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

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You’re probably frustrated by the puny patch of land in which you rank for anything.  How can you grab at least a little more of your service area?

It takes work, but you can rank in (and get more business from) places beyond the one city or few towns where you rank today.  Those gains will happen mostly in the local organic results, but most strategies can drag your Google Maps rankings along, too.

Here’s a video of my talk at the recent Whitespark Local Search Summit, hosted by Darren Shaw.  It’s called “10 Bootstrap Ways to Grab More of Your Service Area in Local Search,” and I hope it gives you some doable ideas for how to do exactly that.

If you want a handy reference, or if you don’t need my color commentary or the Q&A at the end, here is a one-page cheat sheet I put together.  If there’s a suggestion you’re unclear on, you can always find the part of my presentation where I explain it a bit.

Darren and the Whitespark crew did an excellent job of hosting the event.  Because it’s 2020, the whole thing was online.  I’m sure in time it will become an in-person conference, of the kind for which we used to hit the trail.

One benefit of the virtual setup is everything was recorded, so you can watch all the presentations.  I’ve watched many of them, and can say that there is a ton of practical info you can apply to your business.  You just need to buy a pass, but those are inexpensive and money well-spent on your business.

What’s been most helpful for you to expand your rankings?

What hasn’t worked out as well as you thought it would?

Leave a comment!

When Can Google Maps / GMB Content Cause Google Ads Disapprovals?

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Any restricted terms that find their way into your website’s source code can cause Google to disapprove your Google Ads (AdWords) ad – even if you didn’t personally add that content to your site.  That’s the short answer.

“Banned” terms that show up on your Google My Business page (like in your description) or on Google Maps (in the form of Google reviews) won’t prompt Google to pull your ads, as long as that content stays on your GMB page(s) or in your reviews.  You run into trouble only if a person or piece of software puts even one of those restricted terms onto your site.

 

By the way, I find it tiresome to call them “restricted terms” or “disallowed content” or whatever constitutes Google’s huge no-fly list of search terms in AdWords.  So from now on I’ll just refer to them as BAdWords.

Beware review widgets – at least the kind that “streams” online reviews (like Google Maps reviews) and sticks them onto your site in any way.  That was the toe-popper one of my clients and I stepped on recently.  The widget automatically embedded the content of my client’s patients’ Google Maps and Facebook reviews onto his site.  The content of the reviews wasn’t visible ON his site, but the widget would update the star rating and review count as patients wrote new reviews.  I never cared much for the functionality of that widget, but it didn’t seem to do harm, so we kept it around on the site.

This particular review widget wasn’t a problem for several years, until a patient mentioned a certain medical procedure by name in his (5-star) Google review of my client.  The BAdWord in this case was the name of a therapy that everyone has heard of, but that some people have held objections to for many years, and that some shady characters have given a bad name in recent years.  Places like the Mayo Clinic (what do they know?) offer the procedure, but that didn’t matter to Google.  Soon after the patient wrote the Google review, the widget picked it up, the BAdWord showed up in the site’s source code, Google detected a BAdWord in the source code, and 11 of our ads went to nap time.

The solution was to remove the review widget.  If you run into the issue I described, that’s probably the solution for you, too.

Also beware the difference between what’s indexed in Google and what’s in your site’s source code.  A “site:” search operator won’t necessarily turn up the phrase(s) over which Google has pulled your ads.  The source code can contain a BAdWord that isn’t in Google’s cache, but that the Ads department knows about anyway.  I found that out when a site:exampleclientssite.com search didn’t turn up the BAdWord that caused our ads to be pulled.  It was only when I viewed the source code that I found the term in the review widget that pulled in the Google reviews.  So if you’re a “local” business that just got hit with an AdWords ad disapproval you can’t figure out, and you’re checking your site for BAdWords, don’t assume a site:yoursite.com search will turn them up.  You’ll need to scour your Google Maps reviews, too.

By the way, this isn’t too related to GMB or Google Maps, but also beware your outbound links.  One of the BAdWords that caused Google to disapprove my client’s ads was in the URL slug of a site my client linked TO.  In other words, Google didn’t like the name of a page on a site we linked out to.  For Google, everything in your site’s source code is fair game, and one BAdWord anywhere can trigger a disapproval.

 

If you’re corresponding with a Google Ads support rep (as I imagine you are), be sure to ask for the specific pages on your site where restricted terms supposedly lurk.  Then view the source code of those pages.  From there, finding the culprit should be pretty easy.

