Local SEO will increase in importance over the next few years, making it tougher for local businesses to make it to the top of search results
The importance of local search will continue to grow with 46% of searches on Google already having local intent. Moreover, almost every local search converts into a sales either online and offline. This means, more and more businesses will try to make it to the top of the local search results, making local SEO tougher than before. Here are some things to consider:
- By 2020, around 50% of searches will be voice-based so there will be less typing involved. This will give rise to a higher number of long tail keywords and hyperlocal searches.
- Reviews will play an important role in businesses having more positive reviews ranking higher on the local search results.
- User engagement will be the key. Google will give higher importance to businesses that receive the maximum engagement.
Now, let’s discuss the things that will remain same and what are the new changes that are set to impact the local search landscape in 2020 and ahead.
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Basic factors like the ‘RDP’ will remain the same
RDP stands for Relevance, Distance and Prominence. The basic RDP factors will remain the same and it will affect your overall business presence in the local search results.
- Relevance means how well your business listing matches with the user’s intent. For example, if you are searching for a ‘Sushi restaurant’ then Google will return a list that only includes local restaurants that serve ‘Sushi’.
- Distance measures how far the searcher is from the business when the search is made. Businesses nearest to the searcher will be ranked higher. For example, if you are in Dothan searching for ‘a shoe store near me’ and Google detects your location to be near the Wiregrass Commons Mall then shoe stores in or nearest to the Wiregrass Commons Mall will be ranked higher.
- Prominence measures the popularity of the business both in the offline and online world. For example, if you are searching for Pizza then companies like ‘Dominos’ or ‘Pizza Hut’ will have an upper hand in the listings as compared to any other mom and pop Pizza shop.
Top factors that will make the biggest difference
Let’s discuss the top factors that will make the biggest difference for local SEO in the years to come:
1. Businesses With Exceptional Product/Service Will Have The Best Chances of Ranking Higher in Local Search
No matter how large your advertising budget is, the ultimate winner will the business that has the best product or the service. Google is currently adding improvements to its current algorithm, which will enable it to rank local businesses that are loved and highly-rated by the people.
Hence, there should be no foul play involved in your strategy. Buying likes, reviews or fake comments won’t take your business to the next level. Instead, trying to build a great product or providing the best service that follows a customer first approach will help you dominate the local search results.
2. “Entity authority” will become a key factor
The authority of the entity (or business) will play a major role in Google’s local algorithm. An interesting article published on Tidings reveals that Google might determine the authority of the local entity based on the following factors:
How popular is the entity? Are people discussing it on forums, in communities or articles? If people mention your site, your business name, your business’s geo-location but don't link to it, it might get counted as an entity mention and help you get higher rankings in Google search. Bill Slawski mentioned this in his article. This means that brand mentions will become a key factor.
One of the best ways to generate a lot of brand mentions is to produce content that is locally relevant to your target audience. For example, the below graphic created by Frac.tl for the brand Trippy generated a lot of local business mentions and valuable backlinks. It featured 196 of the oldest bars in America. Publishers were able to find the bars of their area and share it with their readers. This was an amazing way of generating locally relevant brand mentions and backlinks.
What is the reaction of the people for the entity? Do people love it or hate it? You need to make sure that your business receives the best engagement everywhere. Again, based on the Tidings article linked above, the following graph can be seen as the future of ranking factor where “engagement” is seen to be receiving a major share when it comes to local SEO.
3. New “engagement metrics” will come into play
Local search engagement metrics like how many people have saved the business as a contact in their Android phone or how many people ask for the location of the business using local maps will come into play.
Google is already controlling all the sources it needs to judge the popularity and reputation of a business so that it ranks the best at the top of the local search results. Google Chrome, Android, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Assistant etc. are all such services that are busy tracking user data. The user engagement metrics tracked by services like these will play a deciding role in the local rankings.
4. Voice SEO will play a dominant role
As per a survey performed by BrightLocal, around 56% of users have searched for a local business using a Smartphone in the last 12 months.
Moreover, the same survey revealed that restaurants, grocery stores and food delivery are the top three local businesses that people search for using voice.
This shows that voice has already started to rule the local search and businesses who are late in optimizing their presence for voice search will soon struggle to rank highly. Here are the steps you need to take to optimize your business for voice SEO:
Accurate business listing
Have a complete and accurate listing of your business on Google My Business. You must accurately mention your business name, complete address, business timings, price of the products, add proper images and videos, invite customers to add reviews and provide users with all the information they might look for when searching for your business on Google. Remember, Google displays an option to sort the local listings based on review, price and hours.
People may use a voice command like “find the best bakery store near me” and Google might take into account factors like reviews, mentions, entity authority and timing before suggesting the most relevant result.
Ranking for long tail (question-based) keywords
Research long tail keywords that users might ask to find your business on Google. Remember, most of the question-based keywords starts with what, how, when, where, which etc. Use tools like Answer The Public to identify potential question-based queries and create unique landing pages that answer the exact questions asked by the user. You can also take the help of Quora, Google related searches or scan your own analytics data to find even more questions that are already asked by your customers.
Getting your business listed under the knowledge panel
Google will prefer to list businesses that have a Knowledge Panel like the one given below. You need to add proper local structured data to your website in order to allow Google to correctly fetch all the details related to your business.
Optimizing for “near me” searches
Stats reveal that “near me” searches have increased over time. Hence, you need to list as many locations as needed in your Google My Business account. This will help Google to properly identify the business locations your company serves and return them as a search result when any potential searcher is searching for your business service in those particular locations.
Local SEO is certainly going to get tougher in 2020. More and more new businesses will try to compete with older ones making it difficult for marketers to gain the top spot in organic listings. Keeping the discussed factors in mind can certainly help to gain an upper hand.
The most important local ranking factor will be the product/service. If you can get that right, no matter how boring any advertising you do is, people will still come and visit your site forcing Google to rank your business on top. Other than the product/service, voice SEO, business mentions, engagement metrics and entity authority all will play a crucial role in local SEO.
Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist with over 12 years of experience. He maintains a personal SEO blog, SEOsandwitch.com
and regularly publishes his works on SEMrush, Ahrefs, Hubspot, Wired and other popular publications. You can connect with him on LinkedIn