Local SEO Updates for Your Marketing Plans in the New Year

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It’s been a busy year with lots of digital marketing developments. And local SEO was no exception. Search engines are constantly adapting to meet the increasing consumers’ informational needs and local market’s competitiveness. At the same time, businesses, local SEO professionals and their agencies have new tools, more data – and easier access to both.

Social Media engagement

And what about consumers? As the local search experience has become increasingly rich, engaging and seamless consumers are now enjoying access to more of the information they care about easier than ever.

Google is Changing Local Search

This year, most of the top local search updates are from Google. This shouldn’t be surprising, though, as Google currently controls over 92.4% of the global search engine market. This means the search engine giant remains the dominant force in the market.

Google quickly responded to changing consumer buying habits as a result of the pandemic. Let’s take a look at some of the most important key takeaways.

  • 83% of local consumers use Google Search to find information about local businesses.
  • 90% of local consumers will make a purchase within one week of their initial search.
  • Google facilitated 2 billion connections such as reviews and bookings between businesses and shoppers per month in 2020.
  • [Available near me] searches increased 100% in 2021; [now near me] searches by 200% in 2021,and [along my route] searches 1000% in 2020.

With numbers like that, businesses can’t afford to ignore local SEO. Capturing even a portion of these searches can be game-changing for any business and life or death for those who are struggling.

This means businesses need to understand the changes to local search throughout 2021 and adjust their 2022 local SEO strategy accordingly. So, what do you need to know about 2021’s many updates and changes?

1. Local SEO Made Easier for Businesses Thanks to GBP (formerly GMB)

Sahan Google my business

Google My Business did not only get a name change this year. The rebranding also came with updates and new features, too.

The most impactful one allowed business owners to add or update contact information, opening hours, add images, etc. right from Google Search and Google Maps. No more having to dig through an app or platform to update or correct their listings.

What’s more, businesses can complete the verification process and address issues such as suspensions from Search, too. This makes it easier than ever to gain a powerful presence in the local search results.

2. Google Made It Easier To Find And Catch Up on the Latest Local News

Following the tripling of searches for [news near me] over five years across the globe, Google added features to the local SERPs to make local news easier to find and create.

Google launched two projects to help journalists enrich their stories with local data and information:

Census Mapper Project

Gather, analyse and visualise data collected and processed by The Associated Press about a local area.

Common Knowledge Project

Access geographic comparisons, charts and visualisations for data analysis at the suburbs, state and national levels.

Google also made local news stories easier to find in the SERPs thanks to these updates:

  • Local News Carousel: Local news stories relevant to a user’s query now appear at the top of the SERPs, making them easier to find while giving local journalists and publications more visibility.
  • Top Stories Carousel: Authoritative local news sources appear alongside the major publications, which once dominated this portion of the SERPs.
  • More News In Search: Google improved its ability to connect the news to broad topic queries.
  • Local Tweets: Local publications and journalists appear in local news with tweets rather than just published stories.

3. More Visual Elements and Rich Results from Bing

Business website

In March 2021, Microsoft Bing introduced five updates focused on providing local searchers with a richer experience by improving the integration of visual elements with its text-based search results.

  • Expandable carousels give users access to additional information when they hover over a result.
  • Infographic-like results now entice searchers using broad queries to dig deeper into a topic.
  • Intuitive highlights pull details like ingredients lists, calorie counts and nutritional information from a page without requiring the user to click through to a website.
  • Integrated visual search allows users to visually search for similar-looking items by clicking the integrated visual search button.

But why do these things matter to local SEO professionals? The answer would be because Bing incorporated these same concepts into its local search results.

Instead of a simple image carousel or text-based facts, Microsoft Bing delivers a visually-rich SERP for local queries consisting of relevant resources gathered from Bing Maps, top images, visitor reviews and other sources. These changes have made focusing some local SEO efforts on Bing a more attractive prospect. Creative businesses can own the local search space if they’re willing to get creative with the many local search opportunities.

So, if you haven’t already, enrich your site and listings with various media types and content, including user-generated content. And always remember to use schema.

4. New Attributes and Features for Everyone

Google is always looking for ways to help businesses stand out and better satisfy a query. That’s why Google constantly releases new attributes.

