The number of online shops is growing exponentially, and the competition level facing entrepreneurs is growing with it. Having the best product is far from enough! You can lose customers over the smallest details, so the transactional journey you provide should meet the highest standards.

To help out the business community we have conducted research powered by SEMrush Site Audit to find out which issues e-commerce websites are struggling with most. We have scanned 1,300 online shops for 80 technical and SEO issues, varying widely from mild nuisances to severe business-damaging errors.

We have gone over all the common on-page and technical SEO issues, including problems with HTTPS implementation, hreflangs, crawlability, site architecture, and more.

Guess what? Even the biggest retail websites have errors! Our research will help to give you an educated overview of your website’s health and find new ways to improve your business.

Paul Lovell, international SEO & PPC consultant and Founder at Always Evolving SEO, shared his expertise and concluded the research. We’ve also asked industry experts from all around the world to share their advice.


SEMrush Study: The 80 most common e-commerce website mistakes

Paul Lovell SEO & PPC Consultant


GoogleLast week, off and on, we started seeing the use of the image carousel in the mobile Local Finder.  This is a format that has long been present in the restaurant search results. The carousels have been seen off and on since then, showing up and then disappearing, only to show once again. When they did show they were not in all categories.

For example we saw them in most product driven categories like jewelry, cars and sporting goods but not in professional categories like lawyers and doctors.  We saw them in some services like plumbers and HVAC, Dog Grooming and Insect Control (Really? Yes really.) but not in Locksmith or Electricians or Salons. Clearly a test at a grand scale.

Will they become the new normal? As I have said before “Who the f knows?” but it seems likely to me that their use will expand. I am seeing them today on some devices but not all.


When “More Places” is selected the searcher is taken to the Mobile Finder

image management

Mobile Local Finder with Carousel

Of course this made me curious about the aspect ratios and whether a vertical or horizontal image might be better for optimizing the outcome. Google has never made image management easy and this new display is no exception.

machine learning
The black border indicates the crop of a horizontal image

In this case it doesn’t seem to matter whether you are using a vertical or horizontal image as long as the shot is in close AND the main content of the image is center weighted.

The carousel crops to a roughly 480 pixel wide by 240 pixel high view, a 2 to 1 aspect ratio. It will cut that from either vertical or horizontal images.

restaurant search results
It cuts the same 2 wide to 1 high horizontal section out of the vertical image. The black border represents the area displayed in the carousel.

Both of these images worked reasonably well but the difficulties start coming in when you also want to optimize the image for the 3 pack on mobile, the Branded Mobile Knowledge Panel and all the many variations imposed by the desktop and Maps results.

The mobile pack results seems to be one area where you should focus. If the image looks good there AND in the carousel, it is reasonable to take your chances elsewhere.

In this image I have overlain  the original image with the crop for both the carousel (solid black line) AND the mobile 3 pack (dotted) so you can get a sense of what I mean by “center weighted”.

The solid black line represents the crop from the carousel, while the dotted line is the 3 pack crop.

It becomes an almost impossible task for an image to look perfect in every image environment that Google presents. You will see a totally different crop that shows for the Brand Knowledge panel in a mobile browser.

Adding text to the image makes the problem more obvious and a solution more difficult. That being said in many contexts, the text is a differntiator.

The crop is still centered weighted but wider in the mobile Knowledge Panel.

And on the desktop you can see a totally different crop the shows in the  local finder.

image management
Once again a different crop but like all, centered weighted.

Last but not least is the fact that Google seems to be experimenting with images and swapping out the cover photo and occasionally showing a different image. It seems to me that this image is perhaps more contextually relevant to the query but it could just as well be a usability test or a machine learning training exercise.  machine learning

I would be curious to hear of your examples of the types of images Google is showing when swapping out and whether they seem to be query related.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

This is my second post in the “who the f knows” series.

And it relates to Google now showing the book or schedule button in the 3 pack. Or not showing as the case may be.

