The Truth About Local SEO: Why Traditional Tactics Won’t Rank Your Plumbing Client

The Truth About Local SEO: Why Traditional Tactics Won’t Rank Your Plumbing Client

Google’s new quality rater guidelines add “Experience” to E-A-T, valuing real-world knowledge for better search results.

Google’s search algorithms have gotten remarkably good at providing users with helpful, relevant results for their queries. However, as a business trying to rank locally, creating content that Google views as “helpful” is not always straightforward.

The intent behind a user’s local search query is often different than a generic informational query. When someone searches for “plumber Denver,” they likely want to find contact info and reviews for plumbers operating in that city. An article about “how to install a toilet” may not be that helpful for ranking locally.

At the same time, Google does want sites to publish comprehensive, original content to rank well. This presents a challenge for local businesses trying to balance creating content that satisfies users and also meets Google’s guidelines.

In this article, we’ll explore Google’s focus on helpful content, what that means for local SEO, and how you can optimize your content strategy. While producing helpful content is important, it may require a different approach for local businesses compared to sites targeting general informational searches.

Google Wants Helpful Content

Google’s core mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. As part of that mission, Google Search aims to provide the most helpful and relevant results to users’ queries.

In recent years, Google has placed more emphasis on rewarding helpful, high-quality content in search rankings through initiatives like the Helpful Content Update. The goal is to better identify content that provides a satisfying experience for searchers and meets their needs.

Google uses machine learning and automated classifiers to detect unhelpful or low-value content across the web. Sites with excessive amounts of unhelpful content may be penalized in rankings. On the flip side, sites with predominantly helpful, original content focused on benefiting users are more likely to be rewarded.

Some key factors Google looks for in assessing helpfulness include:

  • Provides value, original information and research beyond just repeating or rewriting other sources
  • Written with expertise and an in-depth understanding of the topic
  • Aims to satisfy searchers rather than just target keywords or rankings
  • High-quality, substantial content comparable to professionally edited publications
  • Transparent sourcing and evidence of first-hand experience where relevant
  • Avoids factual errors, exaggeration, and shock tactics

By focusing on creating content that adheres to these helpfulness principles, sites can expect to fare better in Google’s rankings over the long term. User satisfaction is now one of the most critical elements of SEO success.

What Makes Content Helpful?

The most helpful content provides value to readers by being original, comprehensive, and insightful. Here are some key elements of high-quality, helpful content:

  • Original information and analysis: Content should provide new information and ideas, not just rehash or copy from other sources. Useful analysis and commentary that builds on other information can qualify as original.
  • Comprehensiveness: Aim to provide a complete overview of the topic at hand, not just a superficial treatment. Thoroughly cover the key aspects readers need to know.
  • Insightfulness: Include interesting analysis and information beyond the obvious facts. Provide unique insights and food for thought.
  • High quality: The writing and research should be comparable to content found in professional publications. Have high standards for accuracy, evidence, expertise etc.
  • Valuable to readers: Consider what readers need and want to know. Make sure the content serves their interests rather than just targeting SEO keywords.
  • Satisfying depth: Leave readers feeling they have a comprehensive understanding of the topic so they don’t have to look elsewhere.

Helpful content delivers substantive value to readers rather than thin or superficial information. Google wants to reward in-depth, original analysis and reporting.

Google’s Helpful Content Updates

Google regularly updates their helpful content guidelines to improve how their systems identify and rank helpful, high-quality content. Some key points about Google’s helpful content updates:

  • The helpful content system is an automated ranking signal that aims to reward original, satisfying content while reducing the impact of low-value or unhelpful pages. This signal is applied across languages and content types.
  • The system uses machine learning to classify sites based on their overall level of helpful content. Any content on sites deemed to have more unhelpful content may be impacted.
  • Google periodically refines the helpful content classifier, often coinciding with published “helpful content updates.” Sites can recover if quality improves after an update.
  • The latest helpful content update in December 2022 added “Experience” as another E, assessing if content demonstrates real-world expertise.
  • Updated rater guidelines provide more nuance around quality coming in different formats from diverse sources. Expertise is still valued but so is first-hand experience.
  • The guidelines help search raters evaluate systems but do not directly control rankings. Still, they indicate what creators should aim for in their content.
  • Google’s helpful content best practices explain how to self-assess content for success within these systems.

The key is to focus on satisfying users’ needs and publishing original, substantive content. Monitoring Google’s updates helps ensure your content aligns with their evolving quality standards.

Optimizing for Users, Not Just Search

When creating content, it’s important to focus first and foremost on being helpful for users, not just optimizing for search engine rankings. As Google’s guidelines emphasize, content should provide original information and value for readers.

While search engine optimization is still relevant, Google’s algorithms have advanced to better detect content that seems overly optimized just for ranking purposes. So don’t just fill your content with keywords – write naturally for a human audience.

Think about the intent behind user queries and what they are looking to get out of your content. Address their needs and questions directly in an easy-to-read format. Make sure information is clearly organized, comprehensive, and follows logical sequences.

Having expertise and conducting original analysis is more valuable than repeating the same generic information found elsewhere. Provide insights and perspectives that users won’t find on every other site. Share your unique experiences and knowledge on a topic.

Ultimately, focusing on creating high-quality content for your readers first will indirectly help with search rankings. But obsessively optimizing just for Google can backfire by producing stale, low-value content. Keep the user experience at the heart of your content strategy.

The Role of Expertise and Experience

Google has recently updated their quality rater guidelines to emphasize the importance of both expertise and experience when evaluating helpful content. This addition of an extra “E” to E-A-T highlights that there are two valuable types of knowledge – formal expertise gained through study and training, and practical experience gained by living through something first-hand.

