Hear Me Blab about Categories for Local SEO

Mike Zaremba of Radical Mustache has started a great podcast series on local SEO.

It has a bent toward restaurants, because many of his clients and audience are restaurateurs.  But the subject matter applies to any kind of business.

The other day, Mike asked me some tough questions on the topic of categories.  You can listen to the podcast here:

A Guide To Proper Category Association With Phil Rozek

You’ll also find some non-audio resources.

Thanks to Mike for a great chat.  By the way, I suggest you check out his blog.

Especially if you listen to all 45 minutes, let me know what you think!

International Local SEO: Nyagoslav Zhekov

Some local-search pros are narrow.  They’ve only helped business owners in one industry, or in one country.  Or maybe in a couple.

Then there are the adventurous ones, with all kinds of experience.

You won’t find a better representative of the second group than Nyagoslav Zhekov, of NGSMarketing.

Originally from Bulgaria, he learned the ropes of local SEO while studying abroad in Japan, and now he lives in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

You might even call him an “International Man of Mystery.”

I’ve gotten to know Nyagoslav over the past couple of years.  I look forward to the useful posts on his blog (one of my favorites), and to the occasional phone pow-wow.  We’ve also worked together on several projects.

And I’ve concluded that when local rankings go to sleep at night, they check under the bed for Nyagoslav.

One reason is he lives and breathes local search.  He’s a spoken at SMX West, is a Top Contributor at the Google and Your Business help forum, and contributes to the Local Search Ranking Factors survey – to name a few points.

But probably his biggest asset is he’s helped business owners in more countries than most people could find on a world map.  When you do that, you learn a lot about how to get a business visible on the “local map” in all sorts of situations.

So, I interviewed Nyagoslav about “international” local SEO.  What I wanted to know is: how does the process of getting visible in the local rankings differ from country to country, and what’s always the same?

If you want to know more about how to get a business visible locally – wherever “local” may be – read on.

Phil:  Let’s start off with some quick facts.  You’ve worked with business owners in how many different countries so far?

Nyagoslav:  I just had to count and the answer appears to be 18 (UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Sweden, Romania, Bulgaria, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Mexico).

 

Phil:  What’s the breakdown of those clients?  Put another way: if we did a pie-chart of the countries they’re from, roughly what would it look like?

Nyagoslav:  I would say about 70% are from the US, about 15% from Canada, 5% from the UK, 5% from Australia, and the other 5% (about 2-3 clients per country) are for the rest.

 

Phil:  Where were your very first clients from?

Nyagoslav:  Interestingly (or not), my first client was from Australia, the second one was from New Zealand, and the third one – from the UK. I still remember very clearly both the specifics of each of these cases, and how each of them got in touch with me.

 

Phil:  What’s the hardest part of doing local SEO for businesses in all these different places?

Nyagoslav:  I would say my biggest struggle has always been the language barrier. It is very difficult to outsource or seek help from someone who is fluent in the particular language, because they are usually not aware of the SEO aspects of the equation. I do speak/read German fairly fine, for example, but my knowledge in other languages I had to work with, such as French, Swedish, or Spanish, is at beginner level.

 

Phil:  How does citation-building differ (aside from the obvious difference in terms of which directories operate in which countries)?

Nyagoslav:  There are two main differences (besides what you mentioned):

1) There are generally lesser numbers of potential “structured” or “traditional” citation sources in many of the countries I mentioned above, as compared with the US. For instance, in New Zealand there are not more than 10-15 business directories that allow free listings. In such cases one usually needs to look for alternative solutions.  Some great suggestions on finding and using alternative citation sources are given here, here, here, and here.

2) The time for citations to work greatly varies. While for the US, a top tier citation, such as one coming from a trusted data provider, might take not more than a couple of weeks to do its job, in many other cases it takes months for citations to work. I have been observing decrease in this buffer period recently, but it is still significantly longer elsewhere than it is for the US.

(Click to enlarge.  Courtesy of David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal.)

Phil:  Local SEO tools: which ones work particularly well in some countries but not as well in others?  How does your “toolkit” change from country to country?

