Mike Steffens


Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Mike Steffens, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.

With 10 years experience as a digital marketer specializing in Google My Business.

Mike has worked with national franchises like 1-800-Dentist, Massage Envy, Service Master, and small businesses in niches such as personal injury lawyers and pest control.

If you have any questions related to local SEO and lead gen, please feel free to pick his brain.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.

3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.

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Table of Contents

How did you get into SEO?

That’s a good question. I saw a marketing video from Ryan Deiss and was hooked.

I was also influenced by David Sprague. Simple as that.

I’ve got an orthopedic client who just took over another local practice. The docs all have GMB pages that aren’t verified, so I need to go about getting control of them. If they can’t get postcards to the address in the existing listing, would the best option be to create a new listing for each doc with the correct information then get GMB support to merge the listings? Or mark as closed?

The best answer I can give you (and I cringe as I say this) is to get in contact with GMB support and hash it out.

Creating additional listings will confuse google maps and potentially filter listings.

What is the best way to produce a new GMB listing?

Man you’re putting me on the spot here.

Personally I’d make sure it has a web footprint prior to submitting to GMB to trigger a verification option like call or text.

Have you seen any correlation between an increase in map ranking impacting organic rankings either positively or negatively?

It used to be that in most cases your organic ranking paced your position in Maps.

Now there is a significant disconnect between the two as google maps concentrates on more “real world” signals like brand awareness and traffic.

1. What percentage of your client’s leads come from GMB vs Website SEO. 2. Given the evolving landscape of GMBs and SERP listings moving in the direction of Google Services and more paid positions, what are you doing to prepare? 3. Have you seen anything in #2 already have an impact?

1.) over 90% from Maps.

2.) Nothing at all. Searchers are still looking at maps to learn more about the biz and read reviews.

Maps isn’t going anywhere so being at the top of maps is my #1 focus.

3.) I have not seen an impact.

Which lesser known features of the GMB, if optimized well can yield good results?

The GMB business site hands down.

Are you seeing any results building links to the posts stored in the GMB sites feed?

The short answer is “yes”.

What’s your recommended use for the business site? Treat it like a microsite that complements the main domain?

It can be used in so many ways like a parasite property similar to YouTube and Google sites.

You can interlink posts in a certain way and/or use it as tier 1.

What most people aren’t aware of is that you can use multiple GMB biz sites and build links back your listing CID.

Your GMBs biz site and/or the website url attached to your GMB.

Yes…you can create multiple GMB biz sites from unverified GMBs.

Do you guys have a good link to some of the business site optimizations working today? I’ve got some ressources that are two years old, unsure if it’s still current enough.

I may be wrong but I don’t think the GMB biz sites have been around for two years.

Please feel free to correct me.

Why are all GMB Pros so fucking handsome?

Because God made them that way.

Is just buttering you up so he can ask for a verified locksmith GMB later.

We’ve been down that road already.

1) Does sending links to the GMB listing improve the Maps rank? 2) Regardless of the answer to 1, what is the best way to improve Maps rank in a highly competitive niche?

1.) Most of the time but it depends on which types of links your sending.

2.) Traffic, a significant brand footprint, site structure and on-page optimization that focuses on Maps signals.

Great links help a lot too.

How would you set up a gmb who has a physical business 30minutes out of the city but does service the city and wants to rank for service+city keywords… Would you change their listing from physical location to service area and list the city as well as other prominent locations? Technically they are outside the official metro region of the big city. They are relatively close to a smaller regional city and for that smaller city are all over the map results for service+regional city

From what I’ve found is the service area setting in GMB has virtually no bearing on rankings.

It’s there for the searchers to see if they are located within that business’s service area.

You can rank in the larger city if there are not many GMBs sharing the same category within the large city other wise it’s time to open a satellite office in said major city.

How to quickly rank a GMB listing?

Samiullah branded search traffic and 1k citations….okay just kidding about the citations.

Along with solid branded search traffic I’d look at sculpting the right site structure and solid on-page optimization for Maps signals.

I am testing out Maps schema markup, which basically adds a local business schema markup to the map embed itself and then embedding it on multiple sites. Any advice would be appreciated….. also apart from GMB profile optimization/ website optimization what would be the off page GMB SEO that you would focus on to achieve the 3 pack spot?

I prefer using things like tier-2 links, YT video citations, iframe stacks, structured and unstructured citation stacking, traffic and something things like search url manipulation to name a few.

I also do a lot with Google properties and the GMB biz sites but in ways that have not been shared, as far as I know

Can setting up google my biz site negatively affect the primary website and it’s rankings? When it’s setup does it have to be linked as the web URL on the gmb?

