Local SEO with Claire Carlile

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you will hear Jack interviewing Local Search Expert, Claire Carlile. Jack and Claire talk about:

  • The difference between SEO and local SEO
  • Google Business Page tips
  • Keyword research for local SEO
  • Link building strategies for small businesses
  • BrightonSEO

Show notes and links


Jack: Welcome to episode 13 of season two of the Search With Candour podcast. I am your host for this week, Jack Chambers. And no Mark this week, I'm afraid to say, but instead of Mark, I do have an utterly fantastic guest in Claire Carlile. You may know Claire Carlile from the fantastic work she does at BrightLocal, the stuff she does with her own agency, and in general, her fantastic work with local SEO and giving out advice and all that kind of stuff. You may also know her from her recent BrightonSEO talk. That's right, I'm recording this after BrightonSEO, but we actually recorded the interview before BrightonSEO. So bear with me on the timeline a little bit there.

And amazingly enough, Claire was the very first person we met when we arrived in Brighton. We arrived at the hotel and I believe that is the hotel where the majority of the speakers were staying for the conference. And we walk in and who should be sat at reception with a lovely bag of Welsh cakes to hand out to everybody because she's delightful? It was Claire. So fantastic timing on this interview and a fantastic time at Brighton. It was an absolute pleasure to finally meet Claire in person after following her work for a long time now, and fantastic to meet some of the guests I've heard previously in season one of Search With Candour as well. I would definitely love to catch up with a lot more people and we've got plenty more interviews with some fantastic, very interesting people planned from our experiences over at BrightonSEO.

But I would like to say a very big thank you from Mark and I, for everyone who came and said hello, who said they've been enjoying the podcast. We had a few listeners come and say it's inspired them to start their own podcasts. And I'd also like to thank all the amazing other SEOs and digital marketing people who inspire us with their amazing talks and finally got a chance to meet in person. It was amazing to finally meet everybody. And a big thank you to Kelvin and the BrightonSEO team for a fantastic event and conference overall as well. If you didn't get a chance to come to April's one, there is another one in about six months. I know you can go to There is links in the show notes as always at And as I mentioned a couple of times in this interview with Claire, all the links for all of Claire's stuff and everything we talk about is also available at

Jack: Search With Candour is supported by SISTRIX, the SEO's toolbox. Go to, if you want to check out some of their excellent free tools such as their SERP snippet validator, on page analysis, hreflang validator, page speed comparison and tracking your site's visibility index. That's for free tools and for all of their regular blog posts.

Jack: Now I won't keep you much longer. I'd just like to say it again, thank you very much for listening. And here we go with my interview with the one and only, Claire Carlile.

Jack: And welcome to the show, Claire Carlile.

Claire: Hello, Jack. How are you?

Jack: I'm good. Thank you. How are you?

Claire: Very, very well. Thanks.

Jack: Pleasure to have you on. Thank you very much for joining me. And if the listeners don't know who you are, first of all, shame on them. Listeners, you should know who Claire is by now. If you're at all connected in the SEO world, specifically the local SEO world, you should know who Claire is. But just in case they don't, Claire, could you please give us a quick rundown of who you are and why you're on the show today?

Claire: Woo. Well, I am Claire Carlile. I am the local search expert at BrightLocal, and I also run my own small marketing agency called Claire Carlile Marketing. And I live in Wales.

Jack: The opposite end of the country from us here at Norwich.

Claire: So far away.

Jack: All the way across in Wales.

Claire: So far.

Jack: So you are a local SEO expert, I think that's fair to say, right? That is your area of expertise.

Claire: I think I try, I try. Rather than, I'd say it's my area of passion.

Jack: That's fair. And they always say, if you're doing something you're passionate about, you don't work a day in your life, right?

Claire: I love going to work. What can I say? I love my work.

Jack: There you go! So we're going to dive straight into some questions. I've collated some questions from people who follow us on Twitter and some of the team here at Candour as well. So we're going to kind of dive through a variety of local SEO based questions. And I'm sure we'll spin off into different topics, but we'll kick off with some Q and A kind of stuff.

Claire: As long as it's plants and dogs, that's fine.

Jack: There we go. We'll, I'm sure we can talk ... We might get an appearance from Snoop.

Claire: Yep.

Jack: The infamous Candour dog at some point.

