The State of Local SEO: Industry Insights for a Successful 2019

A thousand thanks to the 1,411 respondents who gave of their time and knowledge in contributing to this major survey! You’ve created a vivid image of what real-life, everyday local search marketers and local business owners are observing on a day-to-day basis, what strategies are working for them right now, and where some frankly stunning opportunities for improvement reside. Now, we’re ready to share your insights into:

  • Google Updates
  • Citations
  • Reviews
  • Company infrastructure
  • Tool usage
  • And a great deal more…

This survey pooled the observations of everyone from people working to market a single small business, to agency marketers with large local business clients:

Respondents who self-selected as not marketing a local business were filtered from further survey results.

Thanks to you, this free report is a window into the industry. Bring these statistics to teammates and clients to earn the buy-in you need to effectively reach local consumers in 2019.

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There are so many stories here worthy of your time

Let’s pick just one, to give a sense of the industry intelligence you’ll access in this report. Likely you’ve now seen the Local Search Ranking Factors 2018 Survey, undertaken by Whitespark in conjunction with Moz. In that poll of experts, we saw Google My Business signals being cited as the most influential local ranking component. But what was #2? Link building.

You might come away from that excellent survey believing that, since link building is so important, all local businesses must be doing it. But not so. The State of the Local SEO Industry Report reveals that:

When asked what’s working best for them as a method for earning links, 35% of local businesses and their marketers admitted to having no link building strategy in place at all:

And that, Moz friends, is what opportunity looks like. Get your meaningful local link building strategy in place in the new year, and prepare to leave ⅓ of your competitors behind, wondering how you surpassed them in the local and organic results.

The full report contains 30+ findings like this one. Rivet the attention of decision-makers at your agency, quote persuasive statistics to hesitant clients, and share this report with teammates who need to be brought up to industry speed. When read in tandem with the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, this report will help your business or agency understand both what experts are saying and what practitioners are experiencing.

Sometimes, local search marketing can be a lonely road to travel. You may find yourself wondering, “Does anyone understand what I do? Is anyone else struggling with this task? How do I benchmark myself?” You’ll find both confirmation and affirmation today, and Moz’s best hope is that you’ll come away a better, bolder, more effective local marketer. Let’s begin!

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25 Influential Women in Digital Marketing Who Rocked and Inspired in 2018

25 Women Digital Marketing

The Digital Marketing industry is like no other and one of the great joys of publishing a top marketing blog is the opportunity to shine a light on top talent. People who are doing great work, inspiring others to do great work and making a difference in marketing.

Working in this industry over the past 20 years has provided numerous opportunities for me to connect with, learn from and be inspired by incredibly talented marketers. Many of them women.

And so, for the 9th year in a row, TopRank Marketing is publishing it’s annual influential women in digital marketing list.

In the past we’ve had previous honorees nominate others, picked those that were most influential using software and even asked C-Level male marketing executives to nominate their female peers. This year, I’m taking a different approach. I’m going back to the origins of the very first list back in 2010 and showcasing women in digital marketing that I know and have been inspired by.

Here is this year’s list of 25 (out of many more) women in digital marketing who have inspired me in 2018 to be a better marketer and in some cases, a better person.

Mina Seetharaman
Mina Seetharaman
– EVP, Global Managing Director, Content and Marketing Solutions at The Economist
@minaseeth
Getting to know Mina as fellow advisory council members for Digital Marketing Institute, I’ve learned that she is a fountain of knowledge on many topics including all things digital marketing. I marvel at Mina’s willingness to entertain meeting with me to share marketing and health tips alike. As a leader in her company and industry, she is a passionate public speaker, advocate and lifelong learner that inspires me to continuously improve.

Ann Handley
Ann Handley
– Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
@marketingprofs
While I’ve known Ann for many years, she’s continued to be a great friend and supporter (and co-presenter). But what’s inspired me is how she continues to optimize herself and her speaking skills as a professional keynote speaker. Watching her present at numerous events in more than one country has helped me elevate my speaking game as well. Plus she’s smart and funny as hell! You should subscriber to her newsletter for weekly inspiration.