When your boss comes and sees you and asks why are your booking buttons not showing you can either say “who the f’ knows” or the current, more accurate variant “Only Google f’ing knows”.

On a tangental a note, these book buttons were first spotted in the SERPS by Sergey Alekov in February when Google released Reserve with Google in Canada. I don’t think they showed in the SERPS reliably at that point.

In fact they still don’t show in the SERPS reliably.

Over the past day or two I have spotted the following desktop and mobile variations involving or not involving the booking button as the case may be.

Mobile variants:

Alphabet Inc.CanadaGoogleDesktop Variants

Sergey Alekov World Wide Web

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

It appears that Google updating the mobile Local Finder to the “restaurant style” carousel slider type display.

Earlier in the day Phil Barnhart pointed out that he was seeing this new display on dog grooming. I started seeing it initially on Chrome on iPhone as well across  many categories and by the end of the day I am not seeing it on iPhone Safari as well. It would appear to be a full rollout. This view has long been seen in restaurants and bars.

The take away: make sure your first and all of your photos are good!


Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

Transactions in Local Search via Google’s Reserve with Google tool have historically been limited to Knowledge Panel results.

It appears that this transactional capabilities being expanded or will be expanded to include embedding calls to action directly into the Local 3-Pack search results. And given Google’s obvious expansion of the Reserve with Google we can expect to see these sorts of results in many new verticals going forward.

above search

Reserve with Google, Google’s back end tool that connects local listings to assorted booking tools but keeps the whole transaction process with-in the Google mothership, was first released last fall.

At that time, it was initially focused on Spas and Gyms that worked with a limited set of 12 scheduling apps.  In April of this year, restaurant booking using the Reserve app was added via OpenTable.

Subsequently Google expanded the number of scheduling app partners to now having 36 partners with an additional 33 partners “coming soon”.

Google has moved into new verticals with their reserve tool beyond those mentioned above. We know that Google is allowing for restaurant order take out via the Reserve with Google tool (or something very similar) using their “on-demand platform“.

demand tool OpenTable


We have also seen Google’s on demand tool showing up for Hotel bookings.

[Update] Tom Waddington pointed out that he has just stated seeing Reserve with Google showing up in the Garage Door category as well. Home services is an obvious area but one that I had not yet seen.

[Update] Sergey Alakov noted in August that Reserve With Google Expand[ed] to Attraction and Museum Ticket Purchase

The coming soon list includes Yelp, TA, Eventbrite, Thryve and CouresHorse to name but a few partners. So we can anticipate starting to see many, many more transaction types in the Knowledge Panel in areas perhaps as diverse as education, professional services, home stays and who knows what else

And if the above search is any indication, we will start seeing these transaction capabilities directly in the main local search results with ever increasing frequency as Google’s local search becomes ever more transactional in nature.

Book with Google partners:



Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

Last week we learned of both a new Google My Business feature (in beta), ‘Add Product Collection’ and new GMB Insight’s data, ‘Branded Searches’.

Both are interesting features individually but together, they are even more interesting.

The GMB Branded searches, reported at SEL by Barry Schwartz, is apparently being rolled out. As noted in the graphic published at SEL, it appears to be a count of “customers who find your listing when searching for a brand related to your business”. I take that to mean if I search for nike shoes bufflo ny and I see “Rick’s Sports and Apparel” then it would be counted as a ‘branded search” for Rick’s.

Auto Repair ShopsIn typical Google fashion, though, they have muddied the waters as to exactly is being counted by providing this explanation in their help files:

  • Branded searches: A customer searched for a brand related to your business (e.g. a customer looking for fast food searched for “McDonald’s” and found your fast food restaurant listing). This category will only appear if your listing has appeared at least once for a branded search.

This is totally nonsensical as 1- this would duplicate direct searches and 2- a search for McDonald’s would return “your fast food restaurant listing”, it would return McDonald’s. I have asked for clarification from Google as to what it actually means, which very well could be a third definition.

