NAP Consistency Q&A With Local Search Expert Mike Blumenthal
Mark: Mike Blumenthal and I are going to be leading the webinar. Mike has been in local search for a long time. He’s been working in online for local businesses, doing websites. And Mike, you can talk more about sort of your past in a moment. We’re going to sort of have a slide that introduces you.
But many of you may know him from his blog, “Blumenthal’s Blog,” where he writes about Google Places and sort of understanding local search for businesses that want to show up higher in local search rankings. And those of us that work in local SEO, we really appreciate Mike’s insights and how detailed he dives into the topic. He also is the co-founder of GetFiveStars, a tool that I have used in the past, fantastic tool that allows you to sort of clean up the messy process of getting reviews for your local listings. And, Mike, do you want to say anything about GetFiveStars for a moment?
Mike: Sure! One of the things I found when I was a local SEO was how hard it was for location businesses to set up a systemic way of both understanding what their quality was, how good they were and moving on from there to a review ask. So GetFiveStars, you know, coming out of that SEO, local SEO background, speaks to this issue of you earn reviews and it helps businesses understand how well they’re doing by using a scoring metric called Net Promoter Score, which is essentially a word of mouth index.
And then segmenting your customers helps you deal with complaints, helps you ask customers for feedback and reviews and then generates fresh user-generated content for your website so that you can do well at local SEO.
Mark: I’ve used it in the past for my clients and we’ve earned a ton more reviews for that client. We were able to display them on the website with Rich Snippets that shows up in the search results. I mean the tool is fantastic.
It automates a lot of that sort of challenging process during reviews. So check it out if you haven’t already. My name is Mark Sullivan. I’m the director of partnerships at CallRail and I do a lot of education around call tracking and local search among other things. You might see me speaking at conferences and marketing technology conferences. And yeah, I have a background in local SEO as well.
CallRail, for those of you who aren’t familiar, we do call tracking and analytics for data- driven marketers. We were founded in 2011. We have more than 35,000 companies in the U.S. and Canada that use our product and we have a very user-centric approach to development service in all of our feature sets. A lot of our features are…they come sourced from customers.
Mike Blumenthal has been in the business of providing insights and tools to local businesses for more than 11 years but 2005 is when a lot of his local search focus came about. He’s been running “Blumenthal’s Blog” for a long time.
He founded Local U along with some illustrious colleagues in the local search community. Local U is dedicated to educating local business owners and agencies on how to get found online and sort of optimize their website presence. If there’s anything you want to add there, Mike, feel free.
Mike: And then my blog will have its 10th anniversary here in September. My first blog post was September 7th, 2006. So anniversary coming up there and GetFiveStars was rolled out in 2013 so that’s been three years. Enough about me though.
Mark: We’re going to do a few announcements. And then we’ll dive into the topic, “Call Tracking and Local SEO Challenges.” I have some questions for Mike that I’m going to ask and try to get some more insights out of him about some things that I’ve been wondering about. And then we’re going to dive into your questions.
So if you don’t hear anything from this whole intro, hear this. Ask questions on the chat. If you’re on GoToWebinar on your computer, ask questions in the chat box or I guess in the questions box. We’re going to get to those during the live Q&A. The majority of this will be a live Q&A. All this intro is just to sort of introduce the topic for those of you who aren’t familiar.
Mike: As a note, I would rather get an email so it’s email@example.com. Just a lot of times, Twitter is frustratingly brief for questions that often take more than 140 characters to answer.
Mark: Okay, great. And same with me, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to reach out to me. First things first, let’s talk about the challenge we have as local SEOs when it comes to performance metrics. We have access to certain metrics but many of them are not as far down the funnel as our clients want.
And so some of you may be wondering “Why track calls for local SEO?” And this is the reason. Because it gets further down into the funnel that our clients care about. So the bottom line is ultimately the metric that really matters, what’s moving the needle revenue-wise, profit-wise, and we have control over sort of…is part of this funnel depending on how much we have access to in the business.
And I always recommend phone calls as a reporting metric. And I was using CallRail long before I was a part of the company when I was working in local SEO full-time. So it’s a fantastic tool and phone calls in general are like…they’re so powerful when you can incorporate them into your reporting metrics. And we’ll talk about that a little bit later.
