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A constant stream of developments and issues are the simple building blocks that shape our dynamic local search environment but the task of keeping up with the ongoing news can be complex when you’ve already got plenty to do. The first quarter of 2022 brought us some new opportunities (and a few problems) which you might have missed due to general busy-ness. Today’s column is a quick roundup of interesting happenings that merit your awareness for the sake of the local businesses you market.
1. Google really wants local businesses to discover Pointy
— Colan Nielsen (@ColanNielsen) January 25, 2022
Colan Nielsen fick syn på Google reklam- free access to Pointy, right in the Google Business Profile dashboard. The time is right to get clients thinking about multiple ways to vend, and the Pointy system couldn’t be easier for retailers to use. The bigger picture, though, is whether Google’s efforts to promote their shopping functions can compete with Amazon for control of online transactions and how that may impact local business owners. Here’s how the experts at Near Media explain Google’s bet that inventory + local can help them win:
“Local inventory (online) can help divert consumers away from Amazon. But it’s not inventory alone; it’s inventory + convenience…. stores able to offer real-time inventory and multiple convenience options can win.”
2. Google emphasizes recency of business status to bolster consumer trust
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) March 3, 2022
Barry Schwartz came across this notification on GBPs stating that business hours were confirmed via phone call, and other labels we’ve discovered have included “Confirmed by this business” and the somewhat mysterious “Confirmed by others”. I take this as evidence that Google knows if searchers are getting inaccurate data from listings that then misdirects and inconveniences them, it will erode trust in the product. It’s an awareness local SEOs have long advocated for the search engine to bring to its review corpus. On that note, the end of 2021 saw the rollout of an updated Chrome extension called Genomskinlighet which purports to use AI to predict whether a profile contains fake reviews. If you’ve used it, please let me know what you think.
3. Speaking of reviews, there was a big pause in them posting
If your clients were calling in fretting about missing reviews in mid-March, it was likely due to a confirmed Google bug. Hopefully, you saw resolution of this widespread issue about a week after it occurred. If not, time to review your review strategy to diagnose why feedback you’re expecting from customers isn’t showing up as there’s indication that Google’s review filters are becoming stricter. This development can seem like a big hassle to business owners, but it’s a necessary one. I’m seeing signs that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the presence of fake local business reviews, and if Google doesn’t step up their efforts to limit review spam, customers will lose trust in their platform and your listing.
4. Review snippets can appear right on the map, and it’s pretty neat!
— Allie Margeson (@SeoAllie) January 17, 2022
We already know reviews are hugely influential but just think of the impression they must make on customers when they appear right on the map, as captured by Allie Margeson. In her search for local second-hand spots, we see customers exclaiming, “Best thrift store in the area!” and “It’s the best thrift shop ever!” amid the rolling blue and green of Google’s maps. While I’m not aware of any process to prompt this special treatment, it’s just one more incentive to keep public feedback coming in with an organized reputation and reviews strategy.
5. Owner responses are finally showing on LSAs
Local Services Ads finally started showing business owner replies to reviews about a month or so ago (but only on mobile)https://t.co/7pSVJm8zAz
— Tom Waddington (@tomwaddington8) March 17, 2022
Tom Waddington came to Twitter with the good news that Google’s Local Service Ad reviews are, at long last, displaying owner responses, though only on mobile. With the FTC’s recent accusation that HomeAdvisor misrepresented lead stats and pricing to small business owners, it’s a moment of serious opportunity for Google to treat its service providers base better. Displaying the work business owners put into writing great responses to reviews is one small step in that direction, but there’s so much more Google could do to become local business-centric. Here’s hoping!
6. GBP Insights in-SERP
👀OOH look – Google Business Profile post metrics 📊(views and clicks) made it to the IN SERP experience pic.twitter.com/yc1bwoR10J
— Claire Carlile🕊️ 🌊 🥑 🦥 (@clairecarlile) March 4, 2022
Don’t be startled if you see your Google Business Profile metrics show up right in the SERPs when you’re logged in. I’d predict that what Claire Carlile captured here is one of many developments we’ll see in this direction, now that Google has determined that SMBs should manage more of their experience inside the search engine results. I find that messy, but others may like the interface. This is a good time to review what the labels in GBP insights actually represent.
7. Refine/Broaden SERP Feature Rolls Out
This feature, which allows users to access more nuanced results, was previewed at an event last fall and has now emerged in the US English-speaking market. Barry Schwartz points out that this new option could have the impact of either offering searchers more ways to discover your business or simply distracting them from it. This rollout is a perfect example of the type of test Google is always running in their quest for more relevant results, as we recently covered in-depth here at Moz in QRG ledtrådar till hur Google utvärderar lokala företags rykte. From time to time, it’s smart to ask ourselves how our own search behavior is evolving across the lengthy timeline of Google’s feature rollouts. How differently do you search in 2022 compared to your behavior a decade ago?