Nyagoslav:  Unfortunately, very few tools work in countries other than the “usual suspects.” Most of the tools are being created in the English-speaking world, and thus serve mostly English-speaking users. Bright Local’s toolkit works only in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia, for instance. GetListed used to work in Canada and the UK, besides the US, but now even the former two were cut. Yext also works only for American businesses. Tools, such as Link Prospector of Citation Labs for instance, are optimized to work for queries in English, although they could theoretically work for other languages, too. I always give the example with a query I ran on the Link Prospector for “boot Amsterdam”, which means “boat Amsterdam” in Dutch, and is one of the most competitive keywords in the local market. While the tool returned a number of relevant results, there were also a significant amount of references to shoe shops in Amsterdam. Reputation management software is also rarely available outside the US.

These are the main reasons for me to do most of the work manually, and to rely heavily on Webmaster Tools, Analytics, and Screaming Frog for my general SEO purposes, and on Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder for discovering potential citations. However, I acknowledge that some very big markets, such as the German- and Spanish-language ones, are wide open in terms of local SEO software development.

 

Phil:  Do you find that Google’s enforcement of its quality guidelines differs at all?  Have you encountered “Wild West” situations in any country?

Nyagoslav:  Yes, there are many places where Google’s rules are hardly ever being enforced. I believe the case of Dubai is interesting, as there almost every business uses P.O. boxes as their business address. Obviously, this is a big no-no for Google, but up until recently, Google had never penalized anyone for this. I can see a trend of Google getting stricter on more fronts, though.

 

Phil:  What are some sites that a business owner in any country should pay attention to?  (For instance, I know pretty much every country has a version of YellowPages, Yelp is expanding, and businesses anywhere can and should have a Facebook page.)

Nyagoslav:  While I am not too interested in the business side of the problem, I do know that the Yellow Pages ownership in almost every country is different, although the products offered are similar. You are correct that these sites are one of the major places a business owner should pay attention to.

A very notable example is Yellow Pages Canada, which is the de facto leader in the business listings data niche in Canada. They are the main data provider for Google and Yahoo in the country.  Another example is Yellow Pages Australia, part of the Sensis product basket. I would say they are even more influential than their counterparts in Canada.

In general, every country has a main business listings provider, branded Yellow Pages or not, and these still play very significant role in the small business online (and offline) marketing field, although in the US their importance deteriorates.

Yelp currently has presence in 20 countries, and in many of these they are virtually unknown, so I wouldn’t say they are as internationally important. There are very few “generic” business websites that cover significant number of countries. Some of the notable ones might be HotFrog (38 countries), Manta (every country in the world, but user-generated listings are available only in a few), Brownbook (every country), Cylex (30 countries), Factual (50 countries), Locationary (more than 100 countries), Acxiom, and others. I would suggest paying closer attention to Nokia’s Here as it is the data provider for Bing’s local listings in many markets.

[By the way, Nyagoslav did a great series of posts on international local citations a while ago.]

 

Phil:  I’m assuming that you’re often asked to optimize sites that aren’t in languages you speak or read.  Tell me a little bit about how you handle those sites.

Nyagoslav:  Indeed. I usually try to work as closely as possible with the clients in such cases. In some situations I try to use my “internal” resources, too. For instance, one of my employees has fair knowledge in Arabic. My brother is fluent in French, and I have a friend with good understanding of SEO, who is almost bilingual in Spanish. I use this tactic, because I am generally not a big fan of outsourcing and try to do practically everything in-house.

 

Phil:  In my experience, people outside the US aren’t quite as likely to leave reviews for businesses.  Based on your experience, how true is that?

Nyagoslav:  I don’t think this is entirely true for the biggest part of the world. There are, of course, countries where people are generally more conservative in regards with leaving reviews or providing testimonials, mostly because of privacy or legal concerns. However, I believe the biggest problem is unawareness, rather than unwillingness.

 

Phil:  So for your “international” clients how do you approach the task of getting reviews from customers?

Nyagoslav:  I do use a lot of your ideas and your approach, but it really depends on the type of business, because not all strategies are universal. One sad fact is that many automated tools do not serve non-US businesses.

 

Phil:  What have you learned about doing local SEO for business owners all over the globe that has helped you do it for US business owners?