So what does NAP consistency mean? Just a quick primer for those of you who aren’t familiar, NAP consistency is a ranking factor that Google uses and perhaps other search engines use in local search. And its consistency of your business name, your business address, and your business’s phone number around the web.
I also have URL in here. So a lot of listings around the web associate a URL, a business website with your name, address, phone number.
Mike: Just a note about URL is that Google refers to it in their parlance as the authority page. It is essentially the proxy for your business. So it’s that page on your website, the URL that you’ve identified everywhere and at Google, particularly, that becomes the virtualization of your physical entity and it’s that page which becomes ranked in local.
Mark: I know they used to use phone number as the unique identifier and the location, the maps’ location.
Mike: Well, Google is really sophisticated. I mean I think they use all of this. Obviously, phone is an easy one. They’ve gotten better at it with partial signals that matching it to the business. There’s a lot of reasons for that, and we’ll talk about in a little bit, but I mean I think it’s all of these things. But the page that they know that they associate with that phone number, name, and address is essentially the page that ranks in local or creates the rank in local. So that’s why they call it the authority page. Google does, anyways.
Mark: Yeah. It's important to associate that with the name, address, phone number offsite as well making sure that the same website URL for that location is what you’re entering into local citations is really important. So this is name, address, phone number, and URL, for those of you who aren’t familiar with NAP consistency, that term.
When you’re thinking about your business information, think what is your business name, keep it consistent and use that across the web. What is your business address? Google has gotten much better at parsing sort of different formats within addresses including suite numbers and northeast, the sort of directional street names but aim to keep it consistent.
Keep your phone number consistent, and that’s one thing we’ll be talking about today, and then keep your store landing page or your website URL consistent across the web. So the controversy around using call tracking numbers in local search. It has been around different phone numbers which are used to track the inbound phone calls to local businesses in a way that allows you to see what’s working, what’s not.
The challenge there is if you use different phone numbers around the web, then you sort of are messing up the consistent information that you’ve worked so hard to produce as a Local SEO for your client or for your business. So that’s sort of the tug there is like how we use unique phone numbers to track inbound phone calls to your business while also keeping NAP consistency.
There’s a way to get the majority of the benefits of call tracking or many of the benefits of call tracking with a certain methodology that also maintains NAP consistency and we’ll talk about that briefly. The old way that many companies, marketing agencies, and performance marketing sort of tool sets and packages were using to incorporate local phone calls in their local SEO is they were using different phone numbers on different citations.
So think of…and this is bad, keep this in mind. We’re not recommending this. This is like the old no-good way. They were using a different phone number on Yelp, a different phone number on Yahoo Local, a different phone number on Google My Business, a different phone number maybe on their website. And all these phone numbers, the reason they were using them is to understand which of those citations or listings are driving phone calls to their business.
The challenge there is that Google is using it as a signal of which phone number to show up in sort of the consistency of the information around the web about this business which leads to sort of the trustworthiness of the information. And the other way that… and I’ve seen this. This has been written about and I’ve also seen it personally.
The other way that certain marketing agencies were using call tracking is that they were using numbers representing the business around the web that can’t be ported. So maybe they weren’t using different numbers on different citations but they were using one number around the web and they weren’t allowing their customers when they canceled services with that agency or that tool, to port that number away.
Essentially, they ended up with a phone number out there in the ecosystem associated with their business that they had no control over and they couldn’t point to ring their phones at the business. So this was sort of a nightmare scenario for those customers. And then another tactic I saw in the past, actually still see it a little bit, is different phone numbers on the website for the same location.
So a business website has lots of content, let’s say a cosmetic dentist website and they have lots of content around dental implants or all these different procedures they do and they put different phone numbers on each page to understand like which page is actually driving phone calls. That’s a no-no as well.
The main line tracking number way that’s sort of the correct way to do this is to use one trackable phone number around the web that represents your business. And if you can’t port your existing number into a tool like CallRail that can help you track those calls and you end up provisioning a new phone number, then you want to associate both those phone numbers with your business, especially on the alternate phone number field on Google My Business is the most important one.
