Outstanding Local SEO Takeaways from MozCon 2022
It would be hard to overstate the value of the education offered at MozCon. From the impressive accreditation of seasoned speakers to the novel thinking of newcomers, MozCon 2022’s presenters delivered a level of actionable advice and inspiration that resoundingly reaffirmed why this event is one of the best-loved in the SEO world.
As a local SEO, it’s my practice to attend the livestream with ears pricked to catch any takeaway that could be useful to local businesses and their marketers. Local was the core focus of a few presentations, but while the majority of MozCon talks are not local-specific, nearly all of them featured applicable expert advice that we can turn to our advantage. Today, I’ll provide my personal rundown of the best tips I gleaned for local businesses from MozCon 2022, I highly recommend pre-purchasing the video bundle to go beyond my recap to a detailed understanding of how to excel in your marketing.
1. Let’s really talk about landing pages
The SEO industry has zoomed in on the critical role both location and product landing pages are now playing in marketing. The former will come as no surprise to local SEOs, and the latter has become an increasing part of our world as the pandemic has driven local businesses to incorporate shopping into their websites. Some of the brightest ideas shared at MozCon 2022 surrounded what belongs on these landing pages.
Recently, you may have read my column encouraging local businesses to emulate actionable Google Business Profile features on their website homepages, and I was gratified to see this strategy echoed and expanded upon by both Amanda Jordan and Emily Brady in regards to location landing pages.
Ross Simmonds made a very strong point that content does not equal blogs, and Amanda Jordan emphasized that it isn’t copywriting that makes a landing page great — it’s features, like:
Customer UGC, like photos
Original stats that are strong enough to earn backlinks
Polls and surveys
Awards and recognitions
Emily Brady added to this list by encouraging the inclusion of Google Business Profile attributes on location landing pages. She further urged local SEOs to use the 145 types of local business schema to actually inform content strategy for these pages – a suggestion I don’t believe I’ve ever heard before. She noted that SMBs have few enough landing pages to make it feasible to manually create best-in-market, unique content as a competitive advantage.
Amanda Jordan did a study of the top 10 location landing pages across 50 cities and noted the high percentage of them that emphasized these features:
By focusing on features that customers really want, local businesses can solve the longstanding issues Amanda cited as being associated with location landing pages, namely, duplicate and thin content, low user engagement, and lack of conversions.
On the topic of product landing pages, I’ll quote Areej AbuAli who emphasized that, “Filters can make or break an e-commerce website.” Anyone who has ever shopped online knows the truth of this. Her presentation was a deep dive into the care that must be taken to build a strategy for commerce architecture and indexing that takes details like these and more into account:
Meanwhile, Miracle Inameti-Archibong’s presentation on web accessibility was highly applicable to any business that publishes a shopping website and her talk was filled with moments that honestly shocked me. I’ve never used a screen reader before, and I had no idea what terrible UX websites lacking accessibility best practices provide for the 12 million Internet users who have visual disabilities. I also didn’t know that 80% of what we all learn is done through the medium of vision. These facts should be a wake-up call for all website publishers:
1 in 8 Americans have a disability.
People with vision loss consistently report having advanced internet proficiency.
Working-age people with disabilities cumulatively possess $490 billion in after-tax disposable income.
83% of people with accessibility needs shop on sites with accessibility standards, even if prices are higher.
97.4% of homepages have accessibility errors.
Missing alt text accounts for 61% of all homepage accessibility errors.
Miracle Inameti-Archibong had us sit with her though the terrible experience of trying to use a screen reader in this environment and imagine what it is like to try to shop, manage personal finances, or perform other essential day to day activities online, and I was especially moved by her reminder that all of us have causes we care about, but that implementing accessibility is one SEOs actually have the hands-on opportunity to do something about!
In addition to encouraging everyone to download a screen reader to experience their websites in a new way, she extended this Colab resource to help us all begin tackling alt text issues at scale. With a commitment to supporting the agency of all people, we can ensure that both our product and location landing pages are accessible to everybody.
2. Let’s be part of big trends in thought and tech
Local business owners and marketers will benefit from understanding the evolution of both perceptions and possibilities happening in the wider industry.
On keyword research
Wil Reynolds noted that keyword research is how we gain empathy for our customers and Dr. Peter J. Meyers’ presentation of why we need to stop fixating on the bottom of the sales funnel and embrace the messy middle was, in my opinion, some of the best storytelling of the conference.
Both Dr. Pete and Tom Capper urged us to think not in terms of massive keyword volumes but of groupings by human intent, weaving around and about the complex loops of evaluation and exploration. Indeed, an overall theme at MozCon 2022 was that SEOs are rethinking old views of keywords and reenvisioning them in terms of entities, intent, and topics. If we stop trying to continuously sell and focus, instead, on being there in the messy middle, we will be getting so much closer to real journeys than what we see in familiar funnel structures. Tom Capper further advised us to stop thinking of keyword research as grunt work suitable for junior staff and to employ the skillful art of understanding intent so that we end up actually knowing our customers. He also mentioned that this type of research, done well, can help local businesses discover which of their locations are deserving of the most investment.
