Get answers to your local search questions

Maybe you’re just getting started with local search or maybe you’ve been at it for years. Wherever you are on your journey, you’re bound to have some questions that may not be found in a blog post. We teamed with local SEO experts and frequent keynote speakers, Darren Shaw of Whitespark and Dana DiTomaso of Kick Point, to answer your local search questions.

Q1. How do I use Google My Business to communicate with local customers during COVID-19?

A1 We are recommending that people use Google Posts to point to any updates, here is an example from a client of ours – this post leads to their blog post about their response. #CallRailChat

— Dana DiTomaso (@danaditomaso) March 17, 2020

These are the current recommendations for business owners to implement on their GMB profiles:

  • Publish updates through Google Posts
  • Update your business hours with special hours
  • Add pertinent information to your business description
  • Add a top Question & Answer about your status

Note: Google has temporarily paused certain GMB features such as reviews, review replies, and Q&A. Their support team is currently prioritizing healthcare related business listings.

Q2. If we optimize different locations in GMB to boost local rankings, will that affect our local rankings?

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Q3. What’s the best practice of implementing call tracking without causing GMB issues?

“First and foremost, you want to use a solution on your website (like CallRail) that does [Dynamic Number Replacement}( This will show Googlebot your real number, but show visitors your call tracking number.

A3: In GMB, you can actually use a call tracking number as your primary number with no NAP consistency concerns. Put the call tracking number in as your primary number and put your real number in as one of the 2 additional numbers. #CallRailChat

— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 17, 2020

What about going even further? Some people want to track calls from Yelp or Avvo or other sites. I wouldn’t do it across ALL your listings, but I have seen people do it on a handful of sites they’re paying for ads on, and it has not had a negative impact.”

-Darren Shaw

Q4. Who is call tracking actually for? Is there a business case for small business or is it just something for bigger businesses?

“Call tracking is for everyone, honestly.

  • First advantage: Seeing where calls come from! Don’t just limit call tracking to your website, use it on GMB (see, flyers, TV ads, anywhere you have a number.
  • Second advantage of call tracking: Knowing which pages on your website drive calls. If you’re using CallRail’s Lead Center you can use this data when you answer the call. Though, it might be creepy to answer with “Hello, I see you are looking at furnaces!”
  • Third advantage of call tracking: You’ll have a much better understanding of your ROI. We’ve found (for example) ways to improve call-based sales for specific types of products or ad messaging based on call/page tracking data. Learn from your data and improve!”

-Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point

Q5. Is there a way to see how much search volume there is compared to how many times you are showing up for that search in the map pack?

A3: Funny you should ask! This just came up on our support channel this morning. Sadly, I am not aware of any good source of local search volume data. You can kind of get city-level volume data in the adwords tool, but it’s questionable. No zip-level @danaditomaso? #CallRailChat

— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 17, 2020

The best source is likely impression data from Google Ads, run ads on the keywords what you want to learn more about and look at your Impression Share.

— Dana DiTomaso (@danaditomaso) March 17, 2020

Q6. Google has stated that keywords in your GMB’s business description is a local racking factor, but then took this statement out of their support docs. Does this actually affect search rankings?

“No. Definitely no. HARD NO. We’ve tested and then a bunch of people did further testing when this came out. Don’t listen to ranking advice from GMB support staff.”

– Darren Shaw

Q7. If I add “temporarily closed” info to my GMB because of COVID-19’s impact on business, will I drop from the Local Pack? Will it be difficult to be represented in it again when it’s safe for customers to come back?

Joy Hawkins and Rand Fishkin joined the conversation for the question all small businesses are wondering about.

Just checked one in Italy (a restaurant) that has it. They’re still running ads (whoops) but I can’t find the listing anywhere in the Local Finder. That’s what I would expect to happen.

— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) March 17, 2020

For now, these are the actions that Whitespark is recommending business owners implement on their GMB:

  • Publish updates through Google Posts
  • Update your business hours with special hours
  • Add pertinent information to your business description
  • Add a top Question & Answer about your status
  • Add a banner to your business website addressing your status

Here’s an example:

— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 17, 2020

Q8. How much do local directories help SEO?

A8 It depends on the directory. Being listed on a local business improvement association’s website is more authoritative than being listed on SOMESPAMDIRECTORY dot com.

However, citations are a foundational part of local SEO, do build them (we use @whitespark). #CallRailChat

— Dana DiTomaso (@danaditomaso) March 17, 2020

A8: I think they help “a little”. They’re not a huge rankings booster on their own, but as Dana noted, they are foundational. I suggest the top 10ish sites that get human traffic, as many industry/city sites as possible, & about 30 general citations (for the links) #CallRailChat

— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 17, 2020

Q9. Do you recommend using UTM tracking parameters on your GMB website link? What are best practices?

A9 Yes, absolutely. We use ?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb usually. @clairecarlile wrote an excellent guide on the topic!

Make sure to tag posts as well and use campaign parameters so you know which post converted. #CallRailChat

— Dana DiTomaso (@danaditomaso) March 17, 2020

Q10. From an SEO point of view and as Local SEO experts, what is the best advice you both can give small businesses during time?

A10 Don’t panic. Be kind to your staff. See what your gov’t is doing to help businesses and apply for any funds made available. Think about what you can do to serve customers and stay safe, including closing if that makes sense for your situation. Sell gift cards! #CallRailChat

— Dana DiTomaso (@danaditomaso) March 17, 2020

A10: look for ways your business can pivot to online revenue sources. A retail shop will have available staff to do deliveries. Help them set up online ordering with same day delivery. Fitness/therapy/etc can switch to live streams and video consulting. #CallRailChat

— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 17, 2020

Looking to audit your Google My Business profile? Download our GMB checklist to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases.