Krystal Taing is the Director of Local Product Strategy for Rio SEO, which is known for its work with enterprise-level local SEO. She’s also a Gold Google Product Expert. She’s worked with verticals like retail, hospitality, healthcare, finance, and more.
Today she joins us on the Agency Ahead podcast to talk about the challenges of enterprise local SEO, as well as some of the solutions she’s discovered and developed while working with chains.
- (0:52) How Krystal got her start.
- (3:19) How enterprises are thinking about local SEO.
- (5:22) Getting started with enterprise-level clients.
- (6:27) Working with branches.
- (8:28) The challenges of navigating Google’s attitude towards enterprise-level players in local SEO.
- (10:48) Why Google might not want to focus on enterprise-level organizations the same way they focus on SMBs.
- (12:06) Thoughts on the potential monetization of GMB.
- (14:07) LSAs: what they are, who they’re for, and whether they’re valuable.
- (16:13) Why businesses should stay on-task vis a vis reviews.
- (21:52) Krystal’s causes.
How Krystal got her start in enterprise Local SEO
Garrett asked Krystal to share her background with our listeners.
“I started in eCommerce, merchandising websites. This was in 2010 to 2012. I think my first intro to SEO was a very large project because we had gotten a penalty by Google for all these spam websites that were linking to us. So doing this backlink project where I was trying to disavow these websites that got us a lot of visibility in the early 2000s that were suddenly against guidelines.”
Her role got less creative, more focused on trends.
“These are the searches these category pages got. These are the products that converted. These are the terms that didn’t convert, which would mean we’d need to expand this product line or the price point.”
She found that far more interesting than some of the work she’d been doing before. All this experience led directly to her role at Rio SEO, “which is all about consumer behavior, local SEO, and how these trends fit into the big picture and how brands can participate from a digital standpoint. I don’t know that anyone has a clear path directly to local SEO, but that’s what worked for me.”
How enterprises are thinking about Local SEO
“Enterprise brands that have been putting effort into local SEO for the past two years are really seeing a payoff right now because they’re positioned to make a lot of those really quick changes vs. some others that maybe dabbled in it but it wasn’t a huge initiative for their organizations.
Even banks and healthcare companies that you might not think of as traditionally savvy when it comes to local SEO are really seeing some great opportunity because they’ve been playing the game for a while.”
Of course, if you are working with an enterprise who hasn’t put in that kind of effort yet then it’s never too early to start.
Krystal paused here to talk about the biggest challenge of enterprise-level local SEO.
“You’re taking what you’re trying to do at a local level and then multiplying it by 100, or 1000, or 10,000, but you still have to make [each listing] unique and make it representative of the community and the organization.”
She says that these organizations often don’t understand how local plays into their organization as a whole, and how it can trickle down from corporate to the smaller branches and communities.
Garrett pointed out that this is like addressing personalization: you can automate a lot of it, and just put a lot of the same cookie-cutter boiler-plate stuff out there, but that’s not good local SEO.
Getting started with enterprise-level clients
Garrett asked Krystal to describe who in the organization she’s typically working with.
She says they’re typically dealing wither with a CMO or sometimes someone in IT.
“Sometimes they do have an in-house local or SEO team, or a partner agency, which can make the conversation easier because you can get the basics out of the way, but it’s typically someone representing the organization.”
Then Garrett asked about working with the people at the local, branch level.
“Often when you’re dealing with anything that’s not a franchise organization there’s going to be stipulations, there’s going to be marketing plans. Someone at the store manager level doesn’t necessarily need to be involved in the implementation and the day-to-day, but where that comes into play is that someone from the actual location will say: our hours are wrong, or we’ve got this review we want to reply to.”
Krystal says often she’ll get an email that’s been forwarded ten or twelve times.
“Really what we focus on is education, at that point. How to service those types of things. How to have a proactive conversation, and a relationship with people that are in the communities, whether it’s a district manager, a regional manager, or a store-level manager. How to solve some of those challenges quicker.”
“Sometimes,” she adds, “it’s not always built into the organizational structure to invite feedback from the store level, especially from a digital standpoint.”
The infrastructure exists for things like getting repairs for a store, but not for digital marketing. Krystal is often involved in helping organizations build that infrastructure.
The challenges of navigating Google's attitude toward enterprise-level players in Local SEO
Anyone who is in the local SEO sphere knows that Google isn’t always as friendly to enterprises and multi-location businesses as it is to SMBs. For example, for a long time chains weren’t allowed to use the Google Posts feature.
Krystal says there have been some improvements.
“They’re getting better at being explicit when there’s features or functionality that they’re not going to support for enterprises. I don’t know that they’re getting better at actually supporting enterprises, but at least they’re saying oh, this is really for small and medium-sized businesses. If you’re an enterprise go subscribe to our product inventory ads or something like that.”