Nyagoslav:  I don’t really make any significant difference between my US clients and their cases, and my non-US clients. I mean, speaking literally, the US is also considered “international” in my case.

 

Phil:  As you’ve helped business owners in more and more countries, have you gotten a better sense of the local-rankings fundamentals that matter everywhere?

Nyagoslav:  This I can answer positively. Although the majority of my experience is with US companies, it is good to know ranking factors are not very different from country to country. The main difference is probably the time it takes for Google to update their indices, i.e. the time between you, as an SEO, setting up the “hooks” and Google recognizing them and taking them into account. Another periodically encountered group of differences is the one related to Google’s general algorithm updates that are being rolled out non-simultaneously across the world.

 

Phil:  What are you trying to get better at – when working with “international” clients, specifically?

Nyagoslav:  I do not differentiate between US, UK, Dubai, or Singaporean clients. I always try to get better at every aspect of local SEO with every client and every case is an equally exciting challenge to me. What I am always trying to get better at, with every client, is conversion optimization and tracking.

 

Phil:  Let’s talk about the demand for local SEO in various countries.  Do business owners know they need more online local visibility but aren’t sure how to find someone who can help?  Or do they know the types of people to search for (like you) but want someone who’s based in the same country?

Nyagoslav:  Outside the English speaking world SEO (in general) is not as well-known, so usually awareness is what is missing. I’ve been having a lot of conversations on this topic with Ken Fagan, who targets France and the Francophone part of the world. Even in a country like France, you have to be very proactive in order to find businesses willing to spend money on local SEO. In fact, you should first start from explaining what SEO is, and then moving to demonstrating its advantages and how it could help a small business. It is definitely challenging.

 

Phil:  Outside of North America, the UK, continental Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, how much demand would you say there is for local SEO?

Nyagoslav:  The demand is low and it is mostly in the travel and entertainment industry. There is some interest from businesses in developed countries other than the ones you mentioned, such as Singapore, Japan, UAE, some cities in South America, RSA, but the demand is insignificantly low compared to in the regions you listed above.

 

Phil:  Have you noticed any “typical” profiles of business owners who contact you from one country versus another?  For example, can you say that most of the people who contact you from continental Europe are doctors or lawyers, or run bricks-and-mortars stores, etc.?

Nyagoslav:  Now that you mention it, there are indeed some differences. For instance, the legal industry in the US is very active in terms of online advertising, whereas in Europe and other parts of the world this is not really the case. Service-based businesses are active everywhere. The photography industry is extremely competitive in the UK. The countries from the British Commonwealth have some unique types of businesses that are not typical for other parts of the world.

 

Phil:  When you work with a business owner in a country you’ve never dealt with before, to what extent is there a learning curve for you?

Nyagoslav:  Learning is always there every time you work in a new niche. For me, the most interesting part of SEO, which is always unique, is to discover the typical profile of the local (country-level “local”) websites where one could get active on, interact with, or get a link/citation from. Everything outside the business’s own web properties (website, Google+ Local listing, Facebook page) is different everywhere, not just inter-country, but within the countries themselves, too.

 

Phil:  Here in the US, as you know, we local-search geeks talk about how business owners need to educate themselves at least a little bit about what different types of search-marketing can and cannot do for them, what steps we can do for them versus what steps take a team effort, etc.  Are the “awareness” issues generally the same in other countries?

Nyagoslav:  I’d say usually the awareness issues are at a lower level outside the US. One has to first start by explaining what online marketing in general and SEO in particular are, and then move to how they could aid to business’s overall marketing efforts. Just after these bases are covered, one could move on to discussing issues such as the ones you described.

 

Phil:  Are there any countries that seem to have a lot of good local SEOs who aren’t really known in English-speaking countries?

Nyagoslav:  I rarely interact with SEOs in other countries, but according to my observations, the local SEO industry in Germany is relatively well-established. There are a number of Spanish-speaking local SEOs, too. I already mentioned that this is not the case in the French-speaking world.

 

Phil:  What do you like most about working with clients all over the globe?

Nyagoslav:  I generally enjoy communicating with people from different cultures. Some cultures are, of course, easier to assimilate and understand than others. I originate from a country where ethnic diversity is not that common, so probably this enhances the interest somehow.

