As opportunity grows for businesses to connect with customers via search, so do the challenges of determining the best approach. Here are a few local search happenings to expect in this year.
National to Local Approach for Brands The idea of a coordinated national to local strategy will become a reality for more brands and local businesses in 2015. Many local markets (and vertical industries) are very competitive and keyword saturated, making it difficult for national and regional brands, as well as for independent business owners to win the online visibility game on their own.
National marketers that depend on the success of independent business owners (franchises, dealers, contractors) will find they can create a platform effect with a coordinated national-to-local approach to SEO, social media and content marketing.
Mobile Optimized Websites Making sure a business’ website is mobile optimized might mean the difference between being found by customers on a mobile browser or not. With more consumers shopping via mobile, it is clear that site traffic is moving to mobile. So, being mobile-ready is a must.
In 2013, we witnessed Google giving prominence in mobile SERPs to local businesses that properly configured their websites for mobile devices, and this will be a growing trend in 2015.
Google may even devalue some websites as well as the other major search engines if they’re not optimized correctly. Also on the mobile front, strategies like click-to-call will become even more interesting as they play a larger role in the digital lead generation strategy for many business verticals.
Google will Focus more on Ratings & Reviews In 2013, Google focused on ramping up its local ratings and reviews. It will continue to try to gather this rich, hyper local content from local consumers to grow Google+.
In another sign of this effort, businesses with verified Google listings will continue to reap benefits including having the ability to see customer ratings and reviews in their Places for Business dashboard and the ability to reply to those reviews.
This means: 1. It will be important for businesses to encourage their loyal customers to write reviews. Businesses must verify their local search listings appropriately on Google and the entire search ecosystem.
Social Media & SEO Continue to Converge Impacting local search, social media channels will continue to help drive traffic to a business’ website, building valuable links along the way and driving significant referral traffic. In general, this traffic is very valuable as time spent, number of pages viewed, and bounce rate numbers are comparable to organic traffic and other (more traditional) sources of referral traffic like directories.
Social signals will also continue to impact search algorithms since search engines now weigh “people links” higher than other links that can be “managed” or paid. Businesses successfully connecting with customers via social media channels will build more loyalty, positive ratings and reviews, natural backlinks and these websites are more likely to have higher conversion rates.