8. We’ve learned more about Vicinity
Consider this a topic-in-progress because local SEOs and businesses are continuing to discover and interpret the impacts of Google’s late-2021 Vicinity update. This is what we know so far:
Sterling Sky reported that the update appeared to hinge on proximity (like our old friend Possum) and noted that this rollout correlated with the significant changes to pack layouts that occurred in December. Sterling Sky observed that packs were more zoomed in and featured a greater overall diversity of businesses. Their team also shared that keywords in business titles appeared to have been subject to this update.
BrightLocal then published the largest study I’ve seen, to date. Their survey of nearly 400 Google Business Profiles across 5,000 keywords turned up a loss of roughly 5 – 8 places in the local SERPS for listings with stuffed titles. What is a bit stranger, however, is that brands with legitimate keywords in their titles suffered the same demotion. In other words, if a company you market is actually called Luxury Town Cars of Marin, the Vicinity update may have docked it while boosting a competitor called Jim’s Nice Rides. Meanwhile, long business titles also saw downward movement, which will be problematic for any company with a name of more than 31 characters. Such brands saw the greatest losses of an average of about a 9-spot trip down the rankings.
It’s important to know that experienced local SEOs are interpreting Vicinity in different ways, as evidenced in this valuable Twitter thread started by Darren Shaw. On the one hand, you could say that keywords in the business title have become a negative ranking factor. Or, you could see them as still being a positive factor, but one which Google has now simply dialed down, causing the losses. However you style the outcomes, I think there are two important questions involved:
Will Vicinity curtail the practice of keyword stuffing business titles because it’s no longer yielding the same rewards. We can hope so, as the local SEO community has long urged Google to stop favoring this silly practice.
Does Vicinity finally answer all those forum FAQs about rebranding local businesses to suit Google’s historic bias toward keywords in business titles? Companies have done so in the past, but does Vicinity make the practice not worthwhile?
Läs Twitter thread to see a variety of opinions. My own is that a) spammers will take awhile to realize what appears to have happened with Vicinity and so they will continue to stuff for some time to come and b) I’ve historically found that it’s better to do your own thing well than to worry too much about pleasing Google’s foibles. The latter take may seem antithetical to SEO, but having witnessed patterns like the rise and fall of EMDs, I tend to disfavor legitimate local businesses jumping through too many hoops in hopes of Google’s biases and weaknesses shining upon them until the next update. My advice is to keep studying emerging research on the impacts of Vicinity to arrive at your own thoughtful interpretation before changing any of your best practices.
Onward to Q2
Image credit: Ron Frazier
A pattern of significant developments in Q1 reveal a Google which is highly focused on the many aspects of reviews. Take this as a sign that local SEOs and business owners should be, as well. Meanwhile, Google’s emphasis on transactions and search quality tracks their progress in convincing consumers to shop with them, not Amazon.
While the titans fight it out, my Q2 suggestion is to help independent local businesses plan and publicize their summer strategy to keep serving the community amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t buy into the market-driven hype that everything is “back to normal”. Instead, keep ideating on bringing necessities and cheer to the whole community, including the households of your many neighbors with vulnerable loved ones. This is important work, and your success will be reflected in your reviews, results, and revenue in the quarter ahead.
Stoppa Writer's Block, Imposter Syndrome och andra rädslor för innehåll
When writing for content marketing, the process becomes even more challenging. You have no time to sit and wait for inspiration or the muse to help you craft engaging text. You have content plans to follow and deadlines to meet.
That’s when fear arises.
Raise your hand if one of these whispers creeps into your mind when you try to write:
- “A better article exists already. My content is a pathetic copy.”
- “I’m not good enough. I can’t write better than [your guru’s name here].”
- “So much info! Can I structure all of it? I’ll miss something essential.”
- “What should I write?”
- “They won’t like it. I’ll get rejected.”
- “My draft sucks; it’s boring.”
- “Johnny writes 1,000 words every day. I’m too slow.”
Writing fears fall into two categories: doubts about your abilities or concern over others’ judgment of your work. You can tame blank-page syndrome, imposter syndrome, writer’s block, or whatever stops you from creating great content with these seven simple yet effective tricks.
1. Practice therapeutic writing
Therapeutic writing will help prevent blank-page syndrome – staring at the screen with no idea how to start a content piece. Some blame this on a lack of inspiration, while others use grimmer diagnoses like emotional burnout or even workplace depression. Skeptics are less euphemistic, calling it nothing but the fear of writing crap.
To beat it, develop a daily writing habit. You may have heard about Morning Pages – a system that has you write (in long hand) three pages of stream-of-consciousness text first thing in the morning. Following free-writing practices and keeping a diary also fall into this category. If these exercises work for you, great. If not, you can try therapeutic writing.
Keep a journal where you regularly write a letter to a chosen addressee, telling them about daily events that made you angry, sad, anxious, or happy. You may publish these as short sketches on social media.
