Local SEO: What’s New

The internet moves pretty fast. That’s probably a pretty obvious observation, but it seems especially appropriate as 2017 marches forward.

Local searches have changed significantly — and in just the past few years.

Remember searching for a local business not even five years ago? You’d search using phrases like “car wash in Boston” or “pizza place near Los Angeles.”

Today such long, specific phrases probably seem unwieldy and needlessly complex. You can find a location, including directions, just by entering one or two words into your mobile device. You might even be able to conduct a search using nothing but emojis.

Over 50% of all local searches on a smart device lead to a visit to a physical store. People are out and about, using their mobile devices to quickly find info about their surrounding community.

Let’s take a look at local SEO. What’s different and what’s stayed the same?

Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

These HTML elements are still necessary to reflect the content on your page. The only difference here is Google is increasing the width of the search engine results page. The new width is 600px. This means title tags should now be between 40 and 50 characters. Meta descriptions now have a maximum length of 160 characters.

Your title tags and meta descriptions show the keywords you’re trying to rank for. They’ll often contain a keyword and a location. Original, engaging titles and meta descriptions help increase click-through rates.

Google My Business and Bing Places

Google Places has become Google My Business. You’ve probably seen these before. A Google My Business profile shows up in a box on the side of the search results. People see these when they search for a business directly and many times when they search for the general product or service you provide.

You want your Google My Business profile optimized. Fortunately, this is free and easy. When businesses see your profile, they’ll see your business hours, phone number, directions on Google Maps and other primary info. You’ll want to make extra-special-double-sure all of that info is correct.

An optimized profile will also have images and photos. A logo helps reassure customers they’ve found the right business. Photos of your staff help create a personal connection. Photos of your office building or location help customers who are looking for your physical location.

Don’t forget about Bing Places, which is a similar idea. While Bing doesn’t have the reach of Google My Business, optimizing your Bing Place profile is still worth the effort.

Keyword Optimization

Finding the right keywords is still important, but in 2017 you want to really emphasize local terms. The name of the game is “geo-modifiers.” These are place names and locations.

For instance, if you provide lawn care in Minneapolis, the generic keyword “lawn care” isn’t going to be as effective as “lawn care Minneapolis.” But that’s just the start. Your copy should include even more location keywords such as the names of specific neighborhoods.

Local Schema

Schema codes are embedded into your site for search engines to read. The codes provide info about your products, business, location and other data.

These codes aren’t used as often as they should be. So if you (or the SEO expert you hire) implement schema markup, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.

Schema markup offers a lot of opportunities for business. You can optimize your site according to:

  • Business type (lawn care, B2B marketing, travel agency, etc.)
  • Events (conference attendee, sponsor, etc.)
  • Location

Not sure if your site is using Schema markup? Check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. (And if you need more help, feel free to contact us.)

Voice Search

Voice search with a mobile device has been popular for a while. But the introduction of intelligent assistants for the home is changing the game. Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and others have steadily grown in popularity since their introductions.

Because these devices are voice operated, every user is someone gradually growing more comfortable with voice search. Plus, as the devices increase in popularity, more data is collected on how real people actually use voice search.

Voice search works well for local search. After all, many local searchers are already out in the community. They’re looking for a product or service which is nearby. As intelligent assistants continue to appear in more and more homes, local voice search for home deliveries – such as food deliveries – is also likely to increase.

Optimizing for local search is a bit different today than it was just a few years ago. But these local search strategies will help your site stay ahead of the competition.