Seven Trends In Local Search Marketing For 2015
Image courtesy Sally Mahnoney via Flickr
A lot of the blogs I follow are doing their annual “SEO in 2015” posts. These are a great way to create thought leadership.
As someone who has been involved in SEO for 5 years now, I’d thought I’d do my own and share my own thoughts on the ever-changing landscape of local search engine marketing and optimization.
We’ve been helping small businesses in Victoria and Vancouver out rank their competition for over two years now. In that time there have been big changes.
When I first started an affiliate marketing website back in 2009, it was all about links. The more links you had, the better. Now the search engines look at links like your gaming them. More on this later.
There was also importance on having the proper optimization of a landing page. What I mean by this is your page titles, H1 tags and content all had to have your targeted keywords in them. But you had to have the density of keywords sprinkled into the landing page content. This meant that a lot of sites had content that was geared toward a search engine crawler and not the user. It made websites hard to read.
Links are still important and content optimization still is, just not as important.
But enough of the past, let’s look at the present and future of local search.
Local Search In 2015 & Beyond
Over the course of the last year I’ve seen some big changes into what makes a website rank high in Google. I’ve done a lot of research on clients websites, their competitors and have read many blogs and discussion forums about local search.
Here are the areas where you need to focus your attention on if you want to out rank your competition in 2015.
1 – Google My Business/Places Pages
A few years ago when you searched for a local business or service, you would see a list of websites and directories like Yellow Pages and Yelp.
Now, you can see a list of businesses with their addresses and a map to the right of the search results showing where they are located. They call this the 7 pack, or 3 pack in some cases. I call it Google map results.
These mapped or 7 pack search results have slowly been integrated into Google and Bing’s algorithms. When they were first rolled out, they were only being displayed for highly searched terms.
Just last month though, Google rolled out a new algorithm called Penguin. While doing some searching around, I noticed that the seven and three pack mapped results were showing up for almost every search term.
This means that getting your business ranked in the mapped results is as important as ever. Getting ranked in these results is good news for new businesses or those who haven’t invested into SEO and whose websites aren’t ranking well as it’s an easy way to get onto the first page.
Above and below the seven and three packs are organic websites still. The next six tips are on how to get ranked there.
2 – Content Marketing & Web Development
The second biggest trend I have noticed in the last year is content marketing and web development. Content marketing is the big buzzword but it’s really just blogging for business and web development. Here’s why content marketing, web development and blogging are important in 2015 local SEO.
Google and Bing want to give their searchers the most valuable and useful webpages so the searcher doesn’t have to spend hours searching on page two and beyond for a local business or service provider.
What this means is they want to display webpages and sites that have lots of useful content at the top on the search results. This means your website better be a resource of information for people when they land on it. If it does have useful information on it, people will not be bouncing off of it and clicking on your competitor’s sites.
You don’t want people bouncing off your website and visiting a competitors do you? Of course you don’t.
A common question I get asked when talking with current and prospective clients, which you might even be asking, is “But how can we generate useful content Jordan?”
This is real easy. Answering people’s questions is one of the most creative SEO strategies you can implement.
A quick note on this strategy. Many websites and yours might already have a faq section. Great! If it’s a single page though, it needs to be built out and each question needs to be it’s own page/blog post. You also have to be sure that the answers to the questions are not short. Each page has to be at least 250 + words.
Implementing this strategy will help your website and business in two ways.
The first is that if you have links to all these questions and pages/blog posts from your landing page, which I will assume is your main page that is targeting your broad local search terms, people will be able to get all the information they need and won’t have to visit any other websites.
This can also help in preventing you from going Marshawn Lynch on potential customers. Here’s why.
I’m sure you get tired of repeating the same answers to the same questions just like Marshawn Lynch and every other pro athlete does. You can’t go all beast mode on potential customers as that’s bad business. But you can cut down on these repeat questions by answering common questions on your website.
The second way this will benefit your site and business is that it will become a useful resource and in the process, earn some search engine cred. The search engines want to promote websites that are resources of information. When they crawl your site and see more quality content/pages/blog posts being added, they’ll help in boosting your sites rankings.
There is a bonus to creating all these pages of content. That bonus is that you can also attract buyers at different stages of the purchase process. My last post talked about why you should look at your website like a bicycle wheel with many different spokes.
Since people are asking you questions on the phone, in person and on your website, they’re also asking the search engines. I’m sure you’ve asked Google a question in the last week. Maybe you were wondering “how to remove a red wine stain from carpet” or “what is the difference between marble and granite countertops” are just a few questions I can think of.
If you’re blog posts or pages where you answer common questions are optimized properly, you’re going to generate some traffic.
This site and it’s various blog posts generate loads of traffic when people search for local SEO help. They may not be local or do business with me, but it’s all gravy as it helps the website rank higher for “SEO Victoria BC” search terms.
With that said I really wish the search engines would display local sites and pages for general questions like this. So if you did search “how to remove a red wine stain from carpet” you might land on a blog post from a local carpet cleaner instead of a non-local business.
And if you had no luck removing that red wine stain, you might call that local company whose page you landed on while searching an answer to a problem.
Once you’re done answering all the common questions you get asked, you can read our post for a solid and easy local SEO content strategy. You can also read this post for 9 ways to improve your local SEO.
By reading those three posts you will no doubt grasp the idea of how to create better content for your website.
The next trend I see is one you can’t overlook any longer and must address now.
3 – Responsive Web Design
Is your website pissing off mobile visitors? Is the user experience the same as on the desktop version of your site? If not, you’re losing out on better search rankings and new clients.
I don’t need to throw bunch of market research stats around about mobile usage. Do your own research and look around. Everyone is on his or her phone when not at home. They’re texting, using social media and searching the web. When at home, these same peeps are sitting on their couch browsing the net on their tablet.