Ty Heath
Tyrona (Ty) Heath
– Global Lead, Market Development at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
@tyrona
I am fortunate to serve on an industry advisory council together with Ty where I’ve seen her in action as a passionate advocate, marketing thought leader and communicator. Further having a chance to share ideas and brainstorm with Ty had my brian popping like popcorn, which I suppose is another way of saying I was both energized and inspired 🙂

Kirsten Allegri Williams
Kirsten Allegri Williams
– CMO at SAP SuccessFactors (and Opera Singer)
@kirstenallegriw
At a busy conference like SAP’s SAPPHIRE event it is easy to be distracted. That’s why I was impressed by how present Kirsten was on our first meeting. Of course she’s incredibly smart as well. Since then we’ve had a few opportunities to communicate but what has inspired me most about her is the content she shares on her social channels. It is consistently positive, uplifting and optimistic – all things that inspire me to do the same.

Alison Herzog
Alison Herzog
– Marketing Director, Global Social Business and Digital Strategy at Dell
@alisonjherzog
Conversations with Alison are inspiring to me because she is incredibly smart, thoughtful and generous. My team had the opportunity to work with her when she was at FamilySearch and we’ve had many opportunities to connect since then and the response is always the same: what a delightful, wonderful, person!

Amisha Gandhi
Amisha Gandhi
– VP Influencer Marketing at SAP Ariba
@AmishaGandhi
As the pioneer behind SAPs influencer marketing program, Amisha has been a spark that has ignited many of the most referenced case studies in the B2B influencer marketing space. She is very passionate about her work and life and is always working to improve. Her ability to empathize with other people has made her a very effective negotiator and wrangler of resources to get work done and done well. It has been a pleasure for me and my team to work with her both at SAP and now at SAP Ariba.

Dorie Clark
Dorie Clark
– Author, Keynote Speaker, Adjunct Professor Duke University, Investor
@dorieclark
My first exposure to Dorie was her writing for Harvard Business Review, through mutual connections on the social web and her active public speaking. When I finally had a chance to connect in person at a professional speakers’ group that we’re both a part of, I found her to be genuine, thoughtful, smart and generous with her advice. All qualities that I am inspired to exhibit more of myself.

Konstanze Alex
Konstanze Alex, PhD
– Director B2B Influencer Relations at Dell
@konstanze
Konnie is a true professional who has high standards, cares deeply about relationships and is very loyal to those on her team. Luckily, some of my team are also part of Konnie’s team in our work to support some of Dell’s work with tech industry influencers. Konnie’s dedication is an inspiration for us all.

Margaret Molloy
Margaret Molloy
– Global Chief Marketing Officer, CMO, Siegel+Gale
@MargaretMolloy
Margaret is elegant, sophisticated and yet still approachable. When I saw her do a keynote interview recently, the first words I shared with the conference organizer was “now that was pure class”. She is one of the most thoughtful and impressive communicators I’ve seen on a marketing stage and that has inspired me to level up my communications game.

Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson
– Keynote Speaker, Author and Programmer Director, Digital Marketing at HARBOUR.SPACE
@CarlaJohnson
Carla is one of those rare people in marketing that can “walk the talk” with marketing strategy and equally “talk the talk” as a professional marketing keynote speaker. That ability to do both is very inspiring to me. She is as smart as she is friendly and also a true professional. It has been a real pleasure to know her and see her grow over the years.

Beverly Jackson
Beverly Jackson
– VP Social Portfolio Strategy at MGM Resorts International
@BevJack
Several years ago I had an opportunity to fill-in on a keynote for Beverly and was then able to see her do her magic on stage. It was clear that all I filled in was her left shoe compared to the energy, charisma and confidence she brought to the marketing stage. But what is most inspiring is her incredible work ethic. I’m not sure she sleeps or if there is anyone that works harder than BevJack.

Ursula Ringham
Ursula Ringham
– Head of Global Influencer Marketing at SAP
@ursularingham
Working with Ursula on influencer marketing projects and being connected on social network sites makes it easy to see she is as enthusiastic about her work as she is about being in the outdoors. She is incredibly driven and motivated to create impact and that is inspiring to me. For even more good stuff about Ursula, read the interview.

Rani Mani
Rani Mani
– Head of Social Influencer Enablement at Adobe
@ranimani0707
The only woman on this list I have not met personally (yet) is Rani. I interviewed her recently and when doing my background research found her amazing and inspirational personal story. From her journey with cerebral palsy to her work with Mother Theresa to inspiring her team at Adobe that “there is nothing you can’t do”, Rani is someone we can all learn from.

Kate O'Neill
Kate O’Neill
– Professional Speaker, Founder at KO Insights
@kateo
I first met Kate back in my SEO days and have recently reconnected to find she is a renaissance woman on fire. She is a strategy consultant to Fortune 500 companies helping to navigate digital transformation in a human-centric way., author, and active keynote speaker. Her latest book, Pixels and Place is about how online and offline experiences are becoming increasingly interwoven. More than anything is Kate’s positive energy. In her presence you cannot help but be inspired to tackle your day with optimism.

