Greg: Welcome, everybody, to episode 44 of "The Near Memo." Exciting 44 milestone for us. And today we have a very special guest, Darren Shaw, who's going to be talking about the local search ranking factors which he is now the shepherd, steward, captain, whatever metaphor you want to use. Our episode today is entirely devoted to that. Even though they came out last week and I wrote a piece on it last week, but this was the first opportunity we had to get Darren on. And we want to just let him tell us a little bit about the survey and some observations, and then we'll get into the discussion. So take it away, Darren.
Darren: All right. So what is the local search ranking factors? Well, it's a wonderful survey started by the great David Mihm, who's with us here today, of course. David started the survey in 2008, did it annually. Did you ever skip a year, David, or did you, like...?
David: Not that I recall. If I did, you'll have to correct me after the podcast is released.
Darren: Yeah. But David did a really great job of making sure it was an annual survey. I've missed a couple of years. Sorry, everybody. But yeah, David ran the survey from 2008 till 2017, I think was the last one that you published when you were with Moz. And then you handed the reins to me. So thank you, David. And the survey, it's this fantastic way to gauge what seems to be working in local search, what seems to be working to help businesses rank in local pack, local finder, maps results. And it is a survey of opinion. So this is not empirical data.
And what we do is we survey the top local search experts. And these are people that are doing the work, notable people in the space that are publishing, you see them speaking at conferences. They're really trying to understand how local search rankings work, and they're implementing these things for their clients. They're measuring the impact and seeing what works. And so when you survey 40-some of these top experts and you aggregate all the data, you really get to see what is important float to the top, and what's less important float to the bottom. And so that's the real value of the survey. It's a great way to understand how you can rank your business better in the local search results. And it really focuses in on the specific signals, factors, things that you should be doing. It almost becomes like a to-do list of how to rank in local search. And you can start at the top of the factor list and work your way down.
And then this last year, I added a couple of new things. The survey has traditionally always focused on rankings, but there is a growing sentiment that rankings aren't everything in local search. It's really important to make sure that if you're on, you know, page 1 of the results, that you're also converting. Because a listing that is just basic information, name, address, phone number, versus a listing that has tons of reviews, great photos, Google posts, products, really speaks to the user. You know, Mike Blumenthal has talked about how Google is your new homepage. And a lot of people don't even have to go to your website anymore because they can get all the information they need right on the listing.
So I introduced a new section for conversion factors, what are the things that'll help people convert from your listing to actually call your business, book an appointment, whatever it is? And then I also added a new section for myths, which I think is really interesting. There's a lot of local SEO misinformation floating around there. People that are touting tactics that don't work, they don't do anything. And so...
David: This is, of course, the first year that's ever happened. This is, you know, reacting to a change in the market. Surely.
Darren: Exactly, yeah.
Greg: And most people pick up the misinformation on Facebook, right? That's where they get most of their local SEO.
Darren: It really is rapid there. I don't know if you've joined any of these... And it's a funny thing to say because misinformation is a Facebook thing. But it's the Facebook groups, like the local SEO Facebook groups, that's the worst place I've seen for local search misinformation too.
Greg: Yeah, okay. So...
David: Before we dive into the results, I just want to add one sort of...I don't even know if it's a clarifying comment, but just a positive comment for Darren. So one of the things I always tried to do was to get folks who work in a variety of industries in particular, and to the extent I could, also geographies. Because I think a lot of the data-driven studies, it's actually hard to get a representative enough keyword corpus across a large enough set of geographies to draw meaningful conclusions. And I'm not suggesting that people take the local search ranking factors as gospel. But, Darren, you know, you've invited folks who work, you know, with lawyers, and dentists, and home services folks, and retailers, and hospitality, all the way from mom-and-pop to enterprise. And so, I think it does represent a pretty good cross-section of search results across industries and geographies.
A number of European contributors this year, as usual. And so I think, you know, it's, I think, as good a sort of measuring stick for what's working and what's not as exists. So I think it's very hard to get... You're certainly not going to get a straight answer from Google on any of this stuff. And it's hard to design a good enough quantitative study that actually takes into account the number of variances, certainly that I see, within different industries.