She appreciates this because it’s a sign Google now understands these are very different conversations.
She says she’s also seen some personal successes with sharing feedback that enterprise has some challenges, or there are opportunities that she’d like to see Google support for them.
“They may not always respond in the moment, but I have seen some enhancements, or that they’re adding new functionality to the API, or that they’re going to temporarily allow posts for chains [during COVID]. They’ll always hear that from me, and that’s the role I play. Always being in their ear: what about multi-location.“
She encourages people to resist the stereotype that says enterprise-level clients don’t need the help.
“There are really three different markets: the Mom and Pop that finds it easier to create this experience from a digital standpoint because they only do it one time, the small-to-medium businesses that need a little bit more and don’t have the budgets, and enterprises.”
She’s happy to see Google addressing each of these markets.
Theories on why Google doesn't treat enterprises like SMBs
Krystal thinks it basically comes right on down to money.
“When they look at small and medium businesses there’s a lot more ad revenue they can be getting that they aren’t already getting today, whereas enterprises are typically more forward-thinking. They’ve adapted. They’ve had to. They’ve had websites a lot longer. They’ve had eCommerce. I think they understand they probably have the majority of the enterprise business. They can always upsell them. But that’s nothing compared to what they could potentially make off of the small and medium businesses that aren’t doing ads with Google today.”
She says that GMB is basically designed to be like a gateway drug to ads.
The status of monetizing the local knowledge panel and GMB
Has the conversation about monetizing Google slowed down?
Apparently, Google is still experimenting. Krystal mentioned a Tweet from Tom Waddington.
“Tom manages a lot of home service and service-based businesses on GMB, and he does a lot of LSAs. Any question about Local Service Ads, I always point people in Tom’s direction. [This new option from Google] seems aimed at LSAs. It would make sense that it came from LSAs. They’re already getting money. Right now it looks like [people who take this option] get dedicated support and maybe something else.”
For those who don’t know, LSAs are aimed primarily at contractors. It stands for “local service ads.” If you’ve gone through the verification process, you’ll see a green checkmark that says “Google Guaranteed,” which is similar to Yelp’s verified profile.
Krystal thinks these popped up in response to the many times when people would call service providers only to find that whoever showed up didn’t actually know how to do the job.
“There have been a lot of questions about these listings on Google, about whether they’re legitimate. I think it’s [Google’s] way of monetizing the service but also weeding out bad agents.”
She also says if LSAs are available for your vertical she does recommend them.
Why businesses should stay on top of reviews: Even during a pandemic
Krystal warns businesses away from veering away from reviews, even though they’re getting fewer customers in-store.
“Invite that specific feedback. You want to know how [they feel about] that new service you rolled out, whether it’s curbside pick up or online order pick up.”
She tells a story of how a review helped her find a specific restaurant.
“There’s a restaurant near me called El Zarape. There’s lots of Mexican food in San Diego, and there are a million El Zarapes. But I knew one had just opened up an outdoor patio.”
She wanted to find that one. So she Googled “El Zarape outdoor dining.” There was a review that highlighted the new patio right in the Map Pack: “This place respects social distancing and their outdoor dining is great.”
She says if you’re inviting that specific feedback it can help you in ways than you know, especially if you haven’t updated yet. Of course, you should absolutely update your listing if you’re adding something new, especially if it’s in response to COVID.
Looking for more insights about this specific issue? You should also check out Mike Blumenthal’s article on GatherUp: Reviews Don’t Mask the Truth: A Look at Covid-19 and Reviews.
Krystal also notes that many reviews specifically reference current events, like reviews that mention masks, or reviews that mention businesses that are currently closed because the location has burned down.
“I think right now just understanding how your brand participates in the community that it’s in, and knowing what types of comments or elements are important to those users and those customers. You need to pay attention to what they’re saying in your reviews, whether it’s positive or negative, and make sure you have the appropriate response.”
Garrett asked about managing review responses.
“What we’ll do is we’ll look at the reviews that they’re getting. We’ll say on average how many positive, negative, and neutral reviews they’re getting, noting common sentiments or common words.”
They then use this information to adjust the way the business asks for reviews, for example.
“If you’re a healthcare organization, and your reviews don’t have a lot of content, ask people to talk about the front desk, or the cleanliness, or their telehealth appointment. Really coaching them to bring these conversations to the fold.”
What’s your right now cause?
Krystal is really passionate about education and child care during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There are micro classes, there are organizations offering supports to parents, there are schools offering child-care check-in. See where you can donate, see where you can help, even if it’s just distributing meals while these kids are out of school.”