Olga Andrienko
Olga Andrienko
– Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush
@Olgandrienko
My recent re-entry into the search marketing conference world has exposed me again to some of the most talented marketers in the world. I am a longtime fan of SEO software SEMrush and have see Olga’s inspiring work with content, media, influencers, winning numerous industry awards and maximizing exposure at events. She is kind, super smart and her marketing leadership has really put SEMrush on the martech software map and that should inspire every marketer.

Amanda Todorovich
Amanda Todorovich – Senior Director, Content & Creative Services at Cleveland Clinic
@amandatodo
At the top end of our content marketing maturity model, we talk about “Monetization”, content marketing that is so good, it becomes it’s own revenue generator besides leads and sales. What Amanda has created at Cleveland Clinic represents that level of content marketing excellence exactly. Of course besides being an award winning marketer, she’s also generous with advice, empathetic to others and genuinely a good person.

Sarah Wells
Sarah Wells
– Olympian at Athletics Canada
@SarahWells400mh
As you may have guessed, Sarah is not a marketer. Not exactly. She’s an olympic athlete who runs the 400 meter hurdles for Canada. Sarah is also an evangelist for her Believe Initiative, which is a program that challenges young people to make choices over sacrifices, relentlessly pursue their goals and learn from past obstacles. Sarah overcame incredible obstacles herself as an Olympic athlete and she has developed impressive marketing chops as she promotes Believe and impacts and inspires thousands of kids every year.

Rashmy Chatterjee
Rashmy Chatterjee
– Global Sales Leader, IBM Security
@RashmyC
Where do I start with Rashmy? I learned recently she was the first woman in the Indian Navy, speaks at least 5 languages and has worked in leadership positions as an engineer, a marketer and now in sales. I first saw Rashmy present during Advertising Week when she was CMO of IBM North America. Most recently I saw her during a keynote interview at MarketingProfs B2B Forum and was reminded of her depth of knowledge combined with wisdom, character and laser focus on results: “All marketing is sales. At the end of the day, marketing must show results in the sales ledger or nothing else matters.”

Ardath Albee
Ardath Albee
– CEO at Marketing Interactions
@ardath421
Ardath is the queen of B2B marketing in my book. I have learned so much from her over the years. Not only does she continue to stay on the front lines of B2B marketing consulting, she shares those insights generously through her consulting, speaking, blogging and her books. When I attend B2B conferences, Ardath is a speaker I always find a way to see present, no matter how many other top speakers are in the same time slot.

Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
– General Manager at Content Marketing Institute, UBM
@EditorStahl
Taking over the content marketing conference machine that Joe Pulizzi created is no easy task. But Stephanie has done it with class! Most people will never speak at, let alone run an industry conference. There is an incredible amount of work that goes on behind the scenes and in front. Stephanie has managed to do both with Content Marketing World and I am very happy to continue our relationship with CMI going into 2019!

katie martell
Katie Martell
– Speaker and Emcee, Marketing Consultant at On-Demand Marketing
@KatieMartell
Sure, Katie has roasted me in her introduction before giving a keynote, but that’s Katie. She irreverent, smart and entertaining – a perfect Emcee. But she’s also an entrepreneur, advocate, connector of people and a super smart marketer. Katie runs Boston Content, the region’s largest community of content professionals and has been hailed as a “marketing expert to follow” by CIO Magazine. Katie brings energy into every room and conversation she’s a part of and challenges you to be and do better.

andrea vahl
Andrea Vahl
– Author, Consultant, Strategist, Speaker at Andrea Vahl, Inc.
@AndreaVahl
This book author and marketing consultant is also a talented stand-up comedian! It’s inspiring to me when people can become successful in both their main career and their side hustle. I’ve known Andrea for many years and she is consistently thoughtful, funny, smart and genuine. Even as “Grandma Mary“.

purna virji
Purna Virji
– Sr. Manager, Global Engagement at Microsoft
@purnavirji
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Purna speak in multiple countries, mostly at search marketing conferences, but rarely about “traditional” search marketing. Purna has deep knowledge of AI, mobile, voice and customer experience and I learn from her every time. Her pursuit of and sharing of knowledge is inspiring.

amanda brinkman
Amanda Brinkman
– Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe
@amandakbrinkman
Based in Minnesota, Amanda has led an incredible multi-year transformation of a 100 year old check printing company into the digital marketing age. Her work creating the Small Business Revolution to tell the stories of America’s small businesses has generated phenomenal results. I am inspired as much by her brand and marketing savvy as I am by her focus on purposed driven marketing.