 

Phil:  Would you say it’s a personal goal of yours to work with clients in as many countries as possible?

Nyagoslav:  I wouldn’t say so. I don’t have such a goal set, but I must admit, I always feel rather more excited when someone from a Caribbean country contacts me, as compared to someone from North Attleboro, MA, for instance (countries and cities chosen entirely randomly).

[I’d be pretty steamed if someone from home sweet home North Attleboro contacted Nyagoslav for local SEO help!]

 

Phil:  What are some trends you predict?  For example, do you envision more business owners looking outside their country for good, ethical local SEOs?

Nyagoslav:  With the growth of the SEO industry internationally, more and more high-quality providers will also occur. In this sense, it is very possible that a trend of businesses hiring SEOs out of their country might appear. However, my current observations are that businesses, especially the ones that haven’t had any prior experience with or knowledge in SEO, prefer to hire someone as nearby to them as possible.

 

Phil:  Are there any people from whom you learned a lot about “international” local SEO – especially early on?

Nyagoslav:  Early on, I learned pretty much anything I know about local SEO from reading the answers of Top Contributors in the Google Places Forum, as well as from the blogs of Mike Blumenthal, David Mihm, Matt McGee, and Miriam Ellis. I didn’t really learn, especially early on, much about international local SEO from anyone, it was (and is) mostly based on personal experience. There are very few materials that cover the topic anyway.

 

Phil:  Let’s say I’m a local SEO who’s only worked with clients in my country but I want to work with more clients from all over the place.  What are the biggest hurdles, and what advice do you have?

Nyagoslav:  Purely SEO-wise, the biggest obstacle is the potential lack of knowledge of the local terminology. I recently had the opportunity to work with a “conveyancer” from Australia. A conveyancer is “a specialist lawyer who specializes in the legal aspects of buying and selling real property, or conveyancing.” The SEO that worked on the case before me mistook this business for a real estate agency. Soon after, Google started thinking they indeed were a real estate agency and “ranked” them for related terms. Another issue is the potential lack of knowledge of the local target audience, the way they search, and the type of content they like to see/read.

My advice would be for local SEOs to think very carefully before taking on such challenges. It will most probably require much more effort and research work than they would have to do for a known market or niche.

 

Phil:  Anything you’d really like to mention that we haven’t covered?

Nyagoslav:  Did I mention Phil is one of the best and most trustworthy local SEOs I’ve ever had the chance to know? 🙂

[You’re way too kind, but I’ll take it.]

Any questions for Nyagoslav or for me?  Observations about local SEO in whatever country?  Leave a comment!

P.S.  This is exactly the 100th post I’ve done on this blog since starting it two years ago.  I can’t think of a better #100.

What Matt Cutts Says about Local Search

The Most Interesting Head of Google Webspam TeamI tip my hat to Matt Cutts.  The man has a tough job.  He has to explain to SEOs, webmasters, and business owners why their websites suck and shouldn’t rank well in Google.

Cutts is good at his job, and I get the sense he loves it.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if sometimes even he feels like Al Bundy at the shoe store.

Organic SEOs follow him more closely than the tabloids follow J. Lo.  Some of them pose stupid questions and try to get Matt to reveal more about Google’s “secret sauce” than he can (or should) reveal.

Matt Cutts doesn’t talk much about local search.  Nor do we local-search obsessives pester him to do so.

But Phil, if Cutts doesn’t talk about local search, why are you even bringing him up? Especially when the people in charge of Google Plus, umm…Google Places, uh…that Google local thing usually tell us what they recommend business owners do?

Well, Gentle Reader, I bring up Cutts because occasionally he does say something relevant to Google’s local search results – and to the question of how to rank well there.

Although the people “in charge” of Google+Local surely have their hearts in the right place, they pretty much just regurgitate Google’s “Quality Guidelines.”  Usually all we come away with is a tessellated picture of Google’s rules, and not much else.

True, Cutts also rehashes Google’s rules a lot, but sometimes he also yields more real-world, usable insights.  Those are what I’ve tried to round up in this post.

We local SEOs have many best-practices that we preach.  If you know these best-practices and follow them, great.  But if you don’t, at least see what Matt Cutts says.

