As marketers and business owners, we already know that online visibility is essential for any business’ growth. If your potential customers cannot find your business on their smartphones, it will only cause your business to get overlooked by them.
Businesses can lose opportunities like this to competitors who provide rich data online with an optimized local SEO, and advertise their business effectively presence use of say, Google Posts on their Google listing.
Here are 26 industry honchos ranging from local SEO experts, bloggers and thought leaders sharing their ‘go-to’ local SEO tips and what they think is going to be the future of local search.
Q:1 What are the best, proven strategies for local SEO success?
Some of the key components of successful, local SEO today:
- Rich Google My Business optimization / information consistency across the web
- Awesome reviews on Google & other review platforms such as Trustpilot
- Relevant, authoritative backlinks with locally-optimized anchor text (+ a wide variety of anchors)
- Structured Data to show not only reviews in search, but feed Google tons of other information to display (geolocation, opening hours, biz type etc.)
- Voice Search optimization — another prime reason to use structured data!
Think how our mobile-first, digitally-assisted world is altering the way people search, and tap into their habits. For instance, long-tail queries are inherent to voice search (which will form 50% of all searches by 2020).
Conversational keywords should be your focus today, and you can literally make your website talk using techniques your competitors probably aren’t!
Dave Schneider, Founder of Dave Schneider
I think online reviews are very important. People search the reputation of companies before engaging with them in business. You want to have positive reviews when your name is searched for on the first page of google. There are various software available to help you manage reviews like Reputation Loop, for example.
For local SEO success right now, I really think it is imperative that you treat your website as a living and breathing organism so to speak, and not a piece of static content that you “optimize.” For example, adding content to your site regularly, and I don’t just mean throwing up a 400 word blog post. I mean going out and taking professional photos, reporting on industry events, doing interviews, looping in (tagging) people in the industry. Gone are the days where you can throw a bunch of links at a website and watch the rankings grow. Lastly, having a truly responsive website is mandatory in this day in age. 5 years ago you could get away with not having it (maybe) but today people will hit that “back” button right away.
The best way to build local SEO is to create great content that can be linked to a specific location. Sponsoring local and regional bloggers, podcasters and nonprofits is the best, but any regional niche specific content can help.
To me, some of the best local SEO strategies revolve around mobile optimization as schema markup. Both of these are critical in helping location pages rank organically. It’s no secret that mobile is important to Google and by utilizing schema, you’ll ensure your data is properly marked up for proper indexing.
In my experience, hyperlocal marketing has always worked better than paying a monthly or annual fee to a data syndication platform alone. Example: have neighboring businesses promote occasional events, get into local Chambers and not just their directories. Cross promote and be a part of the local community. These result in plenty of N.A.P. mentions and sometimes inbound links.
The best strategies for local SEO success involve the following:
- Ensuring a GMB account (Google My Business) with a name/address/phone that is consistent across your site and citations (links/references/etc.) of your business.
- Implementing local business schema markup that highlights your company info and uses sameas to reference your GMB account. Also ensure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is displayed on all pages across the site. (You can markup inline with schema as well)
- Obtain citations for your local business and try to establish partnerships with other website owners in your local community (offer discounts to customers of other local business, sponsor sports teams and local meetups, become a member of the local Chamber of Commerce & BBB, be active on NextDoor, etc.)
- Encourage your customers to leave feedback/reviews across various platforms (maps, yelp, etc.)
Jade Mudri, Content Marketer & Editor at Monitor Backlinks
To succeed at local SEO, it’s essential to become a trusted brand. Work on earning reviews, backlinks and implied links, to show Google that you have a following and a good online reputation. And be proactive about maintaining that reputation — keep track of what people are saying about you so that you can respond quickly, uncover new link building opportunities and steer the conversation about your brand.
I think one of the easiest no-brainers that non-Marketing/SEO people don’t realize is how important it is to set up and complete a Google My Business profile. I don’t think there’s anything else you could do that’s so simple and at the same time, so impactful, for local SEO success.
Stanley Dunthorne, Owned Media Specialist at Hallam Internet
Regular SEO best practice still applies to local SEO, so first off focus on the fundamentals like producing high-quality content, ensuring your website is technically sound, and aiming to earn local links. Google My Business is particularly important for local SEO success, and I recommend fully optimising your listing and actively cultivating and responding to user reviews.
I have found that the most effective local SEO strategy is to create, claim, and optimize your local business listings. This includes your Google listing, Waze listing, Facebook page, Yelp, and any other major platforms relevant to your industry. This means making sure all listing information is accurate, high resolution pictures are featured, content is updated (if applicable), and negative reviews are responded to quickly and professionally.
