Author: Rachael Hammond

Bill Slawski: “The most harmful SEO myth is the one that you fall for.”

Bill Slawski is an SEO legend. He’s been doing SEO consulting professionally since 1996 (yes, that’s before Google was founded) and the community knows him as the guy who…

The post Bill Slawski: “The most harmful SEO myth is the one that you fall for.” appeared first on Mangools.

Did you miss our previous article…

Google Starts Cheering Anti-Spam Edits in Google Maps

Just about every day I send in edits on Google My Business pages that have committed one party foul or another, but this is the first I’ve seen Google go out of its way to encourage those edits:

It was a partial edit of a business’s name, in which I removed a single stuffed-in keyword.  I find two things interesting, at least in this case.  The first is that I made that edit back in 2018.  The second is that that edit has stuck for almost 3 years, even though it would have been easy for the business to add back in the keyword.  Often when you make a Google Maps edit on the name of GMB page and Google agrees with your edit and makes the change, the business just changes the name back to whatever it was, and Google doesn’t do anything about it.  Often it becomes a tug of war.

I wasn’t the first to notice this; it’s reported in this tweet from last month.

Got an email update from @googlemaps. It says “Your reported problem is making a difference”

“You changed the name of Spicy Ramna Restaurant, which has now been seen over 2,000,000 times. Thanks for making such a valuable edit to the map.” #localguides #googlemaps

— Saiful Islam Sohel (@saifulissohel) June 16, 2021

But that’s it.  I haven’t seen anyone else mention it yet, nor have I gotten similar nudges from Google on other edits.

So far, Google doesn’t seem to cheer recently-submitted, recently-approved edits.  You’d think if that Google really wanted to encourage more Mapspam policing you would get emails on fresh edits, the same way Google emails you all the time about photos and reviews you posted.

Of course, only some kinds of Google Maps anti-spam edits can even get 80,000 views.  A completely bogus GMB page that you get removed no longer gets any views, of course.  I suppose those sorts of edits would be harder to encourage, even though fake GMB pages are the most damaging type of Google Maps spam by far.

Presumably you could get the same kind of email if you make a “popular” edit unrelated to spam, like on a business’s hours, but notice the subject line of the email: “Your reported problem is making a difference.”  Seems to have a spam-control flavor to it.

Have you seen this before?  If so, when, and for what kind of Google Maps edit?

What do you think Google is aiming for here, exactly?

Leave a comment!

Shoehorning Cities into the Address Field of a Google My Business Page

I may have seen this before, but it must not have registered with me until I saw it more than once on the same page of Google Maps results.   In any event, it’s new to me.  Below is an example.  Do you see what’s out of place?

Is it the plump business name?  Nope.  Keyword-stuffing like that is omnipresent.  What else looks odd?

That “service area” – Holy Moses!  Has Google started displaying in Google Maps all the cities in your GMB service area?  That’s what I thought at first, but notice: the cities are in the “address” field.

The street address is in the address field, but so are 12 cities (known as “suburbs” in Australia) and communities the business serves.

That isn’t a fluke, because on the very same page of Google Maps results is another GMB page with the same rigging, though both pages appear to belong to the same company.


That city-stuffed “address” field only shows up in Google Maps, as in at  It does not show up if you just type the query into Google and click on the map, or click on the “View all” link under the map, to pull up the local finder.

So, as with so many other things Google lets slide, it appears you can cram your service area into the address field of your GMB page.  Does it help rankings or help the business rank in a wider area?  I don’t know, though I would guess it doesn’t.  Those particular GMB pages don’t rank at the top of the heap for that query, but they’re far from the bottom: they’re #4 and 9, respectively, as of this writing.  Not bad.  They’re in the mix.  I could see how that stuffed address field might get more clicks, because the misplaced “service areas” blob is eye-catching.  But is that possible benefit worth increasing the chances of a suspension?  Probably not.

I wouldn’t suggest stuffing the address field with city names (or anything else), but I’ll admit I admire the fancy footwork required to do what that business did.

Speaking of which, how did they do that?


My educated guess is they verified the GMB page at the appropriate address, waited a while (and maybe worked on their citations), and then later went to work on the 1st “address” field in the GMB dashboard.  It’s possible that didn’t even trigger re-verification by postcard.  If it did trigger reverification, then the business owner must have been able to get the postcard sent to the first, correct version of the address (the one without all the city names), possibly in the way Joy Hawkins described here.

I might tinker around with this on my own GMB page (not a client’s) – just out of curiosity, and to see what’s involved.

How many times have you seen a GMB address field like that?

Has someone else written about it before?  (If so, I’d like to give that person credit.)

Any part of it you’re curious about?

Leave a comment!

Did you miss our previous article…

10 Years of Local Search Blogging

Today marks 10 years since I started blogging about local SEO and related topics, and in my view it marks the real start of my business and all that’s brought – including 400+ posts, way more skill, great clients, a great living, some friendships, a better understanding of my place on this dustball, and a bit of fun along the way.

Therefore, as Klingon ritual dictates, I must offer up a few stray thoughts today, even if there is an 80% chance it’s all irrelevant to you and a complete waste of your time.  On the other hand, if you’re a business owner who’s interested in the blogging or “content” thing, or if you’re a longtime reader here, or if you’re a local SEO-er, there may be bits and pieces of interest to you.

As I alluded to in my post from 5 years ago, I had been in local search for a couple of years by June of 2011, but my business model was completely different (i.e. not workable), and I didn’t have a blog or any other good way to connect with the very few other people in local search at the time, with or most of the people who’d become my clients.  If I never started the blog, there never would have been a business that lasted this long, and the start date wouldn’t have meant anything to me.  So maybe June of 2008 is the anniversary of my career choice, and September of 2009 is the anniversary of the website.  But June 1, 2011 is the anniversary of the business.

Anyway, even though most of my comments are on other matters, there are a couple of drive-by points I’d like to make about local search in general on this auspicious day.

I’m amazed at what a friendly industry this still is. By that, I mean the vast majority of people who work full-time in local SEO are nice people. I still haven’t figured out exactly why that is.  I haven’t even figured out how that can be, given how many unethical agencies there are, how many questionable software “solutions” have come and gone, how much spam is on the map, Google’s ever-increasing shadiness, and of course the horrors of the last year-plus.  Despite all of that, there remains a Mayberry vibe, and I’m grateful for it.Local search doesn’t seem to change much. Google’s tweaks, updates, ad injections, and rebrands seem like a big deal at the time, but they rarely still seem like major events in hindsight. Non-Google entities – other search engines, directories, software, services – tend not to influence the basic activities that separate some businesses from others.  “Revolutions” are few and far-between.  Mobile was a big deal.  Voice search…apparently not so much.

Neither of those observations is new to me, and probably isn’t a “Eureka!” moment for you, either.  In a similar way, if I were to recap what I’ve learned in the last 10 years, at least half of it would be exactly what I remarked on 5 years ago.  I’d say all of that still holds true.  But since then a few more things have dawned on me.

So, below are some observations, recommendations, and other neural gas from my last 10 years of blogging.  I hope these are relevant to you if you’re either a business owner who has some interest in blogging or other “content,” or if you’re in the local search industry, or both.

