We were lucky to join hundreds of marketers in our own backyard, at beautiful Paradise Point, for San Diego SearchLove. The two-day conference is packed with search strategies, analytics, content creation, and more.

While the conference is predominantly search-focused, speakers present on a wealth of online marketing topics, from content marketing and advertising to search UX and chat app marketing. We had the opportunity to engage with well-known industry influencers like Wil Reynolds (Seer Interactive), Larry Kim (Wordstream), Purna Virji (Microsoft) and Greg Gifford (DealerOn), as well as agency and in-house digital marketers from across the United States and parts of Europe.

Here’s the latest local buzz in the search industry:

 

  1. Chat App Marketing is the “New Internet”

Jes Stiles and Purna Virji discussed the evolution of chat app marketing and how brands can leverage their reach. From WhatsApp and Kik to apps like Viber, Line, Facebook Messenger and the China-specific WeChat, the technology is growing and has become an integral player in the social media marketing space.

Brands can not only use chat apps for customer service, but for lead generation, event promotion, storytelling and content promotion, as well. Here’s how your brand can get involved:

  • Do your research and find the best app to suit your business needs
  • Ensure your platform has scope–customers don’t care about your resource restraints
  • Know and understand your user journey (anticipate what they want)
  • Build your following using social media, public relations, online ads, blogs and email
  • Measure success and failure–this can be done using UTM tagging in Google Analytics

Takeaway: It’s important to start embracing this “new internet”, in fact 85% of customer relationships will be managed without human interaction by 2020.  As Microsoft’s Senior Bing Ads PPC Manager Purna Virji pointed out, technology is changing the way we buy. We can also expect to see growth in digital personal assistant use, with up to 5 billion digital personal assistants in use by 2021, 4 billion of which will be mobile-based.

  1. Humanize the Search Query

Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive gave an outstanding presentation called  Intonation Matters: A New Approach in Search UX. Some key takeaways:

  • A search starts with a thought. User intent is what matters in 2017.  
  • Emotions overrule logic, every time.
  • Understanding the tone, relationship and context of your searchers’ queries is key.
  • It’s not about keywords. Many titles and descriptions for the best results don’t explicitly mention the query keyword, as Google is trying to answer a need, not match keywords.
  • People would rather feel that they’re learning than being sold to.

Bottom line, digital marketers need to pay more attention to how they label online properties. SEOs need to leverage how user-facing SERP results impact the user’s intention, and adjust accordingly.  

One excellent resource for understanding user intent is Google’s autofill tool, which offers insight into the feeling and thought behind a searcher’s query. Use it in tandem with the AdWords Keyword Planner when developing SEO strategies, and especially for content development. Take this search for “used cars in San Diego”:  

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A user car dealership could develop sectional on-page content for used cars in different pricing categories. This would help match user’s intent while looking for these categories.

Takeaway: If your brand name is a strong one, make sure you’re leveraging everything you can to entice those clicks. If your brand is unknown, work harder to do some storytelling and capture the attention of your audience.

  1. Local SEO is the New World Domination

Greg Gifford helped us understand local through over one hundred comical movie references and Dr. Evil’s Guide to Utter World Domination Through Local Seo.

Here are some highlights from his presentation:  

Possum Update Insights

  • Duplicate Google My Business (GMB) listings are now more harmful for local SEO rankings.  Local SEOs need to be more aware of this than ever before.  

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  • Third-party reviews are now more important. Reviews on websites like Yelp can impact local rankings in Google.  
  • Consider using local content silos to achieve greater reach for external geographical areas.  This can be utilized to target cities/metros when you are a business that has no physical locations.
  • User proximity is more important than ever. Google will now show unclaimed listings (with no website) to users who are in close proximity to a certain business.
  • Also, Google will treat implicit vs. explicit local search queries differently.  So, for example, Google will show different results for “San Diego used cars” vs. the general query “used cars” when a person is searching in San Diego.

 Results for “San Diego Used Cars”

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Results for “used cars” while doing a search from a San Diego IP address

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Link Signals

  • Link Authority for SEO is still weighted very heavily in the search engine ranking algorithm.
  • Domain authority, trust authority, follow/nofollow links don’t matter as much as relevancy. It’s more important to utilize relationships a website already has to develop backlinks.
  • Recommendations to obtain backlinks: sponsorships for local groups/events, volunteer opportunities, offline groups or meetups, neighborhood watch groups. Here is a full write-up about local link ideas.

GMB Signals

  • The weight of GMB signals is expected to be lower in 2017 because the user experience has changed.
  • It is imperative to claim a GMB location (your local listings team is probably saying, “duh”).
  • You must use a local phone number, and make sure it matches the number on your site (1-800 tracking numbers are counterproductive for SEO).
  • Be careful with category dilution.  Choose fewer, more exact category matches and don’t spread your listing thin over multiple categories.
  • If you’re having trouble claiming a listing, you can tweet Google (response time is usually 15-20 mins) at @googlemybiz.

Citation Signals

  • For most businesses, citations are simply the ante that lets you play at the big boy table.
  • In competitive markets, sometimes citations can help your listing get over the hump.
  • Your business needs to be where Google expects it to be.
  • Inconsistent/duplicate citation info sends a bad signal to Google.

The digital SEO landscape is always going to be in flux as local businesses compete for visibility and as Google continually strives to deliver the most relevant results for the end user.  Digital marketers need to run a tight ship in order to stay competitive in the local search space.  As Greg Gifford stated during his SearchLove presentation digital marketers need to ask themselves “why do we deserve to rank?” when they apply SEO strategies to their web properties. The days of a mechanical SEO approach to local are coming to an end, digital marketers need apply psychology 101 to understand what users are thinking to stay competitive.