But the other YPs, internet YPs, is important as well. But the first course of action or the first recommendation would be to port your existing number into a tool that allows you to track it and get more visibility. And make sure that that number can be ported in and out free of charge and you’re not going to be locked into anything. And then you put that main line tracking number on the local directories, you put it on your website, and then you focus on first-time callers as a reporting metric.
If you remember that funnel from earlier, that’s lower. A first-time caller is more close to a real first-time lead or first time customer as a reporting metric and that’s sort of as close as we can get without getting into revenue metrics. So the questions to ask when you’re looking at this topic and how you’re working with it, are you using one main line phone number on your local listings in your website?
If you answer yes to that, then you’re good with that question. Do you own or is your main line phone number portable? Make sure that you have some ability to control where that gets routed to. That’s essentially what you’re concerned with. If you’re using a company that uses CallRail, you want to make sure that that company allows you to port the number out of CallRail and sort of keep it after they’ve done all the work to spread it around the ecosystem and make things consistent.
You want to make sure you can own that phone number. And then always, always regularly monitor your citation. Know your citations and your listings for incorrect business information. I’ve done lots of work on local SEO campaigns and I’ll see things spring up that are quite surprising, old data that I thought I corrected. And sometimes, I’m not even sure where it comes from but it’ll all of a sudden appear on a certain listing or even I’ve seen it happen on Google Maps. Monitor all that stuff for consistency.
NAP Consistency Q&A
1. Why do you think NAP consistency is a ranking factor at all?
Prior to 2012, Google used to reconstitute their local listing index every six weeks. They called it rebuilding the world. So they used to take their web index, look through all the references to your business and to your phone number and then create a listing for you.
Prior to 2012, it was critical if you wanted an accurate listing in Google to have NAP consistency everywhere and have it very, very consistent because they would split your listing into two, you would lose rank if they split it up. After 2012 when they moved to the knowledge panel, they essentially created a canonical record for you with a canonical phone number.
At that point, these sort of tertiary and quaternary listings became less important for rank for citation value and less likely to create a bifurcated cluster as it was called. But Google, you know, in markets where there aren’t a lot of web signals, in industries where there aren’t a lot of web signals, Google counts mentions of your business as a ranking factor.
Now obviously, their local algorithm interestingly scales from a shoe shop in Kazakhstan to the Plaza Hotel in New York City, right? The Plaza Hotel in New York City has a ton of web links, a ton of web content, a ton of reviews, professional and amateur, whereas the shoe store in Kazakhstan, a shoemaker in Kazakhstan has none of that.
For that low signal area, citation count becomes a ranking factor. Now as you move into higher signals, more reviews, etc., it doesn’t change its value to Google. It’s just that there’s so many other things that they can count. So these days, it’s important to have it generally consistent but it isn’t as important as it used to be, I guess.
2. Have you used call tracking numbers before in any of your work?
Yeah, so in the largest scale, I work with a company, a large medical marketing company that builds websites for doctors. They were in a situation where they wanted to track all the internet-related calls that were coming in.
They couldn’t port the local number up and so we structured a very rigorous situation where they created a new clean, portable number that became their primary number for the web and then they used the true local number as the secondary number. And it’s worked very, very well since they have two numbers that show up on the web that they used for citations, the call tracking number and the local number as a secondary number which didn’t show up.
They still use dynamic insertion on the website for visits from sites other than Google. So it gets a little complicated but they can track other sources to their website as well.
3. When a certain directory only gives you one place for a number, in that scenario, would you use the primary call tracking, like the web call tracking number or would you use the local?
Yeah, in that situation, they’ve essentially said, “Here’s your number forever going forward for the web and this is the number we’re going to use.” And most places have allotment for a secondary number so it usually isn’t a problem. But if it’s on the web, it’s the call tracking number. That’s that. And then if they only give you one choice, it’s a call tracking number.
It essentially becomes associated with your business at Google, both numbers. In other words, the call tracking number is your primary, your actual true local number is your secondary. Google accepts that businesses have more than one phone number and that’s well within Google’s capacity to not screw that up.
4. What do you think the key performance indicators are that best represent local SEO success? What do you think best captures that success in a performance metric?
