Local search SEO is important for businesses to rank on Google, but how has it changed with the updates? Learn what local search SEO means in 2018.
There are over 28 million small businesses in the U.S.
Small businesses are often local. This means that they depend on community members to keep their brick-and-mortar institutions afloat.
One way to boost local audiences involves local search engine optimization (SEO). An effective local SEO campaign can ensure high numbers of local customers walking through your door on a daily basis.
Like any SEO, local search SEO isn’t set in stone. Google is always modifying its algorithms and keywords gain and lose popularity.
As you prepare your local search campaign this 2018, it’s important to keep up with the trends. In this post, we’ll examine what local search means this year to businesses big and small.
1. Google My Business is Extremely Important
One thing about local search SEO has not changed in 2018. Local citations are absolutely critical to launching a successful campaign.
At the top of this citations list is Google My Business. Claiming a Google business listing ensures your visibility as a local entity. What’s more, Google has enabled business owners to do even more with their listings.
For example, this March, Google added a “description” field on Google My Business profiles. This enables business owners to write a rich paragraph about their products and services.
This paragraph goes along with the usual contact information, hours of operation, and images.
You guessed it–this field gives businesses even more content to optimize for local searches. It also suggests that Google is keen to give searchers more comprehensive snapshots of businesses in search results.
What’s more, Google My Business users can now input services offered, including a description of these services and their costs. Business owners can also include an “Offers” tab, which presents trending discounts and promotions.
What do these changes mean for you?
Claim your Google listing if you haven’t done so already, and make the most of every single field. Spend time crafting relevant, professional content for your business and services description.
Optimize these for local search terms as applicable.
2. Video Enters the Scene
If you’ve made use of Google Posts as a local business, you’ll love this update. Google Posters can now attach video clips to their Posts.
Posts is a feature that was released in 2017. It enables users to publish images, content, and other aspects of their business directly to Google Maps. Some marketers call this Google’s version of a fat business card.
Posts are more generous than Google My Business listings, giving searchers more information about your company. They can transform any local search SEO campaign, boosting your visibility and giving searchers a taste of your services before they even drop by your website.
Video content is dominating the marketing scene. Consumers love videos for the simple reason that they are intriguing, easy to consume, and relevant.
If you haven’t done so already, consider snagging a Google Post for your business. Then, upload video content that is likely to supplement trending local searches.
3. Google’s Guidelines Are Tighter for Local Search
Local searches are more important than ever this year. After all, Google processes over 1.2 trillion search queries every single day.
For this reason, Google’s guidelines for local search SEO have become tighter. We recommend brushing up on these guidelines regularly to ensure a solid local SEO campaign.
If you are a provider of certain services that are legally restricted, such as alcohol, gambling products, or guns, your content is subject to new guidelines. For example, such providers cannot include a call to action in their digital content.
If you use your Google listing to promote events, you will also have to follow tighter regulations.
Check out Google’s guidelines here to learn more.
4… And For Reviews
Reviews are essential to any local search campaign. They can hugely impact online reputation.
But they also give marketers more material for optimization.
For example, marketers can respond to positive reviews and use local search terms, as in the following:
“Thanks for your review of our Allentown SEO services, Kaley! We’re glad you had a positive experience.”
It’s still possible to respond to reviews in this fashion. However, local search marketers cannot shield consumers from negative reviews.
Specifically, Google has become publicly strict about “review gating.” Review gating means being selective in the reviews you choose to post online, or discouraging negative reviews.
Additionally, businesses aren’t able to “pre-fill” ratings when requesting feedback. This means that requests for reviews will have empty stars or benchmarks rather than automatic 5-stars.
Google is still on the hunt for any businesses who attempt to cheat the review system in this way.
For a powerful local search campaign, we recommend gathering citations on multiple online review platforms, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and TripAdvisor. While a negative review is inevitable, these platforms give local SEO marketers further fodder for optimization and visibility.
Just ensure that you aren’t cherrypicking reviews in your advertising efforts. Respond to negative reviews openly and honestly.
5. As Competition Grows, Google Ads Does, Too
As new local businesses join the market every day, local search competition is only bound to thicken. As such, local search in 2018 will place a heavy emphasis on out-of-the-box thinking.
This may mean making the most of local search boosters, such as social media campaigns and blogging.
It will also likely entail some heavy use of Google Ads and PPC campaigns. A Google Ads campaign can beautifully support local search efforts, and it can be quite cost-effective for local businesses.
Google Ads can also leverage your existing listings and content optimized for local searches.
Final Thoughts: Local Search SEO 2018
Where does this leave local search SEO marketers in 2018? In general, local search is in as good a place as ever.
However, 2018 places a greater premium on Google listings and Posts, enabling marketers to include more information about products and services. As local searches increase, campaigners may find themselves reaching for AdWords and review portals to step up their game.
It’s important to keep pace with Google’s changing guidelines, too. The local search field is a competitive one, and violating a regulation can tank your ranking.
If you’re keen to craft a local search campaign that keeps up with these trends, we can help. Learn more about our process-driven PPC management today!