2018 is finally gone. It was a fun and exciting year for the local SEO industry! We got voice search-ready, we compared citation services, we got familiar with Google’s plus codes, and we made sure we were optimizing Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) images according to their latest guidelines. Now, it’s time to ring in the new year and see what 2019 will bring for local businesses.
Will voice search play an even bigger role for local SEO and local businesses in 2019? What about machine learning? I asked some industry experts to weigh in, and I even got them to share a secret or two with you.
On Voice Search
You’ve seen and heard me talk about voice search a lot lately, but it’s only because I’m really passionate about it. I believe that voice search is revolutionizing local SEO and the digital marketing industry. Before you know it, more and more brands and businesses will be found via voice search and will jump on the trend. Local businesses cannot afford to be behind and should be looking at ways to get voice search-ready. A good way of doing this, according to LSA’s Greg Sterling, is to complete information and claim profiles in Google Business Profile and Yelp.
Michelle Stinson Ross from Apogee Results said that voice search is already critical for local home service businesses. “[A] close second is navigational voice searches for directions to your business or recommendations for your type of business,” she added. Beanstalk Internet Marketing’s Dave Davies had similar thoughts. “Self-driving cars and ‘near me’ terms are going to massively shake up how we find things and how we interact with the world,” he shared.
As for challenges that come with voice search, Brandon Schmidt from YDOP said, “No longer can you be satisfied with ranking second or third for a search; the top spot will get all the attention, traffic and business over the competition.”
I’ve talked before about everything local businesses can do to get found on voice search, but Michelle had some good thoughts on that as well. She said that local businesses need to consider optimizing for voice queries that get customers to their door. Not all keyword rankings are made the same, so it’s not just about optimizing content – it’s about optimizing the right content.
On Machine Learning
Machine learning is basically what makes computers smarter. More intelligent computers naturally lead to an intrinsic change in local SEO – in all SEO, really – because of the way search engines crawl a page. Redundant, thin content that doesn’t give the reader a valuable experience will not help a local business rank better, even when it includes all the right keywords. In fact, it might even hurt the business’ rankings.
Joe Youngblood at Winner Winner Chicken Dinner hopes that “machine learning will help us do more heavy lifting of data and understand what to optimize on a page-by-page basis, enabling us to keep up with algorithmic changes at a more granular level.” Grant Simmons from Homes said that machine learning should make local SEO easier if local businesses can fully provide the structured data to search engines. He continued to direct local businesses to Google Business Profile, as that’s the perfect way for them to provide the structured data Google is craving. It’s all about “how relevant” you are to the consumer, according to Denise Casagrande from PCG Digital.
In the end, local SEO is all about stellar content. For Bill Hartzer of Hartzer Consulting, optimizing content for machine learning “still comes down to keyword research.”
On Their SEO Secrets
Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to the secret for a successful local SEO strategy. For Garrett Sussman at Grade.us, reviews are key, while for Bill Hartzer, it’s all about content and consumer education. Low-cost advertising on the Google Display Network plays a big role for David Szetela at FMB Media. User experience is a must to get conversions, per Michelle Stinson Ross.
For us at Advice Local, it’s about finding the right balance. You must have great content, accurate citations and listings – preferably submitted in real time to avoid discrepancies – and you have to partner with the right people.
We worked hard the entire year to help local businesses get found online. Request a demo today to see how we can help you, too.