Red Hat cubes
I just coined a new term. “Red Hat” Local SEO. As everyone knows “Black Hat” and “Gray Hat” are where you break or skirt the boundaries of Google guidelines. I don’t do that. However I do take every ethical advantage to make my clients listings not only rank, but stand out from their competition.

“Red Hat” = Smart, Bright, Bold Optimization! Red hat optimization involves thinking outside the box, discovering and utilizing advanced techniques that help make a listing stand out and give conversion rates a boost. Here’s a great example of something I’ve been doing for awhile and just decided to share.

Here’s the Place page for a Dentist I recently took from #16 to #2 on Google for all his main keywords. (Using some ninja Red Hat ON-SITE SEO techniques.) Note he only has 1 Google review which does not look good. BUT he has over 100 reviews on a Dental review site Google was not counting in the algo. So all those great reviews don’t show on his Place page at all.

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW FULL SIZE

That one little red hat technique provides several important benefits:

1) The 5 Stars grab attention and help counteract the lack of Google reviews
2) Surfaces previously hidden great reviews and puts them ABOVE the fold
3) Gets an additional “call to action” ABOVE the fold
4) Gives G breadcrumb to reviews she hasn’t spidered? (Not sure it will work)

Here is the back story and explanation about why I used this “Red Hat” optimization technique and how I did it.

If you have LOTS of reviews on 3rd party review sites you likely felt the pain when Google dropped or de-emphasized those reviews due to the July 21st Google Places update. For example many Dentists I know are on DemandForce and had over 100 reviews. After the update many only had 1 or 2 Google reviews and the DF reviews were hidden below the fold.

Even though the change that de-emphasized non-Google reviews was only a front end cosmetic change (all the reviews still count in the back end algo), their loss was felt. Businesses that have spent energy building up their reviews are PROUD of them. Plus having more reviews than your competitors can be a deciding factor when new potential customers/patients choose who they are going to call or click.

So this technique helps you get those little tiny 3rd party review links that are buried down low on your Place page up above the fold where they are more visible and stand out.

In the example above the Dentist’s 100 reviews were on a Dental Review site, similar to DemandForce that Google was not consistently counting or showing, even before the update. So to help give Google a breadcrumb trail and encourage her to spider all the reviews, I used the Google URL shortener to link to the page his reviews are on. My theory? Since goo.gl is a Google service and since G loves to follow links – I can only assume this COULD POSSIBLY help her find my Dentists reviews, which COULD POSSIBLY help a little with his rankings. (Keep in mind reviews are only one small part of the algo).

Additionally when I 1st started using this trick he had the missing description bug so there was just a big white space with no warm copy. So to fill up the blank space AND to help potential patients find all his great reviews AND to help Google hopefully index those reviews to boost his ranking – I added this copy to his Place page.

The one and a half lines of text right above the images is called a post and there is more info below about how to add a post to your Place page if you don’t know how. Plus be sure to read below for the significance of using the Google URL shortener.

There are a variety of ways to use the post feature to your advantage, depending on the client and what info you want to highlight to surfers. I just did Place pages for 2 new Dentists that had 3rd party reviews scattered around a few sites. So unlike the example above I could not put one link and say “see all our reviews here”. So I tried a little different strategy and simply told potential new patients where to look to see ALL the reviews.

“See ★★★★★ reviews from over 120 of our happy patients right below the images. Call our caring team today and see what a difference a healthy new smile can make!”

So here are the steps to do what I share above.

1) If you have 3rd party reviews you want to link directly to, because they do not show up at all on Google 0 go to the Google URL shortener and create a short link.

2) Next log into Google Places. Write a friendly POST to your Place page and mention to either click the link to see your reviews elsewhere or advise to look under the images to see all your reviews.

Here are Google’s instructions for how to Post on your Place page.

Note: Posts only last for 30 days and are limited to 160 characters. They show ABOVE your description so have high placement that potential new customers/patients should notice.

So while I never used the “post” feature before, I am now! I use it to add more relevant content or a friendlier message, in addition to highlighting my client’s reviews.

RED HAT ALERT – WARNING – DISCLAIMER: There are no written guidelines saying you can’t use ascii or drop links in posts. So as far as I know it’s allowed. However we all know that sometimes Google penalizes for things that aren’t expressly prohibited. I don’t see a problem with doing any of this and all my client listings are fine. However if a bunch of spammers abuse the post feature, they could ruin it for us all. So do your due diligence and use at your own risk.

Bottom Line: If Google gives you EXTRA real estate, ABOVE the fold – take it! I never used the post feature before, but I sure do now!

Photo credit: Jared Smith