Don’t write for a big splash on Monday; write a post that readers will find useful for years.  The post may address a problem they don’t even have yet, and those people’s first visit to your site may be many months away.  Delivering your solution to those people is tricky, but if you can do it even a few times, your blogging will be worth everyone’s time.  If there’s one thing I’ve come to appreciate in the last 10 years, and especially in the last 5, the “think in years” approach is it, and most of my other thoughts here today are about how to do it.  A blog post should be less like sushi and more like a Slim Jim.You need an additional line of communication immediately downstream of your blog posts.  Probably your best bet is your email newsletter and not a Twitter feed or Facebook page or similar medium that you don’t really control and can be booted from.  In any event, very few people will read your post and contact you with the intention of working with you.  Either there’s not a need yet, or they need to get to know you more.  Whatever you hope to get out of it, blogging should part of the system, rather than the whole system.  This is where my “seed audience” approach may help.You can’t just be a blogger; you still need to ply your trade.  Ever watch This Old House-type shows and wonder whether the hosts ever swing a hammer?  Skills rot, and then insights do.  If you become the “ideas person” then it’s a matter of time before you start writing about inconsequential stuff, because you’ve lost sight of your audience’s challenges and therefore any solutions.  You can’t keep growing plants in soil that never gets replenished.  Keep your focus on doing your craft, rather than on blogging.  That’s how you’ll keep growing the experience that makes blogging worth your time and your readers’ time.Customers / clients / patients are your single best source of ideas.  They never run out of questions, observations, or new challenges.  If you talk with them all the time and hear what they’re saying, you’ll never run out of “content” ideas.  This is a main reason I say you need to remain hands-on in your business.Link out often and err on the side of giving more credit rather than less.  It compels you to do a little more homework on whatever you’re writing about, it makes for a more-helpful read, it’s just good form, and you’ll make more friends.It’s OK to slow down the pace.  The “write every day” approach has benefits, but isn’t sustainable.  Even if you put up something new once a week, you’ll run out of good ideas faster than you can get your hands on them.  Then either you’ll be forced to slow down anyway, or you’ll produce mush.  The right pace is the one you can stick with.  Case in point: I don’t post as often as I used to.  My “5 Years of Local Search Blogging” post was #276.  This one today is #405, rather than #552.  In the first 5 years I’d average 4 posts a month.  In the last 5 years I’ve averaged 1-2 posts a month.  So I’m going at about half the pace.  Has it hurt business?  Quite the opposite.  The posts are just more consistently useful these days.Avoid sounding corporate, or like a bigger organization than you are.  Avoid pompous words (like “ideation”), avoid industry jargon when you can, and don’t say “we” when you can say “I.”  Whatever you write or share, make it sound more like how you talk in-person.  I know that’s easier said than done, and I’ll admit that a very useful but stuffy post does more good for you and the reader than a less-useful but fun post can.  All I’m saying is go for useful AND relatable whenever you can.Don’t imitate anyone else, or at least anyone else in your industry.  Cover topics nobody else has, and do it in whatever style works for you, without necessarily thinking too much about it.  There’s a practical layer to that, which is that you don’t want to be an also-ran.  A decent number of people and entities in local search have done, shall we say, adaptations of my posts – often years after I wrote about whatever topic.  (I’d rather not name names.)  Often even the titles of the posts are similar to my originals.  Can’t say it doesn’t irk me a little, but those posts tend to be written by newer people, who often don’t have a mental bibliography of what’s been covered over the years.  The other reason not to cover other singers’ songs is that what you produce will be more memorable and therefore more useful to your readers.  I can’t tell you the number of times I talk with business owners who tell me they approach SEO/marketing in a certain way because of something I wrote in a post 3 years ago.  This may sound odd, but the universe knows if you’re original.Figure out what kind of habit or habits your posts will reinforce.  The people you’re writing for don’t want “fresh content”; they want to form habits that have payoff and can help them with problems big and small.  There is a place in the world for “daily news,” but people also get maxed out on that.  Also, the bearer of news often is not or will not seem to be a go-to person anyone wants to hire.  If your whole blogging or other content strategy is “news,” you’ll get an audience that just wants the news…and nothing more from you.  Instead, what you want is for people to think of what you produce in terms like, “every time I’m done with his post I come away with an idea I want to try,” or “every time I read one of her posts I learn about a problem I didn’t know about, and can avoid before it becomes a problem for me.”  Your blog (or other content vehicle) should be a gym, and not a sample tray at the supermarket.  Do that by focusing on specific questions and concerns, rather than on what you think will get clicks.Show gratitude to your readers.  Never take them for granted, even if they never pay you a dime or help in a conspicuous way.  The best way to do that is not to waste their attention with info that isn’t useful.  The next-best way is to ask for their feedback whenever you can and along the way to thank them for reading.  You may have a rough idea of what their situation is today, but you never know what’s next.  Some readers may be squeaking by today but will become a big success tomorrow – possibly due in part to the info you share – and he or she will return the good karma when you least expect it.  Other readers may refer you to friends or family who become great and longtime clients.  Some readers will get hit by a bus tomorrow.  Most people will read your stuff and benefit from it quietly.  Your audience isn’t a blob; the people in it will change over time.  We’re all just passing through town.  The question is what you do in the interim.  Pay extra attention to people who read your stuff year after year.  Ask them questions from time to time, and get to know them on one level or another.


This is probably a good time to say, whether you’re a longtime reader or just tripped on a banana peel and landed here, thanks for reading!

I’d be interested to hear if you have an all-time favorite post, or a favorite recent one, and of course I’d love any suggestions or questions.  (As always, I hope you’ll leave a comment.)

Service Pages and Local SEO: 20+ Principles to Make Them Your Rock-Solid Foundation

I work with clients on all kinds of local-visibility-related challenges, but you would not believe how much time I spend on service pages: explaining, critiquing, troubleshooting, inventorying, creating, and refining them, and then doing it all over again.

By “service page” I mean any page that’s focused on a specific service you offer.  But everything I recommend here also applies to whatever you may offer: products you sell, medical treatments you perform, legal cases you handle, etc.

Service pages can help you in many ways, including in that they:

Turn more of your visitors into customers, no matter how good or bad your search engine visibility is.Can bring you most of the organic rankings you’ll get.Can pop you into the Google Maps results / local 3-pack.Can produce a “local one-box” result, for more-specialized search terms.Serve as landing pages for Google Ads, likely helping your conversion rate and Quality Score.Help you develop a better understanding of your customers’ problems and why they might want your solutions.

Service pages never get less important.  I spend about as much time on them for super-longtime clients as I do for newer clients.  They help businesses that are squeaking by and businesses that are breakin’ necks and cashin’ checks.  No matter where you are in the local SEO process, time you spend on service pages is time well-spent.

They’re also one of the most basic parts of local SEO (and non-local SEO).  Without them there’s usually not much on the site you CAN optimize, or much for would-be customers to see if they even make it to your site.  If you’re a business owner who can’t or won’t put in the time to get your service pages right, your local rankings will have a Denver boot on them until that changes.  If you’re a local SEO who doesn’t put much time into service pages, your clients are in trouble.  Service pages should be your fastball, your cover of “Yesterday,” your Hamlet.

On the one hand, if you won’t do crackerjack “service” pages, you might as well not bother with other types of pages and other aspects of local SEO (and marketing) that are much harder to do well.  On the other hand, in most cases you can get just about everything else wrong and still get at least some business if you can develop powerful service pages.

How do most competitors approach them?  As an afterthought, as something to try after gimmicks and hacks haven’t worked out, or not at all.  The relatively few businesses that produce strong service pages tend to do well in the search results and in terms of business.  That’s your opening.


So, how can you make service pages that haul some freight for you?  Below are the main principles I suggest you apply.  (I show examples where it makes sense, and I have a list of examples at the end.)