Claire: Come on, Snoop.

Jack: So fingers crossed. I know Snoop has been on the podcast a couple of times before, but he usually gets edited out. I might actually leave him in this time.

Claire: Ah, get him to answer the questions. Any of the difficult ones he can contribute on my behalf.

Jack: Exactly. But let's start off with basically looking at the current climate for local SEO and where we are standing in 2022. What do you think are some of the biggest changes that have happened over the last few years for people and businesses looking to focus on local SEO? What kind of things have changed over the last few years that you think have had the biggest impact on local SEO?

Claire: I think that anyone that works in local SEO will have their own experience there because it can be vertical-specific, niche-specific. I think one of the most interesting things to look at year on year is the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, which was started by David Mihm in the year dot when wheels were square, and then he handed the bat over to Darren at Whitespark. And so you can see there what happens is they interview a lot of people, I think 20 people or so that work in local search.

And then, so what happens is those people give their view on what they think is important with regard to ranking factors. So anyone that's interested in the way ... And obviously these are people's thoughts based on their experiences. This isn't Google saying, "This is more important, and this is less important." But that's a really, really, really good place to start to have a look at.

And then besides that, I think that ... So we've had an algorithm update called the, well, it was called the Vicinity Update. So that has shaken things up a little bit in the world of the map pack. And then generally I think changes, the ones that are most interesting to me are images and how we have a very image-heavy SERP, whether that's on the desktop or on mobile. And then we've got all the normal things that's more, let's say technical SEOs, but it's everyone, isn't it, really? It's like thinking about the performance of our websites, core web vitals and speed and stuff like that. It's another layer of things for people to think about.

So I wouldn't say, oh my gosh, there's been this one big thing and it's so different because at the end of the day, we're all marketers and we are all building businesses out and helping businesses with their marketing. So not a terrific amount has changed, but also things change very quickly in our industry. So it's one of those answers. But yeah, and anyone that's interested in how things have changed or how people within the local SEO world think that ranking factors have changed, then looking at that survey over the years is really, really useful.

Jack: Brilliant. I will put a link for that in the show notes, listeners. So if you go to, you can find a link to the history of that survey, so you can catch yourself up on all those details as well.

Basically looking at the other side of things, I guess, and looking at what are the common misconceptions for local SEO, because I think SEO, whether that's local, international, technical, all that kind of stuff is full of misinformation, misconceptions, people misunderstanding stuff. What are the big things you've encountered in your career in local SEO that are common things that come up?

Claire: I'm not sure. Local SEO, I think some people think that local SEO ... SEO is such a funny world to be in, isn't it-

Jack: Isn't it just?

Claire: ... the way that we categorize ourselves. I can remember like 15 years ago apologizing for not being a tech SEO, but there are so many different niches that we can find for ourselves within our industry. So I think that's sometimes when people say, "I'm a local SEO," or, "I work with small businesses," that means that it's easier or different, but actually it's probably just more nuanced in that if you're a local SEO, you need to do all the other things that a general SEO would be doing on a website, but you're also thinking about a slightly different algorithm and the way that things are displayed within the SERP.

And I think that with regard to local SEO, it's just filled with the same misinformation and we still have the snake oil element as SEO matures or doesn't mature in the way that people think about it. So local SEO, it's SEO, but with a local filter laying over the top. So you need to know all the things about SEO plus the local element.

Jack: I think we find that a lot. And like you said, as the industry grows or matures, we see a lot of people diversifying, whether being an all-rounder kind of a type, which is where I find myself these days, or specifically going out and being like, "I am a tech specialist, I am a local specialist." I think there's room in the industry for everybody, for sure, because it is a growing industry as well. Looking at experiences across both then, what do you think are the big, key differences between working nationally for a multi-location kind of client and then looking at a much smaller business in one specific location? What main differences are there in the techniques, tools, research you'll be doing for those kinds of clients?

Claire: Both come with their opportunities and challenges like anything, but with a single location, small business client, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is internal resource or understanding, or you've got someone that might have their own business and they're also trying to do all their own marketing as well, and it's not very fair-

Jack: You get a one-man-band kind of thing?

Claire: It's not fair ... Or one-woman-band. But it's not fair to-

Jack: Or one-woman-band, I apologize. Yes, not to gender that term.

