Local Search is a constantly changing landscape, and that certainly has been the case in 2015! The power of local search for a local business cannot be underestimated. A Bright Local study found that local search is the most effective digital marketing channel for local businesses. Here are my top five takeaways from a crazy year in local search.
In my opinion, the single biggest change in local search in 2015 was the number of local results dropping from seven to three on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). These results are now lower on the page, too, with local ads taking up more premium space.
Don’t expect this to change! It’s now more important than ever to be in a top-three position in Google local results. Local businesses need to prepare, because “pay to play” is here to stay.
A recent Google study indicates that for local searches involving “near me” in 2014, 80% were conducted on a mobile device. Proximity searches (where the searcher’s location is automatically determined via phone location and IP address) are an increasingly important local ranking factor.
While you can’t optimize for each searcher’s location, local marketers must make sure that your local presence is strong in terms of important ranking factors such as NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Here are a few tips:
Earlier this year, Google basically demanded that all businesses have a mobile-friendly website. Many businesses that didn’t provide searchers with a good mobile experience saw significant drops in their mobile search results. Mobilegeddon was upon us.
With mobile searches now edging out desktop searches in the United States, a mobile website cannot be ignored. Along with a mobile-friendly website, a full-blown mobile marketing strategy must be in place to capitalize on the 78% of mobile local searches that result in an offline purchases. (For example, a search for “pizza delivery” will likely result in a purchase soon after.)
Searcher behavior has a larger impact on the algorithm than ever before. Sites with a low click-through rate, high bounce rate, or low time-on-site are being negatively impacted.
Study your analytics data. If visitors are bouncing at a high rate or exiting quickly, evaluate your site’s content, usability and paths-to-conversion. For example, make sure that the content in your organic listing is aligned with the content on the landing page. Last but not least, ensure your images and messaging are compelling.
So many names! “Google Local,” “Google Plus Local,” “Google Maps,” “Google My Business.” Which one is it? It’s becoming difficult for even the experts to keep up with all the name changes, and the lack of clear communication from Google doesn’t help.
What we know is that Google My Business is the primary interface for local business owners and their agencies (for now). We have recently seen Google move local business data and reviews away from the Google Plus social network. For example, practices such as Google +1’s and sharing information on the Google Plus network appear to be obsolete.
I hope this summary of major changes in local search in 2015 is a helpful review.
Local Search is a living, breathing and ever-evolving ecosystem. Stay tuned as 2016 is sure to be action packed!