EP 311 Transcript | Google Maps and Joy Hawkins

By Site Strategics
April 26, 2019

Joy Hawkins Google Maps myth transcript wordcloud

 

Joy Hawkins:              Those things will show up and they are brand new, they have virtually no citations, no back links, half of them don’t even have websites attached to them, and they’ll rank simply based on the fact that they’re close to the user and they’re usually named after a keyword. These listings shouldn’t have any authority, they’re brand new and you can’t get rid of them. I mean, you could have eight, nine different accounts submitted as spam but because it’s verified, [00:00:30] it stays. It just pends in there unless you report it to Google.

Speaker 1:                 Your weekly digital marketing trends with industry trend setting guests. You’re listening and watching Edge of the Web. Winners of best podcast from the content marketing institute for 2017. Here at Semore and edgeofthewebradio.com. Now alongside Tom Brodbeck, here’s your host Erin Sparks.

Erin Sparks:                All right, so welcome [00:01:00] to Edge of the Web. Thanks for joining us today on our live cast and for everybody who’s listening on the iTunes and Google Play and all the audio aggregators out there, thanks for listening to us. We’re broadcasting from Edge Media Studios every Thursday at 3PM so we certainly want you to join in to the live stream and ask from questions of our guests. We’re broadcasting from downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, and we’re focused on bringing you the latest marketing news in the digital frontier, as well as talking to marketing influencers from around the planet. That’s what we do and that’s [00:01:30] who we are. Check out all the recent shows over at edgeofthewebradio.com, that’s edgeofthewebradio.com.

Erin Sparks:                We’re powered by Site Strategics, the title sponsor of the show as well as our organization here and the parent organization of Edge and we are agile marketers, pioneers in the agile methodology which is a result based marketing and nimble marketing at that, be able to change as we test. That’s what you need from a digital marketing provider and that’s what we do, so you can always give us a shout [00:02:00] and contact us at 877-SEOFORWEB or 877-777-7394, 736-4932. 877-736-4932 and contact us. We’d be happy to have a free consultation. Our conversation about what’s happening on your website, your digital assets, the digital link you have out there and possibly give you some action items right then and there and if we can possibly help you, we might be able to do some work together.

Erin Sparks:                Contact us there or go over to Site Strategics, S-I-T-E Strategics.com and you can chat with me [00:02:30] right there or a semblance thereof. I’m your host, Erin Sparks. I’m the CEO of Site Strategics and founder of Edge Media Studios. To my left again is the abominable Tom Brodbeck, director of digital media.

Tom Brodbeck:          Hey, hey, hey.

Erin Sparks:                Thanks for joining us.

Tom Brodbeck:          Yeah, no, glad to be here. Glad to be here.

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely. Tell us Tom, why do we do this show?

Tom Brodbeck:          We do this show for … Do you want the real reason? I don’t know where … No, we do this show. It’s a great way for us to meet new people and we always have new guests on and we just [00:03:00] want to learn from them to not only boost up our own SEO game, but be able to provide that value to our clients.

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely. So what you are saying is we’re introverts. We’re introverts and this is the only way we actually want to get to know people, right? Because we really don’t network that often so we just bring them into our home.

Tom Brodbeck:          Yeah and that gives us valuable content.

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely. Absolutely. All right. So let’s introduce our guest who is our next friend. How about that? Isn’t that creepy? That’s a little bit creepy. Joy Hawkins, owner of Sterling Sky [00:03:30] Ink. How are you doing Joy?

Joy Hawkins:              Good. How are you?

Erin Sparks:                We’re good, we’re good. Getting a little bit weird here, but you know, hey, its-

Tom Brodbeck:          It’s what happens.

Erin Sparks:                It’s what happens. And slowly but surely it goes downhill from there. Joy, you’re hailing from Canada. Where are you and what’s cool about your city?

Joy Hawkins:              I actually live in the country so I guess I don’t live in a city technically, but I live about 45 minutes north of Toronto, which is probably where most listeners would be familiar [00:04:00] with, but I live in the middle of nowhere, so country. We went with the bigger house on like an actual property versus tiny little safe in the city.

Erin Sparks:                Sure. Rocking that. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. My wife and I have been eyeballing after the kids get a little bit older so we can get them out of school going further east outside of the belt and get some property. Do you have chickens? Do you have chickens?

Joy Hawkins:              No. God, no. I don’t do like the whole farming thing. I just wanted somewhere for my kids to play.

Erin Sparks:                No goats?

Joy Hawkins:              No, no.

Erin Sparks:                [00:04:30] Fine. I’m just showing my cards. That’s what we’re looking at fresh eggs every day.

Tom Brodbeck:          Retirement Erin.

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely. Well, I mean I have enough land to hunt on, right?

Tom Brodbeck:          Yeah. Hunt chickens.

Erin Sparks:                Chickens. Have you ever tried to hunt a chicken? It’s freaky work, man. They run.

Tom Brodbeck:          I bet.

Erin Sparks:                They run. Okay, now that I’ve disturbed the entire audience out here. Every week we actually go out for digital news of the current week, so Joy, you’ve been prepped and ready go. Are you ready to take a dive into the digital [00:05:00] marketing realm?

Joy Hawkins:              Absolutely.

Erin Sparks:                All right. Let’s take you through the latest digital marketing news.

Speaker 4:                 I was very excited to start my reportings.

Speaker 1:                 This week’s trending topics.

Erin Sparks:                Okay. We’re doing a little bit of local focus as these shows about SEO today from Search Engine Journal by Matt Southern. Always bringing some great content over there. [00:05:30] Google My Business lets users create custom short URLs, so what we’re talking about here is Google is now letting users create customized short URLs for Google My Business listings. Google is calling these custom URLs short names and it appears only some businesses have actual access to them, however it’s definitely more than just a test feature because the help center article already exists out there so Ben Fisher shared an example on Twitter. You can see it if you look on the screen. Att the bottom right hand [00:06:00] side you’ll see. There is no way to zoom in there, but if you look at it you cam see the short … I’m sorry. Where is that?

Tom Brodbeck:          The short name is Steady Demand.

Erin Sparks:                Steady Demand. Oh wow.

Tom Brodbeck:          It’s the @ sign if you can see it there in the Tweet of the … yeah, there you go. Click on the Tweet. Yeah, so the short name, the little icon that looks like an @ sign. Almost maybe it’s a magnifying glass, it comes out but an @ sign. So really you create your own short name and then with that you can do, [00:06:30] to pull up the profile, you cam type in the URL, g.page/your short name, to pull up that local listing. So it’s great as well if you wanted to … We do it a lot with clients to give them a quick link to post a review so a lot of times we put it in the footers, like leave us a review. That URL is sloppy.

Erin Sparks:                Yeah, a little bit, especially g.page.

Tom Brodbeck:          [crosstalk 00:06:54] Well, that’s one but this makes it a lot easier. I’m saying the original way we would do it is a little bit sloppy and you had to put some [00:07:00] the ? = and some weird code at the end, but now you can just put for that link, g.page/your custom short name/review and then it will pop up and a link to leave a review.