Sales. But unfortunately, sales is not easy to tie into local SEO work. So you end up using proxies. And although, I just read last week that Facebook is now actually closing the loop from advertising.
They signed a deal with Marketo and with Square to actually track a user from seeing the ad through to the sale. So ultimately, tracking is going to move to that granular of a level where we, as SEOs and businesses, might be able to know that users saw our ad and actually came into the shop as a result. Until such a time, you know, there’s a number of performance indicators that get closer and closer to the purchase.
It depends on the type of business and local business you have, certainly a call is a great performance indicator but you still have to get that person into your shop, so it’s still one step removed from the sale. Another really good key performance indicator is driving directions from Google and from your website.
You can put driving directions and put an event tracker on them. That’s a really strong signal that somebody is going to come and visit you. Again, it’s a proxy and whether it’s better or worse, it’s a good proxy for value that you are providing. From there, then, there’s a number of things that are less valuable although still potentially of interest.
For example, if you primarily service local customers and you’re looking at your Google Analytics, it’s not just web traffic, its web traffic in market, right? So if you’re in Buffalo, you would look at all the web traffic for the Buffalo Metro region and see whether that’s going up or down as opposed to total web traffic. Obviously, that’s a level removed from the phone call or the driving directions. Even the Contact Us page, how many visits to it, is another two levels removed but an interesting metric, how many times people have contacted you through the contact form.
Those get further away from the sale. They’re all valuable KPIs. They’re just not as valuable as the sale but the sale is still really hard to tie together with the other efforts that you’re going on. If I were to pick the two most important, I’d say calls and driving directions are the two I would focus on in a bricks and mortar environment where you’re trying to drive traffic to the store or drive sales.
5. And then what order of priority would you place the following sort of tasks when you’re on a brand new client or location? I’m curious about the order of attack and then secondarily, like order of priority ongoing? From getting your site squared away and NAP cleaned up and so on.
This should happen very early in the process because those are the very, very, you know, they have complete control over, or almost complete control over them and will generate a fair bit of success if you got a well-optimized local site. So I do the site first, I do NAP and seeding, and/or NAP cleanup second. and those are sort of ones- and-dones for the most part. Now then it’s on an ongoing basis, you have essentially four things to look at, reviews, backlinks, which relates to content, and social to spread the word around that.
But I would actually add another list here and that’s the gathering email addresses. I mean email is still one of the most powerful marketing tools and a lot of small and local businesses don’t…aren’t rigorous about that. So I would build a website, I’d clean up the NAP, I’d make sure that there was an email capturing process in place, then I would implement a feedback and review strategy which can feed into content and other things.
And then I would work on a slow and steady… Once I had that system in place and running, I would then work on, you know, a slow and steady backlink searching, you know, trying to get one a month or every two months either from local chambers, at a business bureau, other businesses, people in unrelated fields, sponsorships of the Little League, you know, realizing that you need to take your online…you need to make your marketing work both offline and online.
So if you’re taking your, you know, if you’re sponsoring the Little League, then not only do you get your name on the back of their shirts, you get a link from their website. So that’s the order. It would be build out a great site, get your NAP squared away, start collecting emails in a formal structured way, do a review strategy, then work on backlinks and content in social because they all relate.
6. Can you describe how you would set up, and we actually have a few questions coming in about this so this may answer some other folks’ questions as well. Can you answer…can you describe how you’d set up a multi-location client’s website in order to optimize for local search rankings? This comes up quite a bit.
And I would say that…so there’s a one-location business, there’s a ten-location business and then there’s everything in between So to some extent, the answer is dependent upon how many locations you have. So let me deal with the ten-location business where I think it becomes very clear. In the ten-location business, I would have local landing pages for each business set up and on those local landing pages.
So each location gets its own authority page and I would then build links to those authority pages, both internal on the website from the homepage and externally using the local chamber,, etc., and local sponsorships. So I would build out and on each of those local landing pages, you know, strong use of schema to mark up the address and the phone number.
Good internal linking both from the home site but also cross-linking, from relevant content pages or from nearby locations to that page, so schema and then a local content strategy. Joy Hawkins was showing search results at SMX on Friday and she used Allstate as an example that uses GetFiveStars and they put review content on their local pages.
