Local SEO in 2018: How did we get here?
Shotland started out by giving us a quick recap on the history of Google and SEO. It used to be pretty easy to manipulate search engines, and simple optimizations could easily increase traffic and conversions. However, the online presence of small businesses was also much more limited, and it was few and far in between that invested in SEO. So what changed? Well, Shotland highlighted several different key factors:
- Mobile domination: After the rise of smartphones, people started spending more time in mobile apps. Mobile has become increasingly important and for many of his customers, Shotland noted that at least 50% of searches come from mobile devices. Last year, Google also announced that it would index mobile versions, but contrary to confusion - Google maintains that it does not affect how it ranks content.
- Ads as content: As a way to drive profitability, ads are now taking more space in search engine result pages (SERPs). Above the fold content is, in many cases, no longer showing any organic results but instead a mix of Google Adwords, Google product listings and Google answers. This is also feeding into Google Maps, where in-map ads are starting to appear. The consequence? Google is leveraging data to drive leads for SMBs, but they are also charging them for it.
- Google as the main user interface (UI): Developments to the Google platform the past couple of years have been centered keeping users within Google’s UI. More and more search queries are being answered instantly within the Google interface through Knowledge Panels, dedicated answer snippets, and showcasing other related questions. You can check out this article by FiveStar that Shotland recommended on how Google is influencing how consumers engage with search results.
How to optimize SMB websites
Despite growing visibility for paid search, there is still a lot that can be done to ensure that your small business customers appear in organic search results. Shotland has been doing dedicated research on this, and worked together with Place Scout and the University of California - Irvine to do a study on local SEO of more than 10,000+ local businesses on more than 3,000+ queries and 100+ factors. Shotlands’s recommendations for optimizing small business websites include:
- Visibility across the digital landscape: Make sure basic information, such as name, address, phone number, is correct and consistent across the digital landscape. This information should also ideally be registered with all your local listings to increase consistency and accuracy across the web.
- Your website: Make sure your website content caters to the search queries related to your business and industry. By producing more relevant content, your business may be featured in more generic snippets, such as ‘What/How to’ questions. It’s also vital to ensure that your website performance is optimal, as performance factors such as speed are crucial in rankings.
- Google My Business (GMB): Content from GMB has authority, so ensure your profile is up-to-date with the latest business information and attributes.
- Posts: Reuse content from your website to drive better SEO
- Q&A: Check if consumers are asking questions, and answer them!
- Messaging: If resources allow, set up standard responses to engage customers
- Popularity: Driving customer engagement was another important consideration in terms of showing Google your popularity amongst consumers. From contributing with images to reviews, getting customers engaged is more important than ever for local SEO.
- Ads for your brand: Monitor who is buying ads within the same digital space, and monitor their presence to ensure that your brand isn’t misrepresented or shown in the wrong category.
- Near me: Searches for everything ‘near me’ has been popular the past couple of years. Shotland noted that location is becoming more implicit in search, but near me can still help boost organic search results. For more, check out a full article by the Local SEO Guide on the ranking factors for ‘near me’ searches.
- PWA: Shotland briefly mentioned the growing popularity of progressive web apps (PWAs), but felt that from an SEO perspective that wasn’t too much to worry about. If you want to read more about PWA and SEO, he recommended these slides.
Watch the webinar
Want to check out the full webinar? You can watch the full recording here. For more about the Local SEO Guide, check out their website (www.localseoguide.com) or follow their Twitter (@localseoguide).