Erin Sparks:                It’s smart because that’s been desperately needed and we’ve been using [bit leaves 00:07:15] and shorteners for … We have clients that have put their local GMB on a business card or something like that and this has a vanity naming convention to it, which is fantastic and I mean if there is anything to [00:07:30] kind of mop out of maybe Google+ is this type of naming convention so we can actually have an asset. It’s been really tough trying to even find the Google My Business address for a lot of businesses, so this gives a really good convention. I think this is going to stay around for a long time. Joy, what do you think?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, I think it’s definitely much needed and now that Google+ is gone, I think they finally have a good opportunity to introduce some new features. We saw this when Google+ [00:08:00] was around. They had a custom URL so we’re just waiting. I’m a volunteer on the Google My Business forum and we’re all thinking how long it’s going to take before people are going to start arguing about, “Oh my custom URL isn’t available.”

Erin Sparks:                Oh gosh, yeah.

Joy Hawkins:              That used to be a big problem back in the Google+ days, right? Like for people that get on it right away, but if someone else grabs your name or whatnot, that can always be fun to deal with.

Erin Sparks:                I’m wondering because Google My Business is doing a lot [00:08:30] of validation and verification now. I should say Google in the local services area and there’s a lot of prime focus on the local real estate now. I’m thinking that you probably have to go through a few hoops to get that name or at least have it protected by your brand as opposed to just being able to register names out there. What do you think about that?

Joy Hawkins:              Currently it’s you register what you want to register.

Erin Sparks:                [00:09:00] Oh my gosh. All right. Go to town folks.

Tom Brodbeck:          Yeah, if you want your brand name, better go get it. If your last name is Smith, better go-

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. Similar to Twitter I guess, right. Set up a Twitter account. You can get whatever Twitter handle you want if it’s available, right? Very similar. I don’t think there’s any specific steps you have to go through to get a specific name. It’s just if it’s available or not.

Erin Sparks:                Boy, we’re opening up a whole nother squatterville right now. Everybody is going to be registering-

Joy Hawkins:              Right. Yeah.

Erin Sparks:                You know what I’m saying? That was ugly for a long time. Speaking of ugly, from Android [00:09:30] Police, from Corbin Davenport, AMP Stories will roll out to mobile Google Search soon. If you’re not familiar with what AMP Mobile Stories are, Google has for a number of years taken from publishers their content, put it on a Google CDN where they actually help in the expediency of content, for a lack of a better word. They’ll actually present your content very fast and you can really capitalize on that by having AMP plug [00:10:00] in, being able to create AMP content that will be picked up by Google.

Erin Sparks:                Google certainly has doubled down on the AMP side for news and publishing and they didn’t encroach into the mobile side of things up until now. Now we have another piece of real estate out there and the article really starts with love it or hate it and truly I can’t stand AMP. I’m sorry. Sorry Google. They’re expanding faster than ever. It’s no longer [00:10:30] just an optimized way to make mobile web pages, it now powers interactive content in Gmail AMP stories. A way of creating interactive news stories and they announced over a year ago and AMP is about to roll out the mobile side for everyone. They actually announced at today’s AMP conference event in Tokyo that AMP stories will roll out to the Google search appearing in a dedicated block of results storage will first be displayed for searches related to travel and other stories that will soon [00:11:00] follow later.

Erin Sparks:                These AMP stories are not just AMP news. They are actually AMP story content and they are going to be making their way straight into the mobile apertures. Not only do we have a slowly more and more encroachment of the Google real estate on the Google SERP, but now we have that additional AMP area that’s going to be rolling out as well.

Tom Brodbeck:          If you’ve ever watched an Instagram story, they are on Facebook now, the Facebook stories as well. I don’t know if you can go back to the article there [00:11:30] and click play on the video so it will show some examples of what they look like, but a lot of them look like interactive infographics and so they’re kind of cool. One of them was … blanking on the topic now, but it was just an animated. So this one is about college football. Obviously, the news can take a good portion of it, but there is one that just looked like an animated infographic so you just scroll through. There is the top ten people of [00:12:00] the year to follow and so I can see all these lists posts.

Tom Brodbeck:          There’s the animated infographic thing I was talking about there, so I can see how some businesses could create these custom stories and really take up a lot of the SERP landscape with it.

Erin Sparks:                Yeah, but it’s Google’s sandbox, right? If they are seeing the value. If the consumer is seeing the value of that, then we just have to play along. Joy, where is our real estate going in mobile?

Joy Hawkins:              Well, [00:12:30] I know on the local side of things, so when we’re dealing with like small businesses, AMP isn’t huge yet. The majority of small businesses I would say aren’t utilizing yet AMP because it’s still a lot focused on publishers and things like that if you are writing news and whatnot.

Erin Sparks:                Sure.

Joy Hawkins:              We’ve had a small handful of clients that have tried AMP and I know there is a lot of challenges with it from a conversion standpoint in a lot of their forums [inaudible 00:12:57] but that it’s hard to transition those over. [00:13:00] We personally don’t do a lot with AMP yet, but I definitely think it’s something to keep on the radar.

Erin Sparks:                You can go ahead and say it Joy. You’re anti-AMP. It’s okay. You’re among friends.

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, we really don’t do a whole lot. I don’t even use AMP for my own. I blog a lot so I probably should, but we don’t at the moment.

Erin Sparks:                See, what the heck is it used for? I know what they are trying do but it was just … I’ve been talking about this for years. It was just [00:13:30] an over reach that really got … It’s like a burr under my saddle. I just didn’t like it, but I … There’s [crosstalk 00:13:37].

Tom Brodbeck:          It’s just another … I think it was Eric Inga that said on the show a while back, SEO has got to stop thinking about just ranks within Google. SEO has become how you can get the most traffic from Google, whether it’s local, whether it’s rankings, whether it’s AMP stories, whether it’s whatever tool they are going to throw out there next.

Erin Sparks:                It’s leveraging all the tools.

Tom Brodbeck:          Leveraging all the tools [00:14:00] that you can that make sense for your business and makes sense for your users. If it’s an opportunity if you’re a publisher listening. This is something you should definitely be looking into I think because they are going to be promoting it heavily.

Erin Sparks:                You better believe it.

Tom Brodbeck:          You [inaudible 00:14:13] maybe Facebook does it, Instagram does it. People are used to it by now and I can see how it can just be a common way to read news now.

Erin Sparks:                All right. I’ll give you that. I’ll give you that. All right, from Search Engine Journal, last piece of news on our list today, Yoast SEO and if you don’t know what that is, [00:14:30] Word Press users, you better go check it out because it is one of the, if not the core optimization tool for Word Press. They’ve become the first Word Press plug in to offer defragmented schema markup. This is from Matt Southern as well.

Erin Sparks:                The popular plugin is releasing an update which offers defragmented implementation of schema markup. What makes that … That is a first of it kind update that actually cleans up the fragmented mess created by most schema implementations and if [00:15:00] you don’t know what I’m talking about, schema is a little bit meta of old so to speak. It’s the new way to communicate what the intent of the content is to the search engines primarily Google, but they all scoop it up and there are 200, 300 different schema types that you can use for reviews, product reviews, contributions to journals.

Tom Brodbeck:          Podcasts.

Erin Sparks:                Podcasts and broadcasts. There are so many different types of schema out there, [00:15:30] but it gets messy and they all don’t play well in the Word Press eco-system. To give an example give an example of what the schema implementation does, if a page has eight pieces of schema markup it’s often unclear to the search engines how they are related to each other, so that’s also across the entire site, not just the pages, right?

