Having attended the SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle, Washington during the first week of June, I came home with some great insights into the current and future state of local search marketing. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the advanced search conference and what the industry experts had to say.
Mobile Popularity is Skyrocketing
With mobile devices becoming more and more central to every aspect of daily life, it is clear that business owners can no longer wait to make their sites mobile friendly. According to Google, mobile searches have now surpassed that of desktop searches in over 10 countries including Japan and the United States. With such immediate access to businesses, consumers are quicker to buy. This emphasis on mobile friendliness was validated by Google’s announcement of its own mobile-friendly algorithm update, later dubbed “Mobilegeddon” due to the anticipated impact of the shift. Though the impact was not as earth-shattering as some anticipating in affecting rankings, it did make the important statement that websites should be fully functional and user friendly on phones and tablets.
What does mobile-friendliness mean? At the core of the “Mobilegeddon” update is the importance of having a mobile-friendly site. Whether that be an m(dot), responsive, or separate mobile application, the need for mobile customer experience is becoming a requirement in today’s search landscape. If you are looking to get ahead of the game, tailoring or enhancing your customer’s mobile experience is the next step in local search marketing.
Customer Reviews are a Necessity
Another point of emphasis at SMX Advanced was that customer reviews are no longer really optional. With consumers relying more and more on reviews to make purchase decisions, reviews are now a requirement for any business offering services or products. Given the current customer buying path (as seen below) reviews have become a key part in helping potential clients decide if they should buy from your business.
What does this mean for you? This means that you need to work on getting client reviews of your services or products. An easy starting point would be searching your business and finding which sources (Manta, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc.) are showing the top search results. Naturally this should include your Google My Business listing, which you want to be one of the top results. If your Google My Business listing does not appear or is incorrect see go here for help. Once you have your list of sites, begin reaching out to past and current clients for reviews. The best practice here is to start with Google, obtain 10 or so reviews, and begin moving to the other listings. Do not duplicate reviews or have the same client give you multiple reviews across multiple listings. This tends to reflect negatively on your business to both searchers and to listing sites.
Ranking Outside of Your Immediate Location Is Difficult
The difficulty of ranking outside of your immediate location was a hot topic and a question that came up a few times at SMX Advanced. Experts stress that ranking outside of your immediate office location can be difficult, if not impossible. When we talk about local rankings there are really two different Search Engine Rankings we examine. Maps and Organic rankings are the core search engines results local queries receive (for more detail check out this post). The SMX experts agreed almost unanimously that ranking outside your immediate location within the map rankings is almost impossible. They also discussed the possibility of having a “satellite office” which was not recommended and came with a warning that this would only work temporarily, if at all. The panel at SMX said there might be hope for ranking outside immediate location, provided that the business has a good enough city page for ranking organically. This advice was accompanied by warnings to not duplicate pages, replacing only the city, but instead to fill the page with local information such as city-specific recognition, customer reviews, employee overviews, service differences, and other pertinent local information could help a page rank.
What does this mean? If you are looking to game the map rankings system using a single location, chances are there is no hope. If you are looking to gain some sort of location presence, city-specific pages will be your best shot. Even so, it’s an uphill battle and will require a lot of creativity to create useful and unique content for users looking for your service or product.
Facebook is a Local Sleeping Giant
With more people spending time on Facebook than any other website (including Google) it should come as no surprise that Facebook was deemed a sleeping giant at SMX Advanced. With Facebook’s current ability to target audiences better than almost anyone else, its ability to market locally could be unmatched. This hyper-targeting ability comes from how much information Facebook users provide willingly, including data such as interests, status, age, hobbies, family, location, associates, and so much more. Facebook can target down to a single individual when it comes to its display ads, and this type of ultra-narrow targeting could become a huge market advantage for Facebook if the network were to move to more locally-based advertising (PPC or organic).
What does this mean? Keep your eyes and ears open: if Facebook decides to create a localized pay-per-click service it will change the game forever. Given Facebook’s pool of users and the data it collects, this platform is truly unmatched when it comes to user demographics. This could prove valuable for any local business owner.