Claire: Yeah. It's not fair to be critical of that person because you're like, "Oh wow, you don't know about local SEO?" No, and I don't know anything about plumbing or hair cutting. So it's really difficult for that person to be doing all of their own stuff. It's like, how do I grow my business? How do I do this? Should I be using social media? So you've come from that angle with ...

And I love working with small business clients, particularly ones that are engaged and up for trying different stuff and getting stuff done as well, but not everyone is in that position, whereas big, multi-location, you're talking about again resource, but who does what and when. So then you have all the problems with, well, who's into ... Is it customer service that deals with reviews and how are we going to respond to a review, which is based around a certain location and a very geographic experience if it's not someone that's on the ground? You've got logistics. And then you've also got, if you've got hundreds of locations, you've got hundreds of touchpoints with data as well.

So you might have a budget, although from what I've seen necessarily. So you might have budget, but then it just might be a real struggle to affect change, to get new processes in place. Whereas small businesses can be very agile and dynamic and get stuff done, but financially they don't necessarily have a lot of resources available.

Jack: So to spin-off of what you just mentioned about reviews there, I know it's a hot topic. Do you think reviews are still essential for small businesses, local businesses and that kind of thing, particularly looking at obviously Google reviews and things like that?

Claire: Yes.

Jack: In short, yes!

Claire: Yeah. So if we're just going purely on a ranking basis, so we're thinking about, well, how do I get more visibility? If you look at the Local Search Ranking Factors report, you will see that reviews, people working within local SEO see that there is added more and more importance algorithmically. But aside from that, we need to remember how we shop and how we make decisions ourselves as buyers and consumers. Reviews are important. We learn to read them. We learn to maybe read behind the words. We look at the replies of the businesses themselves, how they reply and how they manage reviews. That all shapes how we feel about businesses.

So yes, they're very important and we need to have a process in place for asking for them, for responding to them and for also making sense of what they contain because reviews shouldn't just be this vanity metric. Reviews are actually our way to get feedback on our product, services, our people, our systems. So using reviews for that, I'm very, very passionate about using reviews and understanding the review process.

Jack: I think it's interesting because we also get that in the podcasting industry as well. If anybody has ever listened to a podcast, you pretty much get the, please rate us 5 stars on Spotify at the end of every episode, or click, like and subscribe on YouTube or all that kind of stuff. I think it's part of, like you said, understanding the humans behind the clicks and behind the users and looking at ...

I think people, I'm totally guilty, have been guilty of this myself, getting lost in the data and all the numbers and all that kind of thing and then forgetting that no, there are actually people who you want to walk through the door and you will talk to face-to-face or interact with, who will buy your product or whatever it is. I think it's a key factor of that. And I think, even like you said, with the ranking factor side of things, there's that kind of validation for users coming in and seeing, oh, they've got a 4.5 out of 5. I think a lot of people have that kind of 4 out of 5 cutoff point as a general don't trust anyone who's less than a 4.

Claire: Yeah, totally. I mean, review count is a part of that, isn't it? Because if someone is 3.5, they've only got two reviews, you're like, "Oh well, that's a shame."

Jack: Yeah, one's a 5, one's a 1.

Claire: Yeah. I was thinking that the other day because another element of asking for reviews is understanding what the rules and regulations of each review platform are for how can you ask, can you ask, can you incentivize, what should you be doing? And I was thinking that, because I was listening to some podcasts the other day, and like you say, everyone has got their script that runs at the end, which is like, "Please write a review, make it 5 stars." Are you allowed to suggest what the star, I mean-

Jack: In podcasting, it's the Wild West, I'm afraid, Claire, you can do what you like.

Claire: You do what you want? Okay. All right. Because I was thinking that, I was like, "Oh, what's the review landscape for podcasts? Are there any-"

Jack: On the other side of that, it would be weird if a business sent out an email and said, "Please give us a five-star rating."

Claire: Yes.

Jack: If I received that as a customer of the business, I'd be like, "All right, that's very pushy. You don't need to-"

Claire: No, no thank you. No thank you.

Jack: "I'll review you honestly if I choose to review you at all, thank you very much."

Claire: You should do a canned response like that, I think you should say.

Jack: Yeah, exactly.

Claire: Wow, that sounds fantastic. Yeah. So it's weird, give us a five-star review. It's like, "What?"