 

People’s Exhibit “A”:

Takeaway:

  • You can’t just “target” any city you’d like.  Location matters.  Even if a city is in your “service area,” you can’t necessarily get visible in the local search results there if you’re not located there.  That can be a tough pill to swallow, but for better or worse, that’s how it is.

 

People’s Exhibit “B”:

Takeaways:

  • (5:55) “Make sure you have your business name and your address on your webpage.”  This matches what some of us wrote in 2012’s Local Search Ranking Factors – about how your business name / address / phone needs to be on every page of your site.
  • (9:00) Flash or Javascript navigation links/buttons can hurt the crawlability of your site.  (This isn’t a problem specific to local SEO, but given the importance of on-page factors to your local visibility, it’s certainly a problem that can hurt your rankings.)

 

People’s Exhibit “C”:

SEO Advice: Make a web page for each store location

Takeaway:

  • Each location/branch of your business should have its own webpage.  “If you have a lot of store or franchise locations, consider it a best practice to 1) make a web page for each store that lists the store’s address, phone number, business hours, etc. and 2) make an HTML sitemap to point to those pages with regular HTML links, not a search form or POST requests.”

(Minor point:  Marking up your name/address/phone with microformats and the like isn’t a bad idea; see the comment from well-known local SEO-er Martijn Beijk as well as Cutts’ response.)

 

People’s Exhibit “D”:

Matt Cutts and Eric Talk about What Makes a Quality Site

Takeaway:

  • (About 3/4 through interview)  Cookie-cutter pages are bad.  That is, if you have pages on your site that “target” a particular city, those pages shouldn’t be near-duplicates of each other with just the city names swapped out.  (Yes, yes, I know that sometimes pages like these can rank pretty well, but if you have them there’s a good chance you’ll get whacked by Google sooner or later.  But hey, it’s your website, your business, and your choice.)

 

Finished going through my CliffsNotes?  I suggest you also read the above posts and watch the videos in full, just for that extra bit of context.

If Cutts’ suggestions were news to you, great: you should now have a better sense of what Google is “looking for” when deciding where to stack you up in the local rankings.  If they weren’t news to you, then they should reassure you that your approach to local SEO is solid and not likely to get you whacked in any way by Google.

Have you run across any posts or videos featuring the Word of Cutts that I missed?  Leave a comment (and a link)!

P.S.  Wouldn’t it be cool if MC stopped by and commented on some of this?  🙂

17 Questions with Darren Shaw – Creator of the Local Citation Finder

Whitespark.ca - home of the Local Citation FinderRecently I had the pleasure of grilling Darren Shaw of Whitespark.ca about his “Local Citation Finder” – the ultra-handy local-search optimization tool he created.

If you’ve spent more than a few minutes grappling with local SEO, you’ve probably heard of the Local Citation Finder – and there’s a good chance you use it, too.  It’s one of my very favorite tools for building up my clients’ local search rankings.

I’ve used the LCF since it came out in 2010.  Since then, I’ve had some questions I’ve been itching to ask – mostly about how to use the LCF to glean every last bit of local-search visibility for my clients.  For that there’s no substitute for “insider tips.”

Plus, the LCF is a really popular tool, so I also wanted to learn more about some of the secrets behind its success.

I went straight to the horse’s mouth, and Darren was kind enough to answer my questions

In case you didn’t know, Darren is kind of a big deal.  In some parts of the world he enjoys the spoils of an emperor:

Darren Shaw: ruler...er, creator of the Local Citation Finder

If you have any interest in getting your business more visible in local search, or if you just want some tips on how to launch a successful venture…read on.

Phil:  If you were in an elevator with someone who knows nothing about local search, how would you explain the Local Citation Finder?

Darren:  The Local Citation Finder is a competitive analysis tool for finding out where the top ranking competitors are getting citations, and for seeing where you already have citations. It will automatically tell you which ones you don’t already have, and includes SEOMoz’s Domain Authority and Majestic SEO’s ACRank metrics so that you can identify the best possible citation sources that are helping your competition rank locally.

 

Phil:  Why should a business owner—as opposed to a local SEO junkie—get the Local Citation Finder?  It’s not like that person necessarily needs to build citations every day.