Principle 1: Start making service pages very early in your local SEO effort. Are they priority #1? Probably not, because you’ve probably got a few quicker wins at hand.  But right after taking care of the urgent stuff, start cranking out service pages.  It takes time to draft, build, optimize, and link to them.  It takes a while longer for Google to index your pages, and for them to start ranking for anything, for you to see what’s in the net and to make changes, and for those pages eventually to rank higher or for tougher terms (or both).  You’ll want to get a jump on it.

Principle 2: Figure out roughly how many service pages to aim for by sticking to a simple rule: if you want customers for it, create a page on it. There isn’t much to it beyond that, but I will throw in a few caveats:

You shouldn’t have multiple pages on exactly the same service; the services should be distinct.I don’t suggest creating city-service permutation pages.Even if you’ve got a page on each distinct service, you may have some opportunities to create good spin-off pages.

Principle 3: Don’t let your menu limit the number or types of pages you create. You don’t have to link all your pages in the main menu, and sometimes you may conclude it just doesn’t make sense to do so. That’s fine.  All that matters is you link to your service pages in multiple noticeable spots on the site.  On the other hand, if you’ve found the main menu has started to rip its pants but you want to keep adding pages to it, consider something like a mega menu.

Principle 4: Make it a page, not a post. If you also have a post about the service, fine. You can always consolidate later.  You can always make a complementary post later.  But at least get the page.

Principle 5: Know, produce, and use the types of content that are effective on service pages:

FAQs, especially from customers/clients/patients and from leads. If you have to pick just one type of service-page content to focus on, FAQs should probably be it.Reviews from people who got your service. If possible, link back to where the person wrote the review (like on Google Maps).Photos, especially before-and-after photos.Videos, preferably YouTube embeds, and preferably of you at work or speaking.Case studies or war stories (on specific projects, cases, procedures, etc.).Links to related pages on your site, particularly related service pages.“Steps in our process.” As you describe what goes into the sausage, you’ll probably use some of the other types of content (e.g. photos)Bio / profile info on specific people in your business who offer or specialize in that service.Synonyms and near-synonyms of the service. You may be able to rank for some o those, too, without too much sweating.

Here’s a great example.

Principle 6: Scavenge content from dud blog posts and low-performance pages and use it to better effect on your service pages. Do you have old service pages with 90% junk but 10% good info? Did you write some blog posts that not even the bug on your laptop screen read?  If they’ve got some content that describes your services pretty well, see what you can grab and use on a new services page or on an existing one.  If the old page or post had some decent rankings, traffics, or links, you’ll probably want to 301-redirect it to the current / new services page.

Principle 7: Avoid creating city-service permutation pages, as in a service page for each city where you offer. Occasionally there’s a good reason to have them, but in the final shootout they tend to disappoint.

Principle 8: Get the 1.0 version up quickly, but work on the page continually. You can and should develop and improve the page over the long haul, and you may want the 2.0 version to happen sooner rather than later. Always look for ways to show off recent work, address questions you get, and describe people’s problems and your solutions in more detail.

Principle 9: Make your target geography explicitly clear. Specify your exact service area, or the specific places where you get the most customers/clients/patients, or (if you’re a multi-location businesses) which locations offer the service. Good service pages don’t just describe what you do: They’re also about where you do it, where you’ve done it, or where people who have gotten it have come from.

Principle 10: Front-load your page: start off with brief description of what the service is and who needs it, then put a call-to-action (maybe even a contact form), then go into all kinds of detail on the service, and then put another call-to-action at the bottom. Most people flub their service pages in one of two ways: either they don’t describe the service at all and assume customers have enough info to take the next step, or they go into a PhD dissertation about the service before they tell customers what the next step is.

Principle 11: Go heavy on the internal links – both to your service pages and on your services pages. Don’t have just one trail of breadcrumbs to a service page. In general, I try to link to each high-priority service page on the homepage, in the main menu, in the footer, on the main “services” page, at the very least.  If possible, also link to them on your pages for related services , and on “bio” pages for specific people on your crew.  In general, how heavy you go on the internal linking should be proportionate to how important you consider this or that service.  Inbound links from relevant other sites to your service pages will be hard to come by, so it’s extra important to feed those pages the link juice from your other, perhaps more-linked-to pages.

Principle 12: Continually look for or create opportunities to add more internal links to any given service page. On other service pages, on relevant blog posts, etc. This is in addition to the initial batch of internal links you should have added right after you created the service page.  Over time the opportunities and the need to add more links to that service page will taper off, but you should always be on the prowl.  Especially once you more pages than fingers and toes, you’ll be surprised at how many good places there are to add relevant internal links.  By the way, I wouldn’t be too concerned about overdoing it.


Principle 13: Don’t burn yourself out by making niche pages way more detailed than they need to be. Or you won’t get all the pages you need or it’ll take you forever. The more niche or specialized the page is, the less detailed the page needs to be.  Also, the more niche the page is, the more likely it is to rank across a wider patch of geography.  Go extra long and detailed on services for which you have more or tougher competitors.  On more-specialized service pages, though, it probably won’t take as much effort to rank.

Principle 14: Create spin-off pages at every opportunity, and link to them on existing service pages at every opportunity.

Principle 15: Embed every half-decent video on your site. If you do nothing else with a video you put on your business’s YouTube channel, put it on at least one “service” page you care about. In my experience, the view count is a big factor in how visible a video is in YouTube and in turn in Google’s main search results.  Which creates a chicken-and-the-egg question: if your video doesn’t rank for anything, how do you rack up the views?  You do it by getting people who visit your site to watch videos relevant to the service(s) they’re interested in.  (Similar to the “seed audience” approach I suggest for your blog, if you blog.)  Also, if the video doesn’t suck, it can be persuasive and help you get more business out of however much (or little) visibility you’ve got.  This is the single highest-payoff thing you can do with your videos.  Don’t just keep them cloistered on YouTube.

Principle 16: Add a section your online/virtual offering, if applicable. See my 2020 post on the topic: Doable Examples of Online/Remote Services Offered by Local Businesses

Principle 17: Wheel out your best copywriting and other persuasive stuff. Like your homepage and contact page, a service page is a “money” page, where people can and often do decide whether to take the next step. In many cases it’s the first page visitors have seen, and you don’t want it to be the last you’ve seen of those visitors.  Your service pages can get customers in the chute even if the rest of your pages aren’t very persuasive yet, or if your USP still isn’t crispy enough.  That means now is the time to copy and paste reviews from customers who got that service, show relevant photos/videos, address every frequently asked question, say exactly who does NOT need your service, describe all the alternatives, and make it plain as day how your service differs from competitors’.  As my track coach used to say, “Leave it all on the track.”

Here’s one of my all-time favorites.

Principle 18: Add “refer a friend” offers, pro bono offers, and discounts for certain customers, if possible. It’s a small bit of relevant content, but more important is it’s a way to expand your customer base beyond the footprint of your current rankings. Even as your search engine visibility improves over time, you want to become less reliant on it.  Rustling up business is still the ultimate point of it all.  But even that feeds into your rankings, too, because each customer can also yield a review or testimonial, a case study, photos, a video, or even more – all of which can help your rankings.  At least in that odd respect, customers are your content.

Principle 19: Don’t be too concerned about duplicate content – either between different service pages or between service pages and other pages. If you avoid the misguided “city-service” page strategy, there’s not much risk of your making service pages that are too similar to each other. One page is about this service, and the other page is about that service.  There will be some overlap – some boilerplate – and that’s fine.  Google is used to seeing that, and I’ve never seen a “penalty” of any kind from Google.  Assuming you did an OK job on both of the pages (by following my other recommendations), the worst that happens is one page doesn’t rank so well and you need to take another chop at it.