Tom Brodbeck:          Correct.

Erin Sparks:                Here’s what … There’s a screen shot. If you can bring that up real quick of an error free schema markup tool. It looks [00:16:00] like in Google’s structured data tester when it’s implemented. And then we can actually put that link on the show notes, the data tester itself. You will see right there. Oh, pull that back up again. There we go, so you’ve got … Scroll back up for a second. There we go. So you’ve got web page. WP sidebar, WP header, WP website, creative work, WP footer, review, site navigation elements. All these are telling what parts of the page are to Google and it’s clean [00:16:30] but there’s still eight individual items and search engines that will need to figure out how they are related to each other.

Erin Sparks:                This tool actually helps be able to consolidate this in to one schema as I’m reading here with multiple aspects to it. You can see that the main entity of the page is an article and the article is part of a web page, which is part of a website so it’s actually hierarchal structure in that tag, as opposed to disparate tags all over the page.

Erin Sparks:                There is so deep [00:17:00] data there, but Yoast is … If you’re not using Yoast Premium, jump in there. I highly recommend using Yoast for these markups and especially the local side of things. Yoast is a great tool for that, but Joy, you’re dead in that space right there do you use Yoast? Obviously you use schema on a regular basis, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, we use Yoast for almost every single site that we work on, so huge fan of the tool. It’s just easier and simpler to use than any other [00:17:30] alternative. When it comes to schema, we are really adamant about only marking up stuff if it actually makes a difference visually in the search results. We focus mainly on things like reviews. Obviously that makes a big difference and like certain fields that are used in schema that actually show up in the search results. Those are the things we try and keep our attention on.

Erin Sparks:                Very good, very good. We’re going to be unpacking [00:18:00] a lot of local SEO tips and techniques today so stayed tuned, but we do want you to jump into right now is the Edge newsletter. Join us every week as we send you out the Edge newsletter. You can text to the number 228-28-Edge Talk. Don’t do it while you are driving, and you can join right there. And what we’re doing is sending out great information about who we’re going to be interviewing, who we just interviewed, some news items and much more. So join us as … Join the Edge Nation. Jump in there and contribute and let us know [00:18:30] how we are doing on that side of things because we really want to be able to give those VIP members some great content regularly.

Erin Sparks:                With that you can also go over to Edgeofthewebradio.com and join our newsletter right there. Right Tom?

Tom Brodbeck:          That’s right.

Erin Sparks:                All right. Follow all our featured training topics over at edgeofthewebradio.com, but now let’s deep dive with this week’s featured guest.

Speaker 1:                 Now it’s time for Edge of the Web featured interview with Joy Hawkins, owner of Sterling Sky.

Erin Sparks:                [00:19:00] So the deep voice guy introduced you Joy.

Joy Hawkins:              Sorry.

Erin Sparks:                The deep voice guy … She didn’t get the deep voice guy. We do the deep voice guy for every guest. It’s kind of like the movie credits coming in. Any way, you’ll hear it in post. I know that. Let’s introduce Joy to our listeners and our watchers. Joy has been working in the local SEO industry since 2006 and that’s a lot of on its own, right? And is a Google top [00:19:30] contributor. She also has a monthly column on Search Engine Land and is a top contributor to Moz – Local Search Ranking Factors Survey. She knows her stuff ladies and gents.

Erin Sparks:                Joy is also the author of Local Use Expert Guide to Local SEO, an advanced training manual for people wanting a detailed look at what it looks like at what it takes to succeed in the local SEO space. Now this has been changing ever so much. Local is getting huge and the real estate in the search engine search [00:20:00] result is certainly a battle ground of local mash up of references and on top of that reading intent of the buyer. This is your realm. Give us a conceptual model of what local SEO is for our audience.

Joy Hawkins:              Local SEO is any business that gets their customers locally, right? That would rule out if you’re an online business and you ship iPhones nationwide. You’re not a local business. You have [00:20:30] an audience that’s all over the country, but if you are a dentist or a plumber or a lawyer for example and all of your customers are from within the immediate area that you live in, that would fall into the realm of local search.

Erin Sparks:                Yep, yep and there’s a lot of content adjustments that you cam make to be able to take advantage of local SEO and local search, but there is also a lot of local under pinning, local real estate that you can claim first and foremost being the [00:21:00] Google My Business, and we will certainly unpack that here in a moment. But you recently wrote a blog here about common myths when it comes down to editing your Google listing on Google Maps. You debunk a number of them. The first one that you talk about is actually about competitors editing your listings. It’s not as easy for a competitor to actually edit your own business listings, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, it definitely happens but I think it’s become more difficult than it used to be. So [inaudible 00:21:30] [00:21:30] compare this to like years ago Google made it extremely hard for just a regular user to remove a listing for example or mark that it doesn’t exist or change the business name. It definitely used to be a lot easier than it is currently.

Tom Brodbeck:          What were they doing to manipulate that? Were they just going to the suggest an edit function within Google My Business and then … Why would Google approve that I guess?

Joy Hawkins:              Well, I try not to divulge too much what [00:22:00] the Black Hat people like to do because I’m like, “I don’t want to give tips on how to spam.” But I know we used to see multiple edits go through. We still see it quite a bit in certain industries. I always give the personal injury attorney industry as an example. If you look in Los Angeles, it’s for one of the, for whatever reason, one of the spammiest cities we’ve seen. Usually you will see pending edits to all kinds of listings that are clearly malicious in nature for people trying to change their category. They are trying [00:22:30] to change their hours. There are certain things that are easier I guess for people to update than others, but it’s not as easy as it used to be.

Joy Hawkins:              I know that in the Map Maker days, we used to see all kinds of crazy stuff going on and people submitting edits to different things and it used to be a lot easier for it go through than it is now.

Erin Sparks:                I am certainly glad to hear that. I actually have a horror story of my own. In the Google My Business section, an ex-employee of an organization [00:23:00] that had the keys to the car from a Google listings standpoint went at this Google listing and just tore it up, and throw a lot of salacious stuff in that content. And they reached out and I was able to give them some assistance to be able to lock that out, clean it up, but my God. It’s like they were writing graffiti all over the front of the building, And because they are authenticated, because they are the admin on the account, it was [00:23:30] just there. So part of the house keeping of your Google My Business is making sure that the correct people actually have access to that GMB, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, absolutely. You should definitely know who all the authorized users are and if anyone leaves or quits, removing them I think is a great idea.

Erin Sparks:                It was terrible. I can’t even begin to say what was on that thing. They threw in a [00:24:00] new link in. Actually it was an ex-vendor that was kind of extorting them for some money as well, so man, it got real ugly real quick.

Erin Sparks:                Another myth that you debunk is having a higher local guide level does not mean you will get more edits published. Talk to us about local guide level first. Can you tell us what that actual manacle is?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. This is when I see SEO companies use a lot. [00:24:30] It drives me insane, but they will be like, “Oh yeah, we can help you because we’re a level eight, we are a level seven local guide.” And all this stuff. There is some truth to it. Obviously like the more you edit, the more that your edits get approved, the more trusted you are, but even at like … I know a guy who is a level 10 and was a map maker regionally besides myself back in the day. So that’s what that means for people that aren’t familiar with it. They were like this group of individuals that Google gave the most trusted [00:25:00] status to. You would basically have the ability to approve or deny the majority of edits on Google. Just like on Google Earth. It was amazing. I loved it. But I know a guy who was in that group. He’s a level 10. He had over 100,000 edits on Google Maps.