And they were getting significantly more references, more results in the first page on brand searches. For example, Allstate Dallas, then a major competitor that didn’t have original content on those pages. So I think a content strategy is important there. So that’s 10 and up, right?
Strong local landing pages become the authority page with content schema and good internal linking. When you have one, clearly the homepage is the local landing page. If you have two locations, you don’t really necessarily need local landing pages. You could use the homepage and have schema on the homepage preaching to these two different locations and use the homepage as the page for both.
And you could even do that with three locations. You can have, again, a single landing page with clear schema markup filling the three locations. But when you get more than three, it starts getting pretty messy, right, site architecture, call to actions, the visuals.
So somewhere north of three, you need to think about adding local landing pages. Now oftentimes in the four to five range, I’ll do a combination strategy where I’ll create local landing pages and put each location in the footer because I can fit four or five locations in the footer, which gives me good, again, marked up and schema, LinkedIn little local landing pages where I have unique and meaningful content on the local landing pages.
So somewhere in that area, five, six, seven, I’m starting to transition towards a site architecture that is more around the multiple local landing pages and then figuring out how I’m going to get people to the appropriate page. Whereas at one, two and three, I mean, typically using the homepage that’s in the middle where you can sort of do it one way or the other depending on what’s most appropriate from your users’ point of view and being sure that you communicate to Google.
Mark: That makes sense. I actually considered using like the main site up to three locations. I guess I would have thought that local landing pages would be the best way to go for really…
Mike: Well, what’s best is best for your customer, right? And what what’s also true, though, is that the homepage probably has more authority…is an authority page than the local landing page. And in some situations, you might even do a mixed strategy where your most important location actually uses the homepage whereas your less important locations use local landing pages.
There’s no one right absolute answer here but you typically want to be sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re making a clear schema and sending as much juice as you can to these authority pages, i.e, really solid internal linking and site architecture.
Mark: So on that, sort of piggybacking on that, Philip has a question here. And he’s saying, “How do you handle phone numbers when your business has multiple locations and multiple business activities?” I’m not sure what multiple business activities are.
Mike: Multiple business activities, I mean, Google defines them in a couple of ways. Google Local isn’t a marketing engine. It’s a local directory and mapping engine. So Google doesn’t think, for example, if you have a sporting goods department and a gun department in your store that you should have two listings, right, unless they truly are different forward-facing departments.
So for business activities, that’s generally one listing and you just have one phone number for that location. You run into…typically, you also want unique phone numbers for each location and you want to be able to answer each location uniquely. This is your store in Portfield, this is your store in Salamanca and when you answer, so Google knows and the consumer knows.
So normally, what you’d have is one listing per location, one phone number per location and then the phone call would ring in locally. Now, there’s a million variations on that as well, right, sometimes people prefer centralized phones. Google isn’t going to support you with too much centralization of your phone calls. So then you have to come up with alternative strategies in there.
Now that is an area where CallRail can really help. I don’t know if you’ve ever called an AT&T cell phone store but they have a phone tree that answers the phone and phone one is, you know, or choice one on AT&T is, you know, it’s a local number. It’s a unique local number for the AT&T store only. But choice one is, “Call corporate for billing information,”choice two is, “Call corporate,” you know, ring through to corporate for sales information.
Three is maybe support and four,is,” If you really want to call the local person, hit four and we’ll take you to a local store.” So that would be architecture that would allow you to have local numbers but still manage your call tree back to a central location and be compliant with Google’s requirements that you can reach the local store.
So it’s a way of having unique local numbers, a centralized call tree that complies with Google’s rules. Does that make sense?
Mark: Yeah. That makes sense to me.
Mike: So I mean, each situation is unique in this…I mean, the real thing is Google wants real listings for real places people can call and walk into. And when you start moving away from that model, however you do it, you’re running a risk that may be worth it in terms of return but you run the risk of all of your listings being banned at Google which obviously is a high price to pay for violating guidelines.
So the other thing you should do is go read the Google guidelines and memorize them and don’t try to interpret them legalistically. I mean it isn’t a lawyer’s exercise, it’s an exercise in practical implementation.
