This post was originally intended to be a contribution to the “Where do you see Local Search in 2014?” post by Joel Popoff. Problem is, after spending the last twelve months in the Local SEO trenches my thoughts ended up being somewhat longer than originally intended and Joel kindly suggested putting this out as a post of it’s own.
Well, here it goes, this is an expanded viewpoint on the original question with a focus on Local SEO in the UK as there is often a lag with us getting new features like the Local Carousel.
Where do you see local search in 2014?
Where do we see local search in 2014? Well, we are only a few months away so I don’t see it being hugely different to where it is now initially and that is right up front when you are searching with a localised intent.
More so than big changes I suspect we will see more subtle changes. More localisation. More localised organic results. More visibility for local businesses. A push towards quality and maybe the integration of more on page quality signals from the main algorithm.
The Bigger Picture
It’s hard to consider just local in a vacuum and what really matters here is what is happening in search as a whole. Where are the opportunities? What does commercial national SEO look like in 2014? Is it even viable as Google continues to squeeze our commercial organic listings in favour of local results and paid search?
User behaviour as a driver for more localisation
User behaviour is changing and we are moving towards smartphones and local search. Automatically localised search results mean that more and more people simply google ‘plumber’ on their smartphone and receive a localised results without a location. In short, the search engines will become the yellow pages replacement that yell.com could never be. Simply search and you will receive.
The $99 Local SEO packages will be out in force
We will see more attempts at productising local SEO and more cheap and cheerful packages that when rolled out at scale will hurt more than they help. Local search whilst simpler than other options can still be complicated and can certainly be done wrong.
Competition will increase
Local search will get more competitive over 2014. The basics will get you so far but then we will see a bigger drive to focus on site quality and competitive difference makers. We already see this in some very busy niches like hotels in small holiday towns where we have hundreds of hotels in a small geographic area. Many of them have hundreds of citations and reviews so looking beyond local SEO will generate better localised results as the overall quality of their site (and marketing) is increased.
Do good things and have people say good things about you
Reputation management will grow ever more important. You can’t simply opt out of the conversation and pretend it is not happening. People are talking about your business and you have to have a voice whilst also encouraging your happy customers to advocate your business and brand with reviews so prospects can see what a great job you do.
David vs. Goliath
Local provides a solid change for small local businesses to get highly visible in results that would otherwise be crowded out by the Goliath brands out there that operate nationally.
The Empire Strikes Back
Big brands with multiple locations will start to take notice and make sure they are using solid local SEO techniques across the site and locations. This will happen slowly though, so there will be many opportunities for the little people to gain a foothold with the right advice.
The Bigger Picture
Local SEO will often only get you so far so businesses should be looking at other strategies from lead generation to ensuring they are active in social channels and serving the ever growing requirements (and expectations) of a new kind of customer.
Attention to Detail is important
Local Search requires an almost OCD attention to detail and as such, there will be many casualties. A citation audit and clean up is not the same as a link clean up, but if you pay peanuts for your local SEO you will get monkeys.
The Basics are Still The Same
In the 2013 Local SEO Ranking Factors, David Mihm detailed that the basics have pretty much stayed the same since 2011 and we simply can’t quibble with that. There is generally no need for Kick Ass Local SEO strategies and 9 out of 10 cats should focus on getting the basics right (attention to detail).
- Proper category associations
- A physical address in the city being searched
- Consistent, high quality citations from sources that are:
- Your NAP information featured clearly on your website
- Your location as a keyword in title tags and headlines
- A smattering of reviews on both Google and thirdparty sites
- A handful of highquality inbound links
All of this has happened before and will happen again
I was working in search in 1999 promoting sites at the company I worked for and was fortunate enough to stumble across people like Jill Whalen and Doug Heil who preached the right way of doing things. Over the years we have watched as competitors fell away following various updates and whilst it is not always easy doing things right we don’t have the crushing defeats that sometimes plague those who have trosen to tread the dark path.
I see Local SEO suffering the same kind of issues down the road. Cheap packages, poor work and collateral damage. The human condition means many will look for the cheap, easy option and many more will try to sell it.
Lets hope we don’t see the local version of Penguin or Panda and that the quality signals we have in place means that whilst some cheap approaches won’t work that they won’t hurt those who don’t know better and fell foul of the $99 offer.
Local SEO is Getting Bigger
As a final answer to the question of ‘where do we see local SEO in 2014’ we see it being the biggest opportunity to grab targeted traffic from non commercial search results so make sure you are getting your slice of the pie.