When we hear the term ‘local SEO,’ we usually think about people searching on browsers for businesses that are near to their homes. However, the face of local SEO has changed quite significantly in recent years. Hubspot notes that already 46% of all searches on Google are for local businesses. Local searches already have a lot of leverage since they can convert users both online and offline. A few significant changes to local search are coming in 2020 that advertisers should be aware of, including:
- The growth of voice search. With easy access to virtual assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, performing searches have become even more natural. This increased focus on voice search means that there is likely to be an increase in the number of long-tail keywords to capitalize on.
- User engagement will become even more critical. As it stands right now, Google already looks favorably on businesses that have a highly engaged audience. In the coming year, this focus on engagement is likely to increase, especially when it comes to delivering local search results.
- Customer Opinions will matter more. Feedback is an essential part of determining whether a business is worth recommending or not. Google intends to leverage reviews to decide whether a location is worth suggesting to its users or not.
Despite these significant changes, a few factors will remain as we know it.
Some Things Will Remain Constant
In a changing world, we should remember that not everything we already know is likely to disappear. If anything, Google’s changes are an upgrade to their existing system and not a complete revamp of local SEO as we know it. Essential elements of local SEO will remain the same, those of relevance, distance, and prominence.
Relevance focuses on how your company’s goods and services mesh with the user’s intent. Distance calculates your business’s location about the user. Stores closer to the user are ranked higher on the search results. Prominence has to deal with your reputation in the business world. If a lot of people have heard of you or your brand, then you’ll find yourself showing up at the top of the search results.
Even though these cornerstones of local SEO service will remain the same, quite a few things are likely to be different.
Major Changes We Expect
The changes that we can expect to see in local SEO will stem from a lot of what Google sees as the changing landscape of users. The company’s intent-based search system has made it more pertinent for them to delve into why users want results, instead of just offering results that for the search terms entered. Among the changes that 2020 will bring to the world of local SEO include:
1. Entity Authority will Matter
Your authority in a particular area will matter when it comes to where you’ll show up in the search results. According to Tidings, there are a few essential elements that affect the authority of a company. These are:
- Popularity: If your business gets mentioned a lot in a particular geographic region, then Google assumes that you’re popular there. As it stands, mentions that come with links carry a lot of weight. With the new paradigm, we may see mentions counting towards increasing your search weight. A strategy that will be very useful in this particular situation is producing content that is relevant to the geographic audience you’re targeting. Each mention of your business regarding that content can add to your popularity index and drive more relevant results to potential leads.
- Engagement: How do you engage your audience? How does the audience engage the brand? These will both be vital considerations for boosting a company’s profile on local SEO searches. In the past, Google would give equal weighting to traditional SEO methods such as keywords, alongside engagement and local data. The trend has been shifting towards putting more weight on engagement, something we are likely to see implemented in the coming year with regards to how Google sees local search.
- Metrics: Engagement metrics are a facet of the area of engagement. It will focus on how much of an impact the business has made on its customers. Parameters like the number of users that have the business saved on their phone, or recommended to other users, for example, will begin to matter more.
2. Companies That Offer Better Service will Rank Better
Marketing, in all its forms, seeks to be a method of informing the audience about the value a brand offers. However, companies that don’t follow up on that brand promise are likely to rank a lot worse in the grander scheme of things. Businesses that offer better service will feature more in the prominence rating category, and we should expect to see more search traffic because of it. It can be enticing to pay for this kind of engagement, but instead of helping your local search SEO score, those underhanded methods will hurt it immensely. Instead, aiming to develop an organic profile based on the quality of service should be how a business approaches this part of local SEO marketing.
3. Voice SEO Will Become Important
We already mentioned that voice searches form a large volume of total searches done. Wordstream mentions that by 2020, as much as half of all searches done are likely to be voice-based. For a company to optimize their local SEO to deal with voice searches, there are a handful of factors that they need to focus on:
- Accurate company listing on Google: Voice searches will depend on your business’s Google listing. As a result, the accuracy of that listing as well as whatever local SEO keyword you intend to rank for should form a part of your company’s description.
- Long-tail keyword ranking: Chances are, if you’ve invested in SEO, you have a handful of long-tail keywords you’re aiming for. For voice search, long-tail keywords are the norm, as opposed to the exception. Using tools to help you gauge what questions users are asking regarding your product or industry can help you to build landing pages that focus on answering those questions.
- Optimize for “Near Me” searches: Users are focusing more on using their smartphones for searches, making the “Near Me” function priceless. Optimizing your business for those types of searches requires you to enter all the locations that your business occupies.
- Use more structured data: Google utilizes structured data on a website to build out a knowledge panel. Aside from being very visually attractive on a search results page, Google tends to prefer companies that put the extra effort into setting up structured data to work with the results panel.
4. Engagement Metrics Will Matter
We already touched on how meaningful customer engagement is in previous sections. Engagement metrics will rank a business based on how much it features in people’s contacts or discussions. User data from email, phone contacts, even map data from visits all play a part in how Google builds out a picture of the business’s engagement metrics. Here we can witness how prominence features in the local search results, as these engagement metrics play on that pillar of local SEO.
Understanding the Changing Landscape of Local SEO
It’s no surprise that local SEO is likely to become even more difficult in 2020. Even experts like John Bertino accept that the landscape will change quite drastically in the coming year. The question of whether businesses are ready is one that many companies can’t answer. Hopefully, now that they know what their local search strategy should be focusing on, they can focus on the parts of the approach they might have neglected to make up ground. Local SEO might have changed a lot, but the core principles it relies upon remain the same. Once a business operates on those first-principle ideas, they shouldn’t have a problem coming to grips with the changes in Google’s local SEO policy.