Mark: Yeah, I think about like intent, like why Google would want that rule in place. So we have another question here, multi-location, and then we’ll move on to another sort of theme. This is from Lawrence. Is it problematic for a site that has multi-location pages and a specific location, has a dedicated tracking number but the page has a pool of tracking numbers displayed as part of the header on the site?
Mike: So you’re talking about DNI here? Is that what we’re talking about, Dynamic Number Insertion?
Mark: Yeah, that’s what we’re saying.
Mike: Well, so in that situation, what you want to try to do as much as possible is show Google the actual number and show everybody else your dynamic numbers. I know call tracking does it or CallRail supports that, right? So the trick there is that as much as possible, you want to show Google and the Google users, Google searchers, and the Google bots, whatever primary number you have identified for that location and then do Dynamic Number Insertion around the other people that come to that site.
Mark: Yeah. And we’re actually working on some filters that control when numbers are…like dynamic numbers are inserted and those are…we’ll make an announcement in the next few months here. That allow you to sort of control the logic of when those swap more granularly than…
Mike: You know, if you can’t control it, you could insert an image instead of an actual number. And then regardless, you just want to make sure, watch, make sure that these numbers aren’t leaking if you’re not doing it carefully. I mean I think the issue here when you’re doing dynamic number insertion, which is valuable, in some senses, is you just have to be careful it’s not leaking.
So as much as possible, you want to be sure that you’re delivering consistent information to Google. The other question I have for people, though, is a lot of times, they look for so much granularity. I mean, the reality is Google is delivering 80% of your local traffic right now and your local phone calls. And the other 20%, I mean how many ways are you going to split it?
It’s like Yelp or Yext or Yahoo is not returning any traffic to you right now, Bing is returning a minuscule amount. I mean, how much energy are you going to put into understanding those distinctions, right?
Mark: Yeah, I’m with you on that. Especially with reporting like you got to remember the reason that local business owners are hiring local SEOs to do this work is because they want to reduce the complexity of online marketing and online presence and they want you to take care of it for them. So when you think about reporting this back to them, do they really care about the granularity that you’re aiming for as a marketer?
And that’s why I typically found the first time caller’s metric was like the golden metric because it put me and my clients on the exact same page and we could talk about whether first-time callers were going down or up and sort of try to figure out why that was happening.
Mike: And that’s a great metric. But if you have a lot of locations, it becomes difficult to do, right? Because you have to…it requires you to port every number up. If you’ve got a few locations, I think it’s absolutely the best way to go is raise your local number up and that becomes your primary number. What’s the next?
Mark: Let’s see here. Does the format of the phone number matter in terms of citation consistency? This is from Lawrence.
Mike: I mean, any phone number that…I mean any NAP phone number should be marked up in schema. And so whatever that in terms of whether you use parentheses or you use dashes, Google is pretty good at interpreting them and understanding them. So the answer is no but anytime you’re using a real local number, you want to mark it up.
There is no schema for call tracking numbers, unfortunately. I think you at CallRail should go to the schema.org group and try to convince them to put up schema for call tracking.
Mark: We have a question here. How does dynamic number insertion tie into the porting feature? This may be more of a question for me. And then the follow up is, are we able to track direct calls from directories if they don’t click over to our website? So the first question, how does dynamic number insertion tie into the porting feature?
There wouldn’t be a strong case for porting numbers over and using them in a pool of numbers. And with dynamic number insertion, when I refer to porting and when I believe Mike is referring to porting business numbers, we’re talking about about sort of a mainline business phone number and porting it over to a tool that allows you…to CallRail that allows you to gather information about those calls.
And you can record the calls, you can get information, any of the metadata, time of day, duration, and anything that’s about the call itself, you can begin to track in addition to that first-time callers metric. So there wouldn’t be a strong use case to porting numbers over and using them in dynamic number insertion pools.
And then the second question, are we able to track direct calls from directories that they don’t click over the website? If you’re using the main line porting number method, then you are not going to have the granularity of understanding which directories have drove calls. I think it’s fair to assume that Google will drive the majority of them depending on your vertical, of course.