Darren: Thanks for that, David. I do try. And I'm always on the lookout. It's like, who is somebody you see them on Twitter, or you see them on LinkedIn, or on the forums, and they really seem to know their stuff? Those are the kind of people that I want to try and get to participate in the survey, because more voices is better. Sometimes they surface things that you didn't know before. Right?
Mike: One thing I would like to see added, or perhaps it's there and I missed it, but it's just sort of up-and-coming ranking factors. Clearly, you know, in reading through the comments, a lot of people talked about images. But in looking at the survey results, I think the only place I saw images were like at number nine on the conversion factor. But one of the problems is your survey is a trailing indicator, not a leading indicator. Not a problem, a reality of it.
Darren: It really is.
Mike: In other words, it captures learned experience and it doesn't capture sort of the new stuff that Joel or Joy has been talking about in terms of images impacting relevance in rank and stuff. So there's the interesting that...
Greg: Well, and it's a consensus.
Mike: Great, it's consensus, but it's backward-looking, it's not forward...
Greg: Right. So in the survey, Darren does have focusing on more in 2021, indicating things that people tactically are turning to or emphasizing. And that's sort of what you're talking about, Mike, a little bit in terms of up-and-coming.
Darren: I will say, there is a slight flaw in the survey in that I tend to invite a lot of the core group back every year. These are the people, you know, local search practitioners. And I know how they operate. They take the survey results they put in last year, they put them in this year, and then they tweak them a little bit. And it's like you end up...just like you kind of propagate the same information year after year. No one really takes a fresh stab at it because it actually takes a long time to fill out a survey. And so, that is a bit of a weakness in the survey methodology that, you know, it's hard to break out of that. But, you know, to your point, Mike, some of these things like images, they might not make them higher up in people's results because they're just kind of stuck in their ways year after year.
Greg: Okay, all right. So, Darren, what are the, let's say, top three takeaways from this year's survey in your estimation? It doesn't have to be three, it could be four, it could be two, two and a half, whatever.
Darren: Yeah, I think one of the...
Mike: Could be seven, Darren, or eight.
Darren: Could be nine.
Greg: Or 15. You could have 15 takeaways if you want.
Darren: All right. For me, one of the things that really surfaced this year was internal linking. Really, I've been hearing a lot about this from our local search practitioners where they have seen that by taking the time to look at all of their pages on their website, and then just doing a whole suite being like, "All right, we've got all these content blocks. Oh, look, we mentioned, let's say, furnace repair on this page, but we didn't link it to our furnace repair page." And then they go through and they do all of this internal linking on the website, and then they see a pretty significant SEO ranking boost from doing that. So internal linking is one of the factors that really kind of took off this year. It's one of these topics that a lot of local search practitioners are excited about because it was one of these things they didn't put a lot of effort into before, but now they are. So that would probably be one of my top takeaways. That was one of the things that I really noticed.
David: Which is very surprising to me. It just seems like such a fundamental SEO building block. And have people been distracted by the sort of GMB reviews, everything new that Google has been...I won't say throwing out there, but just the new features and new interfaces? And really what's driving a lot of the rankings, the success that people are seeing actually is some very fundamental blocking and tackling that people really should have been doing since as long as Mike or I has been in the space, and probably as long as you have as well.
Darren: So that's one. Let's see.
Mike: ...linking from your homepage, obviously, is probably going to be even more valuable or always has been more valuable than other internal linking. And so, it's an architectural issue that has been real ever since Google started punishing anchor text spam, right? They never punished you for anchor text on your site, but they started punishing people for external anchor text. And ever since then, like David said, this has been the way it is. It is shocking to me that we're 10 years into this conversation and it's just...
Darren: Well, there is a divide, right? So there's, like... Local SEOs have a harder job. Traditional SEO, you've got your website, you've got your links. And, you know, that's kind of where you're focusing all your efforts on. And there's a lot in there. There's so much to do on your website, there's all the technical considerations, all the content considerations, the optimization stuff, and then link building is huge as well. So local SEOs have to do all that, too, plus, they have to have a great review strategy. They've got to think about reviews, they've got to think about the business listings and making sure that they're getting proper mentions in all the more important sites. They have to think about the Google listing and optimizing the Google listing, and then maintaining the Google listing for conversions.
