Attention National Brands: Think Locally

A recent Search Engine Watch article by Brad Miller features six takeaways from a conversation with Moz.com CEO Rand Fishkin.

I’ve chosen to provide commentary on these six points below, as I think some are extremely relevant to SEO now and others are relevant to SEO’s future. I also believe that each has an important local element that doesn’t get discussed enough in SEO. It is my hope that I can add value to the conversation and spark further thought and debate on these important issues.

All search is local

The first takeaway, called Local Search for National Brands states:

Google’s contextual search results put a major emphasis on local listings. This can be a disadvantage to national brands who are trying to compete at the local level.

Because more and more queries are carrying local intent these days, plus the Google 7 pack, plus personalization, plus difference in keyphrase use (and importance) by metro area, brands need to segment their content creation strategies into regions. I found this to be a big shift in how internal (client side) SEO teams think.

Big content

The second takeaway, called Content Marketing: How to Stand Out quotes Rand as he refers to a post by Dr. Pete on Moz.com:

huge content … tends to outperform even the hundred little pieces of content you would have made with the same time, money, and energy

To me, this relates back to the previous point. Rather than create dozens of little pieces with wide appeal, use the same time, money and resources to create big pieces with focused appeal.

As marketers, the content we create competes with the hundreds of social media updates each member of our audience may be receiving daily. Only outstanding (big) content stands a chance of cutting through the noise.

Don’t give it away

The third takeaway, called Where Should Content Live states/asks:

There are now so many different places that you can publish content online. You have the choice of industry blogs, guest posts, social platforms, online publications, magazines, and even newspapers. How do you decide which outlet is best?

This is a no brainer. Publish (and market) great content on your website or blog. For brands, only in certain instances and as part of much larger, planned efforts is it OK to giveaway great content as a guest post.

Brands: where can you publish local content? Do you have local sections of your national site? Do you have regional advertisements? Why not have regional content?

Be likable

The fourth takeaway, called Getting Picked Up asks:

What if you have interest in your content reaching a broader audience? How can you help give your content more visibility or get content picked up through more popular publications and outlets?

Brad quotes Rand as answering “Number one is having a preexisting relationship …”.

Rand then goes on to mention blog commenting, social media following and conference mingling as good ways to start relationships. I don’t disagree, but I can say that all of this “I want to be your friend because you can do something for me” stuff is where influencer marketing breaks down.

My advice is start small – who do you know (as in, really know) that will help you because they like you. Then, build from there based on genuine relationships. If you don’t have those within your client’s niche, then provide consulting that can help your clients vouch for you personally (don’t expect your clients to ask for guest posts … that’s what they’ve hired you to do … simply go for the referral).

And, think locally! National brands like Walmart have a huge local presence in their headquartered town of Bentonville. If I was hired to do content marketing / building buzz for Walmart, I’d start in Bentonville where many influential people who have an interest in bettering the Walmart name live and, more likely than not, have influential contacts.

Social signals will become as important if not more important than links

The fifth takeaway, called Link Building vs. Social Signals asks:

It’s been long speculated that social signals are treated in a similar fashion to links, meaning they have an impact on rankings. There are studies abound that validate this correlation and even more controversy surrounding it. Will social signals ever become more important than links?

Rand answers “Probably no, but I think that social, branding, press and PR, and things like content marketing will all replace a lot of the purely link-fueled and link-focused outreach and link acquisition”.

While I agree with Rand’s opinion of why social (and branding, press and PR) is important, I predict we’ll see a paradigm shift as to how search engines rank and display content. This shift will move away from link metrics and towards social scoring.

And yes, I disagree with Rand’s take that social signals will (probably) not be as important as links.

It’s hard to argue this: people used to share content with links because that’s all they had – now people have a myriad of ways to share content and are more likely to choose the method that’s most relevant to their audience (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) and less likely to choose the method that’s relevant to Google (links).

I predict that who likes your content will become just as important as who links to it.

Are you ignoring regional markets with your content because you are a national brand? Chances are, you are missing an opportunity to create a strong local signal that search engines will soon be able to read and make local ranking decisions based upon.

Don’t forget about email marketing

The final takeaway, called Email Marketing and SEO states:

As a search marketing expert, have you given much thought to email? Probably not, but you should, according to Fishkin.

I’ve always told clients that the best traffic they’ll ever have is the traffic they have today. Brands tend to obsess over the amount of traffic they’re not getting from the keyphrases they are not ranking for rather than obsess over better ways to convert the traffic they already have.

Email marketing extends that reach to past customers who may not be on the site (or even searching for anything you sell) but have expressed real interest in your products and services. This is a crazy good referral source for both repeat business and the generation of social signals, as emails can be easily forwarded to friends and family and social links can easily be embedded in the email.

Additionally, email marketing is perfect for working the local angle. You probably know a good deal of your recipient’s IP addresses (at time of sign up) and zip code (at time of purchase). What are you doing to regionalize  your email blasts?

Get local or die trying

In my opinion, brands should be thinking locally (and socially) now or run the risk of thinking they should have thought this way 5 years from now.

Search is only going to get more personalized, not less.

Shifting your national focus to local focus now could be a major competitive advantage in your space.

Read the full article that this article comments on here.

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