It’s been a busy year in digital marketing, with plenty of new developments, and local SEO was no exception.
Search engines have evolved to meet the informational needs of consumers as local markets have become more competitive.
Businesses, local SEO professionals, and their agencies now have access to new tools and data, as well as easier access to both.
What about the public? They’re getting more of the information they want thanks to a richer, more engaging, and more seamless local search experience.
Google And Changing Consumer Buying Habits Disrupted Local Search
Many of this year’s top local search updates have come from Google, which should come as no surprise.
Google reacted quickly to changing consumer purchasing habits as a result of the pandemic and continues to be the market’s dominant force.
- Google currently has a global market share of more than 92.4 percent in the search engine space.
- Google Search is used by 83 percent of local consumers to find information about local businesses, and 90 percent make a purchase within one week of their initial search.
- In 2020, Google will have facilitated 2 billion connections, such as reviews and bookings, between US businesses and shoppers.
- Searches for [available near me] increased by 100 percent in 2021; searches for [now nearby] increased by 200 percent in 2021; and searches for [along my route] increased by 1000 percent in 2020.
Businesses can’t afford to ignore local SEO when the numbers are this high. Capturing even a small portion of these searches can be game-changers for any business and life or death for those in need.
That means understanding how the local search will change in 2021 and adjusting your 2022 local SEO strategy accordingly. So, what do you need to know about the numerous updates and changes in 2021?
Read How to Get Your Business Started When You’re Just Getting Started.
2. Google Business Profile has made local SEO easier for businesses
When Google renamed Google My Business to Google Business Profile, it also brought with it updates and new features.
The fact that business owners no longer have to sift through an app or platform to update or correct their listings was perhaps the most significant. You can add or update contact information, business hours, images, and other details directly from Google Search and Google Maps.
You can also finish the verification process and address issues like suspensions from Search, making it easier than ever to establish a strong presence in local search results.
2. Google has made it easier to find and read the most recent local news
Following the tripling of searches for [news near me] over the last five years, Google added features to the local SERPs to make local news easier to find and create.
Google launched two initiatives to assist journalists in enhancing their stories with local data and information:
Census Mapper Initiative
Collect, analyze, and visualize data about a local area collected and processed by The Associated Press.
The Project for Common Knowledge
At the county, state, and national levels, you can access geographic comparisons, charts, and visualizations for data analysis.
With these updates, the search engine also made local news stories easier to find in the SERPs:
- Local News Carousel: Relevant local news stories to a user’s query now appear at the top of the SERPs, making them easier to find and increasing visibility for local journalists and publications.
- Top Stories Carousel: Authoritative local news sources coexist with major publications, which used to dominate this section of the SERPs.
- More News in Search: Google has improved its ability to link news to broad topic queries.
- Local Tweets: Rather than just published stories, local publications and journalists appear in local news with tweets.
3. Bing has added more visual elements as well as rich results
In March 2021, Microsoft Bing released five updates aimed at providing a richer experience to local searchers by improving the integration of visual elements with its text-based search results.
- When a user hovers over a result in an expandable carousel, additional information is displayed.
- Searchers who use broad queries are now enticed to dig deeper into a topic by infographic-like results.
- Intuitive highlights extract details from a page, such as ingredient lists, calorie counts, and nutritional information, without requiring the user to click through to a website.
- Users can use integrated visual search to visually search for similar-looking items by clicking the integrated visual search button.
- Why are these details important to local SEO professionals? These same ideas were incorporated into Bing’s local search results.
Instead of a simple image carousel or text-based facts, Microsoft Bing provides a visually-rich SERP for local queries that include resources from Bing Maps, top images, visitor reviews, and other sources.
Because of these changes, concentrating some local SEO efforts on Bing has become a more appealing option. Creative businesses that are willing to get creative with the many local search opportunities can own the local search space.
So, if you haven’t already, add a variety of media types and content to your site and listings, including user-generated content.
Also, remember to use schema.
4. Everyone Gains New Qualities
Google appears to be constantly releasing new attributes, and for good reason.