Jack: Yeah. Are there any other particular review sites outside of Google, obviously not linking into ranking factors there that you think are particular? Obviously, we've got other things like the social media side of things, like Facebook reviews and things like that.

Claire: Yeah, for sure. I think Yelp used to be, because I work with a few American clients. But Yelp used to and always has been a big deal and is hated by lots of people and you're not allowed to ask for reviews, and local SEOs basically talk about Yelp and I'm like, "What? I don't know, I don't really ..." It's one of those places that seem to have. But for me, it's niche-specific. So obviously if you're in travel, you'll be thinking about Tripadvisor. If you're working in camping and caravaning, then you'll have your niche-specific. So I think I always have a look to see what is part of that vertical.

Also, when you look at competitors or other people within your niche, if you look at their business profile, sometimes Google will pull in third-party review sites into the actual business profile, so you'll need to see that. And apart from that, I would actually look at the first page for your branded search and then for your primary keywords and understand what's on that page that might be a review site or have a review markup, so you really then understand what's appearing.

Because basically, you want to understand what you've got on the first two pages for your brand name and make sure that you know what the content is. So review sites can be very niche specific. So asking for reviews where you need them and changing that up. It might be, you need to get more Tripadvisor reviews because unfortunately, you've had a bit of an incident that's brought your ranking down or whatever. So you might need to direct people in different places depending on where you need your reviews.

Jack: So spinning off of that and thinking about Google My Business pages and stuff like that, what would be your top tips for thinking about the essential things you need on your Google My Business page?

Claire: Whoa. Wow, where do you start with that one?

Jack: We've got all morning, Claire, let's get stuck in.

Claire: Let's go. Okay. So Google business profiles, there's a lot of stuff there that you can be adding so you can make it very full, very attractive, very clickable. And this is one of the challenges of this landscape is especially for small businesses and for big businesses, keeping those up to date, understanding what's been added, what's been removed, what the opportunities are. That's one of the bits that really excites me about local SEO really is testing.

Claire: But yeah, so we've got the basics, what people call table stakes, so making sure that your name, address, phone number is added. You want to have your business description, you want to keep your photos nice and updated. You want to check your attributes. You need to look at your reviews. You need to use Google products if you've got products. You need to have a post schedule. You need to work on your services page. What else do you need to do? You need to monitor user-uploaded photos in various places.

Jack: I saw a very funny example of that the other day. I think you shared it on Twitter, that's what got-

Claire: Oh, was that the gentleman?

Jack: Very ‘not safe for work’ should we say.

Claire: Yeah. I mean, I'm speaking at BrightonSEO and that actual picture makes a special appearance. So yeah, Rishi shared that on Twitter and it was just such an epic example of Google, why are you pushing user-generated content into the business profile? Why are you doing this? This is not good. So businesses not really monitoring or being aware of what their real estate basically looks like is a big, no, no really. So yes, monitoring all of those things is super important. There's so much that can be happening in the business profile in the way that your information is pushed out into Local Finder and into the map pack and into the SERP. So yeah, all of those things.

Jack: To dive into the business profile a bit more, do you think there is potential issues with diluting your categories for your business? Do you want to cover as much as possible or is it better to focus on your speciality, your specific thing, if you are a business that covers a few different things?

Claire: I think having anything that is actually relevant, is actually relevant. So your primary category is still your most important category with regard to affecting where you might appear in the map pack, but you can be strategic with that depending on some businesses are seasonal and they might need to swap that up and change that around. Sometimes based on competition, you might like to jiggle that around a little bit.

People have written stuff about category confusion, category dilution, and whether or not that actually exists, but in reality, all the businesses that I've worked with, you represent yourself in terms of what it is that you do. And if there is a case for actually splitting out elements of a business into separate Google business profiles, because they are actually eligible and they're fundamentally very different, then there is a business case for that. But you just again, you need to check on eligibility and what the Google terms of service or terms of conditions are on doing that.

Jack: Is there any sort of drawbacks to ... You mentioned the seasonality of some businesses there. Some businesses may shift slightly from season to season. Is there a possibility of that affecting changing the category from season to season? Would that negatively affect anything or do you think having those separate pages specifically set up would make more sense?

