The Landscape of Local Search for 2018

The Landscape of Local Search for 2018

Having been in this business for nearly 20 years, we’ve seen a lot of changes in how Google ranks websites. Gone are of the days of  keyword stuffing content, keyword meta tags, and the other tactics that at best keep you in the top ten pages of Google rankings, and at worst get you a Google penalty. Advances in technology have made search engine algorithms smarter and social media has made consumers more connected. While it can be frustrating as a business owner, as consumers we really actually love it. Our searches tend to yield results we’re looking for, and we can quickly get advice on how good a company is by looking at their reviews and asking our friends online. 

”Hey Alexa” – “Hey Google”

Even if you haven’t done it yourself (voice search), trust me, your customers are doing it…and that’s what matters. Voice search is set to take over keyboard/desktop searches in volume over the next year. With voice search, your customers aren’t saying, “mexican restaurant lake of the ozarks” … they’re saying, “mexican restaurant near me”. The language of search is changing. Make sense? People aren’t saying, “realtor colorado springs.” They’re saying, “who’s the best realtor in colorado springs?”

What does this mean for you? It means that in 2018 you need to focus your marketing efforts on local search. This means you need to take a good hard look at your entire online presence, with an eye for accuracy, consistency, quality, and social proof (a.k.a. testimonials and reviews).

As we enter 2018, here are 10 things you should address to maximize your opportunity for good performance in local and voice search for each of your business locations (yes, each is looked at separately in local search if you have multiple locations).

1. Claim your Google My Business Listing -

2. Once you’ve claimed your listing for each location, review your profile and ensure it’s filled out completely and accurately, including your business categories, hours of operation, and description.

3. Upload photos to your Google My Business listing. Depending on the categories you’ve selected for your business, you’ll have different photo categories that you can add. Restaurants will be able to load food photos, companies like MSW Interactive Designs will be able to load team photos, hotels will be able to room photos, etc.

4. Create a plan to solicit and acquire reviews from customers across various channels, including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, and any other review sites that apply to your industry. If your reviews on Google are few or non-existent, make this channel a priority for local search. 

5. Create a plan to monitor and respond to reviews. We know…it does take time, but it’s important for your business. People liked to be thanked for taking the time to write a good review. And if you get a negative review, people will be looking to see how you addressed it (or didn’t).

6. Look beyond Google. While searches do tend to revolve around Google, search results are derived from many different signals outside of Google. There are several major directories on the web that are viewed as authoritative, and chances are (even if you don’t know it) you have a business listing on each. The problem is, the odds are high that they have incorrect information, or information that doesn’t match exactly what Google sees as the address and phone number for your business. Across the directory landscape, most businesses will have approximately 80% of their listings with incorrect information. 

Check out our analysis tool to see how your business fares across the directories. The link is below. If you have errors, it’s important for you to resolve them with each directory by claiming and correcting your listing. Make sure everything matches EXACTLY what your verified Google My Business listing has. That means if Google says your address is “Osage Beach Parkway”, and one of the directories says it is “Osage Beach Pkwy”, correct that directory listing to spell out “Parkway”. For optimal local SEO, it’s important that all of these directory citations match exactly. 


7. Use your website and online presence to gather data on your customers and prospects. Something as simple as a newsletter subscribe form on your website can take the money you are investing in your online presence and yield even better results. Of course, once you’ve collected the data, you need to put out a newsletter or e-blasts on a consistent basis to stay in front of your customers and prospects. In addition to the power of ongoing email marketing, this helps your local search efforts when you archive the newsletter content on your website. Again, it’s content that’s findable, never goes away, and contributes to your online dominance over time.

8. While we’re on the subject of using email marketing to grow your online content archive, there’s another way to capture customer data if you have a physical location for your business.  When people come in to your restaurant, resort, salon, waiting room, or service area, they connect to your wi-fi to save data usage on their phones while they check email, look at Facebook, Instagram, etc.  Consider adding Smart Wi-Fi to your router.  Smart Wi-Fi requires customers to either provide their email address, or connect via their Facebook profile. You can then use that data to remarket to your local clients and prospects. If you are interested in learning more about this product, give us a call. We just added it to our service profile because it’s that powerful.

9. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. This means you either have a dedicated mobile version of your older website, or you have a newer responsive website that flexes to all devices. It’s a fundamental factor for Google now. If someone is searching from their mobile device (which most are today), and you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, yours will be at the bottom of the list of the results that Google returns, if it’s even present at all.

10. Amplify your social presence. Social media isn’t going anywhere and it’s growing everywhere! It’s an investment in your brand, in your voice, and in your reputation. It’s expected. It’s also expected to be consistent, interesting, and helpful.  If you aren’t already working on growing your social media reach across multiple channels, it’s time to start. You’re already two years + (at best) behind the competition who “gets it”. It’s top of mind. It’s top of search. It’s a make or break, over time. Is it going to get you the big sale over night? Maybe, but not likely. It’s an investment in your online brand dominance over time. When done right and over time, it’s the best investment with the biggest return per dollar spent. Why? Because online is forever and everything you create adds up and is findable in search. What you are creating doesn’t go away. It’s like earning compound interest in your online presence.

We realize it can be exhausting to read all of this, let alone to try implement it all.  You have a business to run, customers to take care of, employees to manage, books to keeps, and that’s all before you do anything for yourself or your family outside of work. Yes, everything outlined here can be done by you, but is often better handled by a trusted agency. The beauty of working with an agency is that you don’t have to do it all. You also don’t have to put it in the hands of employees who come and go, who can sabotage accounts if things don’t go their way (yes, we’ve seen it all), or have no stake in the legal ramifications of copyright infringements.  At MSW Interactive Designs, we’ve got a team of 17 internet marketing experts and would love to help you nail local search in 2018 and beyond.

Let us know if we can help!

Phone: 877-211-5492


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