Lucy Moran
Luciana Moran
–  SVP, Digital, Content & Creative at Dun & Bradstreet
@lucymoran
While my agency has worked with Lucy on an influencer marketing project in the past, it is my recent experience working with her on a conference panel that gave me cause to be inspired. First, Lucy went above and beyond answering interview questions, promoting the interview article and our panel at the conference. Second, during the panel she stuck to what she knew and didn’t try to be more or less than that – a lesson for many in the marketing spotlight, including me!

Another group of women that inspire me are the amazing marketers at TopRank Marketing! I am fortunate to work with these marketing professionals who not only go to bat for their clients but for each other. In a recent leadership meeting, I finally noticed that I was the only man in the room. They include:

  • Susan Misukanis – President and co-Founder
  • Alexis Hall – VP Client Accounts
  • Amie Krone – Operations Director
  • Ashley Zeckman – Senior Director of Digital Strategy
  • Caitlin Burgess – Senior Manager of Content Marketing
  • Tiffani Allen – Senior Account Manager
  • Elizabeth Williams – Account Manager
  • Jane Bartel – Account Manager
  • Claire O’Neil – Account Manager
  • Debbie Friez – Influencer Marketing Strategist
  • Allysia Kveberg – Senior Analytics Strategist
  • Anne Leuman – Content Strategist

To see the women in social and digital marketing who have been recognized in our lists from past years, here you go:

2010 – 25 Women That Rock Social Media

2011 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2012 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2013 – 25 Women That Rocked Social Media

2014 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2015 – 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing

2016 – 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing: North Stars & Rising Stars

2017 – 25 Women Who Rock at Digital Marketing in 2017

Who inspires you to be a better marketer? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Using a New Correlation Model to Predict Future Rankings with Page Authority

Correlation studies have been a staple of the search engine optimization community for many years. Each time a new study is released, a chorus of naysayers seem to come magically out of the woodwork to remind us of the one thing they remember from high school statistics — that “correlation doesn’t mean causation.” They are, of course, right in their protestations and, to their credit, and unfortunate number of times it seems that those conducting the correlation studies have forgotten this simple aphorism.

We collect a search result. We then order the results based on different metrics like the number of links. Finally, we compare the orders of the original search results with those produced by the different metrics. The closer they are, the higher the correlation between the two.

That being said, correlation studies are not altogether fruitless simply because they don’t necessarily uncover causal relationships (ie: actual ranking factors). What correlation studies discover or confirm are correlates.

Correlates are simply measurements that share some relationship with the independent variable (in this case, the order of search results on a page). For example, we know that backlink counts are correlates of rank order. We also know that social shares are correlates of rank order.

Correlation studies also provide us with direction of the relationship. For example, ice cream sales are positive correlates with temperature and winter jackets are negative correlates with temperature — that is to say, when the temperature goes up, ice cream sales go up but winter jacket sales go down.

Finally, correlation studies can help us rule out proposed ranking factors. This is often overlooked, but it is an incredibly important part of correlation studies. Research that provides a negative result is often just as valuable as research that yields a positive result. We’ve been able to rule out many types of potential factors — like keyword density and the meta keywords tag — using correlation studies.

Unfortunately, the value of correlation studies tends to end there. In particular, we still want to know whether a correlate causes the rankings or is spurious. Spurious is just a fancy sounding word for “false” or “fake.” A good example of a spurious relationship would be that ice cream sales cause an increase in drownings. In reality, the heat of the summer increases both ice cream sales and people who go for a swim. That swimming can cause drownings. So while ice cream sales is a correlate of drowning, it is *spurious.* It does not cause the drowning.

How might we go about teasing out the difference between causal and spurious relationships? One thing we know is that a cause happens before its effect, which means that a causal variable should predict a future change.

An alternative model for correlation studies

I propose an alternate methodology for conducting correlation studies. Rather than measure the correlation between a factor (like links or shares) and a SERP, we can measure the correlation between a factor and changes in the SERP over time.

The process works like this:

  1. Collect a SERP on day 1
  2. Collect the link counts for each of the URLs in that SERP
  3. Look for any URLs are out of order with respect to links; for example, if position 2 has fewer links than position 3
  4. Record that anomaly
  5. Collect the same SERP in 14 days
  6. Record if the anomaly has been corrected (ie: position 3 now out-ranks position 2)
  7. Repeat across ten thousand keywords and test a variety of factors (backlinks, social shares, etc.)