Attributes provide proactive answers to questions searchers often have about a specific business type and are featured prominently on Google Business Profiles.

Here are some of the major attributes rolled out:

  • Business ownership type attributes such as the Black-owned or Women-owned business. These attributes help searchers who are looking to support businesses with shared value make these connections.
  • Health, safety and pandemic-related attributes. Local businesses can also share information about safety protocols and advertise changing or new services such as curbside pickup, no-contact delivery and dine-in service.
  • Online appointments, estimates, online classes and digital care help searchers make more informed decisions about where to visit.
  • Call logging, messaging and access to new data and insights in Google Search and Maps help keep customers engaged by enabling businesses to track customer phone calls and respond to missed calls.

All of these can be huge for a busy business. If you haven’t looked at the many new attributes made available this year, it should be one of the first local SEO tasks you take on in the new year.

5. Local Ecommerce Got A Boost Thanks to Pointy

Dekstop screen google my business to boost your local seo

In June 2021, 50% of shoppers said they planned to check online to see if an item was in stock before buying their holiday items. In fact, searches with the phrase “in stock” increased 8,000% yearly.

This means adding your products to your Google Business Profile and keeping the inventory up to date can be highly beneficial for your business. Still, it can be a time-consuming feature–one that businesses don’t always have time for as sales increase.

To make it easier, Google announced Pointy integration. This new feature allows eligible retailers to automatically add their in-store product inventory to Google. What’s more, it’s updated every time you sell an item, keeping the product availability up-to-date online. Searchers will always know what you have in stock.

6. The Mobile-First Indexing Rollout Still Matters

Mobile-first indexing has been looming since Google first announced it at the end of 2017. Since then, there have been several expansions, stops and starts. This is including the September 2020 delay in which the search engine stated it would hold off mobile-first indexation until at least March 2021.

Why the delay occurred is irrelevant to our points of discussion. The point is it would be unwise to get caught off guard. If you’re not offering a seamless mobile experience already, you need to get on it.

Google’s search statistics tell us that 76% of people use their smartphones to search for something nearby during the day. And 28% of those result in a sale.

So how do you get ready? The best advice for local businesses and marketing professionals hoping to attract attention from on-the-go local searchers, according to Google, is to focus on creating a positive mobile experience.

Our responsive web design from our talented team here in Australia and Indonesia will build your website to adapt to any device with which your users are viewing. Contact our award-winning web designers today for a faster website optimised for conversion.

7. New Local SEO Insights

Local businesses and SEO professionals looking to keep up with all the changes also gained access to some new insights.

local seo services

One great resource released this year was a research paper from Milestone Inc. The study analysed 500 location-based businesses, their sessions and page views to understand better which channels had more earnings at the best ROI. Some of the findings include:

  • Referral traffic came in third behind the organic and local search for ROI.
  • Referral traffic did, however, have higher engagement rates.
  • Local search gives the best ROI with the highest page views per session.

Another useful insight came from Rio SEO has been analysing aggregate GMB performance metrics from the over 200,000 business locations managed in its platform. Each month, the brand releases a new report with vertical-specific benchmarks for Search Views, Clicks to Call, Clicks to Website, and more.

If you’re looking for data to inform your 2022 local SEO strategy, you’ll want to be sure to check these and other opportunities out.

Final takeaways

While these seven updates are essential for your 2022 local search strategy, they’re not the only things you should have on your radar.

If you’re just getting started with local SEO, be sure you’re setting up Products for maximum visibility and conversions in Google Search and getting the most from Google Maps for your business. For large, multi-location businesses, ensure you’re leveraging the data available in the Google Merchant Center to power your local SEO campaigns. You’ll also want to take care of any enterprise local SEO challenges or common Service Area Business issues.

Equally important for your local SEO marketing campaign is to get your business on multiple local business platforms like Top4. Top4 is the most cost-effective way to boost your website traffic. Our unique location-based marketing platform provides a number of features you can use to boost your business online marketing strategies and drive more customers’ engagement. From social media integration, service areas and multiple content publishing tools, Top4 is your business’ one-stop marketing platform! Join today!

To find out how we can help you with your Website + Marketing, using our unique location marketing platform called Top4, get in touch today at www.top4marketing.com

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