I’m sure you’re no different.
We have high expectations for technology and web experiences when on our phones and tablets. I know I get frustrated when I visit a website from my phone or tablet and I have to zoom and pinch the screen. I’m sure you’re no different.
That’s why you need a responsive web design. Responsive web design is different from a mobile version of a website. Let me explain.
Mobile web design displays a scaled back version of your website. The design is not the same between your desktop site and mobile site. Nor does a mobile website have all the same content. Since it’s scaled back it has little information on it. Not a good thing for the user or the search engines.
Responsive design has all the same content and your website design is the same. Responsive design essentially knows what device your visitors are viewing your site from and it displays the correct website based on the devices screen width.
The huge benefit of responsive web design is that for the majority of websites, a new design is not needed. Web designers can simply create a responsive version of your current website.
I mentioned that we have high expectations for our web experience. That brings me to the next trend is local search for 2015.
4 – User Experience
Having a responsive web design improves the user experience on your website. So does making information easy to find, along with having a website design that’s visually appealing which loads fast like Usain Bolt.
User experience goes much, much deeper than design and page load speeds. Check out this epic resource page from Smash Magazine on website user experience. By the way, that epic resource page ranks first by the way for the search “website user experience”. Further proof that Google wants to promote useful information that I talked about in the content marketing trend.
With quality content and better user experience, you can surely help in reducing how many people leave your website. This brings me to the next trend.
5 – Bounce Rates
I’ve already mentioned that the search engines want to display useful sites and pages so people don’t have to click to the 2nd page and beyond. Using Google analytics they can track your sites bounce rate.
What is bounce rate? Here’s the answer direct from Google.
Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).
If people are bouncing off your site without checking out more pages, Google might think your site isn’t the useful resource they thought it was.
It’s still being debated if bounce rate effects search rankings. I think it will play a bigger role moving forward.
To prevent people from bouncing off your site, or pogo sticking back to the search results, check out this guide from Moz.
Before people can even get to your site from a search result, they have to first click on it.
6 – Click Through Rates
The number of times your site appears in a search result and amount of people who click through to it is your click through rate. It’s been debated here and here if CTR affects rankings. Rand Fishkin of Moz did an experiment on CTR and rankings. So did a community I follow called Local Search Forum for Google Places/My Business Pages. There was also another similar experiment for organic search results at a local SEO conference.
These experiments pretty much debunk CTR and it’s affect on search rankings. CTR is too easy to manipulate after all. However, I still think it’s important to get as many people clicking on your site from the search results as possible. Here’s a simple way to improve your websites CTR.
There is one last thing that will affect your search rankings in 2015. I mentioned this method briefly at the beginning of this post.
7 – Links
If you’re still reading, thanks, we’re at the last one!
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that SEO has changed a lot of since I first started in 2009. One of the biggest ranking factors was having links from other sites to yours.
In those days it was all about quantity. As the search engines have realized getting links is becoming easier, they’ve put less importance on them. Too many SEO’s were gaming the search rankings by getting lots of links from low quality sites.
The search engines are even penalizing websites for their link building methods. We had a client come to us because of the shady link building a previous SEO company did to their site. Here’s how we rectified the penalty.
Links still matter though and don’t be scared about getting penalized. Here are three link-building methods that are safe and will help your rankings in 2015 and beyond.
The search engines are looking for natural looking links. The easiest way to do this is by asking fellow business owners who have websites to do a link exchange.
I’ve gone on record to say no to link exchanges. That post should mention only from websites and people you don’t know.
This has worked well for our clients here and it’s a really easy way to get a natural link. Create a new page and call it “Local businesses we support” or “Local Partners”. Then add their link and vice versa.
Have you read my post on how to rank in Google Maps in the organic search results? If not, do it!
One of the ways to get ranked is by having your website listed in web directories. When you get listed in those directories, you also get a link back to your website.
There are millions of businesses being listed in directories. The search engines will not penalize all of them. They may devalue those links a little bit but still, it’s a safe way to get links.
Create Linkable Content
You may have noticed that I have linked to a lot of other blog posts in this post. That’s because those sites have created linkable content. This is harder to do from the local SEO level.
But one way to create linkable content is to create a resource page about your product or service. We have done this for a couple of clients already and seen good results.
It takes time to think about an idea for a resource page and it also takes some time to create it then find people who will link to it. The results are going to be well worth it as these types of natural links are high quality.
I don’t want to give away our secrets on how this is done but let’s use this post as an example. If you’re still reading, you’ll agree that it’s a useful resource on local SEO for 2015.
This post could be linked to from other local SEO and business sites. Chances are good I will have to find those sites and ask to link to this post.
I could do this by doing a Twitter search for anyone who has a local SEO blog. Most local SEO’s are pretty good about linking to other local SEO blog posts because we’re not going to steal business from each other as we primarily work with local companies.
I could also go to the Local Search Forum and post a link to this post from there. Chances are good it will get linked to from other blogs by SEO’s from within that community.
Again, there is a lot of legwork here if you choose to do this along. However, sometimes it’s best to leave the work up to the professional local SEO companies like ours. They can save you a lot of time just like an accountant or lawyer would.
Ok, one plug promoting our service is not bad after 2600 words! It’s all about the opening the sale, not trying to close it and ask for the sale at the beginning.
Creating content like this post goes a long way in, generating links, improving search rankings, opening the sale, building credibility and converting website visitors into clients. I hope you can do the same for site and business.
In summary, these seven trends I’ve listed are based off my extensive research from analyzing search rankings and by continuously education myself about local SEO.
Moz published the survey a post in the 2014 local search ranking factors. This post is essentially my version. Take it for what’s it worth but if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends and on your social network site of choice!