Local search is changing constantly as Google and other search engines continuously make tweaks to their algorithms to help drive the most relevant results to user queries. It has made our lives easier as we can now search for things online that we wouldn’t have thought of in the past. And it has impacted the way businesses big, small and in between reach their target markets.
Of course, the constant change does come with a downside. Tactics that used to be useful in the past are now outdated, yet some still use them without being aware of their obsolescence. Want to make sure that you’re optimized for local search? Here are some top tips for local search in 2014.
Google continues to integrate Google+ across all its services, like it or not. However, the integration still isn’t quite smooth. According to Powered By Search:
Over the next year we’ll see all of Google’s services become more tightly merged with everything held together by Google authorship. You’d be well advised to start ramping up your G+ presence building followers and engagement.
Improving Brand and Domain Authority
The Panda and Hummingbird updates in 2011 and 2013, respectively, have made brand and domain authority more important than ever. Whereas SEOs used to target micro sets of tail end keywords and produced large quantities of thin content to get great results, what matters now is how Google views your site in relation to a given topic. Adam Dorfman of Search Engine Watch says:
Does the site offer the information searchers need? Will it keep visitors on the site after their initial visit? Will they visit again based on the content? Or does the site simply contain pages just to manipulate the search results? These are the types of questions Google is trying to answer as it orders its search results, and it gets better at this every year.
Optimizing for Mobile
People are becoming increasingly comfortable with getting their information on the move, not to mention making transactions online through their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. According to Geary LSF:
Google is keeping an eye on these new habits, and brands must take this new method of search into consideration. Google has just added two new local features for its popular Product Listing Ads (PLAs): local availability and local storefronts. These ads will tell customers when a product is available for purchase in a local physical store.
Two other trends will come into play in 2014. Local search volumes will soar due to unprecedented smartphone adoption and mobile payment devices will become more widespread. Payments via smartphone will make it much easier to close the ROBO (research-online-buy-offline) loop and to calculate ROI. Brands would be wise to take advantage of new technologies that turns mobile devices into untethered point of sale registers.
By now, optimizing for mobile shouldn’t be seen as just a trend, but as an essential need. It isn’t just about optimizing your content for mobile, but about making your site conducive for completing transactions online from any mobile device.
Reviews and Citations
Local search places a lot of weight on the reputation of your site within your locality. Because Google and other search engines want to provide the most useful and relevant local search results, things like citations and local reviews will start becoming more important. According to Casey Meraz on Powered By Search:
Higher Quality Citations will continue to be more important than quantity. As Google gets smarter at determining which sites are hyperlocal it becomes easier to spot which local businesses are actually serving those areas. Local directories with great content and good social mentions will start to provide more weight.
He goes on to say:
Reviews have always been important, not only in local SEO, but also for your company reputation. As the search engines get smarter at determining who is real, who is fake, and who is manipulating them, they can then become more trusted. I think in 2014 we will see more emphasis on this because it’s not easy to get legitimate reviews.
Invest in Social Media
According to Hubspot:
91% of mobile internet access is for social activities, versus just 79% on desktops.
People rely not only on online reviews, but word of mouth recommendations as well when making purchases. However, it’s not just about amassing fans and followers. According to Perry Stevens on Powered By Search:
…don’t start social network pages like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and expect the world to love you. Engage, entertain and answer inquiries and messages at least once a day. If you can type, you don’t have an excuse not to do this. And remember… it’s not about collecting 10,000 fans! It’s about the relationships you have with your core following who will walk through your door and pay you for your products or services.
Investing time into your social media accounts to engage with fans is expected to have more of an impact on SEO in 2014 as well. Google and other search engines understand the value of the impact of social media on users and should find ways to take this into account in the SERPs pretty soon.
Local search is more important than it ever has been and we should continue to see Google and other search engines increase the prominence of local search results as more and more people search for what they want from their mobile devices. Rather than wait for your competitors to pick up on these trends, you need to position yourself to take advantage of them early on.
Search engines are becoming increasingly better at dealing with search spam. They want to deliver the best user experience and are quick to weed out spammy search results. Don’t think about how you can rank better with quick tactics as this will likely get your site in trouble. Instead, think about how you can become better at marketing your brand. Sticking to a multi-channel content strategy with a focus on local search while adhering to best practices takes a lot of hard work, but it’s the best way to achieve any success in 2014 and beyond.