Game of Local SEO Infographic

With the imminent arrival of Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones*, we thought it might be interesting to do a mash-up parody of Local SEO and the iconic series, simply titled Game of Local SEO. It was a really fun exercise to get into over the holidays, and there was some amazing crossovers between the 2 genres that we were able to exploit. We hope you enjoy our satirical take on the Game of Local SEO.

I now pronounce you, first of your name; King of the keywords and the first rankings; Lord of the 3 search engines; and Protector of the SERPs. Long may you reign!

Game of Local SEO infographic

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Game of Local SEO Infographic (accessible text version)

“When you play the Game of Local SEO, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” — Cersei Lannister – Season 1, Episode 7.

The Local Throne: If you look closely you’ll see the throne that Tywin is leaning on is actually the universal icon used to represent a local business or shop (awnings and all). One could call it The Iron Shop as an alternative to The Local Throne.

The Local SEO Process

1. Masterlist – The Unsullied
Obtain unsullied data from clients and compile it into a masterlist of locations to ensure data integrity and accuracy of information. Also allows the opportunity to track citations.

The GOT tie in: The unsullied army represents a pure, cohesive unit. In Local SEO having pure, accurate data for each location ensures consistency across the web.

2. Location Landing Pages are King – King’s Landing
Create a landing page for the business including information about the location and the local area. Do this for each location and ensure they are unique. Remember that every location landing page needs schema markup for best practice, and should include prominent display of the NAP.

The GOT tie in: The red palace is situated in King’s Landing. Lord Baelish is a schemer. He wants to sleep/NAP with Lady Sansa Stark. In Local SEO the location landing page is King. Each page needs a schema. Prominent NAP placement is also advised.

3. Google Local Products – Choose your liege
There are a range of Google Local products including Google Places, Google+ Local, Google My Business, Google Mapmaker and a couple of versions of Google Maps.

The GOT tie in: In the show there are several lords vying to be king, and as the series progresses some of those lords die. During Google’s Local Search reign we’ve seen some of their products come and go. Most notably the old Google Maps, Google Places and Google+ Local. These have been matched with a corresponding lord who has passed away (greyed out).

4. Climb The Wall of Citations – The Wall
“The climb is all there is…” — Petyr Baelish – Season 3, Episode 6

One of the main keys to success in Local SEO is gaining consistency in high quality citations in increasing volumes. These citations can appear like a vast wall to the optimiser, particularly if a business has more than a few locations.

The GOT tie in: The men of the Knight’s Watch defend a wall to keep the White Walkers from crossing into their realm. During the show many of the wildlings (a people that live North of the wall) climb the wall in order to gain access to the Northern realms. During their climb, the defenders drop a scythe which skates across the face of the wall cutting the climbers into pieces. In Local SEO, the citations we need to obtain can sometimes appear like a gigantic wall of work that we are constantly climbing in order to create success for our clients. SEOs should remove old location listings that are no longer viable, taking to them like a scythe to the wall.

5. Use the Data Aggregators First – Giants
Data aggregators are large companies whose main focus is to compile accurate spatial data in vast volumes. This data is then bought by companies who engage in mapping technology to populate and supplement their sources to ensure they have comprehensive coverage (Axciom, Netstar Localeze, Factual, Infogroup are considered the main 4 data aggregators, whilst Foursquare is also trying to compete in the space).

The GOT tie in: The giants in GOT, are a race of giant humanoids who have immense strength and who can turn a battle. When attacking the wall, the wildlings employ the giants early on to break down a barricade to make their job easier. In Local SEO, the data aggregators are generally referred to as the big 4 (5). Having correct and accurate data in these data giants early on, can ensure that the correct data flows through to other entities who use this data further on down the line, thus making the job of climbing the wall of citations that little bit easier.

6. Citation Account Managers – Where are my dragons!
Citation account managers can help facilitate a much smoother process when adding, updating or removing listings from a particular citation. If you have multiple locations then they are the go-to person for obtaining a bulk upload process to save time.

The GOT tie in: Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons, is a queen vying for the throne of Westeros who has in her employ 3 dragons. She builds a strong bond with these dragons who clear a path for her whenever she takes over a new location (Qarth, Yunkai, Meereen). In Local SEO, we build strong relationships with account managers at citations, so that we can work together in creating good data whenever our clients acquire a new location (or divest one).

7. Trusted Customer Reviews – Rally your bannermen
In a Local SEO survey done by Bright Local in 2014, they discovered that 88% of people trust online customer reviews as much as a personal recommendation. A further 72% of people said they would take action after reading a positive review. These valuable insights clearly show the power of online reviews for local businesses.