My #1 tip for local businesses is to focus on getting more reviews. Google is showing more and more schema stars in the serps, and that influences whether people are even clicking on your result.
If small and medium businesses want to compete with bigger corporations, having a strong local SEO strategy is important for their success. Because I’ve been in this industry for long, I’d say businesses need to understand the unique characteristics of local SEO and apply a few simple strategies to achieve their goals.
- PPC: PPC or pay-per-click plays an important role in small business success.
- Near Me: We used to optimize with the “Near Me” strategy for our clients’ business. “Near Me” searches have been rising and will continue to gain popularity.
- Trusted Local Backlinks: Local backlinks refer not only to getting links from local blogs, but also converting outreaching efforts into relationships on behalf of the client.
- Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews: Modern and informed shoppers consider online product reviews before making purchases. Consumers are as smart as Google in searching for your product along with the word ‘review’ or related words like ‘ratings’.
Understanding how Google Search works. Ensuring that you are utilizing Google My Business to its fullest potential and maintaining it on a regular basis. Ensuring that key local listing directories have accurate and relevant data for your business. Provide relevant local content on your website as it relates to your business.
Best strategy for local search –
- Ensure you are in the local proximity for the location. Be within the city limits.
- Ensure you have a review strategy in place to collect customer feedback.
- Ensure you focus on quality citations and the authority of your site is good.
- Ensure that you optimise the listing with correct category and keyword targeting.
- Ensure you properly optimize your website for the keywords you’d like to rank for. This would include doing keyword research and not just title tags, but perhaps creating new content for specific keywords as well as using proper internal linking on your site.
- Claim and optimize the top 50 citations for your business. Keep a spreadsheet with your logins and passwords. Upload various photos and a detailed business description as allowed.
- Set up a review system so you can get more reviews, particularly on Google. One way to dramatically increase the reviews is to specifically ask your client to leave a review and then let them know you look forward to reading their comments. Your review funnel should automatically send out an email and text to the client, asking for their feedback.
Since Local SEO is a completely separate algorithm from the standard organic results, it must be approached in a unique fashion. The two most important pieces to get right up front are NAP consistency across directories and semantic markup on the website.
Google and Bing use a list of nearly 100 directories to verify that your Name, Address, and Phone (NAP info) are listed verbatim to what is on their own location pages and maps. It is critical that all listings be identical, avoiding formatting differences and abbreviations for words that are fully spelled out elsewhere.
Semantic markup is deployed on your own site to designate mailing and/or physical address. This is another place the search engines’ local / maps systems verify your NAP info. So make it verbatim as well, and wrap it in location markup as specified on https://schema.org/.
These are the most important and easiest pieces to control proactively. Of course, you’ll want to pursue reviews and other items, but those are secondary and can be built out over time.
Local SEO is a lot like working out. If you’re training to get a six pack, you have to work out on a regular basis and be patient. In time, the results of your hard work will be visible and maintainable. Therefore, the best local SEO strategy is a combination of patience and consistency.
The first mistake business owners make when hiring an SEO agency is expecting instant results. SEO is a process, not a magic trick, and patience is imperative. Second, you have to be consistent. It’s important that the information you’re displaying across the web is accurate and you have to be consistent in your efforts.
Christina Miazgowicz, Local SEO Expert at Seer Interactive
First and foremost it is important to make sure citations have accurate, consistent information across the web. In addition to that I would say local content and reviews are very important in providing users with information about the business and the services offered.
Create a local news blog. Cover topics of specific interest to your audience. So, if you are a plumber, cover anything related to housing that happens locally. Become known as the go-to source for this information, and the local news and bloggers will come looking for your news and linking to it.
My advice for improving local SEO is to get listed in local directories. There are two that I’d recommend above others – Yelp and Google My Business.
These are the two names that come to my mind when people talk about local businesses.Yelp provides local reviews, and has a very strong reputation. There is also Bing Places for Businesses.
Also, keywords are essential, you should always optimize your content for search engines. However, you can have the best-optimized content in the world for search engines, but if your online reviews are poor, people will go to alternatives with better reputation.
To get the most out of local marketing and SEO, it’s all about creating content that is super detailed and niche/location specific. For example, if you want to rank for something in New York City (or any location), write a wide range of topics like “Best Things to do in NYC” and “Best Restaurants in NYC”… and keep on doing this for all things in your area. It’s also important to get quality backlinks from other local sites and directories as well.