The other product, still in beta, is a feature to “Add a Product Collection” that adds products to your mobile Knowledge Panel. It was first reported out by Nathan Schoell of DealerInspire. According to Nathan, if you are using the Product Collection feature then the Services tab in the KP disappears. He noticed the feature in Car Dealer categories and Auto Repair Shops.


The new feature was also reported by Cordell Crowley at the Local Search Forum where he saw the feature in the Florist category.

Image courtesy of the Local Search Forum
This mobile product tab shows both a Post Product post and the new Product Collection. Image courtesy of Local Search Forum.

When you step back and view these two developments from 10,000 feet several interesting possibilities arise. We know that Google in general and Google Local in particular is looking to vacuum up ever more granular data about the real world.

This recent FastCompany interview with Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of geo at Google and who effectively  has “overarching responsibility for Google Maps and Local”.  She noted:

I don’t consider mapping a solved problem anywhere in the world. To use your example, we might now have sidewalks or pathways through a park, but we still, by and large, don’t necessarily know which parks have playgrounds or which parks have barbecue pits. If you’re trying to plan an outing with your child or an event with your family, those are pretty important things that are going to deeply influence your decision about whether that’s a good park for you to choose for your next outing.

That’s just one example. It’s increasingly not enough for us to know just that there is a coffee shop on the corner over there. If you’re trying to decide whether to spend your Friday night studying at that café, it’s going to be really important to know if there’s a rock band playing there, or if it’s going to be a quiet, cozy setting.

Barbecue pits might be of interest in a broad sense to Google Maps but there is little monetizable value in that granular piece of information. It is the type of information that will attract users and keep users on Google Maps instead of elsewhere. But every person looking for a barbecue pit in Fireman’s park is also a shopper. And these new products speak to those shoppers in a way that is both useful AND monetizable.

Google has in the past said that ‘brands are how you sort out the cesspool”. But what does that look like at a local level where the websites are weak and Google’s broader brand understanding of most local businesses is very limited?

It looks like product. Paid product by major brands yes but more than that. Product in general, wherever it is, whoever is carrying it.


And, in case you haven’t noticed, Google has been on a spree to get localized product information and incentivize sharing it with Google local in a number of ways.

In May of this year, Google introduced a new Post type called a Product Post that showed in posts but also aggregated in the Product tab of the mobile Knowledge Panel.

Auto Repair Shops


Shortly after, in June, Google rolled out “See What’s In Store” as a free Knowledge Panel feature as part if its new inventory feed program.


Clearly, Google, at least in the mobile world, is working very, very hard to convince merchants to give it, product information. Product information in their Knowledge Graph makes it a trivial task for Google to understand the brand information about that given location whether the information is on the local business website or not.

The Insights report, highlighting brand queries,  gives a somewhat abstract feedback mechanism for a business to understand what folks are looking for and the various product “feed” mechanisms give that business a way to nurture those searches.

Given this arc of these recent developments I would not be the least bit surprised if the Product Collection feature makes it into the GMB API sooner rather than later. And this would provide an obvious monetization method much like the recent discussion around monetizing a Posts API for multi location brands.

What better way to answer customers queries, clear the cess pool and make money. All the while garnering an ever increasingly granular view of the local world that keeps Google Local more than one step ahead of the competitors.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

Leading local SEO predictions: Reserve with Google will grow, real-time local inventory gets real

GMB messaging, voice search optimization, local inventory data, Q&A and the decline of SMB websites are all explored.


Reserve with Google. (Photo Credit: Henry Powderly)

Local SEO is has been an under-appreciated discipline in digital marketing. Yet management and optimization of local business content and reviews, including for multi-location brands, directly and indirectly impact trillions of dollars in annual consumer spending.

Roughly 90 percent of retail and an even higher percentage of service transactions occur offline. But search, reviews and social recommendations now influence a large majority of U.S. consumers in their purchase decision-making.

Since mobile search volumes overtook desktop queries just over two years ago, more marketers have come to recognize the importance of local SEO and its impact on lower-funnel, “ready to buy” consumers. Google has also placed increasing emphasis on local search and Google My Business (GMB), adding a dizzying array of features and capabilities over the past two years.

