Interview With Local SEO Expert – Joy Hawkins

Talking with the Author of the “Expert’s Guide on Local SEO” – Joy Hawkins




Hey everyone! It’s Chaz Edwards with another episode of GMB Face-off.

Today, we’re joined by Joy Hawkins who’s gonna speak to us about her “Expert’s Guide on Local SEO”.


CHAZ: Joy, thank you for joining me and welcome to GMB Face-off. Can you introduce yourself for anybody that doesn’t know who you are?

JOY: Sure! So, I’m Joy, thanks for having me. For those of you that don’t know who I am, I run an agency up here in Canada. We help small business owners wrap their heads around GMB & local search, and we do a lot of training for agencies as well.

I am also part of a group called the Top Contributor program with Google, which is like a group of volunteers that helps out on Google My Business Forum.

So, we basically help users all day that are having problems with Google My Business. And I also recently acquired the local search forum which was previously run by Linda Buquet—she retired and sold me her forum.


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That’s awesome! I didn’t know you ran a local search forum. I was actually looking at the site the other day. Can you tell us a little bit about what led you to create the “Expert’s Guide to Local SEO”?

Sure, yeah! So, before I started my agency, I actually worked for another agency that focused on local SEO—and my primary job there was to do training with staff. So we had this internal wiki that we used to try to keep updated with all the latest practices, but it just kept going out-of-date really quickly! Things that were maybe true for a couple of years all of a sudden stopped working, or new processes came up, and it was like a constant job just to keep it that wiki updated.

And so I get to thinking; how much better would it be if there was a resource out there, that could be purchased and then maintained with a small fee so that you don’t have to pay an in-house expert for all these updates.


Okay, awesome! So, was the internal wiki originally a document used in-house for the agency? And then, you expanded on that and developed a guide that you now have for sale?

Well no, I didn’t use anything at all from the aforementioned internal wiki at the old company. I started from scratch while I was on maternity leave. I had a few months and while my baby was sleeping, I just got to work and I figured once it got to a hundred and fifty pages, I’d be ready to publish the first version.

I was compiling ideas based on common questions that came up on the forums where I participate, I wanted to make sure included step-by-step instructions of how to solve some of the main problems that we see on a regular basis.


That’s awesome! I did read it myself; the version that I read was over two hundred and fifty pages. Very thorough. Very comprehensive. A lot of good knowledge in there, and I’m better off having read it. So, congratulations on it!

And it’s something that you’ve been working on for quite a while too, you continue to update it right?

Yeah! So, basically every month, I usually spend four to six hours updating it.

We are always testing new things here at Sterling Sky. So, as we find some new tactics that work, I’ll add it to my ‘To add’ list—which is really long—and then, at the end of the month, I’ll go through that list and start actually turning all of those different things into content for the guide. The way it has been going, I’ve been adding somewhere between five to ten pages a month.

But I’m also removing stuff as it becomes obsolete. So that way, people aren’t reading through something and thinking “Does this still work?” It’s also a big job just to keep the current stuff ‘current’ and make sure that there isn’t any information in there that doesn’t work anymore.


Ok, awesome. In your opinion, is this designed more for beginners? Or more for professionals?

I’d definitely say professionals. It’s part of why we titled it ‘the expert’s guide’. I didn’t want a beginner who has no idea what a ‘title tag’ is to just jump in there and get lost. So, I don’t necessarily define things that I assume most SEO’s know; I assume people know what a backlink is and all that kind of stuff. It’s designed more for people that have an SEO background but not a strong background in local SEO.


For savvy business owners, but more for somebody in the industry?.



Awesome. So that kinda goes with our next question. Who is gonna benefit most from the guide? 

I’d say agencies because they can use it for training. It’s really expensive to send someone to a conference these days, so my guide is really cheap in comparison.

But we also have a lot of solo practitioners that buy it. So, you know, that guy in his basement that does his own local SEO, just him and no employees. A lot of those guys also really benefit from it because they might not have the time to keep on top of every little thing that is happening in ‘Google World’.

Those are probably the main two audiences that get the most from it.


Awesome. And I can say that when we got the guide, we actually used it for some in-house training for some of our Web 20 Ranker GMB optimization staff as well. It was part of our resource collection that we use. It was definitely great doing it that way. Saved us time from having to compile all that stuff and, like I said, you see it day in and day out because you are a contributor on the GMB forum as well. A great resource if you have the time to sit there and dig through all the questions and answers.




