Did you know that Google rolls out several updates on a daily basis? Although they tend to avoid confirming these updates, the big wigs in Mountain View have made it very clear that in order to improve the user experience daily updates are common place. So what happened in 2017 that impacted local search results, and what can business owners do as they enter a new year with sites set on various business growth goals?
Get a Hawk’s Eye View
In August of 2017 Google unleashed the Hawk Update to help the search engine filter some of the local organic results. Before its existence, businesses within the same industry that shared the same building (and even in the same neighborhood) would be filtered out of local results, as it is believed Google thought they were duplicates. Businesses offering similar products and services in specific areas were more commonly affected; restaurants and hotels especially.
Google’s initial intention was to ensure that a single business couldn’t dominate the SERPs by having multiple listings. What ended up happening was that competitors who were geographically close wound up booting other potential search results out of the mix. Google Hawk triaged the situation by scaling down the size of the geographic area controlling the filters. This means that Google was (and still is) targeting and removing businesses using the same address multiple times as a way to inundate local listings.
If you are like many businesses out there, you are still using SEO tactics to rank in multiple places on page one of Google with no black hat intentions. Rather than continuing this approach, get a hawk’s eye view of your organic landscape and how Google is filtering yours and your competitor’s listings. Access an SEO tool like SpyFu and see what your competitors are ranking for. Then study the context. Rather than trying to rank in multiple spots in the SERPs for the same keyword / search query, do what the best SEO agencies in Los Angeles are doing and instead aim to rank on page one of Google for industry keywords deep in contextual meaning. RankBrain is the third largest ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. In 2017 I ran several local SEO experiments and discovered higher conversion rates for clients who organically ranked on page one of Google for 20+ different context-based keywords as opposed to broad term and exact match keywords. Although “Culver City gyms” has significantly more search volume than “gyms for pregnant women in Culver City”, “Culver City gym with personal training”, or “sports injury gym training in Culver City”, these low-hanging fruit resulted in new client memberships by 32% AND were not forced out of the mix by Google’s finicky watch. 2018 is well underway. If one of your goals is to rank in multiple places be sure to attempt this using contextualized keyword variations embedded in unique content written solely to the context at hand. Also, as your goal is to make sales and not simply rank, be sure to use CTAs to funnel readers to landing pages with more information and buying options, or straight to a form submission or checkout cart.
Smart Home Optimization for Local SEO
When it comes to technology trends in 2017, smart home devices dominated the industry and will continue doing so. By now we already know to optimize local businesses for voice search, but now businesses must be savvy and consider optimizing for smart home devices. Some of the best selling smart home hubs include:
- Amazon Echo
- Amazon Dot
- Google Home
- Ivee Voice
- Zettaly Avy Smart Speaker
Do some research and see how each device searches for local listings. For example, I have Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot in my home. When I asked for the nearest dry cleaner Alexa responded by saying “based on your zip code settings, here are a few popular ones”. If your goal is to organically rank for smart home search queries, then (in the case of Amazon products which are the best-selling) you will need to write content that reads naturally focusing around your zip code. To organically rank for your zip code through a geomarketing strategy, be sure to talk about your neighborhood using the zip code as a reference, talk about how your products and services provide solutions for buyers in your area, and focus on who your products are for, why people want them, what problems they solve, and what buyers generally think of them.
Still need more convincing that you should include smart home hubs in your local SEO efforts? According to Search Engine Watch Google voice queries are up 35x compares to last year. Here are some other statistics to pay attention to:
- 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 – Comscore
- Roughly 30 percent of searches will be done without a screen by 2020 – Mediapos
- Bu 2019 the voice recognition market will surpass the $600 million dollar industry mark – Technavio and Skyword
- In 2017 25 million smart home search devices were shipped bringing the total to 33 million devices in circulation. It is predicted this figure will increase by 30 million in 2018 – VoiceLabs and MediaPost
Your consumer audience members are already using smart home devices, and this usage will only continue to go up. Optimize your local business with smart home voice search in mind, while this niche department of SEO is still relatively young!
YouTube Converts Local Search Traffic
Roughly 65 percent of people are visual learners. This means that YouTube is a hot optimization ticket to convert the curious searcher into a buyer by creating informative and entertaining videos that rank well. Optimizing your videos with the right keywords, video titles, tags and descriptions, video embeds and link building are key.
When doing a Google search on “how to build a lightsaber”, you can see that the first organic result is a YouTube video made by a company that builds lightsabers.
The video has more than 800 comments, more than 1.5 million views, and an ample social sharing. This type of user engagement is something Google takes into account when ranking is concerned. According to DMR Business Statistics, 1.5 billion users log into YouTube every day with 70 percent of that traffic coming from mobile devices.
As 2018 is clearly the year for increased usage and technology advancements in voice assisted search, be sure you don’t neglect YouTube in your quest for local search dominance.
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