Certain industries are going to be more driven by vertical directories. Like Yelp, for example, for a restaurant is probably going to drive more calls than Google for some restaurants. So the answer is no, you can’t rack calls like granularly with precision about which directory they found you on but you can get information about sort of the…more information about the calls that are coming in.
Philip is asking, “What do you mean by leaking, Mike, when you say leaking?”
Mike: So what happens is, let’s say, I’ve seen a lot of situations where some of the YP companies would sell businesses three or four or five different phone numbers, one for each regional market. And then they would never sort of…they would never associate those directly with the business of it in the YP directory. That number would then leak into the local ecosystem.
So originally, it started out as a Yellow Page phone number and it would get scraped by somebody and then Google would think that you have four different phone numbers, create four different listings or somebody else would trust the YP stuff. So leaking means that the number is moving from your website or into the general ecosystem and getting generally associated with your business thus causing confusion to Google or whoever else.
So leaking is just what happens when you don’t have discipline around your call tracking number. So that’s why I typically recommend a primary number and a secondary number. Now they both can be call tracking numbers. One could be your real local number, you port it up, and well, another could be just a general tracking number that you’re always assigning as a primary or secondary but with two that are strictly and rigidly controlled.
Those are the only two you should see out in the ecosystem. If you’ve done a bad job of DNI and you’re delivering numbers to Google and you’re, you know, it could…or using numbers in printed Yellow Pages. Printed Yellow Pages will leak online. Now, if you use a call tracking number on a billboard, it’s unlikely the billboard number is going to leak online because nobody is scraping it.
But if you’re using the Yellow Pages call tracking number, it’s likely that’s going to leak online. So a leakage is any number that you lose control over that somebody scrapes or otherwise gathers for online data dissemination.
Mark: Great. And then we have a question that just came in from Juan and it says, “Would it be a good practice to use a dual website?What I mean by that is at the homepage, they would have a chance to choose the location they want to visit, each location would have their own microsite within the same domain.”
Mike: Well, if it’s within the same domain, it’s just…I mean, you just go to have a sub-directory. I mean, that’s fine. Obviously, you wouldn’t want a lot of repetitive content in that. I mean if you have service pages and you don’t want any of seven locations, you don’t want, let’s say the service is extended conversation about oil changes and it’s exactly the same in all seven locations, you don’t want seven pages about oil changes because basically, you’re competing with yourself.
I mean Google says that there’s a penalty around it. It’s that Google is going to say one of these is important and the other six are irrelevant and never going to send traffic to them. So that’s a fine structure as long as you are conscientious about creating quality content around the location and make sure that it’s unique content. So you can’t just keep spewing the same nauseating content out on the range of services.
Mark: Yeah. And this is something that we tested when I was at Yodel. We were working on multi-location businesses. There was one account that I worked on that had 1230 locations. And one of the big challenges with that many locations is creating unique content for each location. It really becomes sort of a joke to create. I mean how many different ways can you talk about a certain service that your business offers?
Can you talk about 1200 different ways that would provide unique enough content to sort of matter? And we found that microsites were about the same as using like an actual just page. We didn’t see any ranking performance difference or delta between microsites and actual just/location.
So root domain, forward/ business, you know, location. And when it comes to unique content, when you’re talking about so many locations, it’s probably better to have super high-quality content on the main site and then have those landing pages or store pages really have unique content about that location.
But if they want more information about those services, they can click on the root domain and really focus on high-quality content there.
Mike: And there’s two ways. There’s a number of ways to get that unique local content. One is user-generated content, i.e., a system like at GetFiveStars or manager-generated content where that manager is posting images of his staff or maybe staff stories. There are some ways to do it at, you know, it doesn’t scale perfectly but there are some ways to generate truly local content around that.
Again, the people that are there, perhaps the special that they’re offering, the manager, those kinds of things. You’re right, it should be unique.
Mark: Yeah. Ricky has a follow-up. He says he’s still not clear on multi-locations and call tracking. Should we use dynamic number insertion? Should we have a different NAP number for each location even if we only have two, for example? I can give my recommendation. Mike, what’s yours?
Mike: Yeah, my recommendation is as a general rule, every location should have its own phone number. That’s the general rule. Now, rules can be occasionally broken and modified, shifted, but it can’t be unless you really understand what you’re doing. Google will only allow you to really verify two or three locations with the same phone number.