Principle 20: Study your service pages early and often in Google Search Console. Look them up in “Performance” -> “Pages” and see what terms they rank for (and don’t rank for), how many impressions they get, how many clicks they get, what the months-long trend looks like, and which service pages are doing better than others. You’ll get a sense of whether you need to develop your page more, make it more enticing to click on in the search results, or blast more internal links to it.  Once you know how the page stacks up, the action items probably won’t take too much thinking.

Principle 21: Become a connoisseur of competitors’ and others’ service pages. Don’t just give them a sniff in the search results and move on. Go through the pages in search of good ideas you can adopt or adapt.

Principle 22: Don’t put all of your effort into service pages. I know that sounds strange, given how much I just talked about service pages. But those are only part of the rigging.  Your homepage, “areas served” page, maybe “city” pages, and other pages all can rank and convert, and require your effort.

Examples of local-business sites that use service pages effectively

Below are a few examples of sites with rock-solid service pages.  (I have more examples if you’d like them; just let me know what industry you’re looking for an example in.)

Relevant posts

Local Justifications Are a Big Deal and You Can Influence Them – Miriam Ellis

Title Tags for Local SEO: Increase Your Local Traffic and Click-Through Rate – Darren Shaw

How Does YouTube Count Views? We Break It Down – Kayla Carmichael

One-Time Work vs. Ongoing Work in Local SEO – me

Should You Make It a Page or a Post? – me

You Offer 10 Services and Serve 10 Cities, So You Create 100 City Pages? Why City-Page Proliferation Is Dumb – me

Spin-off Pages: a Bazooka for Your Local SEO – me

10 Bootstrap Ways to Grab More of Your Service Area in Local Search – me

How to Rank for “Near Me” Local Search Terms – me

Odd Relationships in Local Search – me

Any principles I forgot – SOPs that have worked well for your service pages?

Any examples of sites that are dialed-in on their service pages?

Leave a comment!

What to Do If You Lost All Your Google Reviews after Accidentally Deleting Your GMB Page

As I’ve observed and written for many years, your Google reviews are never completely safe – and never completely gone.  You can lose them in bulk or in a drip.  You can lose them because of Google’s filter, manual removal, a bug, or a reviewer’s change of heart.  You can also lose your Google reviews – all of them – in a puff of smoke when trying to move to a different Google account.

The specific scenario I’m thinking of is that you deleted a G Suite account or other Google account and thought your Google My Business page and reviews wouldn’t be affected, only to discover that both your GMB page and your pile of reviews are gone.


If it makes you feel better, Google’s messaging often is unclear, such that routine steps sound scary and shooting yourself in the foot is easy.

That recently happened to a guy I sometimes do consulting with.  He wanted to move away from a G Suite account, in favor of a self-hosted email address used for Google properties.  Turned out that G Suite account was the only one he used to manage his Google My Business page.  In the process of deleting that G Suite account, his GMB page went poof – along with the 60 reviews he had earned over the last 7 years and the power that goes with them.  Gone without a trace.

He got in touch, told me what happened, I asked some questions, and we put together a plan.  A few days later, and without too much back-and-forth between me and him or him and Google, we got all 60 reviews back.

Now’s probably a good time to say that I do NOT want you to do the steps below if your GMB page is still up (as in accessible in Google Maps) and is missing only reviews.  If you didn’t accidentally nuke your page, but you’re shy some reviews, then something else is going on and the steps below are not the solution to your problem.

Below is what I suggest you do to recover your Google reviews if you lost your Google My Business page and its reviews because you pressed the wrong buttons.

1. Create and owner-verify a NEW Google My Business page, in whatever account you like.

Presumably it’s not the same one your page used to be in. For the love of Pete, at least make sure it’s an an account that you will keep around for the long haul and will want to use for years to come.  Use the same name, address, phone number, and landing page URL you had in the old GMB page.  The other details (e.g. description) don’t matter, but now is not the time to change the basic info you use on your page.

The reason you need a new page is simple: Google needs a place to transplant the reviews if and when they’re exhumed.  I’d guess a secondary reason is security: Google needs to know you’re the same person as the one who deleted the old page, and are still located where you say you are.  (That would make it harder for someone to hijack your GMB page.)  For that reason, I don’t suggest trying to get the old page back now, or back at all.  The goal is to get your reviews back, and that’s less likely to happen if you don’t have a GMB page and can’t or won’t create a new one.

2. Contact Google My Business support, and tell them the facts:

The name and location of both the vanished GMB page and of the new one (the one you just verified).What you were trying to do and what happened instead.How many reviews the old page had.The usernames / email addresses used for the old GMB page and for the new one (the one you want the reviews dug up and moved to).If possible, provide a link to the old Google My Business page. You may have that link handy if you sent a link to customers when asking them to review you.

3. Provide info the Google rep asks for, and follow up as needed.

It shouldn’t be a super-long process, but if all your reviews are gone it may seem like an eternity. You probably won’t need the patience of an oyster, but it’s good to have one anyway.  Whatever your opinions of Google as a company, the GMB support reps do try to help, and in general are helpful.

That’s it.  Of course, I can’t promise Google will do what you need, or do it soon.  But it’s your only move.  The main thing is to do step #1 quickly, rather than to flounder around in an attempt to get back your GMB page and the reviews in one motion.


I don’t like it any more than you do, mainly because I’m a bit of a purist, in that I don’t like solutions that involve relying on someone else’s discretion.  In any event, the above process worked in the situation I described, and should work for you if you’re in the same situation or a similar one.

Thanks to Lenny from Kammes Colorworks in Elburn, IL, for chronicling the whole shootin’ match.

Do you have – or have you had – a TARFU situation like that?  Leave a comment!

(By the way, though I haven’t seen anyone talk about this exact problem or solution, please tell me if you know of a blog post or other resource on the topic, so I can give the author his or her due credit.)

Did you miss our previous article…

Spin-off Pages: a Bazooka for Your Local SEO

You’ve been on many sites that have them.  Your stronger competitors probably have some.  You may even have a few on your site.  In any case, what I call “spin-off pages” aren’t a new thing, but SEOs and business owners tend not to think of them often or at all, and almost never do they treat spin-off pages as a major part of their on-page local SEO work.  That’s a tough break for them, but great news for you.

What is a spin-off page?  It’s a new page you create that’s all about a more-specific version of a service/product/treatment for which you’ve already got a page on your site.

In other words, you identify a page on your site about a service (or other offering) you consider a high priority, you think of ways to bust that page into smaller chunks, and you create a page on each chunk.  (And you keep the original, broader page, and maybe even build it out more.)

The pages will probably overlap somewhat, but they shouldn’t be clones of each other.  Either they’re on different variations of a service, or they’re on different brands, or they’re about commercial versions of residential services, or they’re about the same service for different kinds of customers/clients/patients.

Bring out your inner Bubba from Forrest Gump (not only an expert on shrimp, but also a formidable local SEO).


What are examples of spin-off pages?

Below are examples of spin-off pages I did for clients.  (In many of my other blog posts I wheel out examples by name, though I think in this post it’s more interesting at this level of detail.)

Pest control example: we created not just a page on bee extermination, but also a page on hornet control, wasp control, yellow jacket control, and carpenter bee control.