Erin Sparks:                Wow.

Joy Hawkins:              I don’t know where he found the time. Definitely way more than I have. And even listing that I would send to him and I would be like, okay, can you … like I would find a fake listing and I would say, “Could you remove this [00:25:30] and see what happens?” Even those listings that are fake that should be gone even he can’t get rid of them. So what I think we’ve kind of seen as a trend is that if the listing is verified through Google Online Business, for whatever reason that gives it an insane amount of trust, but there is two sides to this. It’s a good thing because for legitimate businesses making that first statement true where it’s harder for competitors to get rid of your listings just by reporting it, but on the flip side, we see that it’s very difficult to get rid of spam [00:26:00] these days without involving Google Online Business, like sending it directly to them, which is frustrating. It used to be a lot easier for the mass user base to report spam that way. So it’s pros and cons.

Erin Sparks:                The efforts and how you become a Google Guide is continually contributing into the space, reviews and what have you, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. It’s definitely important, but it’s just not the end all be all. If you are a level 10, it doesn’t mean you somehow have magical powers and you’re just going to be able to do whatever you [00:26:30] want, which is what a lot of … I’ve heard a lot of SEO companies kind of make it sound that way like, “Ooh, we’re this level and we’re super special, important.” I’m like, “No, you’re not. You have the same amount of power as someone usually that just started. You might have a fraction more, but yeah.”

Erin Sparks:                I keep on thinking about the Scientology and the different levels that you get up in Scientology.

Tom Brodbeck:          Is level 10 the highest Local Guide that you can get?

Joy Hawkins:              [crosstalk 00:26:56]. Yeah, the higher up you go, the difference is insane [00:27:00] too. Even though the difference between a level eight and a level nine is crazy. It’s really easy to get to I think like level six. Above and beyond that you have to do a lot of edits. And then the higher the levels go, the bigger the gap between them, so I mean level 10 is like crazy. If you’ve got to a level 10 you’ve done a lot and I’m a level eight. I don’t know how long it will be before I’m a level nine, but it will be a while. I think I’m 30,000 edits away.

Erin Sparks:                Oh my gosh.

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. Quite a lot.

Erin Sparks:                [00:27:30] Wow. All right. I can’t even …

Joy Hawkins:              [inaudible 00:27:38] yeah.

Tom Brodbeck:          Sorry, I’m going to stick with this Local Guide for a second. What can you do as a level 10 that you can’t do as a level six? Nothing?

Joy Hawkins:              Nothing [crosstalk 00:27:48].

Tom Brodbeck:          You can say that you’re a level 10.

Joy Hawkins:              [crosstalk 00:27:51] a lot.

Tom Brodbeck:          Got it.

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, it’s a bragging right. Bragging I don’t know about what, but I’ve heard people complain that Google incentivizes Local Guides. I’m like, “What incentive?” You [00:28:00] get I think a free movie on Google Play, like woo hoo.

Tom Brodbeck:          There we go. Three bucks.

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. I know, right?

Erin Sparks:                I don’t understand. At level 10 you are enlightened. You are the enlightened Map Maker, Local Guide. Oh my gosh. All right.

Joy Hawkins:              You have a lot of time on your hands.

Erin Sparks:                You have another myth regarding the likeliness of an edit published has more to do with the listing your editing than the user that’s editing it. Is this why spam is so prevalent in the Google [00:28:30] Maps?

Joy Hawkins:              That’s exactly why it is. As I was saying, this is both good and bad, right? For example, we will see a listing for … It’s usually their lead gen, so a company creates a listing on Google Maps and then they sell the leads to real businesses.

Erin Sparks:                Sure.

Joy Hawkins:              These businesses unknowingly are buying leads from people that are actually pushing their own business out of the results, right? Kind of an interesting scenario, but these listings will show up and they are brand new, they have virtually no citations, no back [00:29:00] links. Half of them don’t even have websites attached to them, and they will rank simply based on the fact that they are close to the user and they’re usually named after a key word. And these listings shouldn’t have any authority. They are brand new, they have no third party showing that they are any trust [crosstalk 00:29:21] and you can’t get rid of them.

Joy Hawkins:              You can have eight, nine different accounts submitted as spam, but because it’s verified, [00:29:30] it stays. It just pends in there unless you report it to Google. So it’s like using a Google My Business Method, which I kind of touch on later in the article. But yeah, it’s like a lot of it has to do with the listing and the verified status definitely adds a huge layer of trust in Google’s eyes, which is both a good and a bad thing. But it has a lot more to do with that than whether it’s me submitting the edit or you or someone who has never done editing before.

Erin Sparks:                Sure, sure, sure. That’s scary, but that’s [00:30:00] also great to hear that there’s a clean up tool and Google is paying more and more attention to these reports of spam reports of user photos making it to somebody’s Google page. They’re quite responsive now aren’t they?

Joy Hawkins:              They’re responsive. I think the frustrating thing is that I feel like spammers are usually about 10 steps ahead of Google, so they do act on them when you report it, but depending on how obvious [00:30:30] it is, I’ve had to go through pretty great lengths at some points to show Google and prove to them that a listing is not a real business. It’s unfortunate that it takes so much effort on my part or anyone’s part doing this.

Tom Brodbeck:          Yeah, you’re kind of doing Google’s job for them in a particular manner, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Right, yep.

Tom Brodbeck:          All right.

Joy Hawkins:              There is a sector of people that argue that we shouldn’t do it because it’s Google’s job and why are we doing their job for them? I don’t personally think that is a smart [00:31:00] thing at all because if spam is a rank in my client, of course I’m going to get rid of it. Like why would I keep it there?

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely and the fact of the matter is they’ve provided this tool free of charge, and this tool gives us a lot of value out there. A lot of ways to communicate to that consumer based on their intent to buy. So house keep your own backyard so to speak, right?

Erin Sparks:                Any way, fourth item on here, Google My Business suspensions. [00:31:30] Let’s talk about that for a second. Google My Business suspensions don’t seem to weaken a listing authority, so how does a listing get suspended?

Joy Hawkins:              There’s one of two ways. Either a listing gets suspended because it’s like a manual take down. Someone reports a listing to Google, says, “This violates your policies. Google will manually take it down.” I’m sure they also find them themselves. I don’t know. Theoretically, they should. But there’s also ones that are automatically. Sometimes [00:32:00] you will see this where if you are in spammy industry like a lock smith, a drug rehab or a personal injury attorney for example and you’re doing too many edits to your listing inside the Google My Business dashboard, it can instantly trigger a suspension. So there are certain automatic ones in play and then there are manual ones. But regardless of how it happens, there are two different levels of suspension. One is like your listing is completely gone, like you don’t exist anywhere on Google Maps. You don’t rank anywhere. Your [00:32:30] listing doesn’t exist. And then there is more like am account level suspension where the listing is still there, but you no longer have the ability to manage it through the Google My Business portal.

Erin Sparks:                Oh wow. Is that permanent?

