Forecasting SEO trends for local is quite difficult – primarily because I know in my heart of hearts that local SEO isn't a trend, phenomenon or fad. Local – along with personalized search – is a necessary evolution to truly optimize the search experience for users across the globe. It is a mindset that SEO professionals can't "arrive to" late.
Early adoption of best practices, voraciously reading case studies and experimenting on your own is mission critical to surviving this new era of marketing. Join me on a palatable overview on what's happened already, and what's coming up next.
This article will cover Google Hummingbird; the overlap between mobile and local; a SoLoMo case study using Pinterest, turnkey local SEO strategies; tools; and a few important infographics.
Community and Wildness: The Hummingbird
Frank Chimero wrote an essay called "What Screens Want". Along with crystallizing the very nature of our relationship to screens – and hinting and the importance of cross-device consumption and consumerism – he talks about the language designers are using to, well, design.
In it, he rejects the current state of the web – one that is built around ideals such as privatization and power. Instead Chimero begs for an Internet that celebrates community and wildness. When it comes to local marketing, there seems no better starting place than here.
When the Hummingbird algorithm dropped, the majority of SEO professionals hardly noticed a difference. While Google itself said that the algorithm affected upwards of 90 percent of the queries, many rankings across keywords stayed the same.
Due to the interaction between Hummingbird and the Venice update – a tweak that lead to more localized organic results for unbranded, non-geo-modified keywords keywords – local SEO pros should celebrate this new algorithm. What this means is that there are even more opportunities to capture local traffic, for both queries such as [seo agency montreal] and [seo agency], as more keywords now trigger local results.
More than ever, it has become important to include regional-vertical pages for your local business. Hummingbird – likely the first of many algorithmic updates that will prefer context to content – forces local businesses eliminate catch-all Our Locations pages, instead encouraging them to publish content specific to each place of business.
In addition to these on-site changes, constant monitoring and optimization of your Google+ page is necessary to beat out your competition. If you haven't claimed the page for your business yet, here's a guide on how to claim your Google+ business page. It also gives huge handfuls of starter ideas for how to optimize your Google+ page, and your website, for local SEO.
Meet the Parents: Mobility and Locality
One of my favorite "year in review" posts for digital marketing came from Karen McGrane, a brilliant content strategist. She compiled a list of mobile web statistics (sources found within) that are sure to knock the socks off of digital marketing managers across the globe. A sample:
- 91 percent of American adults own a mobile phone.
- 56 percent of American adults own a smartphone.
- 63 percent of mobile phone owners use their phones to access the Internet.
- Amazon, Wikipedia, and Facebook all see about 20 percent mobile traffic.
- 77 percent of mobile searches take place at home or at work.
For the purposes of this article, one statistic that stood out in particular:
- 46 percent of shoppers report using their phone to research local products and services.
Nearly one in twoshoppers for local products and services are using their phone. If your mobile game isn't on lock, you are essentially neglecting or potentially insulting half of your target demographic.
Finding resources to make a mobile-friendly website in 2014 isn't a simply a good idea, a high-priority or mission critical task. It is essential to the longevity and profitability of your business. Period. With sad statistics showing most B2B, Fortune 100 and consumer brands failing to stay up to snuff, mobile could be a fantastic opening for your business to slay your competition.
In November, I had the opportunity to listen to author and Google Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik speak at Think Quebec about the impact of mobile on search marketing. He pulled up example after example of terrible mobile search experiences. He drew attention to huge brands that were throwing away search traffic – often after creating demand for a particular product on a different marketing channel, and then now showing up in search.
"The web is so good at destroying things. If you suck – you die," he said.
Kaushik's words ring no less true for local SEO. If you aren't performing for 46 percent of your potential customers, you suck. And you will die – or at least your business might.
SoLoMo: Hacking Pinterest to Increase Local Traffic
In late November, Pinterest announced that they were launching a service named "Place Pins", where content can published then laid out on a map. A nod to Foursquare's functionality when it comes to building interactive city guides, Pinterest is looking to capitalize on their engaged and highly visual audience to develop beautiful, user-generated journeys within localities.
While SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) has been on the lips – and sometimes in the backs of throats – of marketers for the last couple years, platforms like Pinterest are finally realizing how to create a marketing niche than either hasn't existed or has performed poorly in the past. With more than 75 percent of Pinterest's traffic coming from mobile, they are in an obvious position to raise the standard when it comes to SoLoMo.
As social, local, and mobile all continue to propel SEO in a new and exciting direction, don't be surprised to see search engines begin to index, parse, and take into consideration these maps. They are, after all, beneath the bells and whistles, an incredible directory of what users consider relevant, popular and experientially sound. As search algorithms evolve, social signals in all shapes and sizes will undoubtedly begin to replace the current weight distribution of ranking indicators – especially with alternative search engines like Yandex doing away with links altogether.
Getting Started: Turnkey Local SEO Strategies
When it comes to getting started – more often than not it's easiest to flatter someone by emulating a proven strategy. From there, you can see what works within both your vertical and your locale – two hugely important ingredients to the local SEO recipe – and then optimize once you have some data feeding into your analytics platform.
On-Site Quick Technical Fixes
"Share of voice" is becoming an increasingly interesting application to search engine marketing, and verges on being the most inclusionary digital marketing trend of 2013.
Share of voice addresses the entirety of the search engine results page, which as we know, is getting more complicated by the week. The crew at IGO Mobile Marketing has put together a digest of technical fixes to dominate search share of voice, including:
- New advances in meta data for local marketing.
- Local caps on sitelinks.
- De-indexing and demoting useless pages.
- Maximizing presence in IYP or local directories.
- Optimizing review management processes.
- Rich snippets – sentiments and testimonials.
Off-Site: Organic vs. Local Strategies
Examining the crossover between organic and local results can be a difficult mental exercise for many. Thankfully, Adam Steele at Lean Marketing put together an extensive, step-by-step guide to figuring out whether your organic efforts – on-site optimization and off-site outreach – make an impact on the particular local search results you are aiming to optimize for.
In brief, his findings are:
- A "supermajority" of pack results relied on being picked up on in Google Maps.
- A strong correlation between being the first position in organic and in the pack.
- Local factors have a strong influence over the first position in organic.
This type of analysis is hugely beneficial because if the local results – or "pack results" – are being heavily influenced by strictly organic search signals, it may be enough for you to focus your SEO efforts on solidifying your placement in organic, using traditional SEO methodologies. In fact, Steele concludes, "your ability to crush it with organic SEO may just make or break your [local] campaign."
Local Citation Building Checklist
Citation building is a practice that is acutely separate from link building, but they share one definite similarity: if you abuse citation building, you will get burned. In this section we'll give some quick insights on what citations are exactly, and how to leverage them to influence your rankings. Before we get started, however, it's important to note that not only are your listings on Google Maps important – but also on Bing, Yahoo, and Apple.
There are five categories of directories that you'll be looking at in terms of citations:
- Data-aggregators (LocalEze)
- Horizontal directories (Yelp)
- Industry-specific directories (Avvo)
- Region-specific directories (Denver.com/places)
- Unstructured citations (blogs)
Rather than focusing on the Moz- or PageRank values of these directories, you will want to look for the opportunity to plug structured citations for your business online. Structured citations commonly consist of NAP (name, address, phone number) information. The quality of the website, the accuracy of these citations and the relevancy of the directory are all essential to executing a successful citation building campaign.
Free, Freemium and Premium Tools
A good toolkit is a SEO's best friend, and so to enable you to kick-start your local SEO efforts in 2014 we've put together this list of products and services to check out, get acquainted with, and seriously squash your competition.
- GetListed: Moz-owned directory building service with local SEO in mind
- WhiteSpark: Canadian local citation finder
- sweetIQ: Montreal-based local marketing solution, for tracking Google local pack rankings
- BrightEdge: Enterprise SEO platform, one of the few that includes geo-specific rankings
- Yext: A geo-marketing service to manage your geo-data and local content
Executive Resources: Infographics on Local
Sometimes you don't feel like reading massive blog articles. Sometimes we just want to get to the meat of things. Here's our Top 5 list of infographics that we feel will help drive your local SEO efforts in 2014:
- 20 Marketing Statistics that Will Drive 2014
- Why Reviews Matter Most to Local Business
- Local Search Evolved
- Local SEO for Businesses
- How Importance is Local to Your Business
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!