Another great speaker I’m excited to learn from at this year’s SEJ Summit New York is Kristan Bauer, Director of SEO at Zillow. She will be covering user intent and how it relates to SEO. I asked Kristan more about her session and how large websites can compete in the local search market.
Your SEJ Summit presentation is titled “Grasping the ‘Why’ Behind Local Search,” which is an area many businesses, small and large, struggle with. What should businesses look at first when it comes to figuring out local search intent?
I’d recommend businesses start with understanding their user and taking a user-first approach to their content and local SEO efforts. If a brand operates within the local space, it’s important to understand what their audience is interested in to leverage the appropriate content. Obviously, using content that uniquely localized is the goal if your service or product is geo-specific.
What people are looking for and when they are looking for it greatly impacts mobile search behavior. Does local SEO intent vary between time of day, service, or demographic? What makes the biggest difference?
Absolutely! Search patterns vary based upon device and time of week, which can change what and how users search. Proximity can influence purchase patterns and demographics can influence propensity to use specific device types. Mobile search for real estate tends to increase over the weekend while people are out shopping and browsing homes “on the go.” Understanding these patterns will help determine where to focus your efforts on optimizing for device and location.
With the move towards mobile, it seems like local search is becoming even more important. How do you think changes such as increase mobile and voice search will change the local search playing field?
Mobile search has obviously been on the rise and Google claims that approximately one-third of all mobile searches are related to location. This is huge. Brands with brick and mortar or rely on local search should be optimizing for mobile if they haven’t already (this includes a mobile-friendly UX). Regarding voice search, I’m guessing we will start to see more conversational and longer-tail queries (i.e. “show for sale homes near me”) rise for mobile searches.
You have been in SEO since at least 2011. What change in the industry surprised you the most?
Link building is the first industry overhaul that comes to mind. When I started in SEO, forum and directory link building were still commonplace (even six years ago!), but now it’s all about quality content, relationship building, and brand amplification. Changes in link building are obviously much needed, given widespread historical link spam practices and the way the web has evolved (and grown) over time.
Many brands think they don’t have a chance of ranking locally against big brands. Do you think that is true for smaller, more local companies?
I would argue that yes, smaller and local companies still can rank against big brands. Obviously, having a brand and brand awareness is super important in search visibility, but if a smaller company has the best content and product, search engines are smart enough to surface that content. It might come down to the fact that a smaller, possibly niche site has the best content and resources to users, especially in the local context or if they’re looking for a specific storefront.
Bonus Question: What is the best book (industry or otherwise) you have read in the last year?
Since my husband and I are avid climbers and skiers, most of the books I’ve read recently have to do with technical mountaineering skills or are local guide books. Training for the New Alpinism is a must read for anyone who wants to spend time in the mountains – I’ve been slowly making my way through that one this past year!
What a great and unique book choice. Thanks for answering my questions, Kristan. See you in NYC!
Don’t forget; you can still buy tickets and come see us in NYC Nov. 2nd at the TimesCenter in Manhattan.
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