Greg Gifford blows everyone’s mind, figuratively

Greg Gifford at Confluence ConferenceSpoiler alert: Greg Gifford ended his presentation with a head explosion GIF. It was an accurate analogy.

Greg is the boss of car dealer SEO, and he shared his love of local SEO and sci-fi movies.

“SEO, it’s a really tough puzzle to crack,” Greg said. “… When it comes to SEO, you can’t just float along. You’ll blend into the background.”

There are two types of SEO. Traditional SEO is manipulating signals to influence rankings. Local SEO is targeting search results in a specific geographic area. If you have a physical location or you serve customers in a specific location, then you need to be doing local SEO.

Want to show clients how local SEO works? Search pizza delivery at work and then at home. Boom! “Google knows the intent of your query is to find something local,” Greg said.

Compare your list of competitors to the number of spots on Page 1. How many businesses can fit? And will you be one of them? In some cities, there are 200 or 300 businesses fighting for eight spots.

Do you want to rank No. 1 in Google? We all do. “No. 1’s not what it used to be,” Greg said. Google localizes and personalizes to give everybody different results. Shift your focus from ranking to local visibility. “Rank tracking is dead,” Greg said. “It doesn’t work anymore.”

But organic traffic is still the lifeblood of your site. SEO isn’t cheap because real live humans have to do take care of it.

“Your biggest source of traffic is organic search visits,” Greg said. “… Why would you spend all this money on all this other stuff and not nurture what you have?”

So when you say “nurture,” do you mean you can fix my ranking problem today, Greg? Yeah, no.

“SEO is a marathon,” Greg said. “It’s not a sprint. You can’t do SEO and magically be No. 1 a month later.”

This is Greg’s marathon guide.

Step 1: Excellent Content

Google changes the algorithm all the time, and that’s fine. Google wants to stay useful and functional to keep people from turning to other search engines. “They’re going to close those loopholes,” Greg said. “As  a marketer, you have to stay on top of those things.”

But how do you know how to modify your strategy?

“Content is the most important thing. It’s the foundation,” Greg said. “… If you don’t have good content on your site, nothing else matters.”

Keyword: good.

“You can’t do content for content’s sake you have to have a plan,” Greg said.

Make content with the goal of doing right by your customers. If you’re doing something just for Google, you’re doing it wrong. Think about whether it’s something you’d be willing to explain to Google or to competitors. Your content has to be unique and useful. Read your content out loud. If it’s not something you’d say to your customer face-to-face, it’s wrong.

It all comes down to this, Greg said: Why do you deserve to rank?

There are other content signals you can send to search engines. Put your city and state in the title tag, H1, content, and the image alt text. This is critical for SEO. If you can put it in the URL, excellent. That’s really powerful. (If you go back and change URLs, make sure you set up 301 redirects.) Add it to the meta description, too. It doesn’t factor into Google’s algorithm, but it’s helpful for clicks.

Include your name, address, and phone number in the footer. Include your local phone number. You don’t have to list your toll-free number because long distances isn’t a thing.

Another critical content signal: your blog. “You’ve got to have a blog,” Greg said. “Blogs are no longer a luxury.” Post regularly. Set a content calendar and stick to it. Write something people actually – actually! – want to read. And then when you post, be sure to share it. (Content doesn’t do much good if nobody sees it.) Your blog should be a local destination. Include local information, not just sales stuff.

But Greg, what local stuff can we write about?

  • Sports
  • Community events
  • Public figures
  • Directions
  • Favorite spots
  • Details
  • Guides

Link Signals

After the Penguin update for Google, the relevancy of the link is much more important. Local SEO doesn’t really care about crazy domain authority. It’s linking from local places that matter. “Take advantage of relationships that your business already has,” Greg said. In the end, though, your link has to have clear value. Don’t point all your links to your home page. You want to rank for more than just your home pages, so spread the love to other great blogs or landing pages.

Don’t forget about internal links. “Internal links are really important, but it’s something we don’t always think about,”K Greg said. Your internal link structure signals to Google what you think is important. Never have more than 75 to 100 links on any page. “You don’t need to have a link every fifth word,” Greg said. Check your links and your competitors’ links, and look for easy opportunities. Pull links for similar businesses in other cities to see if you can find patterns.

Google My Business Signals

This is about to be less relevant because it’s going to become more of a social page. Users don’t interact with this page the same as in the past. “It’s not really a scary thing,” Greg said. “It’s just a change in user behavior that Google is reflecting.” Having trouble? Use Google phone support or tweet them at @GoogleMyBiz. Greg’s a fan of asking for help on Twitter: “I haven’t used phone support in three months because Twitter support is so awesome.

Citation Signals

Citations are your name, address, and phone number on other sites. Your citations have to be 100 percent consistent everywhere they appear. If the information conflicts, Google doesn’t know quite what to do. If you have incorrect or incomplete information, you’re going to tank. Check your top 15 citations with Moz Local for free. You want to see one. If you see a bunch, that’s Bad News Bears. You can find every citation source with Whitespark.

Facebook Ads

“You should advertise where people are spending their time on their mobile device,” Greg said. That’s Facebook and Instagram. Best thing ever: local Awareness ads. You can set a physical location. And it doesn’t have to be your location! You can drop it on competitors’ locations, ninja style. You can run local awareness ads during local events. It’s like a Snapchat geo-filter. Run ads during a sports event. Advertise on top of a Thunder game or an OU or OSU football game. What are people doing during halftime? Screwing around on their phones.

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