To understand where local SEO (and Google) are going, we asked some of the leading local SEO practitioners to offer advice for 2019. The following are their observations, predictions and recommendations.

Mike Blumenthal's prediction

Mike Blumenthal: “Google will continue to develop the capability to transact directly from the Knowledge Panel. They will continue to roll out new partnerships for their Reserve with Google to include integration with major players like Yelp and develop tools for additional segments. In addition, they will build out a back-end to the reserve interface that allows them to handle the complete transaction in certain, high-value verticals like hotels.”

“AR will start to show up in the conversation about local search optimization.”

“Businesses will start to see the value of getting and using their own, first party reviews for local content and social proof.”

local google

Mary Bowling: “Feed the Google beast! The more information about your business, your products and your services that you can provide clearly to Google, the more it will understand what you do, where you do it and which queries your company might be the best ‘answer’ for. Provide this information via GMB and other local listings, your website structure, content and schema, info on industry authority sites, relevant media mentions and by encouraging plenty of honest reviews.”

Miriam Ellis: “Real-time local inventory will become a real ‘thing.’ Pointy just passed the 1 percent adoption threshold of all U.S. retail businesses. Their device and their launch partnership with Google’s ‘See What’s In Store’ feature will start to be felt in local. Early adopters will be rewarded.”

“Sustainable local business practices will become increasingly influential in consumer decision-making as U.S. citizens experience messaging surrounding climate change in the run-up to a major election. Local businesses should green-audit their models and market their improvements.”

“Reputation will rule the day. Moz found that 91 percent of surveyed marketers agree that reviews impact rankings and Google says that 27 percent of local searches have the intent of reading reviews about a specific business. Local businesses must take a robust stance on the entire review management cycle.”

Joy Hawkins: “I predict Google My Business will add Q&A to the dashboard (long overdue), continue to roll out Local Service Ads to other industries and come out with a way to schedule Posts in the dashboard as well.”

Dan Leibson: “Bing will continue to be far and away the most critical voice search “channel” to optimize. The data is pretty clear: Amazon Echo has ~70 percent market share, yet voice search experts continue to promote an over-reliance on Google, especially regarding local voice search. Also, Bing’s local search data and experience are much worse than Google’s, so the optimization work has an actual short-term return.”

“The importance of websites will continue to be a huge trend in 2019. As brands continue to pour more and more dollars into their owned assets, their local search dominance will continue to improve and SMBs will continue to be left behind.”

“Google’s local pack results will continue to get worse and worse. It seems pretty clear that the focus on quantity of features and their quick roll out has negatively impacted their local pack results pretty heavily. Expect to see more automated review generation schemes in 2019, more keyword stuffing in business names and more fake locations. After all, it works and the downside is pretty minor.”

David Mihm Predictions

David Mihm: “Mike Blumenthal has done a great job promoting the concept of ‘Google as the New Homepage,” but I think 2019 is the year businesses (and agencies, for that matter) finally realize just how profound, and profoundly different, a concept that is when it comes to thinking about SEO.”

“In a story that flew under the radar in 2018, Google made a significant improvement in its local branding. It is now promoting the term ‘business profile’ to replace the esoteric ‘Knowledge Panel’ designation (a move I fully applaud).”

“This more approachable packaging will begin to help the average local business owner realize that Google My Business truly is the natural place to start your marketing journey on Google, in the same way you’d update and market your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.”

“In addition to a fully-baked, well-optimized Business Profile converting more direct searches from customers looking for you, I think we’ll see more and more examples where content added within Google My Business begins to inform relevance for certain discovery queries.”

“I’m also predicting 2019 is the year that messaging becomes a principal feature in GMB. On the SMB side, messaging feels like the most natural area for Google to invest in next. It keeps businesses continually engaged with GMB. It’s a feature that doesn’t involve content creation on the part of businesses — an area they’ve historically struggled with. It provides a lighter-touch transactional mechanism for longer-tail industries or industries where Reserve is too complex for a simple user experience.”