On content and content marketing
“Google is capable of recognizing first-person expertise,” was a quote from Lily Ray that underpinned her outstanding presentation on why E-A-T should be moving us all to:
Write in the first person on our websites
Provide step-by-step instructions and objective advice without selling
Offer honest pros and cons
Use first-hand experience to back up claims
Publish unique images
Explain why we are qualified to author our content
In her talk on why E-A-T is the most important ranking factor, Lily Ray shared this persuasive screenshot from one of her clients who had been hit by the Medic update and then re-launched a site that emphasized their expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness:
E-A-T is, in my opinion, a gift to local business owners because so many of them possess the kind of expertise that only comes from a lifetime of working in their field. Our role, as local SEOs, is to capture and promote that expertise in a way Google understands.
Meanwhile, Ross Simmonds reminded us all that the phrase “content marketing” includes the word “marketing”. Hitting “publish” is not the end of the journey. Instead, we’ve got to:
I particularly latched on to his suggestion to give out awards and found myself imagining the local links that could flow in if something like a local grocery store formalized giving out awards for “best of county” foods, or a bookstore did the same for best regional authors, or an environmental organization recognized the greenest local businesses. Take this idea and run with it.
Speaking of earning links and publicity, Amanda Milligan told the story of beleaguered local newspapers who are actively seeking content featuring trends in employment and real estate, ways to avoid scams, and “news you can use” articles. She highlighted how some 2,200 local papers have folded since 2005 and explained how those struggling to keep going could be very interested in your contributions to their sections on lifestyle, money, entertainment, sports and news. Gather some original data and offer it to your local and regional newspapers for some highly-relevant press.
And, finally, Crystal Carter’s presentation on visual search re-emphasized the message that content does not equal text. As she noted, “Visual search makes the camera a primary tool for understanding the world.” Crystal is a Level 6 Google Guide and, reminding us that Google can definitely parse images, she encouraged businesses to strategize for solid, consistent, well-lit, unobscured real-world branding, like this:
She also proffered an excellent tip of auditing the photos your customers have uploaded to Instagram and Yelp. Is your branding on the dinner plates of your restaurant? On the uniforms of your staff? On banners at events you sponsor? What is the “that pic” for your business, where customers pose to photograph themselves? Are you uploading great owner photos to your citations so that customers are encouraged not just to shop with you, but to photograph your aesthetics themselves? All of it belongs on your website and Google Business Profile as we enter a multisearch reality and find new opportunities in an environment in which photos have become, not just great content, but queries.
3. Let’s be aware of trends on our periphery
Pretty much anything SEO-related is also part of our local SEO playbook, but sometimes the things SEOs prioritize for remote businesses may exist on the edges of our strategy, rather than at the center, and yet can still be important for us to consider.
A prime example of this is link building. Most truly small local SMBs will not likely have to invest heavily in earning links because our markets are typically finite with a limited number of direct nearby competitors. Nevertheless, more competitive local brands should pay attention to Paddy Moogan’s mention of the fact that 21 of 35 link building tips he presented at MozCon 10 years ago are still good-to-go in 2022, but that he’s observed four trends that have him worried:
Asking for links isn’t sustainable — more than half of SEOs spend 1-5 hours trying to build a single link
Questionable link relevance — who believes that Google wants to reward a business that builds up a massive, but irrelevant, volume of links?
Too much reliance on campaigns — it’s a mistake to focus on big, shiny link building campaigns instead of on actual business impact
Unintegrated link building — for agency and in-house link builders, if your work is happening independently of other departments, you face the risk of being squeezed out in times of economic downturns.
Paddy called on SEOs to solve these problems by reframing links as the outcome of an effective content strategy, using the actual and very messy customer journey to spot link building ideas, focusing on evergreen projects instead of one-off campaigns, and being integrated in multi-department work from the get-go. All of this advice is applicable even to small local businesses and their marketers who want to get the most out of smaller budgets of time and money.
Wrapping up, there was one other talk given by Ruth Burr Reedy on remote workplace culture which might not have seemed laser-focused on local SEOs and their clients, but which really stood out to me as having universal wisdom. Whether your local business staff is still fully in-office or has become a hybrid or fully-remote workplace due to the pandemic, the development of an atmosphere of “psychological safety” is valuable for every kind of team.
I’ve been a strong advocate for many years here in my column of the reputational benefits that result from employers trusting employees enough to use their own initiative to support and delight customers. Ruth’s presentation depicting a working environment that encourages staff to be able to ask anything without risk made me think more deeply about the hard work local business owners need to put into developing a full and healthy culture behind the scenes that is felt by every customer who walks in the door.
MozCon 2022 was absolutely replete with deeply technical, practical, and cultural tips that I’ve only been able to touch on briefly today. For the full experience, you’ll need to watch the videos, with their speaker enthusiasm, beautiful decks, and bountiful guidance. Pre-purchase today!