Plastic surgeon example: we created not just a page on rhinoplasty, but also a page on rhinoplasty for teenagers, a page on revision rhinoplasty, a page on “ethnic” rhinoplasty, and others.

Electrician example: we created not just a page on lighting installation, but also a page on dimmer installation, recessed lighting installation, chandelier installation, pool lighting, and others.

Divorce / family-law attorney example: we created not just a page on child-custody cases, but also a page on joint custody, sole custody, and modifications of custody.

Couples’ therapist example: we created not just a page on couples counseling, but also a page on marriage counseling, relationship counseling, and relationship counseling for individuals.

Plumber example: we created not just a page on toilet repair, but also a page on toilet replacement, toilet installation, valve repair, and “bathroom plumbing.”

Auctioneer example: we created not just a page on “historical memorabilia,” but also a page on WWII memorabilia, sports memorabilia, political memorabilia, rock-n’-roll memorabilia, historical photographs, and more.

Dentist example: we created a page on “no insurance dentist,” rather than another page designed to rank for the term “dentist.”  (Good at attracting out-of-pocket patients, by the way.)

And many more.  (Just let me know what kind of example you’re looking for, if your business isn’t anything like those I mentioned.)  You can do spin-off pages regardless of what you do for a living.



How do spin-off pages help you?

In at least one of three ways:

They can help you rank for more-specialized search terms. Some of those will be easier to rank for, often because you’ll have fewer local competitors on them, and you may even rank across a wider swath of geography. Also, in some cases those pages will be all you need to pop into the Google Maps 3-pack for certain terms, perhaps as the only search result in Maps.You’ll have more pages that may rank for the broader search terms you haven’t been able to rank for. They’re more lines in the water. Often the page you hope or expect to rank isn’t the page that does rank.  I’m a big fan of what I often call reverse-siloing.  (I touch on that approach here and here, for starters.)Conversion rate and persuasiveness: They’ll compel more searchers to conclude, “These people know my situation and exactly what I need, and it sounds like they have experience with it.” You’ll convert more people into new customers, clients, or patients.

How can you think of spin-off pages for your business?

I wish I had an easy-to-describe system – or any system at all.  It’s a totaly case-by-case thing.  Still, here are a few ways you can get some ideas into the hopper:

Check out competitors’ sites, and the sites of businesses in your same industry that are not in your area. Even if they’re doing the rest of their local SEO badly, sometimes they have great page ideas.Go through existing “services” pages on your site, look for bullet-point lists, and ask: “Can I make a page on each of these points?”Write down a one-sentence description of each job you’ve done in the past month (or year, or whatever duration). Think of how each job has differed, and do a page on that specific scenario, or twist on your service, or type of person, etc.Dig through the search terms report in Google Ads (if you run ads)Try my other keyword-research ideas.

That’s pretty much it.  You may have to do a little site surgery to get the spin-off pages into your main navigation (like with a mega menu) and to lay down internal links in strategic places, but you probably don’t need to think too much about your spin-off pages.  Partly that’s because you’re adding pages, rather than overhauling existing pages.  Don’t think too hard about this one.  Later on you can always refine the pages and how they’re incorporated into your site.

In the meantime, you can and should keep an eye on your new pages over the next few months, see what kind of data you see in Search Console (especially the number of impressions), and at the first signs of life do another one.


As with working on your homepage and on your title tags, working on spin-off pages is one of a small handful of on-page local SEO activities that can help your organic rankings, your Google Maps 3-pack rankings, and your ability to rustle up new business from the kinds of people you most want to work with. A strategic use of your time and effort.

To what extent have you tried spin-off pages for your business?

Any examples of the strategy done very effectively – or badly?  (By the way, have you ever seen someone describe the same strategy in a different way.)

Do you want to use spin-off pages, but are stumped as to what kinds of spin-off pages you could make?

Leave a comment!

Odd Relationships in Local Search

One of the first things you notice about Google Maps and the rest of the local search zoo is that usually there’s no single, isolated reason one business outranks another.  Rather, all kinds of factors come into play: some obvious, some less obvious, lots of maybes, and some that probably nobody knows about.  But I’d go a step further and say you’re in a much better position to get some solid rankings if you know how some factors tend to interact with each other, often in unpredictable ways.

You can’t look at local search ranking factors in a vacuum.  Google sure doesn’t seem to.  Now, it’s not a bad idea to work on your local SEO with a big checklist.  That can get you far, especially if you stick with it.  You only run into trouble when you seem to have done exactly what your strongest competitors have done – and maybe you even did it better – and you still come up short and have no idea why.

So the first thing to know is certain ranking factors seem to have relationships to each other.  The second thing to know is those relationships often are strange.  Not quite Hollywood strange, but counter-intuitive enough to elude most people most of the time.

Now’s probably a good time to stress that these are just my observations.  Granted, they’re based on my having gotten my local SEO overalls grimy for about 71 Internet years, and I’ve seen these phenomena pop up again and again.  I often explain these points to clients and others, and put them to the test all the time.  So I’m confident that you’ll observe at least some of the same things I’ve observed (if you haven’t already), though you may observe different things and draw different conclusions (which I’d love to hear).  In any event, it’s always possible that one phenomenon I think I understand is in reality something else.  Also, I don’t claim to be able to explain everything perfectly. I’m just sharing my lab notes, and hope you put them to use in your local market.

Anyway, here are some of the many odd relationships between ranking factors that pop up in Google’s local search results (Maps + organic):

1. The lower the density of local competitors for a search term, the more geography you can rank in.  Put another way: the more specialized your offering is, the wider service area you can realistically rank in.  That’s simply because for more-niche search terms Google needs to harder to turn up relevant results nearby, so it needs to look farther afield.  That’s true both in Google Maps and in the organic results.

2. The lower the density of local competitors, the faster you can expect to rank for a given search term.  Kind of an intuitive point – of course Google’s less picky when it’s got fewer choices – but business owners lose sight of it all the time anyway.  That’s one reason when you open a new business or a new location you should focus on smaller, more-specialized terms, and on a tighter geography rather than on your whole service area.  You’re not biting off more than you can chew, and are more likely to get some visibility / customers on the sooner side.

3. The stronger the backlinks profile a site has, the higher likelihood that new content on that site – or GMB pages pointing to that site – will rank well early on.  Why is that bigger companies can create a Google My Business page, or add an unremarkable new page, or blast out a so-so blog post, and have it outrank most competitors right out of the chute?  Not necessarily after a day, but maybe after a few weeks – and in any case way sooner than you got any good rankings.

Whenever I see a business that’s visible quickly and without spamming, I almost always find a link profile that’s better than competitors’.  If your GMB page or “service” or “city” page or blog post (or whatever) is attached to a domain with good and relevant links, especially if you’ve earned them over the course of years, you’re more likely to get some solid rankings sooner, even if that exact URL on your site doesn’t  have any links specifically pointing at it yet.

4. The more good links you have, the more forgiving Google is of bad links.  (This phenomenon isn’t specific to local SEO, but rather is omnipresent in SEO.)  Most sites that have been around for more than a couple of years have some shady-looking links, often that the owner of the site doesn’t want and had no hand in creating.  There are always ants at the picnic.  Google seems to know that and take it into account.

The bad news is that’s probably why some bigger brands and organizations often get away with schemes like buying links, setting up a network, or jamming exact-match anchor text into links whenever it can, even if a smaller or newer business would get penalized if it tried to get a foothold that way.  Often the more-established companies have enough decent links that Google looks at the big picture and concludes that the company isn’t completely reliant on the schemes.  If a new site or one without many or any good links tries some scheme and 80% of its links already look fishy to Google, then of course that plan invites trouble, because at some point it’ll just be too much.

