In this new interview series we talk to the people who make a real impact on local search, through their insights, their tools, or their good-old-fashioned hard work.
First up is UK-based local SEO consultant Claire Carlile, of Claire Carlile Marketing, who talked to us about setting client expectations, the power of GMB Products Editor and where Google Maps might be headed next.
Watch the 10-min interview below or read on for the full transcript.
Jamie Pitman, BrightLocal: Hello, thanks for joining us. I’m joined by Claire Carlile today, who’s going to talk to us about her experience working with clients in local SEO. Claire, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself to start with?
Claire Carlile, Claire Carlile Marketing: I’m Claire and I am a chartered marketer and I live in Pembrokeshire in West Wales and I work with small and medium-sized businesses to help them do better at digital marketing.
JP: Are there any particular industries you you work with?
CC: Ones that I like, so hospitality, attractions, some restaurants, but normally the types of businesses that have products or services that I would use.
JP: Okay. Does that help a lot? Does it help to know the industry quite well?
CC: I think so. If it’s something that you have experience of, you know as a consumer, and I think it’s easier to market that business. Because I’ve worked in some tricky industries, and it’s just easier to understand consumer motivations. There’s all sorts of things as a marketer, if basically you’re marketing to yourself.
JP: When you’re bringing on clients, is there a particular process you go through or is it really sort of bespoke depending on the needs?
CC: I think very bespoke, but in terms of, really, you know, understanding that business before you speak to them, understanding what they’re doing well, what they can do better, what problems they might be looking to solve, knowing the right person to speak to, having an in. Those are the main things. And also, you know, demonstrating a real passion for that business.
JP: You mentioned finding out as much as you can before you speak to them. Are there any particular techniques you use to find out what situation they’re in from an SEO standpoint, before making contact?
CC: Yeah, I’ve done some little mini audits beforehand, and also I think especially because I work with a lot of local businesses that are actually local to me okay and then I might understand their market place a little bit more by speaking to their customers. Sometimes I’ll have knowledge of that niche and their competitive landscape and that’s quite useful when you go in and you know that market inside out, you know that competitive space inside out and I think that’s quite useful.
JP: So do you find it a lot easier to work with businesses who you know have a good product in the first place, a really quality product or service?
CC: I would only work with those businesses. So I haven’t really ever been involved with anyone that doesn’t.
JP: I suppose it’s like if you’ve got great local SEO but not particularly good quality service, that can only get you so far, but if the reverse is true then you know the potential is much greater.
CC: Yeah that’s how to spot which client you want to work with right, yeah, I would say, in my experience. And obviously, you know, you can have a client that is weathering the storm in terms of: something has happened, a PR nightmare or problem with the service or the product for a period of time. You can help them through that, but I think I’m just really lucky choosing to work with businesses and people that I trust and people that I like.
JP: I’ve got agency experience and I know that if you have a naturally good rapport with someone when there’s not the best news, for example if there’s an algorithm change that suddenly means that their rankings have tanked and you have to explain, “I’ve not done this, we can act and there are things we can do”. That’s where the education comes in as well.
CC: And trust.
JP: Absolutely. And you’ve both got to work to build that. I think that clients have to behave in a certain way in the same respect that local SEOs do and agencies do. When it comes to working with clients and establishing KPIs and establishing expectations, again, is that something that you try and set in quite formal language or do you give people a broad idea of what you’re hoping to achieve and what you’ll be able to deliver?
CC: I think finding out what they’re hoping to achieve, to start off with, and then we can help them to understand whether or not that’s going to be something that is achievable, but also asking “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” over again and over again until you actually really drill down to what it is that they need, what they actually need.
CC: Exactly, but how do you do that? You know, is it because I want to make more online sales, I want the phone to ring more, I want more people through the door, I want more referrals? What is it that we’re actually trying to build? And then, you know, benchmarking that.
JP: How useful are you finding Products Editor in Google My Business at the moment?
CC: The way that I’m using it, so speaking without huge amounts of experience, in terms of: I’m not managing six million profiles that are using it. I’m using it for the small, artisan businesses that I work with and so it is a way of putting some of your products into the knowledge panel. You know, basically what Google knows about you in terms of knowledge about your entity, and you can put them straight into in GMB so you know it is very much for small and medium-sized businesses, because we’re not talking about thousands of products. This needs to be a very carefully curated cross-section. Maybe it’s like your evergreen products, because you need to curate this, because you create the product collection, you populate it with the products and it needs to be something that isn’t, you know, you don’t want to people to be looking at something that then is out of stock.
JP: So when we think about Google ‘Follow’, when we think about Local Guides, when we think about Google Posts, it all feels like it’s a secret social network that’s been created all around the world for local businesses and their customers. Do you think that the endgame is creating a bit more of a formalized, centralized place for it all or do you think that they’re mostly going to just add more and more features until Google Maps is a bit of a hodgepodge of lots of different things?
CC: I don’t know who said “social transactional” or who first said that or what it actually means, but for me that makes sense in terms of Google ring-fencing something in the Maps app. People might like looking at pictures of things far away but personally I use the Maps app and navigate to find things to do locally, so ring-fencing that, keeping people in there, social, because they’re adding all these social features, transactional because it’s transactional for Google essentially offering a good service and user experience, and then monetizing that in some way, transactional for businesses because that’s how they’re going to reach customers and the customers are going to come and spend money with them, and then keeping it there in Maps which is all populated by GMB data, which is essentially almost like gamification: you’re pressing the buttons, request a quote, click to call, and it’s a much nicer user experience, potentially, than visiting someone’s website.
So, yes, Google want to keep you in Google and want to create that immersive search experience, keeping someone in there but also that’s partly because people have had such awful experiences trying to navigate a local business website on a mobile. I think there’s lots of elements to it.
JP: It almost feels like the only thing that’s missing is the interactions between customers. So it feels like everything is there to allow you, if you think about Google My Business messaging as well, you’ve got all the hallmarks of a social network between customer and business but you don’t have the community element there between customers, so it almost feels like you need this extra level. I can imagine it working really well because, like, a local pub might have a bunch of regulars that like chatting to each other online, and whereas in the past they might have used a Facebook group or the Facebook business page to chat and and engage with what the business is posting, it feels like there’s a huge opportunity for Google to create mini communities around these much more popular businesses.
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