The GOT tie in: Each Lord in the show has trusted bannermen that he can rely on to rally to the cause when he runs for the throne. These bannermen can make or break the Lord’s campaign. In many situations the Lords do things that upset the bannermen. In some situations they manage to make amends for their error through penance with that bannerman, however in others they are seen to neglect their follower causing them to turn on him, resulting in swift death to that Lord. In Local SEO, it is imperative to have a review strategy that allows the business to communicate and create a positive relationship with its audience. If customers are unhappy, a savvy business will take immediate steps to remedy the situation, usually through great customer service, that wins that customer back to the brand. If customers are neglected, they can turn on brands, and in this online age this can spell the death of a brand or business.

Local SEO Pain Points

1. Google Places / Google My Business deleted listings – The White Walkers
Google Places / Google My Business has a bug/glitch whereby you can delete an owned and verified listing from the account; it will be confirmed by Google to be removed; and then you can physically see that it has disappeared from the account. An hour later, upon returning to the account, the listing will be there in all its glory, defying the death you gave it. There are a couple of reasons why this may occur:

  • If there are a multitude of consistent citations pointing to a location being in existence, Google may decide that location indeed exists and reinstate it on the map
  • There could be a syncing issue with Google’s databases (occurs frequently) such that the deletion didn’t “take” and despite confirming the removal, it was never actually removed

The GOT tie in: In the GOT series the rarely seen but always there White Walkers are an undead humanoid race who turn other humans into them, as they traverse the icy regions of Westeros. They are the one enemy that all characters in the show fear utterly. Andrew Shotland, in an entertaining piece he did for Search Engine Land, declared that deleted Google Places listings were like “the walking dead”. Until you’ve experienced this phenomena on a grand scale you might not fully understand Andrew’s perspective. Once you have, those 19 dead client listings, you deleted 3 times last year, that are currently sitting in your account, will make you relive the fear. I can already feel the chills down my spine.

2. Client Local Questions – Responding to Hodor
Ha! This one is a doozy. You’ve just completed your Local campaign for a client, and created some fantastic results, then come the questions. Typically it begins with the NAP, but then moves on to Local SEO itself. Local? What’s Local? Before you know it you are explaining bricks ‘n’ mortar, neighbourhoods and, you guessed it, what it means to be local.

The GOT tie in: Hodor is a character in the show who is enthusiastic and wants to do good, but who often misunderstands and misreads the situation. Because of this and the fact that his communication is limited to one word, Hodor, his name, it means that interpreting what he is saying can be difficult, even when tonality or timing is taken into account. Young Bran Stark doesn’t give up on Hodor though. He takes the time to understand and build a bond with him as his leader and in return Hodor becomes a very strong ally. So too with clients, they can often ask the same questions over and over again, which have been answered and justified, and yet, “local? what’s local?” can often be the first question they fire off after you’ve completed their Local campaign. Whilst initially it can be frustrating, educating the client can foster a stronger bond with them and create a reliance on you to be their leader.

3. Missing Key Data in Places Listings – Missing Something?
Google works in mysterious ways. Despite lauding their Google My Business product (which replaced Google+ Local and Places), they seem to have devoted minimal resources to ensuring that the product has a consistent and accurate roll-out. Results for listings can vary, and in many cases crucial data can be missing from listings including opening hours, descriptions, phone numbers, categorisation, correct branding, photography, etc.

The GOT tie in: Theon Greyjoy is a dark character who betrays his liege lord, and winds up paying the ultimate price having a key appendage removed from his body. This missing body part was a crucial ingredient in making Theon who he was. Without it he is easily manipulated and becomes the vile sycophant Reek. If your listings in Google Places are missing key data, they too can lose their identity particularly if they are missing or have incorrect opening hours (which will then have Google telling people you are closed when you aren’t) or phone numbers (meaning people either cannot contact you or have an incorrect phone number to call). These can lead to poor experiences through no fault of your own, and are a crucial pain point when it comes to Local SEO.

4. Incorrect Pin Placement – Need a Hand Finding Us?
Every successive iteration of Google’s mapping technology has handled pin placements extremely poorly. For some indefineable reason, Google lacks the ability to accurately pinpoint locations. As a result businesses are often placed on the map quite a distance from where they actually are. With the advent of Google My Business, the latitude and longitude fields were done away with, which in our opinion has created more headaches than it has solved.

The GOT tie in: Poor Jaime Lannister. The sarcastic swarthy son of Tywin, got his hand removed during one of his “Do you know who my daddy is?” moments. Losing lat/long was like losing a hand. Hence – Need a hand finding us? Because some people might, to find your business.