Meanwhile, a more-established site could get away with getting the same shady links, because those links might account for 5% of its haul.  Fair?  Maybe not, but that’s how it always seems to go.

The good news is that to the extent you have some links that took a little effort to get and are from relevant sites, then you don’t need to worry much about penalty if you’ve got some junk links in the mix.

5. The more you develop your homepage – which is usually your GMB landing page URL – the greater the range of terms you can rank for on the local map.  As I’ve found for many years, not only are you most likely to rank well on the local map if you use your homepage as your GMB landing page URL, but your homepage also is most likely to rank for a big bucket of search terms.  Other pages on your site tend to rank for a smaller, more closely-related groups of terms (if you play your cards right).  For most businesses, the homepage tends to have most or all of the good links.

That means a few things.  One is that’s probably why so often your homepage will outrank other pages on your site for terms you want those pages to rank for.  The other is that your homepage tends to have just enough link oomph to rank for at least some of the terms you want for, as long as the content is relevant.  That’s where most business owners trip at the 5-yard line: their homepages are lean on info on the services and service area, and read more like brochures.

6. The better your site performs organically, the more likely your GMB page is to rank well (somewhere, for some terms you care about).  Most of local SEO is organic SEO with a few twists.  If you’ve got several sites and aren’t sure which one to glue your GMB page(s), my suggestion is to pick the one that gets the most visibility in the organic results, preferably for locally relevant terms.  (By the way, that’s why some people get mileage out of the old tactic of using a page on a BIG domain – think Facebook or Yelp or Google Sites – as their GMB landing page URL.  That GMB page piggybacks off of the prominence and link mojo of that domain, and Google’s too unsophisticated or lackadaisical to do anything about it.)

7. The more you’ve worked on your local citations, the less likely you are to see any benefit from further work.  Especially if you’ve got other factors already working in your favor, and especially if your citations are a total mess, you can see a bump your Google Maps / GMB rankings after you’ve squared away your listings on the basic sites.  Beyond that?  Not so much.  Many business owners do some work on their citations, see a little boost, and think, “Cool!  I worked on 20 listings and saw results, so I’ll crank out 200 listings on other sites and should get 10 times the results.”  It never works out that way.  There’s a point of diminishing return in citation work, and in my experience once hits it real fast.

8. The better a page performs already, the more easily you can get it to rank for a related term, or in a nearby area, or both.  I can’t explain it, but time and time again I’ve noticed a “snowball” effect in which you identify a page on your site that already ranks well for certain local search terms, you add a bit of content that’s at least loosely relevant to the terms that page ranks for, and sooner or later that page ranks for those new terms, too.

So let’s say you’re a dentist and you’ve got a page that’s mighty visible for “cosmetic dentist” or a similar term.  The chances are good you could get that same page to rank for the term “dental veneers” or “teeth whitening” (or both) with less strain than you could get separate, dedicated, more-targeted pages to rank for those terms.  I’ve found this most likely to work on pages that tend to be broad, like the homepage, “state” pages, and sometimes “service” pages.  It can help widen the variety of terms a page ranks for in the organic results, and in some cases it can widen your visibility in the 3-pack / Google Maps.  Often it’s not that hard to branch out if you attempt it on a page that already does OK.

9. The more reviews you get, the easier it is to get more reviews.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing.  When you’ve got many negative reviews, people are more likely to pig-pile you.  Or, when you’ve got many good reviews, the people who become your customers / clients / patients are more likely to have picked you because of your strong reviews, and are predisposed to write you a review when the time comes.

10. The longer Google Maps spam is around, the harder it is to get Google to correct it.  I don’t know if that’s because older spammy GMB pages tend to have piled up more reviews (which do seem to help spam stick around), or because the business is more likely to have listings on the sites that Google uses to confirm the info it has on a certain business, or because Google has enough behavioral data on the GMB page (what terms it ranks for, who clicks on it, where those people are located, etc.).  I suspect its some combination of those factors, plus some factor(s) I wouldn’t even guess.   In any event, there is a sad “fake it ‘til you make it” reality that benefits the slickest spammers and well-meaning unintentional rule-benders alike.

11. The faster you get good rankings, the more likely your rankings will swing up and down.  It’s nice if you saw a bump just from changing the name of your business and/or Google My Business page, or moving to a different address, or doing basic work on your local listings and site.  But that may also mean your competitors can knock you off with similar ease.  Or it may mean that for one reason or another you’re in one of Google’s test buckets, in which it rotates seemingly random local businesses into the results, presumably just to see who clicks.

I’m not saying that poor results mean you’ve got a brilliant long game that just hasn’t worked out yet, and I’m not saying that sometimes stubborn problems don’t  have simple solutions.  Quick wins may lead to lasting gains, and you’ll take all the good news you can get.

I’m just saying this: easy come, easy go.

To what extent have you noticed those kinds of interactions?  Do they seem to have helped or hurt you or your competitors?

Do you think something else is going on?

Any other “weird relationships” you’ve noticed between ranking factors?

Leave a comment!

Seed Audiences: the Most Practical Way to Make Blogging Work for a Local Business

For most business owners and others who try it, blogging is a frustration factory.  The way they go about it, it’s a time gobbler, a grind, and a disappointment until they give up – 47 blog posts and 0 new links, 0 visitors, and 0 customers later.

What’s wrong with the way small / local businesses blog?

I’ll be the last one to say blogging isn’t effective.   It sure can be.  This blog is a vital organ of my business, and that’s true of some of my clients’ businesses, too.  But certain pieces need to slide into place first, preferably on the sooner side.

The big trouble is that blogging (as it’s commonly done) is at best a tough way to earn links, build an audience, and pick up local rankings for semi-competitive terms.  As in it’s ineffective at all 3 most of the time.  Why?  One issue at a time:

Your post probably won’t get links because (paradoxically) your site probably doesn’t have much of a backlinks profile at the moment and won’t help you outrank posts on more-established sites, and because it’s unlikely you have an attentive following in your email newsletter or on social media. For any or all of those reasons, people won’t find your post, and so nobody will link to it.Even the few people who stumble across your post probably won’t find your other posts relevant, or find them at all. Even if they notice that you have other posts, they may not have an urge to read those posts now, and (usually) won’t have an occasion to return to your site.  So you’re left with one visit per reader, rather than months or years of return visits per person.Even if a blog post ranks for a certain term you care about, it will be crowded out by and need to compete with competitors’ homepages, general directories, and industry and local directories. Those competing sites and pages tend to rank for a wider variety of search terms, whereas you’ll be lucky if your post ranks for a couple of terms you care about.  You’ll find it hard or impossible to replicate a success, and you’ll find you need to work too hard for too little.

If it’s much tougher sledding than you expected, you won’t stick with it to the point of seeing any benefits.

You might have tried or considered a swing-for-the-fences approach, in which you write giant posts that involve a lot of research, design, and maybe outreach.  That kind of approach has worked for some local business owners, and may work for you.  But the odds are long.  It’s not likely to work out the way you hoped, in which case it was just a big waste of time.

You’re in a bind.  You want to or think you need to blog.  You don’t want to skip trying to make it work only because it’s tough, but you also don’t want to go on a fool’s errand.  So what in tarnation are you supposed to do?

