Local SEO is a tough game. One minute you’re ranking number one with your Google My Business listing for your top keyword + city, the next minute, Google changes the number of listings they show in the local pack from seven to three and you’re filtered right out of the Google My Business results.
Or, maybe you’ve experienced another scenario, where you’re say, a local marketing agency with one physical location. Let’s say Milwaukee for sake of this example, that sells local SEO services. But you don’t just sell those services to people in Milwaukee, you also sell them to people in nearby cities like Brookfield and New Berlin.
Your top goal has always been to rank as high as you can for local searches related to “local SEO services” and “local SEO agency” in the Milwaukee and 25 mile surrounding area. Then, one day, Google decides it rather make the results more localized and show offices with physical locations in the cities mentioned above that you don’t have a physical office in. Your Milwaukee local SEO company that once ranked well in New Berlin, Wisconsin, a 25 minute drive away from Milwaukee, has now disappeared completely with only local offices in New Berlin appearing.
Talk about heartbreaking!
And that’s precisely why I interviewed experts like Greg for their tips.
Below are seven answers featured from local SEO expert, Greg Gifford, who, among some of the top local SEO experts in the online marketing field today, answered 56 questions on local marketing.
Q 1: What do you think are going to be the biggest changes in local search within the next year (2018) that small businesses should pay attention to?
A 1: I think businesses should really be paying attention to 2 things. First, they should keep a close eye on how local results are being served in search results. The Possum update in September really dialed up proximity as a ranking factor, and links have become the most important non-physical-location ranking factor. Business owners need to keep an eye on any changes that happen this year.
Then, people need to pay a lot of attention to ‘virtual assistants’ – whether we’re talking about Siri or Cortana on mobile devices or Alexa or Google Home, there’s a big push towards virtual assistants and voice interaction. How will local searches work? How will results be served? Will a list of options be sent to a mobile screen for users to choose from, or will we move towards a world where there’s a single answer to local queries?
Q 2: If you were a small, local shop selling baked goods or beverages with limited time to work with your online marketing, what are the top three things you would focus on in order of importance?
A 2: I’d rock my social channels, especially if I’m doing something that’s unique. Organic social posts and targeted Facebook ads will go a really long way without a lot of time or money commitment.
I’d also pay a lot of attention to getting links from local businesses. Local links are really valuable for Local SEO, and the smaller mom-and-pop businesses are typically pretty connected with the community, so it’s a lot easier to get legitimate local links. More than anything else, getting more local links will improve visibility in searches.
Finally, I’d spend a lot of time writing awesome blog content. It’s not about making lots of pages for the site, it’s about sharing blog posts that show the amazing things I’m doing. I’d want local people to have lots of opportunities to see why I’m great and why they should buy from me.
Q 3: With the increase in mobile device usage, what do you think restaurants and online retailers should be doing as a minimum in regards to local SEO?
A 3: Local SEO is a must – without building local relevance correctly, there’s simply too much competition to be able to achieve visibility in searches. Sites have to have awesome localized content, they’ve got to optimize that content with the right local signals, they’ve got to have a lot of relevant local links, and they’ve got to have great reviews on multiple sites.
Q 4: Do you think local SEO will get more or less important as time goes on?
A 4: As mobile continues to grow, Local SEO is going to continue to grow in importance. Search results are more localized on mobile devices because location detection is much more exact. Even with proximity being such a huge factor now, the need for awesome local optimization is evident. If customers don’t see you in searches, you’re going to miss out on huge amounts of business.
Q 5: How do you think the advancements in virtual reality will affect local businesses in search, if at all?
A 5: I think that Augmented Reality will have much more of an influence on the future. I don’t think people will pop on a VR rig to do searches – but I can see AR making a big splash. Whether it’s something like Snapchat Spectacles or Google Glass, or it’s simply using the live camera on your mobile phone and seeing info overlaid on the view, I really think AR has a huge chance of changing the way people interact with the “Real world”.
Imagine walking down a street in a city you’re visiting – instead of doing a search for best restaurants and pulling up directions, you could simply hold up your phone and walk around. Review scores and photos would pop up next to the restaurants or bars as you walk down the street, like private personalized billboards. Tons of kickass opportunities here.
Q 6: Do you have any suggestions for in-house marketers to get buy-in on local SEO initiatives?
A 6: This is something we have to cover with potential clients all the time. We use the “pizza delivery” example to show HOW Local SEO works – check out our video at bit.ly/seo-pizza
Once we’ve covered that, we use a simple math equation to show WHY Local SEO is needed. Check out the video at bit.ly/seo-simple-math. Basically, it shows how there are really only 7 or 8 possible spots on page on of search results, but in most cases, there are 20+ businesses fighting for those spots. Without Local SEO, you won’t be seen.
Q 7: How important is Google My Business and Reviews as it relates to restaurants in local search?
A 7: Incredibly important – for restaurants, reviews might be one of the most important things out there. Every restaurant can have great photos on their site, and their menu can look amazing… but honest reviews from unbiased customers show what the restaurant is really like. Reviews will make or break a restaurant – and since Google reviews are the first thing people see when they search for a restaurant, they’ve got to be a major focus for any restaurant.
Greg Gifford is the Director of Search and Social at DealerOn, a software company that provides websites and online marketing to new car dealers all over the country. He’s got over 16 years of online marketing and web design experience, and he speaks internationally at both automotive and SEO conferences, teaching thousands of small business owners and marketers how to get their sites to show up higher in local search rankings.
Greg also spends his time doing freelance website design and SEO for local businesses. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in Cinema and Communications, and has an obscure movie quote for just about any situation.