Joy Hawkins:              Yes and no. You have to get it appealed. It depends on who you are, what you were doing, so that’s always the tricky part, right? Just like I guess it was similar to manual action penalties, well somewhat similar, but Google doesn’t [00:33:00] tell you what rules you broke, so often the frustrating thing for businesses is they have no idea what they did wrong, so they don’t know how to fix it. So they will go through all these circles and try and appeal a suspension, and they’ll kind of go through this never ending cycle where Google will say, “Sorry, you violated the guidelines.”

Joy Hawkins:              We get a lot of people that reach out to us for help because they have no idea what they did, and they are like, “I can’t get my listing appealed.” Then we look at it and we’re like, “Oh, you’re doing this.” It’s easy for us because we look at it all day long, right, but [00:33:30] for an average business owner it can be very frustrating.

Erin Sparks:                Wow. What kind of horror stories have you experienced with getting Google listing out of the dog house so to speak?

Joy Hawkins:              One of the worst cases I think was a lock smith I helped years ago and Google was very convinced that they were not a real business, and it took months to get it appealed. That is not normal. We finally were able to get them to lift the suspension, but like that’s probably the worst case I think I’ve ever had [00:34:00] where Google was convinced that they were somehow involved in some type of fraudulent activity, and it took a lot of going back and forth to get [crosstalk 00:34:07].

Tom Brodbeck:          What were some of the things you had to include to prove they were a legitimate business? Like Letterhead, addresses, bills, that type of stuff?

Joy Hawkins:              Licenses. In this case actually we were lucky I would say because our street view actually showed an image of their car parked at the address that they had listed, so that was helpful. But yeah, it’s tough [00:34:30] because the frustrating thing is that people unfortunately lie a lot and the length that people will go to make it look like they actually live somewhere where they don’t just to get a listing, just to get traffic has made it very hard for some legitimate businesses to get their listings reinstated. It kind of sucks because I feel like people that lie and spam make it harder for all of us. It’s frustrating.

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely, absolutely. Speaking of spamming pages and more reviews. [00:35:00] Another method that you were debunking here. The more reviews a listing has, the harder it is to get rid of. If you report a spammy page, has a ton of reviews. How is Google not picking up on this? How long does it actually take for Google to actually remove that?

Joy Hawkins:              Again, if you report it to Google My Business directly, usually they will get rid of it. But if you are a user submitting an edit, even if the listing is unverified, it has like 80 or 90 reviews, Google is a lot we’re likely [00:35:30] to believe that is a business that existed and this is both good and bad again because a lot of times it is a signal that the business existed if they have a lot of reviews.

Joy Hawkins:              Again, usually when you have fake listings, you also have fake reviews. So I saw a drug rehab listed the other day in Philadelphia that had 105 reviews on it and you look at street view for it and it’s not a parking lot, but it almost looked like a dump, like I don’t even know what’s there. But it’s most definitely [00:36:00] not a drug rehab. And it’s sad. That’s probably the sickest industry we see fake listings in. It’s like, “Come on. You are dealing with people’s lives here.” But yeah, they had like 100 and some odd fake obviously all fake reviews. It’s not a real drug rehab.

Erin Sparks:                Oh my gosh.

Joy Hawkins:              But that’s quite common. But yeah, there is definitely a tie between reviews and trust on a listing unfortunately. Again, good and bad things.

Erin Sparks:                It’s like part of the question, how long does it take Google to remove [00:36:30] one of those if they have a solid history of reviews that are still spammy but they’ve got the numbers? Have you been able to clock any type of standard pattern there?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. I’ll tell you what we found turn around time. If we suggest an edit on a listing, normal turn around time is like I think I mentioned this in the article, it’s somewhere in the range of six to eight weeks usually, two to three months, right? Ridiculous. But any way, that’s the current backlog. If [00:37:00] we use the Google My Business redressal form. This is a form that is fairly new in the last couple of months. I don’t know where they came up with the name of it. But this actually sends it straight to the Google My Business team and in those cases when we submit those forms, usually we see a turn around time of two weeks. That’s for listings that have violations on it. For fake reviews, it’s a whole other matter. Fake reviews are unfortunately a pretty bad [00:37:30] turn around time. Usually we are looking at on a good case four weeks and on not so great case, eight weeks.

Erin Sparks:                Well, still, at least they are responsive. It’s not like they’re taking six months to a year to [purse 00:37:45] them. At least they are knowing that they have a responsibility and they are paying attention to organizations such as yourself to help them keep their own noses clean so to speak.

Erin Sparks:                All right, edits that are reviewed by machines [00:38:00] and humans. That was another point that you brought up in the article. How do we know which is reviewing our edit and on top of that, how long does it take for a human to actually get an approval as opposed to a machine?

Joy Hawkins:              You will usually know if it was a machine because it will get approved or denied within minutes. [00:38:30] Normally we’re talking like let’s say 20 minutes or less than that. When it’s reviewed by a human being, it’s something where it takes a lot longer than that, so again, depending on how you’re sending it in, it would be either weeks to months depending.

Erin Sparks:                All right, all right. We lost video.

Tom Brodbeck:          There it is.

Erin Sparks:                She’s back.

Tom Brodbeck:          We were going to say, “We lost video there for a second of you, but we still got you on audio,” [00:39:00] so we’re good there.

Erin Sparks:                All right, but you are back and last one that we wanted to cover here, published edits to remove listings disappear from your edits tab. Unpack that for a second.

Joy Hawkins:              This is something that we stumbled across that I found confusing at first because we looked at listings and we were like, I know I submitted this listing but the edit tab that you see in your Local Guides account does not actually include all the edits you’ve made because I think once the listing [00:39:30] actually gets removed from Google’s database publicly it also gets removed from your edit history as well, which is something that didn’t use to be the case when Map Maker was around. So if you’re new to editing this would be somewhat confusing to be like, where is that edit go? I don’t see it anywhere in my history.

Joy Hawkins:              Usually they will email you when you’ve done an edit and it’s gone live or has been published. You normally get am email notification, so that’s kind of helpful for keeping track. Someone commented on my article and I thought this was kind [00:40:00] of neat. They said when they report listings that are spam or fake, they actually save them first to a list on Google Maps so that they can go back later and they can still see them in there, which I thought was kind of funny. They avoid the fake listing list in there-

Erin Sparks:                Just for proof that we actually did what we did, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. It’s creative. We keep a record internally here when we are doing this for clients. We have a spreadsheet, and we will keep the links to them because every single listing [00:40:30] has a unique ID number on it called a CID number, and we keep a record of all those so that we have history. That way if like a listing gets reinstated later on, we will know if it’s the same listing or if it’s a new one.

Tom Brodbeck:          If you are close to getting to level 10, are you saying that you shouldn’t be reporting spam because then you will lose all those edits?

Joy Hawkins:              No, no, no.

Erin Sparks:                Yeah. Be careful.

Joy Hawkins:              No. I only save reports. You show reports [inaudible 00:40:56] when you see. Every time I’m trying to hire a contractor locally, and I’m like, I see spam in the [00:41:00] results, I feel like obligated to report it. And it’s pretty often for home … anything home service related, unfortunately there’s a lot of spam.

Tom Brodbeck:          You could probably be a level 10 by now?

Erin Sparks:                Had you not been doing the edits.

