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Local search has changed significantly over the past couple of years. Google is now much less likely to bestow added credibility to a site simply because it’s local to the searcher. And with things changing, you may need some clarity on what local SEO best practices look like for 2018. Here are 5 local SEO predictions you won’t want to miss.
1. Minimum Local SEO Requirements Evolve
Local SEO best practices state the following elements must be present on any website wishing to rank for local search:
- Accurate data on key local sites, data aggregators such as business directories
- Citations (remains a top local ranking factor)
- Reviews on specific local properties
- Optimized Google My Business submission, with correct and updated information
- Location landing pages that are optimized and discoverable by Google
These requirements are no longer the deciding factors that determine how Google ranks your page in the SERPs. Don’t get us wrong; they’re still very important. But now they’re evolved to include other considerations. Here are a few examples:
Optimizing your Google My Business listing (GMB) is now more important than ever. In addition to appearing at the top of the SERPs, your listing also allows you to have your location data shown on a map, hours of operations and, in some instances, your phone number highlighted at the top of the page. Traditional local search looks something like this:
Google takes all of this information from your GMB page, so people won’t need to click elsewhere if they have all of the information they need at their fingertips. It’s no longer enough to simply have a GMB page. It needs to be filled out, optimized and updated frequently. Here are some great tips on doing so from Search Engine Journal.
Reviews are also more important in 2018. Google bots use these reviews to understand searchers’ intent and provide relevant answers to their queries. Reviews that focus on location are important (along with citations and links) to build local authority and increase rankings in the SERPs. As Miriam Ellis of Moz explains in the brand’s Local Search Ranking Factors 2017 survey:
“If I could drive home one topic in 2017 for local business owners, it would surround everything relating to reviews. This would include rating, consumer sentiment, velocity, authenticity, and owner responses, both on third-party platforms and native website reviews/testimonials pages. The influence of reviews is enormous; I have come to see them as almost as powerful as the NAP on your citations. NAP must be accurate for rankings and consumer direction, but reviews sell.”
In other words, it’s no longer enough to simply have reviews on your site. You have to take things to the next level to be successful at local search in 2018.
Data & Insights
To optimize your site for local search, you need data, and you need a way to understand it. Analyze local search queries using Google Search Cons ole to find out what information is most important for local customers. This could include such information such as:
- Quick response contact options
- Directions to your local business
- Engaging content
- Most relevant keywords
Determining how and where local customers find your business can also help you with citation building. Use your existing tools (such as Google Analytics) to explore your KPIs and determine how to best address your audience, or employ other SEO tools to get the information you need.
On Google’s side, we expect it to get even smarter about local search data in 2018, with the search engine evaluating credit card and device data to get such information as foot traffic, length of business, types of customers, etc.
2. Local Backlinks Grow in Value
Backlinks are important for any SEO endeavour, but local backlinks are especially important for local businesses in 2018. If local traffic is what you’re atter, don’t focus on gaining backlinks from press releases or national publications; instead, put emphasis on local directories. These local websites help you add local relevance to your website and build trust and authority. One of these local directory links is much more powerful than several links on random directories with many outbound links in various industries. Use this HubSpot list of valuable business directories to start creating your own business pages.
In addition, make sure you have comprehensive, engaging content to support these backlinks naturally. This core content will help you grow value in many categories but will be especially helpful with backlinks. Localized, and geo-targeted backlinks are from websites in your local market with relevant topics. These are the backlinks you should focus on first.
Here are some ways you can gain local backlinks for your business:
- Invest in local sponsorship opportunities
- Organize (or participate in) a local community activity/event
- Engage with local websites, online newspapers, etc.
- Try out low-cost ads on local online classifieds
3. Quality Content Now as Important for Local as Traditional Searches
We’ve already mentioned it, but media-rich, valuable, engaging content is now more important than ever. While some local sites may have coasted by before on their location alone, great content is now required to keep rankings high.
Use formats such as images, video, and audio, along with more text-heavy formats to answer customer questions quickly--while also letting them know you’re always available in-person or for a phone call. Your address and phone number should be visible at all times on your website to make conversion easier for your potential customers. Don’t focus so much on how many words you have on your pages; instead, think about the following questions when planning and creating your content:
- How can I provide real value?
- How can I answer any potential question on this topic comprehensively?
- How can i do something different from my competitors?
- What do I offer this market that’s different or unique?
- What does my audience need from me?
Whether your content 500 or 5,000 words, if you’ve fulfilled these questions, you’ve written some great content.
4. Structured Data Can Help You Get Ahead
Structured data (Schema.org) markup, especially GeoCoordinates, is especially important for local SEOs who want to get ahead of the competition. As of 2017, less than a third of websites were using schema markup.
That means if you do, you’re more likely to rank ahead of your competitors that aren’t using it. (See the image above from JeyJoo as an example). Structured data helps Google understand what your website is about so that it can show it in the search results. Using structured data is like talking to Google directly, instead of simply waiting for its robots to crawl your pages. This clarity can really help you with your rankings.
Structured data also changes the way your results (snippets) look. It will show potential customers more specific information, increasing the likelihood they will click on your results.
5. Searcher Intent Shakes Things Up
Optimizing your website for searcher intent is a must-do for today’s SEOs-whether you’re optimizing for local users or global ones. Search intent is all about delivering what users expect you to deliver once they click on your site. For example, if you clicked on the link for this blog, you expected to see 5 local SEO predictions; we hope we’ve delivered!
If this blog covered a different topic, however, such as listing SEO tools or talking about specific SEO products, it wouldn’t have fulfilled your searcher intent. You wouldn’t be happy, and you’d probably exit the blog rather quickly-signalling to Google that we didn’t do our job properly.
In local markets, most searchers are trying to find a well-reviewed, trusted company that provides them with valuable goods or services. You can address such issues by creating content showing your company’s commitment to customer service and engagement with your community.