“On the consumer side, it addresses a pain point for millennial searchers. It also keeps searchers in the Google ecosystem, rather than losing them to a website clickthrough. As GMB gradually becomes more interactive, messaging feels like an essential component of that effort.”

Andrew Shotland: “‘Optimizing for voice search’ will start to show up as a bold line item in most local SEO proposals even though the consultant won’t actually do anything about it beyond a normal SEO program.”

“Blog posting budgets will start to morph into GMB Posts management budgets.”

“Link building will continue to be the biggest line item in your local SEO budget, regardless of E-A-T optimization, search intent targeting, or any other tactic you may read about, even in this article.”


Where & How to Get the Right Reviews for Your Business

  • 1.4K
  • 4.9K
Where & How to Get the Right Reviews for Your Business

Online reviews play a huge part in the modern customer’s journey.

Earning reviews is a necessary part of any modern marketing strategy.

But where should you get started if you want to take control and make the most of the consumer’s voice?

Let’s talk about the top review platforms, and the best way to leverage them.

1. Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB), the most recent incarnation of what was previously called Google Places and Google Local, is the starting point for any online review marketing strategy.

Ratings here determine your star rating in Google Maps results, as well as in the Google Local Pack, the list of Map results that show up when users perform a local search.

Reviews are the most important factor in determining where local businesses show up in Google search results, and Google My Business is the source the company trusts the most for these reviews.

And if you think this doesn’t affect you because your business is online instead of local, you’re wrong.

In one study that involved 30,000 sites, investing in reviews increased organic traffic from 5,500 to 8,000 in nine months.

But knowing that your Google profile needs reviews and actually earning them are two different things.

It should go without saying that an excellent product and superb customer service are a must here.

A strong emphasis on customer service should be reiterated, since bad customer service is more likely to lead to a review than positive customer service is.

In addition to thoroughly vetting your customer service and developing the best product you can, there are additional steps you can take to get the most out of Google My Business.


Where & How to Get the Right Reviews for Your Business

Let’s start with the obvious: you should set up a Google My Business profile, rather than let it sit unclaimed:

  • Go to
  • Select or create the Google account you want to be associated with your business.
  • Enter your name and address to search for your business.
  • Click on the appropriate location.
  • Click “Mail me my Code.” Google needs to verify your ownership of the physical location of your business. This is the simplest way to do it.
  • Add high-quality photos to your profile, with an emphasis on what aspects of your business and your products can be communicated most effectively through visual media.
  • Update all fields and descriptions and deck out your profile with the same care you would apply to your own website.

Now you will need to encourage your customers to leave you a review, and the most effective way to do that is to provide them with a direct link to the place where they can review your business. Here’s how:

  • Go to the PlaceID Lookup Tool.
  • Put your business name in the “Enter a location” field.
  • Click your business name. If you have trouble, enter your location.
  • On the map, beneath your business name and above your location, is your Place ID.
  • Copy your Place ID and paste it over “<place_id>” in this URL:<place_id>.
  • Visit the link and it should take you to a page where a Google review form will pop up.

This is the link you will need to share with customers at common interaction points to encourage them to leave a review, especially during interactions where you have reason to believe you have a satisfied customer on your hands.

A Few More Tips for Getting GMB Reviews

  • Integrate your Google My Business review link into your email marketing campaigns. Use your email signature to ask your customers to leave reviews.
  • Segment your audience and look for correlations between quantifiable interactions and customer lifetime value, and request reviews from those in your audience who are the most likely to be long-term customers.
  • Make it a part of your training to teach all customer-facing staff to ask for reviews from customers, especially where customers seem to be satisfied.
  • Where providing a direct link isn’t possible, have ready-made materials to teach customers how to leave reviews.
  • Write personal emails that request reviews. The context of the personal email should make it clear that the email is not mass produced.