And so, some things, you know, that traditional SEOs might be like, "That's a fundamental core thing," local SEOs are like, "Oh, hey, I noticed this thing works really good." And they didn't really think about it much before because they just got a fuller plate. There's more things for them to have to worry about than the SEO. They're only really focusing on the website. And even in that, there's like it's two separate disciplines. It's like the website SEO, technical SEO, content, and then link building. But the local SEO practitioners, they have to do it all. So I think it's just a matter of that.
Greg: Okay. So far, we only have one takeaway, internal linking.
Darren: We're going through.
Darren: Yeah, all right. Let's see. Another takeaway, another thing...I wouldn't call it a takeaway, but something I always want to talk about. Because if you look at the chart of changes over time, you can really see this growth of importance for Google My Business signals. And so, from 2013 until 2021, they've increased from, like, 15% to 36% of the pie. That's a really big increase, and it continues to increase year after year. So what's driving that and is driving...that's being driven by specific factors that local practitioners are seeing have an outsized impact on ranking. And that would be things like your primary category. Your primary category is so critical. If your primary category is lawyer but you really want to rank for criminal defense attorney, and then you change your primary category to criminal defense attorney, it's like a 25-position ranking increase overnight. You can't do that in traditional SEO. You can't do that in anything. So it has such a huge impact, that that factor gets really strong weighting.
And then the same thing with keywords in a business name. You add keywords to a business name, and you're gonna see overnight ranking blastoffs. It's just absolutely incredible how much weight Google puts on keywords in the business name. And then the other ones are proximity-related. So how close you are to the searcher, how close you are to the centroid, these things tend to continue to rank highly in the results. And so, that's where this, like, 36% comes from. But at the end of the day, there's actually not much ranking optimization you can do on your Google listing. It's really your primary categories, additional category...primary category, additional categories, and keywords in the business name. Other than that, other signals...
Greg: Well, reviews, certainly.
Darren: But I put that in a separate bucket. So reviews are actually its own grouping of signals. And so, on the actual GMB listing, which is getting this 36%, it only takes a person two minutes to optimize for GMB. So you don't want to put 36% of your optimization time into Google My Business. Don't misread the survey results and think, "Oh, Google My Business is...Google Business Profile is so important that I have to invest like 36% of my time there." It's actually not...
David: But I would spend at least 36% of my time caring about what my now GBP looks like...
Darren: Yes, that's the conversion [crosstalk 00:14:32]
David: ...because it's driving 75% of my leads, according to data from Mike, and Joy, and plenty of others. So I think that you're right in that, you know... And I would say the decision whether or not to add keywords to your business title is not one to take lightly. It is technically in violation of Google's Terms of Service for most businesses. Although Mike and I have plenty of experience working with businesses who have tried to report competitors who have included those keywords to no effect. The complaints fell on deaf ears. But just know that you might be running a little bit of a risk of violating Google guidelines if you do try to add keywords to your business name. It is crazy to me, Darren, you said this, like, just how much importance Google seems to place on the business name. It's like they're totally unable to identify...to separate the concept of an entity from a keyword when they're mashed together in the business title. Despite all of their, you know, BERT and whatever, you know, other acronym, MUM, whatever, all of these advanced machine learning acronyms are, they still can't figure out the most basic concept in local search, which is just sort of mind-blowing to me.
Greg: Well, but, you know, on this point, if they're rewarding people, you think they're doing this because it just makes life easier for them? I mean, that's impliedly what you're saying that...
Darren: I think they're doing it because the search results would be worse if they stopped putting so much weight on business name. And the reason why there's so much weight on business name is for branded search. Someone's looking for a specific business, and Google has to surface that business. And the only way they really have to match that up is based on the business name. And so...
David: But that's what I'm saying is that they should be able to do a better job, assuming they have all this advanced machine learning of identifying what is a brand and what is the keyword.
Greg: And the bulk of searches are unbranded category-based searches to begin with, anyway. I mean, that's where the overwhelming volume is.
