Interview: In Conversation with Andrew Shotland, Founder and CEO of Local SEO Guide Inc.
Andrew Shotland is one of the top local search consultants in the world. He is the CEO and Founder of LocalSEOGuide, a boutique SEO agency that offers SEO, search engine advertising, website strategy and local search consulting with a specialty in yellow pages and local directories SEO. He is also the editor of the popular Local SEO Guide Blog.
Andrew has over 20 years of experience in the Internet and has consulted with several brands like Bing.com, DexKnows.com, Yellowbook.com, The Los Angeles Times, Cox Communications, The New York Daily News, The Yellow Pages Group Co. Of Candada, Ingenio/AT & T, D & B & Sequoia Capital, NBC, Insider Pages and many more.
Andrew is also a contributing author at the reputable Search Engine Land and he is also often invited to speak at various industry events including SMX, MNSearch, Rocks Digital, Yext on Tour and State of Search – Dallas.
In this interview, Andrew talks about his career, his agency localseoguide, Google, local SEO, the latest possum update and he also shares his experience working the NBC and lot more. Read on.
Kavin Paulson: Hi Andrew, thank you so much for taking time for the interview out of your busy schedule. Please tell us something that we do not know about you.
Andrew Shotland: I have a tradition where I never answer the first question in an interview
KP: Ha ha..well, tell us more about localseoguide.com and your team.
AS: LSG is a full-service “boutique” SEO consulting agency. We have three primary practice areas: SEO for multi-location brands, ecommerce/media SEO audits & strategy & white label Local SEO consulting for other agencies. We have an amazing team of really smart people who actually enjoy doing SEO. Clients seem to appreciate that.
KP: Please briefly walk us through your career path.
AS: No way to do it briefly but I was fortunate enough to be the low man on the totem pole at Showtime Networks when the Internet came along so I got to launch its first website. From there I joined NBC’s first Internet group and ran NBC.com back when it was weird to see URLs on TV. I got into SEO when I helped start InsiderPages, an early Yelp competitor. We needed a lot of traffic and I heard about this thing called “SEO”. I tried it and it worked….until we redesigned the site and lost millions of users over night. That forced me to really learn it. When we sold the company to CitySearch in 2006 I accidentally started LSG because a guy at the LATimes.com was about to redesign their site and I told him what happened to me. They became my first SEO consulting client.
KP: Talk about those days when you formed the NBC’s Internet group and also share with us the experience working on NBC-IN, the first national network of local TV station websites.
AS: It was total wild west chaos. I was in charge of all of the non-entertainment stuff. They wouldn’t let me talk to anyone in Hollywood. We were on the same floor as Saturday Night Live – which I thought would be awesome – and those guys thought we were all losers. Colin Quinn was nice to us but that’s about it. I’m not bitter. The only time I spoke with Lorne Michaels, he told me “just don’t fuck things up”. Anyhow I came up with this idea to aggregate all of the local TV station websites together to form a network and the head of the division told me not to bother because the affiliate stations were a pain in the ass and no one at corporate cared about them. About 3 months later, Warner Brothers announced their own network on TV station websites. About 24 hours later I was asked to present my plan to Bob Wright, the CEO at the time. When he asked why we hadn’t put this into action already, I tried not to throw my boss under the bus…too much
KP: At InsiderPages, you developed SEO strategy and deployed techniques that resulted in 3 million unique visitors and 600000 reviews of local businesses. Can you share with us the core strategy and techniques that made the difference?
AS: Pay a lot of people to generate reviews. Hope non-paid people start joining in. Do SEO. That’ about it.
KP: How do you think the local SEO has changed over the years?
AS: Google has gotten better at ranking local business sites and GMB pages v local directory sites. The competition between businesses and against Google’s takeover of the SERP real estate has gotten pretty intense.
KP: A few words about the latest Possum update.
AS: Yawn. This is not the update you are looking for. Go about your business of SEO and stop worrying about animals.
KP: What are the challenges in local SEO and what are the common mistakes committed by businesses when it comes to local SEO? … and your advice to them would be?
AS: The biggest challenges are always prioritizing Local SEO, investing in Local SEO and proving its value to clients. For example, we have a 300-location client where we clearly made a significant impact on their local rankings and traffic, but all they care about is phone calls and they would not invest in call-tracking so we could attribute calls to SEO – hard to blame them as it would have been complicated and costly – but then they had no idea of their SEO was working or not. It’s certainly not always easy to get clients more business via SEO, but we find these kind of client management issues are often much more challenging than the actual execution of the program. So we are very up front about these issues at the beginning of each engagement and pretty much all the way through as clients tend to forget that we warned them about this six months ago.
KP: What are the key changes in Local SEO you see in the near future?
AS: Pretty much more mobile. We also continue to see a lot more local search traffic going through Apple Maps/iOS and hence not Google. So understanding the Apple local search ecosystem is becoming more important.
KP: Can you recommend a few tools for local SEO?
AS: We have a big list at http://www.localseoguide.com/local-seo-tools/ and here are some others:
We also just released an update of our free NAP Hunter tool which makes finding citations really easy and fast
KP: Where do you see Google five years from now?
AS: I see them struggling to be more of a phone/AI company – see Google Pixel – v a Search company. There will still be a huge amount of $ in search but as things go more mobile/AI, that means less ad inventory. Who wants an AI with ads right? So I think they are pivoting as fast as they can to build an iPhone-like business.
KP: If you weren’t an SEO consultant, what would you have been?
AS: I always have enjoyed writing/creative arts type stuff, so hopefully I would be doing something in that area. Four years ago I made a Downfall video that got over 180k views. I am probably more proud of that goofy thing than any #1 ranking I have achieved.
KP: How would you describe yourself in one word?
AS: Wait, am I on The Dating Game?
KP: If you could change something about yourself, what would it be and why?
AS: I would make it that every time Donald Trump speaks my brain would make so all I hear coming out of his mount is The Dating Game theme song.
KP: On a lighter note, what would you do if you woke up one morning and found out that you had become Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google?
AS: I’d make this post rank #1 for “alan bleiweiss” queries. Pretty sure my strategy would be “petty tyrant”
KP: Thank you so much Andrew. It was great talking to you.
AS: great typing with you too
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