To rank a local website or business in Google, you should be focusing on your local citations and making sure they all have updated and accurate information. When possible, also link these directories and social profiles back to your site. This will help with the overall SEO and syncing between sites. More users are relying on their mobile devices to search for local business, so make sure you have a Google Local account and can update your information if anything should change.
Q:2 What is going to be the future of Local search
Sam Hurley, Founder of Optim-Eyez
Voice is the important one for now; but to be prepared for the future, consider the many new forms of IoT / devices that are being introduced that have the potential to be used more for search (VR / AR devices, for example) and the continual progression of Artificial Intelligence in search…
Dave Schneider, Founder of Dave Schneider
Local SEO is going to get more targeted and more competitive, just like search in general. Users are going to expect their local companies to have quality, mobile optimized websites, whereas right now many local businesses have quite poor websites, which will continue to hurt them as time goes on.
Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist at The Blogsmith
I really like Google’s “Popular Time” feature for restaurants on Knowledge Graph. It’s so useful for planning a night out and setting your expectations accordingly. With this in mind, I think the future of local search includes more of these data points. I can imagine some sort of schema-esque markup that businesses could use to communicate things like whether a restaurant is dog-friendly, the most popular dishes, and other information that helps people pick a place to eat.
Patrick Coombe, CEO of Elite Strategies
As far as the future of local search, as of now Google is still one of the main ways that consumers look for local businesses. The format of the SERPs are changing on an almost daily basis, so it’s really important that you stay up to date on the latest trends. What happens if a major Google update happens and you aren’t there to optimize it? I would also keep your ears open in terms of any new search engines that might hit the market. Yes Google is the major powerhouse, but it has received a lot of criticism in the last few years for their privacy and focus on advertisements and less on organic listings.
Stanley Dunthorne, Owned Media Specialist at Hallam Internet
It’s going to become more challenging to drive organic traffic to your website. We’ve already seen testing of local ads in local packs, but another important point to consider is that across industries, Google’s likely to find more ways to keep local users on Google, whether that’s booking a table at a local restaurant or booking a haircut through the Google panel. To ensure you don’t end up losing sales, keep an eye out for new Google My Business features and ensure you’re making the most of them.
Mike Schiemer, Owner of Bootstrap Business
I think the future of local SEO, and SEO in general, is going to involve more voice searches. You need to optimize your websites and business listings for voice searches as more people skip the typing and go right for the Alexa, Google, or Siri voice search on their mobile devices and vehicles.
Chris Makara, Founder of Chris Makara
As for the future of local search, I feel it’s definitely going to revolve around voice search. The use of voice search continues to rise and this provides some great opportunities for local businesses to take advantage of.
Clayton Johnson, CMO at The Hoth
The future of local search is building your brand and reputation: Google is offering more and more actions that can be completed WITHIN the search results like booking hotels, yoga classes, and especially with HSA (home service ads) direct booking. As more actions are happening off your website and in the search results, having a solid reputation is more important than ever.
Jacob Cass, Founder of Just Creative
Voice search is going mainstream, so you need to ensure that your website is optimized for local search. Not only that, but you will want to have solid reviews, be active on social media and within your community. Also, create location specific content to ensure you get found on search.
Vivek Patel, Local Search Analyst & Content Marketer at E2M
According to me, Google My Business is going to be the future of local search. Google constantly introduces new features that businesses can use to improve their visibility. If you noticed, Google introduced a number of feature changes in 2017.
Google My Business promises to help local companies get more visibility (and search engine accuracy) than ever before.
Steve Wiideman, CEO of Wiideman Consulting Group
The future of local search is obviously voice and assistant technology. Businesses should be experimenting with Actions and Scripts and prepare for a hands-free search ecosystem, beginning with Google Assistant and Amazon Echo.
Scott Gombar, CEO of CT SEO
Voice Search. If businesses are not preparing and optimizing for voice search they will be impacted significantly by the increasing usage of voice assistants.
James Norquay, SEO & Content Marketing Director at Prosperity Media
In the future I see Google and Bing using more of voice search, so it’s crucial to be fully optimised and ranking for terms like “best seafood restaurant in x area”. Also I see opportunities in VR space for local search companies putting more of a experience in local.
Tyson Downs, Owner of Titan Web Agency
As far as the future of search, all I can say is voice will be big, but other than that, like everyone else, I’m unsure, but looking forward to whatever happens.