Claire: Well, you probably wouldn't be able to have separate pages if it was essentially the same business. So say you had like Jack's ice cream and snow cone, and what do you have when it's very cold, and a hot chocolate bar. Say there was a hot chocolate category and you're serving hot chocolate and search volume for hot chocolate near me is very, very high in December, because it's cold where you live, then you'll probably want to be a hot chocolate seller as your primary category. I'm not saying there is a hot chocolate seller category. If people want to eat ice creams and volume in terms of search, more people are looking for ice creams and want to buy them in the summer and there is an ice-cream seller category and that's what you're selling, you probably want to have that in the site.

Jack: That makes sense. That makes sense. So spinning off from that and thinking about how back to multi-location but also focusing on local SEO, do you think it is essential for multi-location businesses to have specific landing pages for each area they're based in? Say you've got a branch in a Norwich, you've got a branch in Manchester, a branch in Wales, would you want to have a specific URL for each of those things, so you can target that for your business in a local sense?

Claire: Yes.

Jack: Nice, good. Next question.

Claire: Shall I say why I think yes is the answer?

Jack: Please do. And why do you think that's important, Claire?

Claire: Moving on. Next. So if you imagine that someone is searching for Jack's ice cream shop-

Jack: I've got all this business is now. I'm really an entrepreneur by the end of this episode.

Claire: Well, then back to the ice cream here. Jack's ice cream shop, Norwich, because it's your Norwich branch. Okay. So I'm searching for it. And as a searcher, my intent is probably that I would like to pop in to buy one of your giant ice cream smoothies with chopped walnuts on the top. So it makes sense for me as a searcher to either find that page in the organic search results, so I can see what time you're open, where I can park, what the best way is to find you. Maybe you'll even give me a list of the 10 things that I should also go and visit and do while I go and see you in your ice cream shop. So that's what I want to see, okay? And that's what you'll want to optimize for, with that page.

And the same way that I might see your Google business listing, I might see that in the map pack. When I click on the link to your website, I'll probably not want to go to your home page, I'll want to go to that page that tells me again, your opening times, your phone number. Maybe you'll give me a photo of the person that runs it, maybe a photo of you yourself and give me all those pieces of information.

So yeah, it is really important to have those location landing pages, especially when you have multiple locations. Not so important with a single location because the footprint of your business is going to be all over the website, isn't it? But especially when there's lots and lots of different locations, I want to get that local flavour on the page.

Jack: Spinning off from that, you mentioned there the content that can support that. What kinds of things do you think businesses can be doing from a concept marketing perspective to support those local landing pages or the website as a whole? You mentioned there a “top 10 things to do nearby” thing, which is a classic example.

Claire: Yeah.

Jack: Is there anything else outside of that “top 10 things to do in Norwich while you're eating my ice cream”?

Claire: Yeah.

Jack: Those other kinds of things.

Claire: So much really there. I mean, this is where the world is your oyster. And again, we come down to resourcing, who is going to write the content? We've got a hundred branches. It is worth putting the time and effort into these things. If you look at, think about classic store pages, what do we have? We have easy stuff, who's the branch manager, maybe some information about the staff. We want the address, we want the phone number, we want the email address. Maybe we'll have reviews for that branch on the page. Maybe we'll have information about how to find it, maybe driving directions. Maybe we'll even sit there and say, "Well, where do I park? Where's the bus stop?"

And I was thinking the other day about how as shoppers and consumers, sometimes we're a bit unfamiliar with the servicescape in new places. So I was thinking about how nice it is to actually paint a picture of somewhere where you go to. I was thinking about how many people get anxious going into new situations and new environments.

And especially if we think about how COVID has affected people and how we've had to pivot in terms of product or service delivery, making it clear to people what they can expect. If there's a queue outside the door, don't worry, it's because we're only letting two people in at a time. But you could be talking about the services that you offer. You might have a list of popular products, you might have events. There's so much that can be included on those pages, it just takes a little bit of thought and a bit of resource to get that produced, but it's so worthwhile.

Jack: So spinning off towards the link building side of things, I know that is always a hot topic in SEO, as you can imagine, dear listeners. How important is that to local SEO specifically? I know a lot of people talk about local citations and directories and things for local SEO specifically. Is that still a key factor, do you think for, again, talking about the local search rankings as we've been talking about throughout the episode? Is that still a key thing? Is it still worth branching out and getting wider coverage? Do you want to focus on more specific local ... Say you're based in Norwich, you want to get coverage by our local newspapers here, is that all part of that thing or is it also okay to get national coverage as well in terms of getting backlinks to your site, into your landing pages?

