The local SEO landscape has changed tremendously over the last year! Local search is now being estimated as the most effective marketing channel for local businesses. With local search continuing to have such an impact for local businesses we want to help you understand all the changes that have taken place. Below are the top 5 trends that you need to know for the year ahead.
The biggest local search change that took place in the last year by far is the change in the size of maps listings showing up in local search results. Google moved away from showing 7 business listings and are now only showing 3 listings. This has had major impacts on many local businesses. For those who remained in the top three they have seen a significant increase in click through rates, while those who missed the cut have seen significant traffic drops.
The positioning of the results has also moved down the page, in order to show more Adwords ads above the listings. This means there is even less real estate for organic rankings on the first page of local Google search results. In other words if you aren’t in the top three you are feeling the pain of lower traffic numbers. Google has changed the number of maps listings they show many times over the last few years. There is always a chance that they will increase the size again, but I wouldn’t recommend waiting for a change that might not come.
If you have been around local search engine optimization over the past few years then you know that Google has changed the name of their local maps listing service many times. What was once know as simply Google Local has been changed and referred to by many other names as well including Google Plus Local Business Pages, Google Maps, and it’s newest name Google My Business.
Google My Business is the new interface that business owners and agencies can use to manage their Google Maps listings. There has been a lot of changes in how Google deals with local especially with Google’s failed attempt at creating a social network and tying it into search results. Things like Google Authorship and +1s are now completely gone, and maybe this will bring some stability to their naming conventions, but only time will tell.
Website users are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Mobile search queries are outpacing desktop searches in almost every vertical and mobile users are typically extremely impatient. This means if your site is loading slow, not answering questions quickly, or not enticing users to stay on your site it can create issues with how you rank in local search results. Google is now tracking how users are interacting with your website and if you are seeing high bounce rates, lower click through rates, and low time on site for particular pages it could impact where you show up. Be sure to analyze your Google Analytics data. If you have any pages showing obvious issues in these areas consider reworking the content, look and feel, or meta information.
Proximity searches continue to rise on all devices but particularly on mobile comprising 80 – 90% of all proximity searches. These proximity searches automatically use the users location to determine which local search results show up. This is becoming an increasingly important ranking factor and involves a different optimization process than normal keyword optimizations. Some of the keys are to make sure that you business name, address, and phone number are correctly and clearly listed both on your website and throughout your local directory listings. All these listings should match. Also, adding schema or structured data to your website can be a huge positive indicator for Google. Finally, make sure that you are using city and state optimizations throughout your website.
In early 2015 Google announced that they would start devaluing websites that were not mobile friendly in a move that was later termed “Mobilegeddon”. Many websites scrambled to make the change before the deadline. The deadline came and went without major impacts to those not mobile optimized, but as the year went on this changed dramatically. Websites that didn’t make the change not only saw bad signals from mobile users who didn’t spend a lot of time on their websites, but they also saw their rankings drop significantly. If you aren’t mobile friendly now, make the necessary investments to get there. Mobile search is only getting bigger and if you are a local business you want to take advantage of the over 78% of searches that ended in a local offline purchase!
I hope this gave a great overview of the important local SEO trends to consider in 2016! Local Search is always changing and we will continue to keep you posted on major evolutions throughout the year.