5. Google Bugs – Kunk, Kunk, Kunk
Throughout its lifecycle the Google Local product has experienced numerous glitches and bugs. Like any software/application these things are observed and repaired over time. Some doozies include dupe listings, multiple owners, and the dreaded december hi-jack.

The GOT tie in: Tyrion and Jaime recount the story of their cousin Orson who had an obsession with crushing bugs as a kid. A good Local SEO will always have an unhealthy obsession with crushing Google bugs. There are mechanisms in place to report all bugs and Google has been known to act on them and fix what isn’t working… Sometimes… Kunk! Kunk! Kunk!

Who You Need To Be

This section is a quick snapshot of the hats you need to wear in order to be successful in your Local SEO campaigns.

  • PoliticianTyrion successfully navigates the court with his cunning and guile – You will need to negotiate and compromise with Google’s platforms/technology in order to get the best results for your clients.
  • AssertorThe Hound asserts his authority through unmatched strength and sword skill – You will need to assert your authority with associations by hounding them to make changes to ensure consistency on your clients behalf.
  • SpyVarys is a sneaky spy who learns all his opponents secrets and then uses them to his advantage – You will need to spy on your competitors and learn all their secrets and use them to your advantage.
  • AdvisorSir Jorah Mormont aka Mr Friendzone, acts as the Queens trusted advisor steering her strategies in the right direction – You will need to be a trusted advisor to your clients, ensuring their strategies come to fruition.
  • AdaptorJaqen H’ghar is a man who is able to adapt his face according to the conditions he faces – You will need to adapt your strategies to the changing Google algorithm environment.
  • Rich – The Iron Bank of Bravos is immeasurably rich, funding the major combatants in the war of Westeros, without engaging in any of the politics or battles themselves – In order to avoid having to engage in the activities above, you too would need to be rich. A fistful of $$$ can make many a problem disappear.

Gauging Success

1. Local Pack
Represented by a pack of 7 direwolves from the show, the local pack (or 7-pack) offers an opportunity to gauge success of our local campaigns through tracking data, and also placement.

2. Reporting & Insights
The generals in the show conduct their campaigns with strategic input from their Captains, who report on major news and offer any insights into how these may be exploited. Whilst working for your clients, reporting on the current state of play and deriving insights will allow you to take the upper hand against competitors.

When you lose the Game of Local SEO

If you happen to fail in your Local SEO campaign these are the responses you can typically expect from…

Your Client
No more gold. Your disappointed client will probably sack you.

The GOT tie in: An angry Mord saying “No More Gold!”.

Your Boss
Pretty straightforward, a derogatory statement fired straight at you.

The GOT tie in: Jon Snow is the bastard son of Ned Stark.

Your Peers
“You know nothing of Local SEO” is what they might just tell you.

The GOT tie in: Ygritte, the wildling and Jon Snow’s woman, was always happy to tell him “You know nothing Jon Snow”

Your Career
“What we don’t know is usually what gets us killed” — Petyr Baelish – Season 3, Episode 6

Failing at Local SEO could lop the head off your career options.

The GOT tie in: Ned Stark lost his head when he failed to navigate the court succesfully (he wasn’t a very good politician… too honest and trustworthy).

Your Rankings
When your rankings are no longer King of the North, Matt Cutts (Google’s head of webspam) may just send his regards.

The GOT tie in: The King of the North, Robb Stark, is executed by one of his bannermen when they realise that his campaign is going nowhere.

Your Competitors
Failing to finish off your competitors, could see them winning the rankings war.

The GOT tie in: Oberon Martell seemingly has victory at hand, but stops to grandstand instead of finishing off his competitor. The opponent seizes the opportunity and destroys Oberon.

Winning the Game of Local SEO

“I’ve finally found a suitable reward for the services you’ve provided” — Tyrion Lannister – Season 3, Episode 3

Winning the Game of Local SEO is no easy feat, but if you manage it there are vast rewards on offer – for you and your client, particularly if you exceed expectations.

The GOT tie in: Podrick succeeds in his squire role, exceeding his master’s expectations and Tyrion rewards him with a night at the brothel, and the services of 3 uniquely talented ladies — A Lannister always pays his debts.

This infographic has been brought to you by the good people at NAPtastic and Info Vilesilencer.

*Disclaimer: Game of Thrones is owned by HBO. This infographic is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with HBO or the show Game of Thrones. This infographic is a parody of the Game of Thrones show for satirical purposes only.

– F I N –

Dan Paris

Dan Paris

Co-founder at NAPtastic
Dan Paris is a local SEO proselytiser; evangelising about all things local in the AU bricks 'n' clicks digital space from citations to barnacle SEO and everything in between.
Dan Paris
Dan Paris
Dan Paris

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