So in the two or three range, you might be able to get by with the same number but it might since you need to get more than two, it’s going to start impacting your ranking. So generally speaking, you want one unique phone number for each location. And generally speaking, you want that unique phone number to be ported to CallRail and used as your call tracking number. That’s the ideal solution.
Now, if we’re to get more specific than that, Ricky, we need to sit down and map out your particular thing. Even if you do have that unique phone number for that location that CallRail is tracking, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t use additionally, dynamic number insertion in a very constrained way to see, for example, if the user came from Bing, if, in other words, delivering Bing users in a certain number, etc., but you wouldn’t ever want to show Google anything other than that main number.
So unless you want to get complicated, you want one number across the web.
Mark: I was just going to say especially if you’re paying for advertising, just because everything you’re saying is exactly what I recommend, but if you’re paying for advertising, then that DNI becomes all the more valuable because you’re paying for those leads to come to your site. You want to track with granularity, that information. Sorry to interrupt, Mike.
Mike: No, no, that’s absolutely true, though. So if you’re doing like even a Google AdWords campaign on a no index page, that, you know, you can DNI all you want and you should. But generally speaking, one phone number ported to the web per location is the safest way to do this. You go beyond that, and there are ways to do it, it just gets complicated, it requires a lot of discipline and a lot more knowledge.
Mark: No, I actually…everything you said, I agree with. I think it’s important to remember the purpose of providing super granular attribution information about phone calls to the client or to your boss or whoever sort of you’re working with or by yourself. I mean, do you really need to understand, with granularity, which websites are driving phone calls for a business that may get, I don’t know, 10 phone calls a week?
Really make sure it’s valuable before you sort of take a rocket launcher to a fight that maybe you need a stick. I think just make sure that what you’re doing is not adding complexity because I think as digital marketers, I know I have a tendency to sort of get more complex than is necessary for the job.
So yeah. I mean, use DNI especially if you’re paying for traffic. I mean you’re paying to sort of promote your business and absolutely have a unique, I would say, have a unique phone number for every single…I wouldn’t use it twice for two separate locations. And I would say on top of that, use a local area code phone number. We did some tests at Yodel, we did find that there was a statistically relevant difference between using a local number and a toll-free number in rankings and we were able to sort of test this on thousands of businesses to make sure we were driving performance for them.
So use a unique local phone number for each location even if you route them to the same place, it does seem to matter. One more question here and then we’re going to end. And this is a good question. It’s something that I’ve wondered about. You’ve talked about schema, Mike, schema markup and there is some question…this question is, can we use dynamic number insertion and have like a mainline tracking number that’s marked up with schema?
Does that work or will they see the actual number or will…basically, what does Google see when you put a tracking-enabled number in the schema markup and you’re using DNI on the site? I think that’s what Ricky is asking here.
I mean, try it and see what happens. Worst you do is lose rank and change it. But I wouldn’t personally do it for a client because I wouldn’t want to put put them through the experiment. I think if you delay that number load a little bit or you load it as an image, that would work. Google is getting better at understanding your primary number.
I don’t know how they’ve handled the DNI in that situation. But don’t, I mean, again, you could do DNI and consistently deliver the same number to Google through the DNI and that would solve that problem, deliver different numbers to everybody else. So I think you could do it with a little more rigor and not worry about it.
So it’s one way to do it. We have some other questions, Mike, but we’re sort of…we’re at the end of the hour here. Would you be open to answering some of these over email?
Mark: Okay. There are a few more that came in that I think they’re good. Thank you for doing this with us, Mike. It was great to see you last week. It was great to talk to you today and sort of learn more from you. And thanks so much for everything you’ve done for us. Local SEO is helping us do better work for our customers.
Mike: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Mark: Yeah, and if you guys are in New Orleans in October or make a trip, New Orleans is a great city, we’re both going to be there and should be a great event with lots of other speakers as well in addition to Mike. So thank you, everybody, for coming on. And if for any reason we didn’t get to your question or if you thought of one the last minute, email either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or both of us and we’ll try to follow up with all the questions that you guys asked.
Thanks a lot.