Darren:  Currently, I don’t think a business owner would need to use the LCF for more than a month. I think it’s pretty typical for a business owner to sign up for a month, use the tool, export a CSV for all the citation opportunities they found, and then cancel. They can then work through that list when they have time.

We are working on citation monitoring services though, so a business owner will be able to track when new citations come live, and also get notifications when their competition gets new citations. When those features roll out, a monthly subscription will make more sense for a business owner.

 

Phil:  What would you say to someone who has all the basic citations (Yelp, SuperPages, etc.) and isn’t sure why he/she needs a tool to find more?  When is “good enough” good enough?

Darren:  The basic citations are an important starting point, especially the key sites you mention and the primary data aggregators, but we find that smaller city specific and industry specific sites strengthen your business’ association with your location and your niche and provide a noticeable rankings boost. The LCF helps you find these sources.

 

Phil:  Let’s say I need to build 50 citations for my business.  How much time could the Local Citation Finder save me, roughly speaking?

Darren:  I suppose we need to think about what the tool does, and what it would take to do that manually.

First you would want to run a keyword search and record all the businesses that are ranking locally.

Then you would want to find and record all the sites that the first business has a citation on. You could do this through various Google queries and then paginate through the results

Repeat for each of the other ranking businesses. You would then combine the lists, cross-referencing to make sure you’re not listing the same site twice.

Finally, you would repeat the process for your own business and then make note of which sites you’re already listed on, and which ones are opportunities.

Oh, and then you’d also look up SEOMoz Domain Authority and Majestic ACRank metrics for each site.

For an efficient and focused worker, I’d guess that this manual process would take at least six to eight hours

Our tool typically returns results in one or two minutes, and this is just one keyword search. At our lowest plan level you can run up to twenty different keyword searches per day.

In addition, the tool provides direct links to the “add your business” form for thousands of sites that get returned in our results. No need to spend time hunting through the websites to find the place where you can submit.

So, roughly, I’d say that the tool saves days of work.

 

Phil:  A lot of great tools are created by people who are fed up and just know there’s a better way to do a particular task.  Before the Local Citation Finder, how many hours would you typically spend gathering citations for a given client?

Darren:  Surprisingly, we didn’t do much citation building prior to developing the LCF. I was just getting interested in the topic, read a post by Garrett French about a technique you could use to find citation opportunities, and figured we could build a tool to automate the process.

 

Phil:  Did you have a prototype that you used for your own clients, before you realized “Hey, this might make a good tool for sale”?  In other words, was there an “ancestor”?

Darren:  No ancestor. The first version of the tool was developed and released in three days. It was an extremely simple tool that would just email you lists of potential opportunities. You can see some screen shots of the first version of the tool on Matt McGee’s post, “Local Citation Finder: Must-Have SEO Tool”.

 

Phil:  Yeah, I remember using it at that early stage.  Why did it come along when it did (summer of 2010)?  We’d known for a couple years beforehand that citations were important.  There was a niche and a need for it before 2010.

Darren:  The existence of the tool needed Garrett French’s brilliant idea for citation finding to spark the idea. 🙂

 

Phil:  Roughly how long did it take you to develop the LCF— from when it was a few neurons firing in your brain to when you put the “Order” button on the site?

Darren:  The free version we developed in three days was up for about six months before we rolled out the full-blown system that exists today. A few months of solid development went into taking it from simple/free to awesome/paid. It has evolved considerably since then as well.

 

Phil:  What’s a complaint or suggestion you’ve received on at least a couple occasions about the Local Citation Finder?

Darren:  This one comes up all the time:

“Why are there so many sites that I can’t submit to?”

The answer is because the tool performs a competitive analysis to find ALL the places that the top ranked competition is getting citations. A site doesn’t have to have a “submit your business” form on it to be a good citation. In fact, just like in link building, the harder a citation is to get, the more valuable it may be.

For example, the New York Times doesn’t have a “submit your business to our local business directory form”, but if your competition has done something newsworthy and has received a citation from the NYT, that’s a great thing for you to know about so you can look at what they did to get that citation.

 

Phil:  What’s a favorite “secret tip” of yours for getting the most benefit out of the LCF?