Jake Bohall, Vice President at Hive Digital
I believe local search is going to being to have a much heavier weighting with reviews and citations from other known local businesses. More local businesses are being found through social, nextdoor, and similar services, so it is important for local businesses to diversify their search strategies to accommodate searches occurring on non-Google platforms. Freshness of site content, reviews, and similar will be important as Google begins to favor businesses that show they are active (read: in business still), and are giving users positive experiences.
Jade Mudri, Content Marketer & Editor at Monitor Backlinks
Google is likely to start taking your customers’ opinions about your business even more seriously, and showing more user-acquired information about your business in the SERPs — like the “Popular times” feature. In the future, local search results could show details collected from your customers like how clean your business is, how noisy it is, and how long the wait is. That just means local businesses will need to really focus on their customer experience, and build loyalty and trust.
Sarah Nelson, Content Marketer at Staylisted
I believe that search engines are going to become fractured. Google will no longer have a search monopoly, which will cause SEO efforts to need to be spread across multiple search engines such as Bing, Baidu, Duckduckgo, etc. Marketing agencies will need to discover which search engines should be the primary target for certain industries and focus their efforts accordingly.
When/if this does happen, it’ll be beneficial for local businesses. Without Google having complete power over search ranking results, local businesses will have more opportunity to get in front of their target audiences without the necessity of jumping through hoops. Ranking factors will continue to move toward content and search query answers and away from specific coding and keyword stuffing.
Craig Campbell, Owner of Craig Campbell SEO Training & Consultancy
The future of local search is constantly evolving with Google making sure things are localised, and I think this will continue to evolve to ensure that small local businesses have that opportunity with local rankings. Rather than back in the day where the national companies dominated the market by sheer brute force.
Ryan Redding, Owner of DP Marketing.Services
Without a doubt, the future of local search is going to be centered around the massive innovations around artificial intelligence (AI). Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google have made astonishing investments in developing the capabilities of AI, and it is changing the way people interact with the world around them- sometimes without their knowledge. From traffic lights to medical diagnosis, AI is revolutionizing the world.
Google has made huge inroads with consumers over the past year by providing low cost smart speakings into homes called Google Home, and they integrate a product called Google Assistant. That means your customer will actually never open Google to begin with. They’ll simply speak it into the air, and AI will try to solve the problem.
While this is just scratching the surface, in the next 5 years, most analysts expect customers to use AI-connect smart devices more than traditional internet-connected device when looking for solutions. If you’re serious about maintaining a digital footing for your business in the years to come, you have to adapt to the constant shifts and development within artificial intelligence; the future of your business may very well depend on it.
Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
The future of local search is being shaped each day and it’s happening rapidly. One trend we’re seeing is the increased competitiveness in local search results. In 2015, Google reduced the amount of listings shown in its local pack from 7 to 3. It has also become much more challenging to rank well based on the content of a profile. It used to be that you could fill out your profile completely, have more reviews than your competition and you would probably outrank them. Today, Moz’s annual survey of local SEO experts lists hundreds of factors (both positive and negative) that can influence where a business ranks in GMB search results.
Another trend we are seeing (and that most certainly contributes to increased competitiveness in local search) is that more local businesses are catching on to local SEO. They are taking the time or paying someone to optimize their web presence for them which is causing everyone to work harder to achieve the same results.
Lastly, Google is narrowing its focus for some industries and using factors like searcher’s proximity to a business as a ranking factor. These are factors that often cannot be optimized for. If a searcher is 1 mile away from a relevant business, the other relevant business that is in another town 20 miles away (all else being equal) is not going to show up in a search for that user.
Steve Ryan, CEO of RyTech, LLC
I see the future of Local Search continue to be user engagement. Using posts, receiving reviews, and showing that you’re a truly local business invested in the community will also be crucial factors to potential customers finding your listing.
Christina Miazgowicz, Local SEO Expert at Seer Interactive
Future of local search is an integrated strategy that provides users with as much information as possible before they would even arrive on the website. For example, making sure Google My Business listings are fully optimized and also executing local pack ads in surrounding areas of the business. This also includes utilizing Google Posts, responding to Questions and Answers, or adding options like ability to book or make an appointment right into Google My Business listings.
Zac Johnson, Founder at Blogging.org
The future of local search is going to be mobile search. Spend a lot of time on this process and also make sure your site is super fast and mobile responsive.
After reading this, it’s clear how important accurate business information, customer reviews and listings are for any business. From voice search to artificial intelligence, the future of local search sure looks promising, therefore as a business owner you got to be ready for the transformation in the field of search.