Closing out the year we want to take a look at leveraging Local Search Marketing in 2020. Increased reliance on smart devices means search engine optimization becomes even more important to businesses hoping to increase their share of the local market’s attention, loyalty, and dollars. According to a Status Labs survey, 90% of searchers haven’t made their mind up about a brand before starting their search.
Additionally, MarTech research found that 70-80% of search engine users are only focusing on the organic results. And New Media Campaigns found that organic SEO is about 5.66 times better than paid search ads.
In fact, study after study in recent years highlight the need for effective local search marketing to compete for visibility in the top of organic search engine results:
- 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles. (Wordstream)
- 82% of smartphone shoppers conduct ‘near me’ searches. (Search Engine Land)
- 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase. (Google)
- Local searches lead 50% of mobile users to visit stores within one day. (Google)
- 47% of internet users globally use an ad-blocker today. (Digital Information World)
Local Search Marketing in 2020 – How to Improve Future SEO
While we anticipate that voice-based searches will increase, and we need a few months to see how the BERT update is going to affect what search results look like, some things aren’t going to change.
The basic ranking factors for search will remain the same:
- Relevance to the intent of the user’s search query.
- Distance from searcher to business.
- Prominence as measured by the popularity of a business both online and offline.
That means that online reviews and the “authority” of a business will be the determiner when properly optimized and similar business within the same proximity are competing for the top spots in local search results.
Think of authority as how popular a business is online. Do people mention the business name in forums? Do other websites link back to the business? Do people engage with the content on the business website?
While I’m asking questions… you’re already optimizing for “near me” searches, right? Because local search marketing is all about location, so I’ll assume you’ve got that covered. And we’ve been pushing mobile optimization since Mobilegeddon.
Source: Geospatial World
But, all of that is soooo 2019. You know all this stuff already.
Let’s dig into what you need to know to win the Local Search Marketing race in 2020:
1. Google is Tracking Engagement So Play Their Game
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, and Google Assistant 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.
2. Voice Search Needs Your SEO Attention
Let’s look at the voice search explosion:
- 65% of 25-49 year old’s speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day. (PWC)
- Voice is expected to be a $40 billion channel by 2022. (OC&C Strategy Consultants)
- By 2020, 50% of all online searches will be voice searches. (Wordstream)
- As of January 2018, there were about 1 billion voice searches per month. (Wordstream)
- Two-thirds of people who use digital voice assistants, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, use their smartphones less often. (CNBC)
Data shows that a majority of consumers are searching for local businesses on their smartphones, with restaurants, grocery stores, and food delivery being the most searched local businesses.
As the use of voice-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets and digital voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home overtakes the need to actually type enter requests, we need to look at how and where we are optimizing for search.
Local businesses that are already optimized for voice search (the words people use when they ask their device for information or to take an action) will continue to rank high in 2020, where the popularity of voice search will continue to grow.
Voice Search Optimization Tips:
- Long Tail Keywords – Research question-based long-tail keywords that include local identifiers that answer who, what, when, where, which, and how.
- Google My Business – Optimize your listing with the long-tail keywords people use when using voice search.
- Knowledge Panel – Add properly structured data to local websites so Google can fetch all the pertinent details to build a knowledge panel.
3. Google is Pushing Video Content So Create It
With few small and local businesses creating video content, this is an area where most can outrank competitors in local search. In industries with visually appealing products and services (beauty, event space, realty, etc.), video is highly effective in appealing to and converting customers.
Source: Yans Media YouTube Video
Smartphones have made it easy, fast, and affordable to include short videos in your local search marketing plan where you can use videos on websites, social media, and ads. And video content is not only easy to consume, but it also engages your audience for longer periods of time - giving more information than text and images. Because you can explain concepts easily and convey emotion in videos, they have higher click-through rates and conversion rates than plain text.
This will be the year to acknowledge that video is gaining momentum as a powerful search marketing tool:
- Using videos on landing pages will increase conversions by 86%. (Wordstream)
- Video content is 50 times more likely to drive organic search results than plain text. (Omnicore)
- Including a video in a post increases organic traffic from search results by 157%. (Search Engine People)
ALSO READ: “Using Video to Rank Higher in Google Search”
4. Use Google as a Homepage & Skip the Click-Through
As digital marketers, we’re constantly checking KPI’s to gauge the performance of our SEO efforts. Raising the click-through rate on content, ads, and listings is a standard goal and one that makes sense to even the least technical clients.
But here’s another local search marketing dynamic that might change in 2020. With Google dominating the local search game, and it’s plethora of small and local business tools to list, optimize, and promote, local search users, are finding businesses on Google search, trusting they have enough information to make the right buying decision and heading to that location without clicking through to the business website.
Obviously, a strong and well-optimized web presence – including a business website – is needed to rank high enough in search results for people to see your business but once you get to the top people are trusting Google enough to engage in transactional activity making the click-through rate a less important and not the sole engagement factor in search.
Greater importance should be placed on ensuring Google My Business is accurate, optimized and continually updated, while all the Knowledge Panel features like reviews, posts, photos, hours, and Q&A are all used and well managed. When Google has all the information the consumer needs, you remove one more step between research and purchase.
5. BERT Isn’t Messing With You – Just Carry On
Source: Search Engine Roundtable
In October 2019, Google announced the BERT update. Moans and groans were heard all across the land about yet another update but turns out BERT just makes search better without really messing with how we optimize for search results.
BERT, Google tells us, helps the search engine better understand the natural language of search engine users to discover the intent of the search. This is great for SEO because we don’t have to optimize content for machines and people. Here are the areas where you’ll want to double down on your for-real-live-people optimization:
- Voice Search
- Local Content
- Long-Tail Keywords (for hyper-local search queries)
Check your search traffic for changes to see if there has been any impact from BERT. Chances are if you had pages that were ranking high before the update, they weren’t converting very well. The new update focuses on matching searcher’s intent with relevant content, so optimize lagging landing pages to reflect your long-tail keyword relevance.
Local Search Marketing in 2020 – Ranking Higher in SERPs
According to MOZ’s “The State of Local SEO” industry report, “Even small local businesses can see outsized benefits with sufficient attention to their presence in search results. While many of them work with small marketing teams in more general roles, it’s important that they include SEO in their tactics, and nearly one in five isn’t applying the necessary resources.”
For digital marketers and search engine optimizers, local search marketing will get tougher in 2020 as more and more local businesses realize the importance of increased visibility and ranking at the top of local search results. Beat out local competitors by keeping these tips in mind and adjusting your local SEO strategy to match the advancements in how search engines work and how people will use search engines.
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