Joy Hawkins:              [inaudible 00:41:11]. Yeah. It’s like 100,000 I [inaudible 00:41:15] you have to get to [inaudible 00:41:17] honestly, that’s a lot.

Erin Sparks:                But what’s the pay off?

Joy Hawkins:              Five years.

Erin Sparks:                What’s the pay off of level 10?

Joy Hawkins:              Nothing.

Erin Sparks:                Oh my gosh. It’s like a do nothing machine. That’s what that is. All right. [00:41:30] Let’s talk about local SEO spam for a second. I appreciate you going through that article. We certainly want to have our listeners go check out that blog post. We will post it in the show notes. Why is spam so prevalent on Google Maps?

Joy Hawkins:              Because it’s such a high payoff, right? I think there is usually one of two things. Either it’s a fake listing for a real business. I’ll use law firms for examples because they are notorious for this. I will talk to this lawyer and let’s just say they are in [00:42:00] California and they want a higher volume of leads. One of the easiest ways to get this, fastest way, is just go create 15 fake listings. Now they all of a sudden have an office in San Diego and LA and San Francisco and San Jose and so they rank in all these places, and they’ll get a huge volume of phone calls. So it’s high payoff and fairly low risk. The risk is that once you get caught, the listings get removed, [00:42:30] but I feel like there’s no long term penalties for many businesses that are doing this.

Joy Hawkins:              We are just now starting to see some long term penalties for people but not until this year. There is no long term penalty whatsoever. Like why not, right? Because generally they keep your real office listing and you don’t lose that. I think it’s one of those things where they need to have some type of penalty and they don’t. And then for marketing companies, [00:43:00] I guess there is a side of SEO where they want to do lead gen and one of the easiest ways to do lead gen is to create fake listings and then sell the leads to businesses because every business wants leads.

Joy Hawkins:              We feel a lot of those where it’s not even a real business, it’s just there is a fake listing that is called Car Insurance Toronto and it forwards these phone calls that come in to actual insurance agents for example.

Erin Sparks:                There’s the bait right there. There’s the opportunity [00:43:30] and making it maybe harder on Google’s side to actually get these listings because it’s very easy. It’s too darn easy to create it.

Joy Hawkins:              It’s not that difficult, right? If you go on Craig’s List or sometimes I think even at [Pod com 00:43:45] last year there was this guy that was talking about how you could run Facebook ads and it was kind of … I was just sitting there shaking my head. He was talking about running Facebook ads to low income level areas telling them that you would pay out $50 to $100 to use their address [00:44:00] to verify a listing on Google. And they were targeting low income areas because these people are more likely to want $50 to $100. I’m like, come on. But that’s a tactic he was talking about using. It’s not that difficult to find an address. So find an address in a post card. Again I’m not trying to give your listeners tactics on how to [crosstalk 00:44:20].

Tom Brodbeck:          No, no, no. I’m just thinking about it from the business standpoint. If you have all … like the lawyer example you gave and you had a San Diego, Dallas and all these different listings, [00:44:30] if they get a client in Dallas and they try to go to that office, like how does that look from a … They don’t think that through I guess?

Joy Hawkins:              Right. This is why you normally see spam in the business types where they can go to the customer. You see it a lot with home services because electricians, plumbers, whatever, they are coming to me, I’m not going to their office.

Tom Brodbeck:          That’s true.

Joy Hawkins:              It’s shocking, but we see it also with certain industries in the medical space. I have a dentist client I was looking at the other [00:45:00] day and found two fake listings outranking him and pushing him out of the three pack. I was like, are you kidding? For dentists? You have to go to your dentist. So again, I guess these guys have figured other ways to get the phone calls first and then you know give the people their address and maybe someone will show up there and maybe not, but you know it’s starting to spread to some of those industries where you actually have to have [crosstalk 00:45:22].

Erin Sparks:                The practicality is if they actually go visit, then the game is up. They got routing phone numbers and everything else to be able to scoop that up. Oh, we will come meet you [00:45:30] and process the lead that way. You are absolutely right is-

Tom Brodbeck:          It just seems like that is so much more work than just doing it.

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. I guess it’s like where you don’t see it for hotels for example. That’s one space where we really don’t see it.

Erin Sparks:                If it’s really service. Yeah.

Joy Hawkins:              Or restaurants.

Erin Sparks:                Now we’ve seen a number of service organizations like HVAC get spam in that space and they come and go regularly but there is no verifiable address right there and [00:46:00] they could very well doing service but the client knows they got two guys and a truck. Now historically, let’s go back in time a little bit because there was a lot of use of postal boxes and UPS locations, all that to be able game the system, so can you give us a little bit of history on some of the older spam techniques and what Google started to go through and smack down like Whack-A-Mole.

Joy Hawkins:              [00:46:30] Yeah, it’s evolved. I would like to say the frustrating things is while I’ve watched it evolve over the last decade or more, spammers are always like three or four steps ahead of Google. Google catches on to the tactics, but they’ve already moved on to the next one. So it’s sort of this never-ending cycle, but you see PO boxes used to be really big back in the days. We don’t see that a lot anymore. I would say that like we see cases all the time on the Google My Business forum where someone will use a PO Box and it will automatically trigger a suspension. So they don’t even get live, which is good, right? Google [00:47:00] has caught on to that.

Joy Hawkins:              Then we saw them move towards the virtual office space. People get virtual office and that worked really well for a few years. Google is definitely on to that now, so we’re seeing cases now where unfortunately there are some legitimate businesses that work out of co-working spaces or let’s say they have a [inaudible 00:47:20] office, but they actually rent an actual suite and they actually work there. Those businesses are having a really hard time convincing Google they’re really there because there is [00:47:30] for every one of them, there is like 90, they are using a virtual office service at that same address, so Google just kind of suspends them all. They are definitely familiar with the virtual office setup. I tell people avoid virtual office locations like the plague. It’s more of a headache than it’s worth, even if you really have an office there.

Joy Hawkins:              Now we’re seeing more like sometimes they will use residential addresses and hide their address and like I was saying earlier, they will buy someone or pay [00:48:00] someone to use their home address or they are renting or using other businesses’ addresses. We see this a lot in the legal space with law firms. There is actually law firm A at that address, but law firm B who does a different type of law will use their address and verify a listing and then claim that they are there and we’ve seen cases where people will even go through the trouble of putting up signs at a location to try and prove that they are there, but they are not actually there so there is no one there when [00:48:30] you show up during the day, it’s locked, but it’s amazing the lengths that people will go to again, lie and say they are actually there.

Erin Sparks:                The need for a landline telephone number was also one of those Google verification processes that went through. I don’t know how long that stayed around given the cloud based virtual phone environments that [00:49:00] we’re in. But I think at some point in time you had to have a physical address, you had to have the display of your signage legitimate business. This was when Google was doing their drive bys. You had to have a physical landline to be able to verify. Am I correct there?

Joy Hawkins:              I’m trying to remember. That would of been a long time ago, so that definitely is not the case any more.

Erin Sparks:                That was before the age of cellphones.

Tom Brodbeck:          Nine year old.

Joy Hawkins:              I mean when Google Places first came on, I [00:49:30] do think there was some connections between like a landline phone number versus a cellphone number. I don’t think [crosstalk 00:49:35].