In my experience, there are only two practical ways to give your blogging mission a high probability of success – by which I mean it helps your business become more visible to the local people you’re trying to reach:

(1) Maintain a long stream of quick blog posts on niche, specialized, almost obscure topics – like on the kinds of questions only a few of your customers/clients/patients ever ask you – and crank out a lot of those posts month after month.  The idea is this: on any given day, maybe 10 people search for an answer to the geeky little question you write about.  But your post is the only one around that meets that exact need, so by Gum that post will capture every last one of those 10 searchers.

Shopping for food in March of 2020 - image courtesy

(2) Or you can start with a “seed audience.”  That’s my term for an early, small group of readers, all of whom are people you already know to one degree or another.  Those people form a core or nucleus – a seed – of what will grow into a bigger audience over time.

If you want your blog posts or other “content” to help you get more local customers/clients/patients – directly or indirectly, sooner or later – a seed audience is what’s most likely to work.  Let me explain more.

Who’s your seed audience, and what are you supposed to do for them?

Your very earliest readers will probably be a motley (Crüe) crew of people, all with different relationships to you.  To some extent that’s out of necessity, because you don’t have many other would-be readers yet.  But the mixed bag of people also happens to be useful in this case, because you’ll get a better sense of whom your audience can be or should be, and whom you should focus on.  You want feedback from various people.  Your seed audience should probably be some combination of these people:

Past customersCurrent customersLeadsPeople who refer customers to you, or vice versaPartnersEmployees / staffRecipients of pro bono workYes, maybe even friends and family – especially if anyone is involved in anyone else’s business or professionOther people you think may be interested

Either you keep a list of specific people to send your posts to individually, or you whip up an email newsletter (like with Mailchimp or Aweber –  or consider Tidings) and invite them to join it, or do both.  Preferably you do both.

In either case, your action item is the same: look for opportunities to direct those people to your blog posts – posts you’ve already written and posts you haven’t written yet – at a time they would find your information helpful and welcome.

If you don’t read any more of this post and don’t need more of my color commentary, just do that one thing and your blogging will be much more likely to bring you visibility / links / customers.

What does the seed audience do for you, exactly?

First of all, you need to do something for them: send them a blog post that answers a question they asked you, or that helps solve a problem you know they’ve got.  You can send them posts you did years ago, or new posts that you know to be dead-on relevant to their problems or goals.  Keep in mind that the seed audience consists of people who (to varying degrees) already know you.  This is the equivalent of the old-school practice of mailing newspaper clippings to someone.  Except those clippings are bits and pieces you wrote.

As long as the posts (or other content) you share with your seed audience is timely for them, over time the people in your seed audience will help grow your audience in several specific ways:

They are one of your best sources of ideas – between the questions they’ve asked you, concerns they raise, what you know about their situations. If what’s in your head is the only source of topics to write about, pretty soon you’ll run out of topics to write about.  See what’s in other people’s heads.They’ll provide your earliest shares on social media, when nobody else will (because nobody else knows about your posts yet).They’re likely to send your post to people they work with, or to their friends or family.They’ll give you feedback on your work, especially if you ask.You’ll get great keyword ideas, just by paying attention to how they describe what you do, how they describe their challenges and what they want, etc.Depending on exactly who’s in your seed audience, they may be more likely already to have some buying intent. So not only is there a chance they might hire you for something if you sent them a helpful post at the right time, but it’s also possible there are other people exactly like those people (e.g. past customers or leads).  In that case, consider focusing more of your posts on that little part of your seed audience.They may give you an early and merciful clue as to whether you should continue blogging at all. If after a while you can’t engineer your posts to be useful to people you already know, it’s not as likely you’ll figure out what kinds of perfect strangers your posts are meant to help if your audience gets bigger.  You need to know at least roughly what kind of person your posts are supposed to help.

How do you develop a seed audience?

This one’s as simple as it sounds: you email your posts to anyone you can, whenever the topics that you wrote about have come up.

You can also point people to your post if the topic comes up while you’re on the phone (or Zoom) with them.  That assumes, of course, that it’s a post you’ve already published, and that it’s named in such a way that you can tell someone the name of the post, and he or she can Google it and pull it up without much strain.

Consider creating posts for an audience of one.   Not in a creepy way, like, “I know what you’re thinking now, Bert.”  I’m saying if, for example, a past customer or employee asks you a stumper question, write a blog post on it.  Do some research if you have to.  Go to town.  Possibly give the person who asked you the question a shout-out or tip of the hat in the post.  I do that all the time.  In any event, send it to him or her (and ask for feedback), and send it to future people who have the same question or a similar one.  If nothing else, it’ll save you from having to answer the same question again and again.  More likely is that over time that post also starts bringing you some decent traffic and maybe even a couple of links.  That’s because it’s on a question or concern that someone actually has.

Get some practice at building an audience one person at a time.  Most will appreciate the timely post, many will stay tuned for more, and some people will bring others into your teepee.

By the way, I’ve found it extremely useful to keep a running list of posts.  That makes it quick and easy for me to send someone the link to a relevant post I did.

What are the alternatives?

With the exception of the one good, realistic alternative I mentioned at the beginning of this post (writing lots of quick posts on super-niche topics), the alternatives to the “seed audience” strategy have serious drawbacks.  Here are the common tacks business owners and marketers try:

Strategy 1: Swing for the fences: trying to write monster, “ultimate guide”-type posts.   This one is hard to ease into, harder to sustain, easy to burn yourself out on and stop, and runs contrary to most people’s naturally short attention spans.

Strategy 2: Hamster wheel: writing 17 unplanned, slapdash posts every month, sticking with it for 3 months, and giving up.

Strategy 3: “Build it and they will come”: the posts are solid, useful, and well thought-out, but you didn’t write them with a specific person or specific people in mind, and so you don’t send them to anybody.  You assume that just because you wrote it Google will find readers for it.

Strategy 4: Mass production: pay a third party to belch out posts that are so bad even you won’t read them – but that you’re certain will help your rankings because “Google likes fresh content.”  You need basic quality-control.

Can other approaches work?  Yes.  Will they work?  Probably not. With enough effort you can probably get any blogging strategy to advance your goals at least a little, but at what cost to the other things you need to accomplish in a day?  You can always tweak your strategy later.  For every one business owner who gets the skyscraper technique (for all its merits) to work, there are 20 who couldn’t make it work.  We don’t hear from those people much.  Also, what works for a marketing agency or for a non-local business has a good chance of not working for you – for your local business.

People who say you definitely should or definitely should not blog are missing the point.  Sure, you should have content that informs and helps anyone on your site, but who says that needs to be in the form of a blog post?  In most cases having very detailed “service” pages and other pages (and don’t forget the homepage) is your best way to do that.  Videos, too.

That’s why I’m working off the assumption you’ve already got your pages pretty much down pat, and that you want blogging to help you get even more visibility.  I’ve also assumed you don’t want it become your new full-time job.  A seed audience is the best way to go about that.


Again, the idea of the seed audience is simple: Make use of every opportunity to send your posts to people you already come into contact with.

Send a post whenever it’s helpful to the other person.  Pay attention to the questions and concerns of the people in your seed audience, and write more posts that help those people with those challenges.  I guarantee you there are more people like them, and in time those people will become your larger audience.

Preferably your seed audience includes past or current customers, but it doesn’t need to.

I find it very helpful to keep a list of posts (like this).

At first you grow your audience a person at a time, but eventually it’ll mostly grow itself.  That is when you’ll be able to draw a thick line from blogging to more traffic, links, customers, and other good stuff.  The big thing to realize is those are benefits you see after your blogging effort starts to work, not before you’ve gotten it to work.