Claire: There's two different things that you touched on there. One is to do with listings management and citations management. But the second part, which is what we put under the umbrella of link development or link building. Thinking from a local business perspective, which is the way I try and an approach that with any business, but it's quite nice in a local context, is that you have a built-in community and you have all of these relationships a lot of the time that exist offline, that can be then leveraged to create an online relationship and an opportunity to attract backlinks.

I know a lot of people talk about link building in local SEO and these are the tactics that you should be using, you should do sponsorship, you should do this. So anyone can go anywhere and read about all those things, but the way that I like to approach it really is from you're in a strong position because you have relationships with people in your community. Often it's easier to get coverage in local newspapers than it might be to get coverage in a national newspaper. If we think about in terms of our digital footprint and our linking footprint, you can imagine that in terms of any algorithm that is to do with local search, then having links from geographically relevant sites, that might be important.

Jack: Excellent. Excellent. So I'm going to spin off into some of your BrightLocal Academy stuff.

Claire: Ooh.

Jack: I'm not going to steal content from there, don't worry.

Claire: Just do it.

Jack: Listeners, I'll put links for that in the show notes, if you do want to go and check out these two courses that Claire has done for BrightLocal. We're going to touch on some keyword research stuff now. So I'm sure plenty of the listeners are aware of the big tools that a lot of people use and the general techniques and methods of using Keyword Planner and Semrush and these big, overarching tools we use every day in the SEO industry. Is there anything specifically looking from a local perspective that you think is useful to know, whether that's tools, techniques, or methods for keyword research? And you touch on this in your How to Master Local Keyword Research course for BrightLocal. So like I said, do check that in the show notes, dear listeners.

Claire: Local specific keyword research. Is there a local factor that we're looking at? Well, yes and no. So we'll do all the same things, but we'll think about location modifiers. We will have looked at Google's data on near me searches. Again, thinking about COVID, we've got open now, open now near me, open now with something in stock. So if we think about how people are searching on their ... We keep talking about phones, it's because we've got those micro-moments on our phones, haven't we? We're just like, "Right, I want to buy this thing. What's open? Who's got it in stock?" So we are looking at those specific modifiers that also might be geographic modifiers. So it might be whatever the name of the street is in Norwich, open now near me, all of those types of things.

But obviously local search isn't always explicit in those terms. So if we search for almost anything, if Google thinks there could be a faint possibility that the intent there is looking for something locally, then they might slap a map pack in there as well. So it doesn't always have to have near me or the geographic modifier on the end to make it a local search, because almost everything is local because we search from our phones. So our actual location is known, even on our desktops. Think about your IP, thinking about being logged into your Google account, even when you're on. So I always say, well, 99% of searches. Or I don't always say that, I just made that up. But yeah when you-

Jack: Well known phrase.

Claire: So that well-known phrase I just said now is location is such a massive factor. And I think that, can't remember, was it Gary from Google talking about, because people were like, "Well, there's so much personalization," and I think he was saying, "Oh, well, location is probably the biggest level of personalization and that's all that we use." But it's like, well, that is still a massive level of personalization because it's where I am actually standing.

So I think that a lot of us just take that as, oh yeah, my location services are all enabled on my phone and I'm fine for everyone to know about where I go, what I do. But if you poke around in the settings on your phone and you actually go, "How does Google know I went there six times in the last month?" And you're like, "Well, obviously because everything is turned on." But yeah, anyway, so massive segue there, apart from the fact that all searches are local, nearly.

Jack: I often get those little survey things from Google of like, oh, you've just been to Tesco.

Claire: I love those. Jack, you should always answer those questions. It's very-

Jack: I do.

Claire: Good.

Jack: I do, yeah. So it's like, for listeners who don't know, you get the, oh, you've just been to this shop, do you have a receipt? All that kind of stuff. I guess that's a sneaky way of getting more information into Google's database and all that kind of stuff.

Claire: Yeah, definitely. You should know what Google is asking about you and about your competitors.

Jack: Yeah.