Mike: ...relevance to do that. And, unfortunately, the biggest relevant contributor is business name. But you can see incidents of spam, where you get a single location showing for a keyword search, because Google thinks that's the brand because it's so relevant because it has spanned so many things in the category.
Greg: And that's what the business owner is trying to do is trick Google into thinking that there's alignment between the unbranded keywords search and the business name, Los Angeles divorce lawyer, you know, whatever, Houston HVAC contractor. And it's going to make ultimately for...
Mike: ...makes these results useless to that business. That branding has a value in marketing, and that the real trick is to find a combination between a unique brand and what you do in a name that is memorable, right, that serves both Google and the user. And this is true with everything you do with Google, right, is content you write, the photographs you take, the name you give it has to serve two audiences well and has to reflect the long-term goal of the business. Otherwise, it's just...
Darren: We've helped two different clients through a rebrand. One of them is a 60-location multilocation business, owns a law firm. And by getting the keywords in the business name, it's worth millions and millions of dollars to them to do it. They completely rebranded their name, changed their signage, changed their logo, registered the new name with the Secretary of State, changed it with the phone companies, because if we don't do it there, again, going back into data axle and getting spread out again. And so, it's really it's a process. But the impact of it is so great if your business relies, as you mentioned, David, like 70% of your leads are coming from Google, then the money is there. And the value in taking the month, or whatever it takes to do a full rebrand, is completely worth it.
Greg: So, let's talk a little bit about the distinction between the ranking factors and the conversion factors. Because obviously, the conversion factors are really important. And, you know, logically, you might expect ranking factors and conversion factors to be pretty closely aligned. And I guess they are a little bit in the case of reviews. But can you talk about the distinction between those, beyond the fact that one is for ranking and the other drives leads and drives conversions?
Darren: The number one thing, and this makes perfect sense logically, it's like what is going to make me pick up the phone and call a business? The top three conversion factors are review-related. So you're looking at the search results, you're assessing the different businesses in the local pack and in the local finder. Reviews will absolutely skew you towards picking up the phone or not, depending on what those reviews look like. And so that's why those are the top and yes, hands down, reviews directly impact rankings both in terms of volume, keywords in the review, and your rating, depending on what's on the low or the high side. So that definitely has a strong impact on both rankings and conversions.
But the interesting thing is that most of the stuff after reviews in what is impacting conversion, they don't actually correlate with ranking, unless we're talking about the secondary benefit from engagement behavioral signals. So this would be things like having, you know, a really good description, completing your Google listing. If you have a complete Google listing getting to 100%, that doesn't actually have a direct correlation with ranking. Having a 100% listing or not having a 100% listing isn't usually the thing that has much of an impact on whether you rank, but it is important for conversions. Because by having a complete listing versus someone that doesn't, you're going to be providing more content for the searcher to consume that they can learn about your business, understand your business, that would encourage them to pick up the phone and call you. So most of the other signals that aren't review-related don't typically crossover into the ranking benefits. They're really just conversion benefit. And that's things like Google post, Google products, you know, just kind of building out your listing.
Greg: Yeah, you know... Go ahead, Mike.
Mike: ...a small case study, 20-location legal firm, we added images to 3 locations only of these 20 locations, and then looked at year over year, insights changes in Google, clicks to call, visits to the website. And we consistently saw with these 3 locations, large gains of those relative to the equivalent specific locations that the business said were pretty much equal, as well as the overall other remaining 17 locations. So it's really hard to know in that context. So there's really large differences, right? Adding images to three locations, not to any of the others. And we're seeing 100%, 150% increase in phone calls and website visits versus 20% to 50% increases across all the other locations. And it's hard to know...
Greg: This is what I was... Sorry.
Mike: Hard to know, in that context, is Google now understanding more about the image and thus using it for relevance? Or is this strictly about...? Or is it a frequency issue? There's more pictures there, Google feels better about showing it. Or is it mostly that consumers like to see the pictures and make this decision? We'll never know the answer to that...
Greg: This was what I was gonna say is that in the top 20 conversion factors, I don't think images appears there at all. Is that correct, Darren? I'm doing this from memory.