When creating content, it’s important to understand this distinction. There are certainly topics that require true subject-matter expertise, where credentials and academic knowledge are critical. Medical advice, legal analysis, and financial guidance often fall into this category.

However, for many topics like product reviews, travel recommendations, or advice on life experiences, first-hand personal experience is incredibly valuable. Google recognizes that someone who has actually used a product or visited a destination can provide a unique perspective that formal training alone cannot replicate.

For local businesses and services, experience also matters in establishing trust and relevance. A detailed review of a local restaurant by a fellow resident who has eaten there multiple times is more insightful than a generic description. Repair technicians who have actually fixed common issues carry more weight than textbook explanations when giving maintenance tips.

Ultimately, Google aims to surface both kinds of high-quality information to search users – that which comes from recognized domain experts, as well as that drawn from practical real-world knowledge. By keeping this in mind, content creators can better evaluate their own experiences and determine when to emphasize hands-on expertise over academic authority when producing helpful content.

Local SEO Content Challenges

While creating helpful content is the goal, this can be especially challenging for local businesses targeting local searches. Generic “best plumber” articles don’t provide much value and won’t rank well. The content needs to be useful and insightful for potential local customers.

Some ideas for local SEO content:

  • Blog posts or articles that provide helpful information, tips, and local insights related to your services. For example, a plumber could create content on how to unclog different types of drains or pipe maintenance tips.
  • Detailed information about specific local services you offer, going beyond general descriptions. Explain your local expertise.
  • Local area guides with recommendations and insights, like “Best Neighborhoods for Families in Denver” for a real estate site.
  • Interesting local facts, history, and statistics that would appeal to potential customers in your geographic area.
  • Profiles on individual team members spotlighting their specialized local experience and expertise.
  • Content addressing common local customer pain points, questions, or concerns.

The goal is to demonstrate genuine local knowledge and value. Avoid overly promotional or sales-focused content. Inform and help potential customers with useful local insights.

Examples of Helpful Local Content

While rankings are important, the focus should be on creating content that is genuinely helpful for potential customers in your area. Here are some examples of local content that can provide value:

Location-Specific Service Pages

Having dedicated pages for services you offer in specific metro areas can be useful. This allows you to tailor the content to the needs of local searchers. For example, a plumber in Denver could have pages like “Emergency Plumbing Service in Denver, CO” or “Water Heater Repair in Aurora, CO”.

Neighborhood Service Guides

Creating guides to working with service providers in specific neighborhoods can also be helpful. You can include sections on average prices, what to look out for, questions to ask, and recommended local companies.

Seasonal Maintenance Checklists

Checklists focused on seasonal maintenance can provide a lot of value for locals. For example, a roofing company could have a checklist for inspecting your roof each spring and fall. An HVAC company could have one for preparing AC units for summer and winter.

Cost Guides

Compiling data and providing analysis on the typical costs of services in your area is very useful for locals. Make sure to note what factors cause prices to vary.

‘X Things to Know’ Articles

Articles that highlight insider knowledge and tips specific to a city can perform well. For example, “10 Things to Know Before Moving to Denver”.

Local Reviews

Well-written overviews of your experiences with local businesses like contractors, dentists, mechanics, etc. can help other locals. Focus on details that would be useful to someone trying to make a hiring decision.

Events Calendars

Calendars with upcoming community events, festivals, and happenings are appreciated by locals looking for activities.

The key is providing in-depth, insider knowledge on topics that locals regularly search for. Avoid thin, repetitive, or generic content. Value should come from your localized perspective and expertise.

Measuring Content Helpfulness

You can measure how helpful your content is in a few key ways:

  • User engagement metrics – Track metrics like time on page, bounce rate, scroll depth, and pages per session. Content that keeps users engaged shows signs of being helpful and useful. Optimizing content to improve these metrics can make it more helpful.
  • Qualitative user feedback – Get direct feedback through surveys, interviews, or user testing. Asking users what they found helpful or not about your content provides concrete insights into improving it.
  • Search performance – Monitor your important keywords and rankings. Content that ranks well for valuable queries likely provides a helpful user experience. Declines may indicate issues with helpfulness.
  • Social sharing – Content that gets frequently shared likely resonates as interesting and helpful. An increase in social shares is a positive indicator.
  • Backlinks – More sites linking to your content as a resource can signify it provides helpful information and value. Useful content tends to attract more quality backlinks over time.
  • Return visitors – Having many return visitors shows your content answers user needs. These visitors find your content helpful for their ongoing interests.

Regularly evaluating your content across metrics like these can reveal opportunities to optimize and improve its helpfulness to users. The higher quality and more helpful your content, the better it will perform across these areas.

Google’s Latest Ranking Update Can Still Work For Your Local SEO Clients

When creating content, it’s important to keep in mind that Google wants to reward helpful, high-quality content that serves users’ needs. Their focus is on the user experience and delivering value through search results.

While expertise and authoritativeness have traditionally been key ranking factors, Google also recognizes the value of first-hand experience when evaluating content quality. This is especially true for certain topics where real-world knowledge brings additional context.

For local businesses like plumbers, creating helpful content means understanding user intent and providing the information searchers truly need. Tactics that work for large brands don’t necessarily translate to local SEO success. Instead, focus on addressing common issues and questions from a local perspective.

In the end, optimizing content for search engines alone is not enough. Aim to produce substantial, original content that leaves readers satisfied and informed. Measure engagement, feedback, and conversions to determine what resonates. The most helpful content brings value to users first. That is what Google ultimately wants to reward.