Claire: It's a window into a lot of different things though, isn't it? Because it's a window into, what does Google think is important for a business? What's that driven by? But then you have to say, well, it's probably driven by consumer demand. So again, it's actually an insight into people, what people are looking for. So just having an idea of, all right, what are the most common themes or topics? Sometimes it's ridiculous stuff, it's like, can you buy a snow cone here? It's like, no, the buyer's changed. We don't have snow cones in the UK. So it's quite funny to look at those.

Jack: I think spinning off from what you mentioned about the recent, I know we're still in the COVID pandemic, but in this era, we're in now looking at the way businesses handle that, I always get asked, did you pay by card? Because I'm guessing that's a really common question for people, oh, can I go here and pay by card? Can I pay this and buy this thing using my card? Because I can't remember the last time I used cash now with COVID has been a thing.

Claire: Oh, real money. Real money, what's that? I saw my wallet the other day when I opened it up and some moths flew out or something. Yeah, I think people are just used to not having cash now, aren't they?But also businesses prefer it, don't they? They don't want to be handling cash. People are just used to taking everything by cards now. If you've got a very special watch, you can pay using ... Look at that.

Jack: Yeah, definitely. Are there any specific tools you'd recommend for keyword research from a local perspective or just use the ones we all know and love already in a specific way?

Claire: I think use your brain. Definitely use your brain. I think there's a lot of reliance on output from keyword tools without actually doing the groundwork for a business. So I don't want to say if you do my course, but if you do my course, it goes through all those things. So before you even look, before you open your laptop, before you look at anything, go back to who are my customers? Who am I trying to attract? What problem are they looking to solve? What solution am I offering? What words might they be using?

Go and speak to everyone in the organization, speak to the people that answer the phones, speak to everyone and then get that data. Then start looking at some of your proprietary data. So look at Search Console, look at Google My Business insights, look at all of those places. And then, and only then go into one of these tools. But yeah, I'd say you need to do all that groundwork first.

I mean, if you can pick up the phone and speak to some people or run some tests or give people a couple of scenarios where you say, "Okay, your boiler is broken and there is water all over the floor, what will you do? What will you search for?" Because you might find that your eyes are opened. Sometimes we're so far into our own industry and the words that we would use, we forget to actually ask the real people, the people who would be making the searches. So yeah, I'd recommend doing that first.

Jack: It sounds really cheesy, but funnily enough, Mark and I were talking about this on the podcast the other day, trying to “undigital” digital marketing a bit and think about, it's still marketing, it's still based on the principles that have been around for hundreds of years and human psychology. And whether you want to get listings in newspapers or websites, there's still that basic human element to it, of marketing that still applies.

Claire: What's the requirement here and how am I going to meet this person's needs better than anyone else?

Jack: Exactly, exactly. And covering another part of one of the courses you've done on the BrightLocal Academy, you're thinking about freelancing and working on that side of things. I thought it was really interesting how you talk about judging your worth as a local SEO person and understanding how you can explain that to your clients and how you can judge your ... what value you can bring to their business. Would you be able to expand on that a little bit for the listeners? So from that perspective, thinking about how you can, if our listeners are thinking about going freelance and you're working in agency or in house, taking that big leap and thinking about what can I charge? Who should I be approaching? What size businesses should I be approaching as a freelancer? All that kind of stuff. It's a very big topic.

Claire: Yeah. Where should we go with that one? I think that the whole freelancer thing, it's such a big area, isn't it? There's like 10 years ago it was a word, but people weren't necessarily thinking about it. And now there are so many books and Facebook groups and this whole thing about moving away from agency and living the dream, being a digital nomad, being a freelancer, which basically means that you're living hand to mouth really, but you can walk to Greggs and get a sausage roll on your own time.

If it's something as basic as what should you be charging, then there are lots of different ways to find that information, which is, well, what could people afford and what is the going rate or what might your competitors be charging? And then understanding what you are offering versus them, so understanding what your actual offering is.

One of the things that I always think about and that people sometimes forget to do is the measurement aspect of it in terms of what value you're providing for a business. So rather than saying, "I will optimize your alt tags and do this and do this and do this," saying something like, "I will make sure that you become more visible. You've got this much visibility for this search or you had this many phone calls or you had this, or you had that." So actually setting a benchmark and saying, "Well, we're going to see more of these." That's the idea, isn't it really?