Darren: I'm looking now.
Mike: On conversion factors, it's number nine.
Darren: Yeah, quality and relevance of photos. Yeah.
Greg: Oh, okay. All right. Well, I would say, Mike, just instinctively, that people are responding positively to the images. And, you know, obviously, Google continues to emphasize images in search. I mean, we saw the sort of UI changes, you know, that they're implementing on the local pack and images are more prominent there. I mean, I would think they're seeing those signals from people responding to images and wanting to emphasize them.
Darren: I think images are providing three significant benefits. Number one, of course, is a conversion benefit. When you have more images on your listing, people will be more likely to call you. Because they'll see an image of the thing that they're looking for, there's a benefit there. They have another huge benefit in terms of what we've seen with Google Vision AI. So Google can actually interpret the contents of the image without any text around it, and say, "This is an image of a dentist. This is an image of a smiling person." There's a big difference, right? So are you going to put an image of a smiling person up on your Google listing or your website that doesn't convey the relevance of dentist as well as a specific image that Google Vision AI has identified as dentist? So there's a relevancy association there.
And then the third thing is the behavioral engagement signals that you could be getting. Because a listing that has more images, people will spend more time on the listing, they'll click around on the listing more, those are additional signals to Google that, "Hey, our searchers like this listing. They're engaging with it more, they're spending more time on it." And so that can help lift your listing up, too. And so, there's all kinds of incredible benefits to images. And it is surprising that it's not showing up as more of a ranking factor on the ranking things, it is showing up number nine there. I predict that to change next year.
Mike: It did show up in the comments. Darren, Crystal, Claire, Liz all commented about it. But I was surprised that given the number of strong comments, yours included, that it was so low in the top...
Darren: It's my favorite thing. It's the thing that I'm currently thrilled about. I love images. I think there's a huge opportunity there. And I think that so many people are missing out on this opportunity. And it's such a great exciting new tactic. Take your whole set of images, drop them into the Google Vision AI, anyone can just use the Try it thing that's on the Google Vision AI website, and Google will tell you what's in the images. Then you sort them into the ones that match your keywords, and then you upload all those to your Google listing. If you don't have any of the matching keywords, take some more images. So it's just like this great, very tactical thing you can do to hit all those three points I just mentioned. It's just a fantastic thing.
Greg: Let's talk about SEO myths as kind of the final segment here today. So tell us a little bit about what you observed about the SEO myths. And are there any changes from between last year and this year?
Darren: Yeah, so the list from last year to this year is mostly the same of like, you know, "These are the things." And I added this last year because I felt like these results get so much news and people refer to it and it really has great region spread across the ecosystem, that I just want people to know that these things are myths. So I added it to the survey, which allowed us to, you know, "Hey, these 42 local search experts are saying this is a thing that is a complete waste of time, don't do it." And so, I just was excited to get that in there.
But last year versus this year, the list is mostly the same, except I did add one new signal that I didn't have in the survey last year, and that is geo-tagging photos. This is a really prevalent myth. And the idea here is that you edit the metadata of the EXIF data of your images, and then you upload them to Google. And so, I added that as a factor this year. And then I asked people, "Hey, what are the top things that definitely don't impact ranking?" And this one shot right to number one.
Greg: That was number one, right? Exactly.
Darren: Number one, yeah. So, fortunately, these 42 people are aware that this is a myth, that this is not a thing that has any benefit. And there are SaaS companies built around this concept like, "Hey, if you sign up and you pay us 30 bucks a month, we'll geotag, we'll stuff keywords in your images, and then we'll push them to Google for you." It's totally a waste of time, because I have it on authority that Google strips all that data out of the images when you upload it. And in fact, it's a liability issue for them. Because if you had added all kinds of, like, URLs, and swear words, and all kinds of stuff to your EXIF data, Google doesn't now want to display that publicly. They don't want that available. So they always strip out, you know. Anything that's in Google before, they display it back to the user. And so it's complete waste of time to try and stuff keywords or anything else into that data. And Google just doesn't use it for anything.