A seed audience isn’t mutually exclusive with other ways you might grow your audience.  It’s complementary.  It will make your other plans more likely to work out.  Give it a try.

Side note

By the way, I speak from first-hand experience with the seed audience approach.  Not only because some of my clients have used it to good effect, but also because that’s how my blogging sprang up from the dirt.  My earliest readers were people who got my email newsletter (and those people had found me through a variety of odd little channels).  My earliest posts were simply what I thought those people would find useful.

To this day, half the reason I write many of my posts is so I can lay out a thorough answer once and simply send a link to the post every time that question or topic comes up again.  The benefits are too many to count.

Further reading

Should You Make It a Page or a Post? – me

8 Lies About Content Marketing You Probably Believe – Joel Klettke

Should a Small Business Have a Blog in 2021? – Colan Nielsen

Poll Results: Do Local Businesses Need Blogs? – Rosie Murphy

10 Bootstrap Ways to Grab More of Your Service Area in Local Search – me

Hit Blog Post but No Local Traffic or Rankings? 7 Ways to Make That Post Help Your Local SEO Effort – me

100 Practical Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts – me

100 More Doable Ideas for Small-Business Blog Posts – me

What’s been your strategy for growing your audience?

What’s worked well and what hasn’t?

How have you been able to turn that blogging (or other “content”) effort into more business?

Leave a comment!

7 Phases of a Local Business Reviews Campaign That Makes It Rain

Even people who do a solid job of getting online reviews tend to make the process tougher than it needs to be, because they do the right steps in the wrong order.  That can mean unnecessary trial and error, frustration, wasted time, wasted money, and more bad reviews and fewer good reviews than you might have had otherwise.

Whether you’re the business owner, an employee, or a third party, you have a choice as to how you sequence your work.  Examples of good steps that can trip you up if you do them at the wrong time include offering customers a choice of multiple review sites, asking them to upload photos or go into detail, and using software or other tools to lighten your lift.  Good ideas?  Maybe, but the effectiveness depends on the timing.

What’s the least-bad order of steps?  Here are the stages that my clients have had the most success with, and so here is the basic 7-phase process I suggest you try if you want more and better reviews for your business:

1: Dissect what you’ve got

Where have people reviewed you so far? Is there a review site they seem to gravitate to?  How many of your reviewers (customers, clients, or patients) did you ask for a review, and how many wrote one spontaneously?  So far, who seems most inclined to write a review – the happy customers or the unhappy customers – or is it such a mixture of people that you just can’t tell?  Is there one service, product, treatment, or other offering of yours that seems to make people want to review you?  You get the idea.  Lots of ways of looking at what’s in the net.  You may want to spend 10 minutes scribbling down all your observations, big and small.

2: Shrink the goals and expand the efforts

It’s temporary, but whether you’re starting your push for reviews for the first time or this is Rocky II (or III or IV), the goal is the same: see what happens when you point everything you’ve got at getting your customers to complete the quickest, simplest review you can ask of them.

That means a few things.  One is that you designate a specific person to ask for reviews – preferably in-person and then with a follow-up email.  Another is that you put time into each email request, and tailor it to the person and to everything you know about his or her situation and what makes him or her tick.  Also, only ask for reviews on ONE site for now.  If it’s not Google Maps (which is usually what I suggest focusing on, at least at first), have it be Facebook or a site that’s big in your industry (where’s it’s usually easy to write reviews).  Send along instructions for how to write a review there, and a few days later send a friendly follow-up.

By the way, for a host of reasons I do not recommend you offer incentives for people to write reviews, but if you do insist on disregarding my advice, now’s the time to see what happens.  If nothing else, at least you’ll know that under certain circumstances some people will write you a review.

It’s OK if the reviews are terse at this stage.  Later on you can reviewers talking.

In general, now is the time to be as hands-on as you possibly can be, and to give people every single opportunity and reason to say yes.

3: Test big differences

It’s not yet time to fine-tune. Try something very different, even if what you’ve tried has worked out well so far.  Try having a different person ask for reviews.  Try sending people to different review sites.  Try a completely different email and subject line.  Try to follow up with a quick phone call / voicemail, instead of or in addition to the follow-up email.  Even try snail-mail.  Either you’ll discover something that works better than you expected, or you’ll find out what doesn’t work and that your original system was pretty solid after all.

4: Weave reviews into more of your marketing

Write friendly, thankful responses to them, for positive reinforcement (even if the reviews have developed a crust).

Send personalized thank-you notes/emails to people who reviewed you.

Stick certain reviews on your site.

Tell people on your site or in any ads (e.g. Google Ads) to check our your great reviews, 5-star reputation, etc.

Here you’ve got two basic goals: make sure just about everyone sees your reviews (at least the good ones!), and increase the likelihood that customers choose you because of your reviews, so that they’re predisposed to write you reviews later, when the time comes.

5: Expand your goals

If you’ve had some success in getting people to write reviews – even if those reviews are brief and only on one site – now’s the time find the edges. Get a little greedy.  Ask people who already reviewed you on one site (e.g. Google Maps) to review you somewhere else, too.  (They can just copy and paste their review.)  Ask reviewers to upload photos, if possible and appropriate.  Ask reviewers to go into detail – the more, the better.  If you’ve got repeat customers who reviewed you early on in your relationship, ask them to update their reviews to reflect everything you’ve helped them with since the 1.0 version.  Consider doing what little you can to scare up Yelp reviews.

This is when you want to find out what customers are willing to do and what’s a bridge too far.

6: Consider introducing some automation

This may have been your very first thought, and the first step you wanted to take: “I don’t have time to ask for reviews, so can’t I just use a reputation-management tool?”  Yes, now you can try.  Now that you’ve got a system that works at least OK, it’s fine to see if you can make it easier with software and still have it work at least OK.

But if you tried software right out of the chute, without knowing what works and what doesn’t, it’s likely that all you would have done is scale an ineffective system or automate failure.  And you’d have burned through your list of customers in the process.  Make it effective, then try to make it easy.  (If you’re at this stage, consider Whitespark’s Reputation Builder.)

7: Keep experimenting

It’s still worth repeating step #3 (the “test big differences” step) from time to time, but now is also a time to fine-tune your requests, try spacing out your requests differently, etc. To some extent you have no choice but to tweak, because the ecosystem of review sites change over time, the review sites themselves change over time, you get new customers, maybe you enter new markets, and you get curious (or inspired or greedy).  You’ll always need to stress-test your process.


In any event, you’ll never have it down pat, and you’ll never be 100% satisfied, and there will always be room to improve (which is either pretty frustrating or exciting, depending on your outlook). Word of the day: kaizen.


Relevant posts

How Should You Ask for Online Reviews? The Pros and Cons of Each Approach

The Ridiculous Hidden Power of Local Reviews: Umpteen Ways to Use Them to Get More Business

60+ Questions to Troubleshoot and Fix Your Local Reviews Strategy

Why Your Review-Encouragement Software Is a Meat Grinder

25 Hard Truths of Google Reviews

Is There Anything You Can DO to Get Yelp Reviews These Days – without a Public Shaming?

16 Reasons to Get Reviews on a Diversity of Sites

Why Send Good Customers to Crappy Review Sites?

The Perfect Stack of Online Reviews: How Does Your Local Business Measure up?

Who Should Ask for Reviews: Business Owner or Employee?


What’s been your process?  How well has it worked?

Any tips for any of the steps, or any phases you’d add to those 7 phases?

Leave a comment!