The Most Interesting Parts of Moz’s ‘State of Local SEO’ Report

Recently Moz (and Darren Shaw) released the 2018 Local Ranking Factors survey. Moz also published the “State of Local SEO” report. The findings are based on a survey of roughly 1,400 local marketers, representing agency and in-house marketers from both small and large organizations.

SEO used to be the top digital marketing focus for most small businesses (ranking in Google search results). However that has now been eclipsed by social media (Facebook). But that doesn’t mean it’s still not a priority. But how sophisticated are people about SEO?

The majority of Moz survey respondents said they can “apply basic SEO concepts,” while 22% percent say they have a “deep understanding” of SEO. It’s safe to say that the SMB respondents among the survey sample are likely much more marketing savvy than the average SMB.

Moz State of Local Report

The 60% who “can apply” basic SEO are probably actually saying, “I have an abstract understanding of Local SEO” and can do a few things to improve visibility. But execution remains a major challenge for those not using internal or outside experts. Interestingly, 43% of enterprises had only one or no SEO experts on staff.

One of  the challenges of local SEO and SEO more broadly is that it’s an alchemical brew of tactics. Perhaps a mirror of the profusion of ranking factors, there was no single, dominant emphasis or approach that agencies and in-house marketers reported  in the survey.

What struck me here is that review management, schema and Knowledge Panel management were pretty neglected by this group. The reviews finding is especially surprising given that it’s now an explicit local ranking factor.

Moz State of Local Report

However, in response to a later question about whether “most of my clients have a complete review management structure in place,” 27% said yes, while 73% either said no (60%) or not sure (13%). This seems, to some degree, to contradict the above.

In the chart above local link building was roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of requested client services. Unpacking those tactics, the chart below shows that 35% of marketers are doing nothing to build local links. The top tactics otherwise were: 1) content development, 2) direct requests for links, 3) local events, 4) sponsorships. (For more on this, see our local link building webinar featuring ZipSprout and LocalSEOGuide.)
Moz State of Local Report

Several of the survey’s findings indicate some level of uncertainty about where to focus energy and resources. Along those lines, about 70% of the respondents weren’t sure where to go to get training or help with local SEO.

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In terms of SEO-related tools, 60% of the respondents were using between 2 and 5 tools, while 25% were using only one or no tools, and the remainder were using between 6 and 11 (or more). The top tools being used were all from Google (chart immediately below).

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 7.22.35 AM In addition to organic efforts, 69% of the survey respondents were paying for Google Ads in one form or another. That number will probably climb higher in 2019 and beyond. This mirrors what’s happening with decline of organic reach on Facebook.

When it comes to measuring ROI, these respondents were increasingly focused on conversions and revenue, rather than rankings and traffic. However it’s far from clear how attribution is being done. There wasn’t a published answer about attribution in the report.
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Most of these agencies, SMBs and enterprises aren’t using in-store technology that might track visitation or in-store presence. One might also infer from the responses holistically that most of these respondents aren’t using any sophisticated attribution methodologies whatsoever. So unless they’re all e-commerce companies (I assume no), it’s not clear how they’re tying revenue to SEO/SEM unless we’re talking about proxy metrics (e.g., directions) and call tracking.

If you download the report (registration required) let us know what struck you most.

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