2. Industry-Specific Review Sites

While industry-specific review sites don’t directly impact your star ratings in Google Maps and Google’s local search results, they do impact your rankings in search results, and star ratings in non-local search results are often visible before clicking through.

On top of that, 97 percent of customers say they’re influenced by customer reviews.

On every measure, the more reviews available, the better, which is why you want to earn as many reviews in as many places as possible, provided your products and customer service are meeting the expectations of customers.

Irate or irritated customers are the most likely reviewers – and they can do serious damage to your brand reputation.

So it’s important to make an effort to encourage reviews from a more representative sample of your customer base.

Industry-specific review sites are sites built for or usually used within specific industries, such as Yelp for restaurants and TripAdvisor for hotels.

You can use the tips discussed above for earning Google My Business reviews and simply apply them to these other platforms.


Where &#038; How to Get the Right Reviews for Your Business

You can find a list of industry-specific review sites here and here, but you can and should also find industry-specific review sites by performing Google searches for:

  • [your industry name] reviews/ratings
  • [your competitor name] reviews/ratings

The list of industry-specific review sites you will come across will be far larger than any list of review sites you should point customers to in a single email or interaction.

It’s important to be focused in deciding which review sites to send customers to.

If you feel it’s important to send customers to a wide range of review sites to avoid low numbers or poorly representative scores on some sites, this is best accomplished by rotating your review links rather than by overloading customers with too many options.

3. Product Review Sites

Product review sites are third-party sites designed to help companies earn reviews while vetting them for accuracy.

Because customers are more likely to leave a review when they know it will be vetted and published by a third party, and since customers are more likely to trust these reviews than those selected and perhaps manipulated by the company itself, reviews on these sites are more likely to lead to conversions and positive brand sentiment than reviews on your own site using your own native system.

Of these, Trustpilot is arguably the go-to starting point – sort of the Yelp of product review sites – in large part because Google trusts them enough to include their product ratings in the Google Shopping ads.

The platform is “open,” meaning that the reviews aren’t modified or moderated to give brands a biased positive score, so they are likely to positively influence both brand perception and search engine rankings in the long term.

One of the most helpful features a third-party review platform can bring to the table is the ability to incorporate reviews directly on your site (here’s how to do that with TrustPilot specifically).

A good product review site will also include the Schema markup necessary to get your star ratings listed in the Google search results, and have enough trust built with the search engine to increase the likelihood that those star ratings will be visible.

Taking advantage of product review sites allows you to take ownership of the story surrounding your brand and be a part of the conversation.

If you’re concerned about the fact that authentic reviews will inevitably point an imperfect picture, consider the following stats from Bazaarvoice:

  • Product page visitors who read and interact with online reviews have a 58 percent higher conversion rate.
  • When a site goes from having zero reviews to having 30, it can result in a 25 percent increase in orders. 100 reviews can result in a 37 percent increase.
  • As we discussed above, review volume has a stronger positive impact on sales than review score, with scores in the 4.2 to 4.5 range typically performing better than higher scores (which generally have fewer overall reviews).
  • Adding user reviews typically leads to a 15 to 25 percent increase in organic search traffic.

4. Social Media

The introduction of Facebook Local has solidified that brands need to consider social media not only as a marketing outlet but as a place where customers review businesses.


Where &#038; How to Get the Right Reviews for Your Business

Everything we discussed above applies to social media as much as it does to Google My Business, industry-specific review sites, and product review sites, but there are a few additional things to take into consideration:

Share Customer Reviews

Social media isn’t just a place where reviews are earned; it’s a place where reviews can be shared. The key is to do so tactfully.

When you share, retweet, post, and pin reviews your customers have left, it’s important to do so in a way that is more about that individual customer and less about the brand.

Social media is a place where people go to keep up with their friends and loved ones, so it’s important to respect the platform for its proper use.

Respond to Online Reviews on All of Your Platforms

This plays an important part in how your customers feel they will be treated, but this is doubly true of social media.

The word “social” is there for a reason. Customers expect you to be part of the conversation.