Tom Brodbeck:          Back in the day. I haven’t heard that reference in a while.

Joy Hawkins:              But I do think that phone verification is becoming less and less of an option. It’s very rare to get that as an option on a listing because it is so easy to spam. They had to [inaudible 00:49:51].

Erin Sparks:                Very good. It’s still a landmine here. [00:50:00] You still meed to be able to address certain concerns here whenever you are optimizing for local. Can you give kind of the best five tips that a business just getting started in their local optimization, what they would actually need to do just keep the lines straight, but also the best things they should do for their business?

Joy Hawkins:              Choosing your primary category is an easy [00:50:30] thing that a lot of people overlook. We even see SEO companies who hire us to do audits on their clients and we will look at their listings. The first thing that jumps out at us is oh, they’re using a really generic category for the primary category like lawyer versus criminal justice lawyer. There’s more specific categories will rank better for like if you were a criminal lawyer you would not want to use the lawyer category for example.

Joy Hawkins:              That’s a really common thing that we see all the time. For some industries it’s tough because [00:51:00] there are so many categories that describe what they do and they do then all. You have to really be wise about which one you pick for the first rank that holds more ranking weight, which a lot of people don’t realize.

Joy Hawkins:              Since you said you work with HVAC, let’s share one tactic that works really well there is if you do both heating and cooling, switch your primary category depending on the season. In the winter time when it changes, you’re going to go do this now. When the heating … In winter, you want to switch to heating and in the summer you switch to AC as the primary category, you will see a lift [00:51:30] in those queries.

Erin Sparks:                Google wants to be able to see that flexibility? That would sound like almost like a spam signal or something like that but what you’re saying is you have that latitude to change that regularly?

Joy Hawkins:              I would say … so let me clarify. Not regularly, once a year is fine. If you are doing it in the winter and then in the spring, like no big deal. If you are doing it every day, you will probably trigger.

Tom Brodbeck:          It’s going to snow, it’s going … It’s suppose to snow on Saturday morning so-

Erin Sparks:                We’re a snowmobile outfit.

Tom Brodbeck:          It’s [00:52:00] literally supposed to snow on Saturday.

Joy Hawkins:              [crosstalk 00:52:02] out there.

Tom Brodbeck:          It’s supposed to snow here in Indi, and then on Sunday, Easter Sunday, it’s supposed to be in the 70s, so we should go switch to-

Erin Sparks:                Shift gears.

Tom Brodbeck:          Saturday, cooling Sunday.

Erin Sparks:                Well, we kind of got their PPC campaign that way. We can flip it on and off, so why not change your primary category. No. Joy says don’t do that folks. All right, another key primary thing that local businesses should do?

Joy Hawkins:              Just keep [00:52:30] in mind the business name is very important unfortunately. If there are different variations to your business name, sometimes people have more than one name that they could technically use. Definitely if you have one that is your legitimate name that includes some keywords, use that. Only if it’s like your actual legitimate name. I’m not telling people to take keywords out but it is a huge ranking factor as well as the page that you rank to. The link that your website linking in the profile, that also has an impact [00:53:00] so if you’re not a multi-location business. Let’s say you don’t have like 10 or 12 locations often, linking to the home page is a much better move than linking to another page. It doesn’t work if you’re State Farm or McDonald’s for example, but for the smaller businesses you can do that. Sorry, how many did you say to give you?

Erin Sparks:                Let’s do three. The third one would be?

Joy Hawkins:              Reviews are huge, right? Reviews are some of those things that I think it’s … They [00:53:30] are somewhat of a ranking signal but not as much as people think. A lot of times people think that I have the most reviews, I will rank the highest. It definitely doesn’t work that way. But it is a huge factor is they choose you versus the other listings, so I think regularly asking customers for reviews and being very familiar with Google’s review guidelines is key. A lot of people use tactics to get reviews. They are against Google’s guidelines. If someone reports you, they’ll get removed. Be [00:54:00] very aware of Google’s review guidelines. That is a very important thing.

Erin Sparks:                If you are handing out a gas card to get a review, you’re going to be found out at some point in time, so I just want you to repeat that for our listeners again. Ranking signals and reviews. If I get more reviews, do I get more rankings?

Joy Hawkins:              I think there is a boost. It’s been very hard to prove because you can’t isolate it. Anyone that’s getting reviews is also doing a [00:54:30] multitude of other things as well. We’ve seen some cases where we were able to isolate where reviews did have a slight ranking boost attached to them, but we’ve also seen lots of cases where it’s one of the many, many, many factors and it’s not one of the highest weighted factors. So for example adding keywords to your business name is a much higher factor than reviews are. Same with categories, much higher factor. It is a small [00:55:00] factor but it is important for people choosing you.

Erin Sparks:                Absolutely.

Joy Hawkins:              You could rank but if you are the first listing and you’ve got 10 reviews and the guy that is number two has 200, you’re probably not going to stay number one for long because the second listing will likely get more clicks and interactions and that will cause them to out rank you eventually.

Erin Sparks:                Unless you start reporting them as spam and then probably don’t want to do that either unless you really know what the heck is going on.

Joy Hawkins:              If they are actually [00:55:30] spam, feel free to actually report them.

Tom Brodbeck:          When you are gathering reviews for clients, how do you handle … How do I say this? As best as I understand it, to get the like the little stars to appear on your SERP, those have to be reviews that are on your website and not listed on Google, correct?

Joy Hawkins:              You’re talking about schema?

Tom Brodbeck:          Yeah, get the review schema, you have to get reviews to your specific website that are unique reviews to your website that are not on Google. Is that accurate?

Joy Hawkins:              [00:56:00] Oh boy, you want to go down this rabbit hole, huh?

Tom Brodbeck:          I’m just saying … You say get reviews, right, but there’s Yelp, there’s Google, there’s your website. How are you divvying that up? I should say.

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. So, Google Business is usually our top priority because that tends to have the highest ROI attached to it that we usually try to get people to go there first. I think, second, Yelp is very, very, very important, but it’s also extremely challenging because you’re not allowed to ask for reviews.

Joy Hawkins:              So, we do not include Yelp in the list of places we ask for reviews, but if it [00:56:30] comes up in conversation when they’re meeting with people and they know that they’re not going Yelp user, it’s helpful to mention, “Hey, I have a Yelp profile, but I’m not asking you to review me because that’s against their terms.” Something along that line.

Joy Hawkins:              Review schema on your website is definitely very, very, very important as well. We’ve seen usually by adding review schema, it’ll increase quickly by like somewhere between 100-400%.

Erin Sparks:                Holy Hanna.

Joy Hawkins:              So, yeah. Huge impact. As far as whether or not you use your own reviews [00:57:00] versus whether you can mark up third-party reviews, that is a highly debated topic in our industry. My stance is that it is okay to mark up third-party reviews, provided they’re not Yelp, because they had Yelp, Yelp cares about that. But we have definitely marked up Google reviews for clients that don’t use third-party tools.

Joy Hawkins:              We would gather up, for example, for all their clients, and they get your own first-party reviews to your face. But there’re some clients that don’t want to do it, for whatever reason. [00:57:30] We have never seen Google act on that policy, ever. So, they may say … like, you may see an article here and there saying like, “Don’t mark up third-party reviews.” But I’ve never seen Google issue any type of penalty whatsoever for the businesses doing that.