Seriously, how many people really have that time? It’s a great idea to compile all that info into one central source. So, the guide that I saw has over 250 pages (and might be more now). How often do you add new content? And will you ever stop adding new content? Or will you just continue growing your guide?

Yeah, I can’t ever see a day when I stop adding content. Because my ‘to add’ list is actually growing at a rate that I almost can’t keep up with. So even with me spending 4-6 hours a month on it, the list is longer than it was six months ago.

So, I can’t imagine that ever changing, just because of how fast Google keeps changing things. Things that used to work, now don’t work, and all that kind of stuff.

Currently, it’s in a pdf format. We are moving it to WordPress, hopefully sometime by the end of the year. So, at that point, it’ll be an online resource that people can basically just log-in to and then search for whatever topic they like. WordPress will also include a full list of every update that we’ve done each month.


That’s awesome. How does your guide go along with Local U? Can you explain that for us really quick?

Yeah. So it came about because I was sitting down with Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling at a Local U event. And I pitched them an idea I was toying around with.

And they came back like; “We’ve been wanting to do something like that too but we don’t have the time.”

It was a match made in heaven, we decided to collaborate on the idea.

So, they host it, they take care of all the billing and admin stuff, and they also heavily promote it at events and through their forums.

Local U’s purpose has always been to provide information and education for people that want to learn about local SEO. So my guide is just another step for people who want to learn more, so the partnership stems from that.


Ok. When I first got the guide, it looked like there was also some type of monthly update that you could subscribe to. Is that online? Or is that also PDF?

That’s currently a PDF. So it’s $14.99 when you first buy it. And then that gets you the full—I think 270-something pages now.

So, when we move it to WordPress, we’re gonna make it a one-time purchase and we’ll send you the PDF. But if you want, we’ll also offer an on-going subscription so that you get an update every month which are usually several pages long. That’s $29 dollars a month.

You actually save a lot by doing this. Because trying to keep up with the updates on an on-going basis is a lot of work. So, basically you’d be given access to the online portal where we’ll all have the new updates every single month, and all the information that’s already there will stay current so you won’t have to worry about reading outdated information.


Ok, awesome. My next question: Do you consider your guide a complete local SEO ranking road map?

Yeah. I’d say it’s heavily focused on Google My Business. We talk a lot about organic and stuff, but the majority of it is focused on Google My Business, ranking in the three pack, and changes that have to do with that.

I actually have a changelog for Google My Business categories because Google doesn’t tell you when they come up with new categories, and they come out with—so far with my experience—more than fifty new categories a year! This can be a really huge deal if you own a business in a niche area.

So I keep a changelog of all that in my guide, which is not really something you can find anywhere else online. It really is focused specifically on Google My Business… Because I feel there’s a lot of training out there for ‘how to get links’ and ‘what the best practices are’ but there isn’t really anything that’s really in-depth on ‘how to use GMB’, ‘how ranking works’, and that sort of thing.


Ok, awesome. And then I guess, finally, anybody that wants to learn more. Can you tell us what the sales page URL is?

Yeah. It’s on LocalU. You go there and there should be a link at the very top of the ‘Local SEO guide’. Also, it’s linked to LocalSearchForum. It’s a free forum, but it’s great for people who are just getting into this and want to learn and interact with other people that are also learning.

So either of those places will send you the guide.


So, anybody that is interested in learning more, it’ll be localu.org. Check out the Expert’s Guide to Local SEO.

I do highly recommend the guide, especially if you have staff that you need to train and keep updated, especially on the technical details. There’s a lot of information out there on some of the basic stuff for GMB; how to optimize your listing, how to set-up citations, the basic stuff.

With this guide you also get into a ton of the technical details; how to check and verify addresses, how to do competitive research, how to fight spam and keep your listing safe from spam.

It’s very, very thorough and comprehensive. Definitely a very technical resource for anybody in the industry.

It was a pleasure having you on, Joy, and thank you for joining us. Do you have anything else you want to say while you’re here?

I’m really open to feedback. Any current subscribers or people thinking about subscribing, if you leave feedback or want to check if something is included in the guide or anything like that… Please feel free to reach out to me.

And I really want to make sure that everyone who has bought it so far is very happy. We want to keep that rolling and make sure people are getting what they expect to get from it.


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