Attributes are prominently displayed on Google Business Profiles and provide proactive answers to frequently asked questions about a specific business type.
Why? Google is constantly on the lookout for new ways to help businesses stand out and better satisfy a query.
Features such as the Black-owned or Women-owned business attributes, for example, assist searchers who want to support businesses that share their values in making these connections.
Google added health, safety, and pandemic-related attributes to Google Business Profiles in February 2021.
Local businesses can share information about safety protocols and advertise changing or new services such as curbside pickup, no-contact delivery, and dine-in service with the addition of these attributes.
Google added attributes for online appointments, estimates, online classes, and digital care as well.
Call logging, messaging, and access to new data and insights in Google Search and Maps help businesses retain customers by allowing them to track customer phone calls and respond to missed calls.
All of these factors can be significant for a busy business. If you haven’t taken a look at the many new attributes that will be available in 2021, it should be one of the first local SEO tasks you tackle in the new year.
5. Pointy Boosted Local Ecommerce
In June 2021, 50% of US shoppers said they would check online to see if an item was in stock before purchasing holiday items. However, even before that, searches for the phrase “in stock” increased by 800%.
This means that adding your products to your Google Business Profile and keeping your inventory up to date is extremely beneficial. Even so, it can be a time-consuming feature that businesses don’t always have time for as sales grow.
Google announced Pointy integration to make things easier.
With this new feature, eligible US retailers can have their in-store product inventory added to Google automatically.
It is then updated every time you sell an item, keeping the product available online up to date so that searchers always know what you have in stock.
6. The Mobile-First Indexing Rollout Is Still Underway
Mobile-first indexing has been on the horizon since Google first announced it at the end of 2017.
Since then, there have been several expansions, stops, and starts, including a September 2020 delay in which the search engine stated that mobile-first indexation would be delayed until at least March 2021.
What is the source of the problem? Several examples were given by Google, including robots’ meta tags, lazy-loading, blocked assets, primary content, mobile images, and videos.
Regardless, it would be unwise to be caught off guard–if you aren’t already providing a seamless mobile experience, you should start now.
According to Google search statistics, 76 percent of people use their smartphones during the day to search for something nearby, and 28 percent of those searches result in a sale.
So, how do you prepare?
According to Google, the best advice for local businesses and marketing professionals hoping to attract attention from on-the-go local searchers is to focus on creating a positive mobile experience.
7. New Local SEO Tools And Insights Are Now Available For Free
Local businesses and SEO professionals who want to stay on top of all the changes now have access to some new free tools.
The Local-Pack-O-Meter, created by the Local SEO Guide, is one of these tools. It allows SEO and business professionals to track data for ten different Google search features, such as local packs, knowledge panels, shopping, job postings, and ads, to name a few.
The tool is powered by Traject Data’s data from roughly 60 million US search queries. As a result, the sample size is much larger, and it is more representative of all US queries.
With data going back to May 2020, users can scour the data for exciting trends and insights to power their future strategies.
Another great resource released this year was a research paper from Milestone Inc, which examined 500 location-based businesses, their sessions, and page views to better understand which channels generated the most revenue at the best ROI.
Among the revelations are:
- Referral traffic ranked third in terms of ROI, trailing only organic and local search.
- Referral traffic, on the other hand, had higher engagement rates.
- Local search has the highest page views per session and the highest ROI.
- Meanwhile, Rio SEO has been analyzing aggregate GMB performance metrics from its platform’s over 200,000 U.S. business locations. Every month, the brand publishes a new report that includes 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, make sure to look into these and other options.
What You Need to Know for a Successful Local SEO Strategy in 2022
While these seven updates are critical for your 2022 local search strategy, they aren’t the only ones you should be aware of.
If you’re just getting started with local SEO, make sure you’re setting up Products in Google Search for maximum visibility and conversions, as well as making the most of Google Maps for your business.
Make sure that you’re using the data available in the Google Merchant Center to power your local SEO campaigns if you have a large, multi-location business.
You should also address any enterprise local SEO issues or common Service Area Business issues.
Learn more from SEO and read Google Watches For How Sites Fit Into Overall Internet.
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