And Joy Hawkins has done a fantastic test on this where they have tried...they've done all this stuff, like they added all the keywords to the images, uploaded them to the website, uploaded them to Google, no impact detected. And then I've seen other tests, too, a local SEO guy, Tim Kahlert, has also tested it, saw no impact. It's just super tacky. It's just like this thing that people thought, "Oh, maybe if I stuck keywords in there, it will have an impact." And then someone said that "Oh, yeah, this is a good idea." And then it just propagated out...
Greg: I know Mike wants to say something. Let me read the top five, just so people have a sense of what they are. And then they can go to your site and check out the rest. So geotag...
David: Top five myths. Just to reinforce, these are myths.
Greg: Correct. Not ranking factors, not conversion factors. These are the top five local SEO myths according to the 42 experts submitting on the survey. So geotag photos we just talked about, keywords in the business description as opposed to the business name. So keywords in the business description does not work according to this. Keywords in products, keywords in services, GBP messaging, the enablement of GBP messaging is the fifth out of the top five.
Darren: I think I'm gonna go at least to top seven, because there's another really big one that...
Greg: Okay. Read the next two, then.
Darren: The other two are frequency of Google posts, like just pumping out Google posts, whether you do that once a month, or once a week, or every day, that won't have any impact on your ranking. Google's not really using the content to the post for rankings, although they do benefit with justification. That's a whole separate topic. But this is a huge one that people cannot wrap their heads around, setting service areas in your Google Business Profile. You are a plumber, you service the whole city plus the suburbs. So what you do is you go into your Google dashboard, and you add the service areas. That actually has no impact on ranking. People think it does, and intuitively you think it would have an impact on ranking, but it doesn't. Your ranking is based on the proximity around your actual physical address. Whether that is shown or hidden, it has no impact. And so that's another myth that I think is really worth highlighting because a lot of people just assume that that will have an impact on ranking, but it doesn't.
Greg: So I just want to point out that a couple of these things that showed up as myths, you know, top local SEO myths, actually were rated as conversion factors in the earlier portion of the survey, which I thought was really ironic. You know, it's not necessarily a contradiction if you're just strictly talking about rankings versus factors that influence people's buying behavior, but I just found that to be sort of an amusing kind of seeming contradiction.
David: I think it reflects, you know, important nuances, as Darren said when he was explaining, you know, keywords in posts. He made a very important qualifier, which is it does help with justifications, but that's a separate thing. Well, really, in my mind, that's not a separate thing. Because yes, if you're adding keywords to a post, or to a product, or to a service, that doesn't have an impact on rankings. But if you're already ranking for a term that you include in those posts, it's going to get bolded underneath your business name, which is going to have a huge influence on whether or not somebody clicks on your listing. So, to me, in that standpoint, it's a best practice, even though it's not necessarily a ranking factor. So it's a little bit of an important distinction in terms of being a ranking myth, but still being a good idea to implement keywords in some of these fields available in GMP.
Darren: Yeah, you have to be careful to not read the myths and say, "Okay, I'm not gonna do anything in this list." Cross-reference the list of myths with the conversion factors. Anything in the conversion factors' list, that's good stuff that you want to do, whether or not it has an impact on your ranking, it has an impact on your business. And that's what we're talking about here anyway. You got rankings, conversions, and then things that are completely useless. Again, you're going to have to do the math and figure it out which ones you want. Next year, I should do like a nice cross-reference chart.
Greg: Yeah. Mike, you were dying to say something here.
Mike: Well, not dying but anxious, but it's okay.
Mike: Eager. Eager, there you go. So I was just thinking about citations and the comments in citations and your comment about how so many people read this. And in that vein, I was thinking that citations are also one of the subtler things, particularly when you get into things like brand mentions. Because brand mentions and public relations are whole different operational need in an agency than citation building of traditional structured citations. And there were a few mentions in the comments, again, of successful PR campaigns and brand mentions, but it doesn't show up in the nuance of the survey. And I thought... You know, I'm curious if you have given that some thought, how to bring out that difference, because it is operationally different for an agency that involves themselves in PR versus citation...
Darren: Yeah, I think what it comes down to is that for a long time, citations were this, like, local SEO tactic that was the be-all and end-all of a local SEO. Like, just build out 700 citations and you're gonna be doing great.
