Local SEO During COVID-19 with Phil Rozek

local SEO during covid-19
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Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System joined us on Agency Ahead today to talk about how the crisis is impacting local search. He’s a well-known expert in the field known for his no-nonsense, in-depth guidance and expertise.

If you’ve got local clients, you won’t want to miss this podcast.

Here are the highlights:

  • (1:21) On day-to-day work, what’s changed and what hasn’t. 
  • (4:17) On who to touch base with, and in what order.
  • (8:00) Why is it so important to check in?
  • (10:55) How can local SEOs adjust to Google’s functionality problems?
  • (17:14) Where else should business owners and local SEO professionals be spending time and energy?
  • (22:08) The potential impact of Google’s loss of trust
  • (24:25) Phil’s causes.

On Day-to-Day Work For Local SEO During COVID-19

Phil says he’s putting in extra hours to make sure all of his clients get what they need in terms of local SEO advice and overall visibility. Most of his own clients aren’t experiencing some of the big problems that you would expect, because he doesn’t currently work with any hotels or restaurant establishments.

His clients are primarily in the service industry: doctors, contractors, and attorneys – and they’re still holding up okay.

If you’re a firm whose clients are struggling, it may be time to pivot to pursuing some clients in industries that are a little bit more stable right now or at least balancing out your client roster, by distributing your work across a range of company types.

Proactive Client Outreach In Order of Priority

Phil gets in touch with his current clients every day.

“Next on the list, of course, are the quieter clients, the ones I don’t necessarily talk to every day but do work with month-in and month-out.

This is to get things done and keep the wheels of progress moving along.

After that I wanted to check in with people I’d worked with in the past and on-again off-again clients.”

Phil stresses that you shouldn’t assume that no news is good news.

“Check in with everyone within reason.”

You don’t have to solicit business. You can give them what Phil calls a “general howdy” just to see how they’re doing. 

Why is it so important to check in?

Sometimes you’ll learn things that surprise you. For example, Phil learned a home inspector client of his was doing great and was doing so in a time when he expected him to be doing poorly. 

And yet there were unpleasant surprises too. 

“Other businesses I thought may be doing well were not, and usually through no fault of their own. Like the dental space has gotten very hard because in some places, basically, your dental practice cannot be open, cannot see patients unless for dental emergencies.”

He says the problem isn’t just booking emergency clients, but in some cases having enough PPE to see those clients safely.

He also says many dental clients did not carve out a niche as emergency dentists. 

“If you’re a cosmetic dentist and you don’t really do emergencies, well, you’re in a temporary bind.

In that case, the role of an SEO person is to say, ‘Hey, how can we make you make your messaging very clear as to what kind of patients you’re able to see? How can we set the stage for a strong comeback in a few weeks, or however long it’s going to be?'”

Phil stresses everything is very case-by-case right now. 

How can local SEOs adjust to Google's functionality problems?

Phil notes Google wasn’t exactly functional in the first place.

“Their default state pre-coronavirus has always been: it’s limping along, they’re testing things, they’re trying out this new feature, they’re retiring this other feature, and there’s not that much oversight. Now the problems are just magnified.”

He says it’s important not to rely too much on Google, but to get messaging onto GMB pages where you can. He had one doctor whose messaging was:

“We’re still seeing patients, we follow the CDC recommendations on PPE, and we’re doing telemedicine.” 

Getting that messaging out there eliminated confusion.

“He was on the ropes for awhile, but between some battlefield surgery on GMB, on his website, and on AdWords we basically saved the practice.”

The one thing on people’s minds is “are you open,” so if your client is open find ways to communicate when and how they are open.

Where should business owners and local SEO professionals spend their time and energy?

Phil suggests looking to other review sites that are important in your industry.

“If possible, adding reviews on Yelp is good. Having them on Facebook is really easy and in a time like this when there’s basically no oversight even at Google, having a site like Facebook where there’s never any oversight is not a bad thing because basically nothing’s changed.”

He says he’d pick at least one non-Google review site: the biggest review site in your industry, whether that’s ZocDoc, Avvo, Zillow, or TripAdvisor.

He notes you should have had reviews on these sites already, but if you didn’t it’s a great time to start generating reviews on them. 

When things are normal he suggests using 50% of your efforts on Google reviews and 50% on other sites people pay attention to.

What's the potential impact of Google's loss of trust?

“This should have been the time,” Phil says, “where Google sends all the cavalry, and not just all AI and the algorithm.”

He expected staff to review problems going on with GMB.

“You would think this is the time for them to shine. Have engineers working remotely, doing whatever they have to do to maintain the functionality of reviews, review responses, Q&A, GMB posts.”

He also noted Google really needed to be making sure people weren’t making malicious moves.

“You don’t want the massage parlor of ill repute to call itself an urgent care clinic. All hell will break loose then.”

Phil says he thinks after this people will say, “Wait a minute. If I want to know whether a business is open, if I want to know what kind of services they offer, I’d better go to their website.

Thus, this time represents an opportunity. Marketers can be working to help their clients make their websites bigger and better than ever before. 

Nevertheless, he feels that Google may be too big to fail.

“It’s kind of the least bad player in its game. A Yelp is never going to overtake Google, nor will Bing ever be more than the runt of the litter.” 

He also says he believes this has put an end to the strategy of “Google as homepage,” because people are now going to dig deeper rather than trusting what they see on the SERPs.

What's your right now cause?

Phil and his wife donate to their local cat shelters regularly. He also runs two programs on his site right now.

The first is Visibility for Veterans, where he offers military veterans or active service members or spouses some local SEO consultation for free. It’s a chance to get on the phone with Phil, kick around some ideas, and talk about whatever challenges the business owner is facing.

He’s doing the same for business owners impacted by COVID-19 right now.

“I wouldn’t become your full-time local SEO guy, but I’d be glad to consult with you on next steps and just put together an action plan on the kinds of businesses you can wrestle up during the lockdown or how to make a strong comeback once things are back to normal.”

He encourages other SEO professionals to create similar programs on their sites.

Connect with Phil Rozek

Want more of Phil’s advice?

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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