In the post below, the author at handle @heyamberrae pens a letter to her followers about “experiencing the most extraordinary love” she’s ever known.
How can therapeutic writing help with professional content writing?
Practicing such reflective writing makes you less likely to freeze at that intimidating text cursor. You’ll beat the fear of an imperfect draft and use the “write-first, edit-later” rule we all know (but often forget).
2. Start a ‘clever-thoughts’ notebook
A notebook with clever thoughts is not a collection of quotes from writing gurus and influences, though that could be an inspiring practice.
A clever-thoughts notebook contains the ideas, sentences, and interesting facts you learn during the day from books, websites, etc. An average person has around 6,000 thoughts daily but forgets most by evening, so the notebook will help you remember your best ones. And that list will come in handy next time you need to write text but worry you have nothing to say.
3. Record your voice
Сreative content ideas, topics, and arguments may come to you when you’re nowhere near your laptop or a notebook. Haven’t we all had a brilliant idea caught in the dead of night, only to forget everything by morning?
Other times your thoughts flow freely – until you try to write them down. When you sit down to summon the right words, you forget what you wanted to say.
It’s like this meme, which I tweaked for content writing: You envisioned a real-life dog, but your writing only produces the socket puppet version.
To avoid writer’s block and still get your idea down, record your thoughts when they come to you. Then transcribe the recording or use the voice-typing feature in your writing app. You’ll be able to structure your dictated thoughts into content assets later.
4. Opine on opinions
This trick can help you beat the you’re-not-good-enough writing fear.
After reading an influencer’s thoughts and insights on a topic, think of supporting arguments or counterarguments. Then, write them down as if you were having a dialogue with that person.
The tactic helps you think critically, develop arguments, structure the facts, and manage your information priorities. It serves you in crafting more comprehensive content, whether you write about restaurants, create cause-related posts, or practice guest blogging to reach content marketing goals.
5. Mirror your favorite writer
It stands to reason that content creators read a lot. As my favorite author, Stephen King, says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
And, as my second yet no less favorite writer Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s no friend as loyal as a book.” Not only can these loyal friends make your content better, but they can help smash the fear of rejection and not being good enough to write.
(Confession: I had both those fears before pitching my first article to the Content Marketing Institute.)
Who is your favorite writer, essayist, or blogger? Do you analyze their writing style while reading? Do you notice language tricks they use?
Mirroring a writer is among the most efficient techniques for developing a writing style. It helps enhance your vocabulary, add a few alternative writing tactics to your content creation toolkit, and conquer your fear of criticism.
(Confession: Once I learned that Stephen King got 30 rejections before his book Carrie was published, there was no room left for the “not good enough” fear.)
6. Read the news and niche resources
The daily habit of reading the news and niche blogs brings benefits for content writers. These include:
- Better cognitive skills and brain functioning
- Enriched vocabulary
- New ideas for content creation
- Writing style inspiration
But please note: This trick won’t work if you read everyone and everything. Make a list of professional resources that inspire and educate you at the same time.
(Confession: I learned the art of web writing from Ann Handley and Jon Morrow. And Henneke Duistermaat’s works help me feel the skönhet of English and make peace with my inner critic. Plus, her list of writing fears inspired me to create this article.)
This tweet from Henneke describes how she used to think of herself as a writing wimp and pondered why she couldn’t be as confident as others. But she discovered that writing fears are normal – the fear signals that you’re out of your comfort zone and writing something that matters.
I used to think I was a writing wimp.
Why couldn’t I be as confident as everyone else?
But I’ve discovered: Writing fears are normal.
Fears are sign you’re out of your comfort zone & you’re writing something that matters.
— Henneke Duistermaat (@HennekeD) 3 november 2022
Vem finns på din lista över resurser att följa?
7. Bo i ett professionellt utrymme
En bra övning för att krossa rädslor och självtvivel för innehållsförfattare är att stanna i det professionella rummet. Delta i seminarier, delta i konferenser eller webbseminarier, besök lokala möten, kommunicera med intressanta människor på sociala medier, etc. Dessa interaktioner kan hindra dig från att nå en platå och förbättra skrivproduktiviteten.
Social delaktighet kan utlösa glada kemikalier i hjärnan för att tillfredsställa behovet av spänning. Denna spänning fungerar som en inspiration att skriva mer och "glömma" bedragarsyndromet och andra skrivarrädslor för ett tag.
Är du redo att säga adjö till din skrivarrädsla?
Rädslor (för en tom sida, misslyckande, avslag, skriva skit eller att inte vara tillräckligt bra) fungerar som små bestar, gnager på ditt skrivandego och hindrar dig från att njuta av innehållsskapandeprocessen.
När du namnger ditt best kan du beväpna dig med ett eller flera av dessa trick för att hjälpa dig att krossa dem.
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