It’s important to be proactive – but not defensive – in responding to negative press.

Also, it’s important to recognize that social media responds better to actions, stories, and events than it does to words.

Resolve Customer Issues Publicly on Social Media

If you’re asking a customer to please contact customer support and take the conversation offline, onlookers will wonder what you’re trying to hide.

There are obvious lines that shouldn’t be crossed, such as revealing personal information, but publicly acknowledging a customer’s needs and treating them respectfully are important actions.

Although you should never give in to unreasonable demands, you should demonstrate how customers can expect to be treated by you.


User reviews play a crucial role in modern brand perception.

No marketing strategy can be considered successful without successfully addressing them.

While brands can’t control the content and sentiment of reviews, they can encourage a more representative and beneficial dialog by working with their customers to increase the number of reviews and the diversity of opinions.

These actions have been shown time and again to increase sales.

Do not neglect what you have learned here if you hope to master the art of branding in the years ahead.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots: Taken by author


Why NAP & User Experience Are Crucial to Local SEO


While it’s no secret that mobile usage surpassed desktop usage in 2015, another fact that often goes unnoticed is the change in user behavior in terms of the number of devices they use.

According to Google’s Consumer Barometer, the number of users who just use a single device to complete a journey has decreased from 32 percent in 2012, to just 14 percent in 2017.


Google Consumer Barometer (UK Trends)

This poses new challenges for local businesses, as users move between devices their search and discovery experiences will differ as parts of the Local Pack and local algorithms are weighted differently, namely the proximity of businesses to a user location.

As the guide has already established, NAP consistency is an important part of Google’s local and Local Pack algorithms, and building citations with a consistent NAP to your Google My Business listing and listed online addresses can influence your local rankings.

However, having a consistent NAP is also important to the user journey as online directories and social bookmarking sites aren’t just used by Google, they’re used by humans too.

When the User Journey Starts

A lot of people consider the user journey and brand experience to start when the user makes the first inquiry or spends significant time on a company’s website.

However, the journey starts a lot sooner.

Think with Google data shows that there are five touchpoints that, more often than not, lead to a purchase/affirmative site action:

  • Used a search engine.
  • Visited a store or other location.
  • Visited a retailer website or app.
  • Visited another website or app.
  • Used a map.

The user journey starts when they first see your brand either in search results listing, in the Local Pack, on a map, or at your physical brick-and-mortar store.

Local search is a crucial part of this journey and is even more important given that up to 78 percent of local-intent mobile searches result in an offline store visit within 24 hours.

This is where the consistent NAP becomes important, because users need consistent information in order to progress their journey. A lot of the time we make an assumption that users find our local businesses and brands through our websites, our guest posts and outreach, and our Google My Business listings.

Users, however, find our brand through a variety of online portals, including the directories where we build our citations and listings.

Influencing the User Journey at a Search Stage

When users are performing their first searches, this is your first opportunity to make an impression and be a part of the user journey.

If you’re appearing prominently in the Local Pack or within the SERPs, you want your users to click through to content that both provides value and satisfies their user intent.

Lazy Local Pages Help Nobody

In a lot of cases, when a website “localizes” it means the generation of local content and local pages. These are executed with varying degrees of effort, care, and detail, but ultimately lazy local pages help nobody.

A lazy local page is in effect a doorway page, a thin page that offers little value to the user and has the sole purpose of trying to rank for local search terms.

Google doesn’t like doorway pages (due to them offering poor user experience) and rolled out a doorway page “ranking adjustment” algorithm in 2015.

The Possum update in 2016 also went some way to tackling poor quality and spam, but this is a tactic that has been persisted with and in a lot of verticals they are still effective (until something better comes along).

Google’s official support documentation defines doorways as:

Sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.

Even if you rewrite all the content on these pages making sure they’re not duplicate, but they all carry the exact same message just with a different city targeted, they offer no value at all.

Google can see through this, and users will be left dissatisfied.