Darren:  We use the LCF in our client work to find “hyper local/niche” citation sources that we think have a significant impact on rankings. Here’s the process:

Create a new project. Call it something like “Local-Niche citations for __business-name__”

Run a bunch of different keyword searches in your specific city and industry, and assign each search to the project you created. So, for a plumber in Denver: Denver plumbers, Denver plumbing, Denver drain cleaning, etc. Try to be exhaustive.

Go under “Your Projects”, select “view sources” for the project you created, and ALL the citation sources from all of those different queries will be listed on a single page.

Hold down Ctrl and press “f” to bring up your browser’s search function. Now search for “plumb”, “drain”, “Denver”, “Colorado”, etc. Any words, or portions of words, that are related to your location or industry. The browser search feature will find sites with these words in their domains. These are going to be some very targeted sources that should help your rankings.

 

Phil:  How much room for improvement do you see for the LCF?  Any features you’re dying to add?

Darren:  Yeah, I’m dying to add the citation monitoring features I mentioned above. We’ve been super focused on our latest project, our local rank tracker, but it’s almost done, finally! Once it has launched and is stable, we’ll be jumping back to those LCF features. I also have plans for a NAP consistency tool that will complement the LCF nicely.

 

Phil:  Tons of people in the local-search community—and many people outside of it—use or at least know about the LCF.  What’s been the most important part of your strategy for “getting the word out”?

Darren:  Honestly, it’s just been dumb luck. We built a tool that the community needed, and word spread naturally. People liked what we built and started blogging.

 

Phil:  I’ve never encountered another tool that’s specifically designed for citation-gathering.  There doesn’t seem to be much competition—or even any knock-offs, for that matter.  Why do you think that is?  Why aren’t there any Pepsis to your Coca-Cola?

Darren:  Hmm. I don’t know. I suppose it’s just so narrowly focused. Citations are just one piece of the local SEO puzzle, and local SEO is just one niche within SEO overall. People that can build quality tools probably prefer to focus on bigger opportunities.

 

Phil:  The LCF has been around for long enough that the kinks have pretty much been smoothed out.  At this point, how do you spend your time on it?  What work do you have to do regularly on the LCF?

Darren:  Our time on the LCF is mostly support and troubleshooting at the moment. Kinks and edge cases do continue to come up, and as our user base has grown we have run into minor scaling issues here and there.  There are a fair amount of behind-the-scenes processing performance and monitoring tweaks we’ve made over the past couple years. The end user doesn’t see anything different, but these tweaks keep everything running well.

 

Phil:  What’s a tool that you, personally, would love to see someone create?  (Unless it’s something you’re working on and can’t spill the beans!)

Darren:  I’ve got IDEAS man! So many tool ideas. There isn’t one tool that I would love to see someone create that I don’t eventually plan to create. Sorry, nothing I can share.

 

Phil:  What advice would you give someone who has a great idea for a local-search tool and just wants to get it off the ground?  Or, for that matter, what general advice do you have for someone who has a good idea but isn’t quite sure how to develop it?

Darren:  I’d advise anyone who has a great idea for a tool to email me with all the details. 😉

Really though, you just have to do it. Have an idea? Don’t sit on it. DO IT. Millions of people are sitting on great ideas and they’re all on the back burner because they’re busy with the regular day-to-day of their lives. Block out some time and force yourself to dedicate it to developing your idea.

 

Phil:  Whitespark offers local search optimization and a bunch of other services, but you’re not some ho-hum SEO / SEM agency.  You create tools.  That’s kind of your niche.  In general, what advice do you have for someone who’s trying to develop his/her niche and stand out from the pack?

Darren:  If you want to stand out you need to do something to stand out. Building tools is one way to do that. You can also do it by picking one specific area and becoming an expert on it. I think you have done that with reviews, for one thing. You are regularly publishing excellent advice about review acquisition and that makes you stand out. I often think of you as “the review guy.”

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, Darren Shaw [applause]A HUGE thanks to Darren for his tips and insights, and for tolerating my questions :).

I highly recommend you follow him on Twitter (@EdmontonSEO) and Google Plus.  While you’re at it, it’s also worth following Whitespark on Twitter (@Whitespark).

If you’re not already a hardcore LCF user, check out the excellent free trial of it.

Any questions for me or Darren?  Leave a comment!