v. free listing, but for a few of the biggies, the paid listings allow you to manipulate your listing so that you can better optimize for the site's internal search as well as for Google

7. What is the best way you find for targeting local keywords, since keyword tools aren't so good at it? Checking the popular variations of broader terms and tacking on local modifiers or just jumping right into Adwords upfront when you take on a client?

Adwords is really the best way to test if there is traffic for a locally modified keyword, but of course most SMB's would rather not spend the $ to figure that out. Most RBB's (Really Big Businesses) won't spend the bucks to figure this out either so why should the little guys be any different? That said, I have done enough of these projects for both big and small local search clients that I have a pretty good handle on what the queries are like for the big categories. And once you have done one in a market, the variation from market to market is usually not too big so you can kind of cookie cutter it a bit for those clients in new markets that don't want to invest the time/money to test. This will likely cover 90% of the good queries.

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Thanks a bunch Andrew, great stuff as usual. To read more about Andrew and get more great local SEO tips and techniques please visit and subscribe to his blog over at LocalSeoGuide.Com

Published: February 4, 2010

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Comments

February 5, 2010 - 1:27am

That is what you get from reading Andrews blog. He was the first and only "local guy" worth a regular read. My own work load prevents me from spending much time reading blogs on a regular basis. Thanks to Andrew I discovered there can be a successful career in local SEO.

Keep up the great work!

February 5, 2010 - 2:52am

Good read that definitely more or less sums up what I'm hearing out there in terms of how small businesses approach both search and web site conversion optimization. It's truly amazing.

But then again, a lot Fortune 1000 companies are making the same mistakes.

Just more proof that we are truly in the infancy stage of online marketing (I compare it to the Auto industry at the turn of the last century).

P.S. Thanks for the tip on the site, Aaron. Adding Andrew's blog to my Google Reader as we speak.

February 5, 2010 - 3:32am

Andrew makes a great comment about using adwords to target local search traffic. Just met with a client today who is buying customer leads from a website for $70 a pop that convert extremely poorly.

Fortunately he's smart enough to know that he should shift his budget to ad words.

February 5, 2010 - 7:54am

Aaron,

Almost all of site:www.localseoguide.com pages are NOT CACHED by Google. I can understand that CONTENT="NO-CACHE" may have been used, but I can't understand why?

Also if there is no copy of the pages in Google's database, how on earth the site is going to receive organic traffic?

Or does CONTENT="NO-CACHE" means just not to show the chached link in the results but keep the copy in the database anyways?

Final question - is CONTENT="NO-CACHE" of any help? If yes, why most webmasters dont use it?

Thanks.

February 5, 2010 - 3:36pm

Hey WebMarketingArt, I can't remember when I did it but I think I was curious to see if there would be any change in traffic if I No-Cached my pages - I don't think it made a difference. My blog is so slow these days I wouldn't blame anyone if they would rather read it via the cache so i may have to pull the tag until I fix the site performance.

No-Cache means don't keep a full copy of the page, but it does not mean don't index the page. It's a popular tag for publishers who think they are missing out on the few nutty people who read everything in Google's cache. It's what I would call a SEO cocktail party tag. Fun to talk about but not a huge amount of value for most publishers.

February 5, 2010 - 9:33pm

As written in 'feature #8' on the BigCommerce website here:http://www.bigcommerce.com/features.php

Just thought I'd share in case you hadn't caught it yet...

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