Creating Good Local Value Pages

Admittedly, it’s a lot easier for companies that have physical brick-and-mortar stores in the locations that they want to target to create local pages with high value.

But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done for companies offering an intangible product or service with a local focus.

Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines define content in two parts:

  • The main content.
  • The supporting content.

This is the way you should look at local search.

When someone in London searches for [plumbers in london], Google has to break down the query into both main and supporting sections, as well as look for intent.

  • “plumbers” the main part of the query, the intent is that the user is looking for a plumber/plumbing service.
  • “in london” the supporting element, the user wants the plumber to be local.

From this, Google retrieves relevant results with weighting and personalization given to the local intent of the query.

The main content of your website should reflect the product/services that you offer, with supporting content elements adding value and topical relevance around the location.

This can be implemented in a non-commercial way through the blog, as guides, or as resources.

NAP Consistency

As mentioned before, NAP consistency is important as the directory listings and citations we build aren’t just used by search engines. Potential customers find them, too.

An inconsistent or inaccurate NAP can lead to frustrated users, and potentially lost leads.

Common Reasons for Inconsistent NAP

From experience, inconsistent NAP can be caused by a number of human errors and business changes, including:

  • Changing business address and not updating previously built citations, directory listings, etc.
  • Having a different store address to the company registered address and using both online.
  • Generating different phone numbers for attribution tracking purposes.

Not only can all of the above cause issues for your local SEO, they can also cause a number of user experience issues – and poor user experience leads to loss of sales and damage to your brand.

User experience also extends beyond the Local Pack and SERPs to your website, how the local journey is managed, and whether it can satisfy all local intents.

Being able to track and accurately report on the success of marketing activities is vital.

However, there is a case for “over reporting” and “over attribution” in some cases, especially when it comes to local SEO.

Google Local Pack: User Experience & Attribution

Google’s Local Pack runs on a different algorithm to the traditional organic search results, and is heavily influenced by user location when making the search.

Google My Business has an attribution problem, and more often than not a lot of clicks from GMB listings are classified as direct traffic rather than organic traffic in Google Analytics.

The way around this is to use a parameter:


The parameter won’t cause NAP/citation consistency issues, so there is nothing to worry about there.

Having a consistent NAP means you’re more likely to appear within the Local Pack, and if you’re in the Local Pack studies have shown that you’re likely to get a high percentage of clicks on the results page.

If you’re likely to get a lot of clicks, it means you’re going to have a lot of users expecting fast loading pages and prominent information to satisfy their search intents.

Directory Attribution

This is a more common problem that I’ve come across working agency side, as well as one I’ve been asked to implement while working client side.

In order to track marketing efforts, I’ve known organizations to generate unique phone numbers for every directory that they submit the business to.

  • The pros: You can fairly accurately gauge an ROI on your marketing efforts
  • The cons: You end up with a lot of published citations with an inconsistent NAP.

Also, a lot of directories like to generate Google My Business listings based off of the data you input, as a sort of “added service”.

This leads to multiple Google My Business listings being generated for individual locations, with different phone numbers and sometimes different map pin locations.

This is bad for user experience, as they’re faced with multiple choices for one location with only one being correct. Such as this example for an online blinds retailer:


Online Blinds Retailer

It’s the same company in the same retail park but displaying two different phone numbers and two different closing times.

If a user sees both of these, it’s confusing and means they have to take an extra, unnecessary action in order to engage with your business.

Avoiding Spam Marketers

Another common reason I’ve seen businesses use false numbers on directory listings (when building them for SEO purposes) is to avoid the spam phone calls that follow.

While using a false number prevents the spam calls from reaching you, it also prevents genuine customers as well.

We often forget that a lot of things we do “for SEO” can also affect users and their experience with your company.

Getting Local Right

Local searches often represent higher than average conversion rates, as customers seeking out a local product or service are likely to pursue and complete their actions.

That being said, a lot of local businesses are still not taking full advantage of the opportunities in front of them and tying in performance and user satisfaction.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots: Taken by author