It's not then, what's it called when you pay according to results? I'm not talking about that type of thing. I'm just saying that you can actually demonstrate to the business what value you've added and that is why you charge a rate of whatever. And then there's a lot of conversation in that community about offering services on a project basis versus having an hourly rate or a daily rate, which is again, another very interesting conversation.

So I'd say that I am not the go-to person for necessarily freelance insight along those lines, but the course itself is about how to pitch, how to think about pricing, how to grow or not grow, how to niche or not niche, it's all those types of things. So it's a really, really good foundation for people that are setting out, but not just people that are setting out, because a lot of the time we go, "Right, I'm going to do this thing," and then you do it, and you're like, "Right, okay. I'm not sure how to grow or I'm not sure how to scale." So it can be useful for people that haven't sat there and written down their elevator pitch or they haven't actually worked out what it is that they're doing and for whom. So hopefully the course will be useful for people, even if they've made that jump.

Jack: Yeah. I think another key part of that and something I touched on with Tom Critchlow, who we had on the show a few weeks ago as well.

Claire: You're such a name dropper!

Jack: I know. I know.

Claire: "Oh Tom. Oh yes!"

Jack: Thinking about managing client expectations as well. And I think, especially with freelancing, you've got to think about managing your own expectations. Like you said, having the, do I want to grow this quickly, having goals for yourself, as yourself as a business, essentially, and then thinking about managing those client expectations. What kind of advice could you give to people looking to go into working with small businesses specifically? Because I think there is different expectations you've got to manage with a big international company that's all across the world in various countries than a national company that is, as we used the example earlier, Wales, Norwich and Manchester or whatever it is. And then looking at a small business that is just my local hot chocolate shop or whatever it is.

Claire: Yeah. Yeah. I love your hot chocolate shop. It's the best.

Jack: When you come to Norwich, you're welcome to try my hot chocolate. How about that?

Claire: Can't wait. So excited. I think one of the things is like anything, you need to understand your target market. So if you're used to working with big organizations with lots of staff, you understand the key frustrations and key opportunities in that type of organizational setup. If you're starting to work with small business clients and that's who you want to target, then of course you need to spend some time understanding that landscape and their needs and their frustrations, the difficulties of working with them.

But if you do decide that you want to work with small business clients and that's who you're going to meet the needs of, there are obviously lots of different ways to operate within that. So you could be offering like a, for you service, or you could be offering a, I will teach you service, or you might be offering a, I will do it for you service. So there are also opportunities for small businesses, if there is like a pot of money that exists, that sort of ... It could be local council or whatever level, then you might find that your funding for your services doesn't come from the small businesses themselves, it comes from some pot. That's another thing to be aware of.

If you were putting together courses for small businesses, that can be another viable way to upscale local businesses in a way that is going to be appropriate for them to manage their own time. And that would be another revenue potential for somebody that was in the right geographic area where they could be offering that type of training, but it might be online. But I just do love the idea of going back to a little bit of face-to-face training.

Jack: So where can people find you across the internet, Claire Carlile?

Claire: Across the internet? So me, I am on Twitter a lot of the time. So I'm @clairecarlile. And then also BrightLocal, there is the academy which are free resources, you just need to have a login. So that is awesome. You've got some amazing local SEO minds and the courses there are such good, high quality and free. And then that's mostly where I am. And I'm writing stuff on the blog at BrightLocal as well in their Bright Ideas, so resources, keep staying on top of mostly Google My Business stuff. And then I wrote a piece on visual search recently, which I really enjoyed writing. So if anyone's got some time to go and read that and let me know what they think of it, I'd like that.

Jack: Brilliant. I will put a link for all of those things in the show notes, listeners, so you can go and check those out nice and easily. You go to, find all those links and the full transcript and everything of our conversation here today. Brilliant. Thanks very much for joining me, Claire. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Claire: Thank you so much. I can't wait to visit your ice cream-hot chocolate shop.

Jack: That's going to become a running joke on this show now, I'm worried.

Jack: So that's all we have time for this week. Thank you very much for listening. Thank you Claire Carlile for coming on the show. If you'd like to hear anyone else on the show, if you have any suggestions, if you'd like to be a guest on the show yourself, please do contact us and let us know. You can contact Mark or myself on Twitter. Once again, links in the show notes, if you want to contact us directly. And Mark and I will be back next week with more of the regular updates and news from the SEO, PBC and overall digital marketing news. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you next week.

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