Once we got rid of the review widget that pulled the BAdWord into the site, and we removed that one pesky outbound link, Google reinstated our ads (after some back-and-forth, of course).  Didn’t change a thing on the Google My Business side.

The link between GMB / Google Maps content and Ads disapprovals is your site.  Any GMB / Maps content that doesn’t find it’s way onto your site (destination URL) won’t result in an Ads slap.  I can tell you first-hand that including restricted terms in your Google My business description and “services” section doesn’t trigger a disapproval.  I assume that is also true of GMB “products” and posts, though I haven’t tempted the gods by testing out either of those.  BAdWords in Google Maps reviews also don’t trigger ad disapprovals – again, as long as those reviews don’t make it onto the website you use for Ads.

What about location extensions?  Enabling those can get your GMB page into the “paid 3-pack,” courtesy of Google Ads.  In that way, you’re pretty clearly associating your GMB page, Google reviews, website, and ads with each other.  You’d think location extensions would instantly trigger an ad disapproval, but they don’t.  At least in my experience so far.  So even if your GMB page or Google reviews mention Ads-disapproved terms, you don’t have to turn off your location extensions in Ads.  Again, Google only cares what’s on your site and in your ad text.

Last but not least, a Google Ads disapproval won’t cause a Google My Business suspension or other penalty.  Of course, it’s always possible to do something that’s against both Ads and GMB policy (like promoting an illegal product or service), in which case maybe you can manage to get yourself in trouble in both places.  But a Google Ads slap by itself won’t provoke a GMB slap.

 

As Google continues to smoosh pay-per-click and GMB together and push more “local” businesses into advertising, I expect more business owners to run into infuriating problems like this one, where you’re in the odd position of being able to promote a service or product on GMB but not in Ads, or vice versa.  On the plus side, I’ve long found the Ads support staff generally helpful , whereas GMB “support” ranges from useless to nonexistent.

Have you run into any Google Ads problems that seem to tie in with GMB, or vice versa?  Leave a comment!

Google Local Services Reviews Not Showing in Google Maps? Why That Happens and What to Do

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Many businesses use Google’s Local Services Ads (AKA “Google Guaranteed”) program to show up at the very top of the local results – above all the other ads, and above the local map (AKA the 3-pack). Local Services Ads (LSAs) are still not an option for every business, and they’re not a good option for […]

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Want to End Your Lease But Not Your Local SEO? Factors to Consider If You Might Leave It Behind

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Now you’re looking at your lease through the local SEO lens.  A combination of the pandemic, the lockdown(s), the quasi-reopening, and other changes has made you want to save money where you can, or work from home indefinitely, or move your HQ.  The basic concern is, “Will I destroy my local rankings if I rent […]

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Free SEO Help for Small, Locally-Owned Businesses Hurt by Looting & Rioting in 2020

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If you’re part of a small and locally owned business that’s been looted or trashed by rioters in recent days – or if you know someone in that situation – I’m glad to provide some pro bono marketing / SEO help.  All you’d need to do is contact me, though you’ll probably want to read […]

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Reopening Checklist for Local Businesses: Make It Confusion-Free, Local SEO-Friendly, and Safe

No matter how operational your business has been, or how “open” it can be now, or how your goals have changed, sooner or later your local search visibility again will be one of your sorest spots.  Whether that’s already happened or is still a while off, at the very least you don’t want your local […]

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Doable Examples of Online/Remote Services Offered by Local Businesses

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While everything and everyone is on lockdown, how can a “local” business still bring in a little revenue?  How can you set yourself up for a strong comeback?  And how can you do it from your yurt? As you might guess, you do it by offering an online or “tele” version of at least one […]

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Is COVID-19 the End of “Google As Your New Homepage”?

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Over the years, we’ve seen Google add so much stuff to the search results that we’ve concluded Google doesn’t even want searchers to click through to your website, because (Google assumes) everything people want to know is right there in the search results.  Some smart people in the local-search space have called that slow transformation […]

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Want to Help a Local Business in Tough Times? Write That Review Already

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At some point, daily life will go from FUBAR back to good old TARFU.  When that happens, do you want to continue with the businesses you love and rely on, or will you find them on Boot Hill between Sears and Toys “R” Us?  Your review might make the difference. Supporting businesses that do a […]

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Pro Bono Local SEO Help for Businesses Locked Down by Coronavirus

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If you or someone you know is a business owner whose business has been shut down or severely hobbled by Coronavirus regulation or the like, I’m glad to offer a bit of local SEO/search/visibility advice free of charge or obligation.  All you’d need to do is read the stuff below and email me your questions. […]

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