So what are the benefits of this methodology? By looking at change over time, we can see whether the ranking factor (correlate) is a leading or lagging feature. A lagging feature can automatically be ruled out as causal. A leading factor has the potential to be a causal factor.

We collect a search result. We record where the search result differs from the expected predictions of a particular variable (like links or social shares). We then collect the same search result 2 weeks later to see if the search engine has corrected the out-of-order results.

Following this methodology, we tested 3 different common correlates produced by ranking factors studies: Facebook shares, number of root linking domains, and Page Authority. The first step involved collecting 10,000 SERPs from randomly selected keywords in our Keyword Explorer corpus. We then recorded Facebook Shares, Root Linking Domains, and Page Authority for every URL. We noted every example where 2 adjacent URLs (like positions 2 and 3 or 7 and 8) were flipped with respect to the expected order predicted by the correlating factor. For example, if the #2 position had 30 shares while the #3 position had 50 shares, we noted that pair. Finally, 2 weeks later, we captured the same SERPs and identified the percent of times that Google rearranged the pair of URLs to match the expected correlation. We also randomly selected pairs of URLs to get a baseline percent likelihood that any 2 adjacent URLs would switch positions. Here were the results…

The outcome

It’s important to note that it is incredibly rare to expect a leading factor to show up strongly in an analysis like this. While the experimental method is sound, it’s not as simple as a factor predicting future — it assumes that in some cases we will know about a factor before Google does. The underlying assumption is that in some cases we have seen a ranking factor (like an increase in links or social shares) before Googlebot has and that in the 2 week period, Google will catch up and correct the incorrectly ordered results. As you can expect, this is a rare occasion. However, with a sufficient number of observations, we should be able to see a statistically significant difference between lagging and leading results. However, the methodology only detects when a factor is both leading and Moz Link Explorer discovered the relevant factor before Google.

Factor Percent Corrected P-Value 95% Min 95% Max
Control 18.93% 0
Facebook Shares Controlled for PA 18.31% 0.00001 -0.6849 -0.5551
Root Linking Domains 20.58% 0.00001 0.016268 0.016732
Page Authority 20.98% 0.00001 0.026202 0.026398

Control:

In order to create a control, we randomly selected adjacent URL pairs in the first SERP collection and determined the likelihood that the second will outrank the first in the final SERP collection. Approximately 18.93% of the time the worse ranking URL would overtake the better ranking URL. By setting this control, we can determine if any of the potential correlates are leading factors – that is to say that they are potential causes of improved rankings.

Facebook Shares:

Facebook Shares performed the worst of the three tested variables. Facebook Shares actually performed worse than random (18.31% vs 18.93%), meaning that randomly selected pairs would be more likely to switch than those where shares of the second were higher than the first. This is not altogether surprising as it is the general industry consensus that social signals are lagging factors — that is to say the traffic from higher rankings drives higher social shares, not social shares drive higher rankings. Subsequently, we would expect to see the ranking change first before we would see the increase in social shares.

RLDs

Raw root linking domain counts performed substantially better than shares at ~20.5%. As I indicated before, this type of analysis is incredibly subtle because it only detects when a factor is both leading and Moz Link Explorer discovered the relevant factor before Google. Nevertheless, this result was statistically significant with a P value <0.0001 and a 95% confidence interval that RLDs will predict future ranking changes around 1.5% greater than random.

Page Authority

By far, the highest performing factor was Page Authority. At 21.5%, PA correctly predicted changes in SERPs 2.6% better than random. This is a strong indication of a leading factor, greatly outperforming social shares and outperforming the best predictive raw metric, root linking domains.This is not unsurprising. Page Authority is built to predict rankings, so we should expect that it would outperform raw metrics in identifying when a shift in rankings might occur. Now, this is not to say that Google uses Moz Page Authority to rank sites, but rather that Moz Page Authority is a relatively good approximation of whatever link metrics Google is using to determine ranking sites.

Concluding thoughts

There are so many different experimental designs we can use to help improve our research industry-wide, and this is just one of the methods that can help us tease out the differences between causal ranking factors and lagging correlates. Experimental design does not need to be elaborate and the statistics to determine reliability do not need to be cutting edge. While machine learning offers much promise for improving our predictive models, simple statistics can do the trick when we’re establishing the fundamentals.

Now, get out there and do some great research!