I have not seen any effect on the main site due to the GMB biz site’s presence.

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Nor does the GMB site have to be the main url or even on the GMB at all.

A business I work with has been a shop and they also did installation and stuff for the products they sold. They’re transitioning to only installations. The shop is gone soon. Is it safe to change the current gmb to reflect the new business category and slightly change the business name? Or will this get it suspended?

In a perfect world you would be able to change primary and secondary categories in GMB but unfortunately that is not the case at the moment.

I would make changes to the site attached to the GMB to place more emphasis on installations.

And also mirror that on your branded off-page properties as well…even changing the category on your big citations like yelp, etc.

What’s your opinion on having business hours? Do they impact the GMB listing?

They do especially at night.

I’ve often seen that if you close at 8pm and your competition is open 24 hours often time google will rank the 24-hour listing higher at night time.

1. Do listing reviews have significant impact on organic rankings? 2. Does buying ads in maps help to rank organically too? 3. Is it possible to outrank competition with posts only? 4. Does CTR have positive impact on maps ranking?

1.) I believe they do but indirectly.

A searcher sees the overall review rating and count and increases the amount of traffic to the site as well as increased dwell time which definitely helps organic rankings.

2.) You know I haven’t tested that myself and all I can say is that my expectation would be yes for similar reasons stated above.

Just to clear I have not tested this so its just my theory.

3.) Very good question.

Yes it is BUT as with anything else in local seo that will be dependent on the amount of listings you’re trying to leap-frog along with how strong their websites and Map listings are in regards to the level of optimization.

There’s a lot of factors to consider.

4.) It does so long as the majority of searches are for the brand/company name, at least this is what I’ve found when testing.

In the beginning did you ever land national franchises from cold outreach? If so, would you mind offering any tips on positioning?

I’m glad you asked. My success at the franchise level opened a lot of doors to me but if I had it to do all over again I would’ve had more guts and approached top management first.

Pertaining to positioning its gone well when I provide value upfront by not focusing on me and what I say I can do but to focus completely them.

I use simple marketing funnels that bring in potential clients but again, leading with value by solving a problem.

This builds trust and I guess a little authority.

By the time they have experienced what I’ve shared with them and they contact me directly (never the other way around) they feel as though they know, like and trust me.

People do not buy from people that they do not feel they know, like or trust.

Back in the day when I first started I would create 5-10 minutes videos and cold email them showing the owners.

How they could improve there position in Maps via citations (2009) and clearly presented the revenue growth opportunities by being more visible.

1) What is your process for creating , optimising and ranking GMB 2) How do make this process as efficient as possible using tools, automation, VAs etc?

1.) For creating GMBs I start with the basics by completing all of the info in every section of the listing adding images, etc.

Outside of the basic info I choose my primary category (which is typically very simple) and then put a lot of thought into leveraging the secondary categories and I do a lot of things with GMB biz whether I include it on the GMB or not.

From there I focus on increasing my proximity search footprint bc that’s the second most important ranking signal outside of relevancy imo.

Move on to building out a strong brand footprint and some very unique off-page methods to help validate and strengthen my GMB as an entity.

From there I sculpt my website structure specifically for GMB/Maps and do the same with the on-page.

2.) VAs and automation. I use a few tools that are on the market but find it better to have a developer customize these tools to exactly what I need them to do.

This is a newer thing for me and I wish I had started that earlier.

1) What is the most important thing to do in order to rank a GMB in the 3 pack? 2) what’s the best type of linkbuilding for local business? 3) How long it takes to rank a GMB and site nowadays (if research has been done properly)?

1.) Both website structuring (inner page linking structures) and on-page optimization focusing on Maps is key.

You can get some quick wins from this alone but that is not the only thing to focus on.

I’ve said this a few times already on this thread but building a strong brand presence/footprint is something Google really focuses on right now.

rom there, being able to generate traffic and build good links is key as well. Yes…I still use tiered linking off-page bc it works regardless of what others say.

2.) There isn’t one type of link that is the “magic bullet” you should diversify your links. I’m not a huge fan of PBNs as it relates to Maps.

My best advice is to grab locally relevant links, social links from YT as one example and utilizing branded links from other social platforms and citations (although citations by themselves do not effect Maps that much anymore.)

My best advice is to think outside of the box and don’t send the same old signals to google maps that everyone else is doing.

There is no “one size fits all” approach.

3.) I get this question every day. My answer is from 1 minute to as long as 6-months.

It’s all relevant based on the level of competition you are up against.

There are ways to speed up the process leverage things like traffic and engagement with your GMB, website and your strongest brand properties.