David: In an era of a far less competitive local search result, they were all you needed to move the needle.
Darren: Amazing, yeah.
David: So yeah, it's just that...I think that the algorithm has gotten slightly more sophisticated, at least in this regard, and it's now become sort of a little bit...as Mike and I have talked about over the years, there's a certain level of citations that's sort of like table stakes, are you on the major directories in your industry every bit like Google would expect businesses to be? And Google is now capturing a lot more data from businesses themselves and from consumers. And they have a little bit less, I would say, other reliance on some of the major other sources of citations.
Darren: So what we're seeing in the survey is people saying a lot of stuff, like if you look at what are they focusing on less this year?
Darren: Just over and over people say citation. And that is because in the past, people would have been spending a lot of time building citations on hundreds of directories. Nowadays, they don't have to spend any time on it. They spend the basic time. Brand new location, all right, let's get that business listed on the top 30-some sites, and call it a day and then, of course, look for any industry sites, any city-specific sites. And then you're moving really away from traditional directory-based citations to more like media mentions, PR. Like those brand mentions are super valuable. I would still bucket those as citations. We're not talking about links, really, we're talking about mentions which are basically the citation, and so there's still great value. So I think that this whole thing about citations being, you know, yesterday's news is a little overstated. There's still value in citation work from a foundational perspective, but you don't need to keep at it. And it is kind of a once-and-done thing, once you kind of get covered on the most important sites then you move into more advanced citation building. And maybe that's an opportunity...
Mike: Do me a favor and add brand mentions to the citations graphic then, at least, as a... It's strictly structured stuff, right? And I think historically, it's thought of as structured, and there isn't the nuance in the word to cover it.
Darren: Yeah. Well, I do have brand mentions, but that one's often neglected. So, I don't know, I'll have to finesse the wording of the factors and the way that I structure it next year. Because I do think I want people to highlight that a bit better. Because from a local search perspective, there is great value in getting local mentions, whether they're on blogs, or, you know, news outlets, any of these, like, brand mentions are super valuable.
Greg: It would be great.
Mike: ...that gives us a brand mention, that's okay.
Darren: Yeah, it's actually, number one, rankings. If you get a brand mention from search engine land, you rank number one.
Greg: So next year, maybe there's a way, Darren, to kind of get more out of the kind of anecdotal color commentary. Because there was a lot of stuff there and a lot of value, but it was... You know, I have an instinct that you could probably structure that a little bit or pull it out and highlight it in some way. I think that would be useful. A lot of work for you.
Darren: [crosstalk 00:36:13]
Darren: I put all the commentary from 2020 into the software thing that lets you then tag for certain key phrases. And so then I could type in something like reviews, and then it would automatically find all of the people, all the mentions of reviews, and let you tag the whole sentence. And so then, you can break out all the content. It's this really great content analysis software. And then I was gonna build charts on that, but [crosstalk 00:36:39]
Greg: You ran out of time.
Darren: ...the last minute and ran out of time.
Greg: Yeah, do it then next year. Do it next year.
Darren: I'll try to make sure I have time to do it next year.
Greg: So any final questions or comments before we sign off for the week? Anything you want to say, Darren?
Darren: No, I just think that you might want to check it out. It's whitespark.ca/local-ranking-factors.
Greg: Very good.
Darren: Let me just make sure that that's the actual URL.
Greg: If it's not, people find...
Darren: Oh, it's not. It's local-search-ranking-factors, or you just google it. So yeah, check out the survey. There's tons of stuff in there. And I really encourage people to read the comments. I think, as you have highlighted, there's a lot of nuance in the commentary that doesn't make it into the charts. Because the charts, really people are just sorting stuff. But you can really understand what's working and what's not working by reading the commentary.
Greg: And if you can't remember the URL, you just do local search ranking factors 2021, and you'll show up there.
Darren: Yeah, anyone listening probably knows how to google.
Greg: Yeah. So, okay. Well, thank you very, very much, Darren, for taking the time to talk to us. I think it's really a fascinating survey and, you know, look forward to next year and more discussion.