Erin Sparks:                And that is the tactic to being able to get those review stars on your SERP listing, right?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. On your website, organically, if you want those gold stars, you do have to add review schema. And if you don’t have your own … Like, again, if you’re not utilizing a tool like Gather [00:58:00] Up, you have to mark the third-party review that is visible on your website. So, there’re all these rules against kind of like a … to be whole topic, right? But having those on your site definitely is a huge [inaudible 00:58:14] to click through it. For sure.

Erin Sparks:                Very good. Well, Joy, it’s been a joy. I’m gathering you’ve heard that quite a bunch, right?

Joy Hawkins:              It’s not the first time.

Erin Sparks:                We really enjoyed unpacking local … What?

Tom Brodbeck:          [00:58:30] You said enjoy.

Erin Sparks:                Oh, my gosh. I’m just enjoyful, I’m sorry. Hey, it’s clear that you know your stuff in local SEO, and we certainly want to recommend our followers find your information and follow you because you guys are doing a bang-up job of defining the path because there is such myths. It used to be myths in SEO, collectively, but local SEO, there’s still such a gray [00:59:00] cloud over this. It’s kind of weird that it hasn’t really been defined and well-organized, and I guess that’s just the nature of this moving beast of local SEO, right?

Joy Hawkins:              I like to dispell myths all the time, but it’s shocking so much … Like, after so many years, we get the same questions that have … Like, half the conferences I speak at, people will raise their hands and ask the exact same questions about things that are not true, and I’m like, “Ah, how do you not know this?”

Erin Sparks:                Yeah. [00:59:30] Well we always wrap up our show with a couple questions just to find out from the subject matter expert what’s going on in their mind when it comes down to their industry. So, first and foremost, what bugs you about your industry right now?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah, well, I mean, we’ve been talking about, probably, my number one pet peeve, which would be Google’s inability to get a handle on how to deal with fake reviews. I think fake listings are one thing, fake reviews are scarier because they’re becoming easier and easier to miss and they kind [01:00:00] of … other people that are getting fake reviews on Google are kind of getting away with it. So it is a growing trend that is becoming more and more popular for all business type of clients. Like anything [inaudible 01:00:12] drug rehabs all the way to dentists and whatnot, we see fake reviews in almost anything in the industry. That is really frustrating, something I’ve not seen any progress on Google’s part with anything it’s done more so over the years.

Erin Sparks:                Are you thinking that’s going to improve as that area gets monetized [01:00:30] a little bit more?

Joy Hawkins:              I’m not holding my breath. I feel like a lot of the other sites haven’t gotten a handle on it either. The only site that’s done a good job at removing fake reviews is Yelp. They are the only platform that actually has a good system. Automated system, but they are also an extreme because you go to Yelp and you get more negative reviews than you get positive reviews because of this filter. They’re the only ones that have managed. It’s like really hard to get fake reviews on Yelp. [01:01:00] Like very hard.

Erin Sparks:                And to their credit because they certainly got handed a bad swing a couple of years there, they had really button up and clean their act a good deal. So conversely, what excites you about your industry right now?

Joy Hawkins:              Yeah. One thing that’s really exciting about Google My Business to people are like, Oh, Google is going to make it paid or they’re going to do away the free listing. I thinking that’s again another nest. But they have been pushing our features like crazy. I know you guys mentioned about it at the beginning of the show, [01:01:30] but I know there a lot more in the work that are coming later this year that are pretty exciting.

Joy Hawkins:              One kind of perk of being a Google My Business partner [inaudible 01:01:39] they do tell us stuff that we can’t talk about before it happens. So there are definitely some exciting things that are coming and we’ve the last few years they’ve been crunching out features like POST and Q&A and all kind of stuff like crazy. I mean it’s hard to keep on top of, which is why I started this timeline that’s on my website. It’s a free resource [01:02:00] but it like literally tracks all the changes that happen and I update it weekly. It’s crazy, but I like it. I love the fact that it’s constantly changing.

Erin Sparks:                So that URL for everybody who wants to know the timeline. If we have it on the screen, let’s throw it up there. It’s sterlingsky.ca/google-local-changes. And that is the chronology of changes over time on the Google Places and The Google My Business spaces. So we want our users, our listeners to jump in there and [01:02:30] that’s a really nice page. And it gives a great authority of what had happened and what will be happening in the future. You’re going to share a little bit more on that, right? No.

Joy Hawkins:              I don’t put things on there until they’ve happened.

Erin Sparks:                Okay. Fine.

Joy Hawkins:              [inaudible 01:02:49]. It’s present day.

Erin Sparks:                Oh, very good. All right. So that’s a wrap. Any final thoughts for the aspiring local SEO business?

Joy Hawkins:              [01:03:00] Yeah. I’m very active on Twitter, so anyone that’s on Twitter, I’d say if you want to know what’s going on local, feel free to follow me on Twitter. But it’s just something that you got to remember to keep an eye out for things because whatever was happening yesterday will probably be different tomorrow. So it’s constantly changing.

Erin Sparks:                That’s a foregone conclusion, the [center 01:03:21] is shifting all the time. We look to the authorities like you to help straighten it out for us. So thank you so much. We want to promote your [01:03:30] daily guide, that’s localyou.org/experts-guide-local-SEO. So thank you again for doing that type of good work out there, giving us ongoing information. We want to make sure that the Twitter or Twitter followers of Edge join you. On Twitter it’s JoyAnnHawkins, and overall on Facebook it’s Sterlingskyinc as well as Linkedin over at Joy Hawkins, right?

Joy Hawkins:              That correct.

Erin Sparks:                Those are [01:04:00] the spaces. All right. We thank you so much Joy for being part of the show and helping debunk some of the local SEO myths.

Joy Hawkins:              No problem. Thanks for having me.

Erin Sparks:                You’re more than welcome. All right. That’s a wrap for this episode of Edge of the Web radio. I do want to bring up one thing. We certainly want to extent appreciation for Tom Brodbeck. He’s being doing this show for 311 shows, and he’s going to be leaving us and going into a different career path. [01:04:30] I just want to express how valuable everything has been that you’ve been able to produce here. It’s going to be tough, but thank you so much, man. Appreciate it.

Tom Brodbeck:          No, thanks. I’ve enjoyed it, sitting in the first couple and learning from you over the seven years that we’ve done the show. It’s been a lot of fun. But yeah, I definitely will be a stranger to the show.

Erin Sparks:                Yeah, you can [inaudible 01:04:53] and be a contributor to the show.

Tom Brodbeck:          There we go, maybe.

Erin Sparks:                Very good. Well, we certainly appreciate and wish you all the best luck in the world.

Tom Brodbeck:          Thank you.

Erin Sparks:                [01:05:00] All right. That’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to EdgeoftheWebradio.com, and special thank you to all of colleagues and site strategics. We want to make sure you check out everything that we’re writing on [inaudible 01:05:09] as well as Edge of the Web. Special thanks to our guest, Joy Hawkins. Make sure you track her down and follow her information about local SEO on a regular basis. Be sure to check all the videos and [inaudible 01:05:21] much more over at edgeofthewebradio.com, that is edgeoftheradio.com. Do not be a piece of cyber drift wood. We’ll talk to you next week. Bye bye.

 

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