Can you elaborate a touch more on on-page optimizations for maps signals? We just talking about text and links that refer to proximity like “dentist on main Street?”. Or is there more im not thinking of.

Simple things from optimizing pages for topically related keyword clusters that all trigger the 3-pack results to echoing all of the GMB info on the website.

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For every GMB that I optimize I create a specific location page used as the GMB url even if its a single location site.

This page will contain references back to the GMB regarding keyword & categorical relevancy.

Listing info like hour of operation on to maybe embedding the GMB biz site and or posts on it.

As well as the utilization of the Map listing embed with structured data nested within the iframe as one example.

I use service areas pages to link back to my GMB “location page” and a lot of other things.

There’s too much to go over in this comment.

Maybe I should make a video that covers the fundamentals?

So you got a client and you want to put him on the map and get him business. What steps would you take to get him results? What would you focus on? in what order?

Basic things from completing all of the GMB info, to proper website inner-page linking and taxonomy (true site structure by hierarchy) to traffic.

Brand footprint and links to and from your tier-1s. That’s the short answer.

What would you say in your opinion is the one thing that moves the needle the most in maps optimization/ ranking?

Good website optimization focusing on maps and local relevancy.

Proximity optimization and traffic, both synthetic to start and real “human traffic to follow” I’ve said this a few times.

But there’s a lot that can be done with the GMB biz site regardless if its on the GMB or not.

Unstructured business citations pack the most punch imo.

Does showing the adreess vs hiding the addrsss on GMB listing matters in GMB ranking?


What is the strongest ranking factors for maps? And do you follow those in order, or does it not matter?

This is just my opinion so take it or leave at that:

1.) Relevancy to the search query

2.) Proximity to the physical location of the searcher

3.) Brand Prominence

4.) Traffic & Engagement with the GMB and website

5.) Topical & Geographical Content On and Off your Website

6.) Website Structure & On-page Optimization Focusing on Maps

7.) In-Bound Links

How do you work with clients who have an existing business with no GMB and say you have an existing GMB that you send them leads from? Branding can certainly be an issue as customers could easily get confused who they are calling.

I’ve found that the searchers don’t really care or even notice in most industries.

If the consumer asks have your lead partner tell them that they are the service provider.

If your lead partner has a professional license with the state then you should pay for a consultation with an attorney to understand.

What you can and can not do in addition to what disclosures need to be made on the website or over the phone.

What are your top branded assets you would begin building in the first phase of building the brand authority?

Besides the GMB I’d start with the Top 25-50 “big citations”.

Facebook, (which is one of those citations) Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and a blog on a Google Site.

Besides the GMB I’d start with the Top 25-50 “big citations” Facebook, (which is one of those citations) Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and a blog on a Google Site.

I prefer multi-location sites with location pages for each GMB.

Best practices dictate that you should have a unique phone number for each listing.

On the location page itself you can use a toll-free number but be sure to have the GMB’s local number in your schema markup for each location page.

The main advantage of a multi-location site is the ability to utilize a solid internal linking structure that makes it very easy to rank your location pages and the GMBs attached to each.

You build up more authority as you add more and more pages to the site versus starting from scratch with each new domain and site.

I’ve had and seen other loose GMBs on multi-locations sites and they don’t effect any of the other GMBs.

How do I get Lycos Map listings?

I’ve been meaning to figure that out myself.

Do you have any good resources/blogs/guides to get good like you at GMB campaigns? Similar to above but what sites will have up to date information?Also what tools are good to use to see GMB rankings in different locations? And any other tools you’d recommend to help GMB related stuff.

Most of the guides out there are garbage so I’m mostly self-taught.

I test things until they break and I’m fortunate enough to have friends and peers in the industry (who are smarter than me) to collaborate with and bounce ideas, testing, etc off of each other.

I’ve learned that its best to understand that i’m not the smartest person in the room and to surround myself with people who are smarter than me.

I’m building up the massive national lead gen sites, I do the heavy lifting of building up and everything else. The tech stuff and marketing things are from my side. What’s the best way to find clients or lead partners who accept leads national wide?

National lead partners are out there but you really have to know who to talk to.

Not saying you can’t get them but this is nothing I can divulge in a public forum.

You’re best bet to start is to go affiliate while you go through the process of acquiring metro area, statewide and regional partners.

Just because you have a nationwide site doesn’t mean you have to look for nationwide buyers only.

What do you suggest for content management and tracking and managing link campaigns for multiple business entities? So in other words all the content needed for websites and branded assets and linking everything together. How do you manage all that?

Upwork has some really talented and affordable Devs that you should take advantage of.

Most of the platforms being sold in our space our built out by the same or similar devs. Go custom.


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