Search engine optimization is always changing. In the past, local businesses have often gotten away without learning the latest trends in local SEO. Today, every business is getting online. Customers are expecting to find their local companies in the search results. If you’re not there, you’re missing out.
So how do you beat out the competition?
In 2021, local search is becoming more focused than ever on the experience of your customers. That means things like voice searches, mobile site optimization, and always looking at how these things affect the customer experience.
Let’s look at how this is turning into trends, what the statistics say, and what you can do with this information to succeed.
1. User Experience Is Everything
This is a big way to get ahead with local SEO in 2021. In May 2020, Google announced that they would be factoring user experience (UX) signals into its rankings.
This means factors like how fast your web page loads, how easy it is for people to navigate your design to find the content they’re looking for, and how well this experience ranks on both mobile and desktop are all factors that will heavily influence a website’s ranking on the search engine results pages.
To make this easier on businesses, Google has a tool called Google Search Console. Within it, on the left side of the page, is a section called Core Web Vitals. They’ve included information there on how well your website UX is as judged by Google.
So how do you improve your UX?
While marketers for years have sworn by putting pop-up ads and banner ads on websites, users hate them. This has been known for a long time, and now, they have to go.
If you aren’t convinced, consider this. According to Business Insider, users are 279.64 times more likely to have climbed Mt. Everest than they are to click on your banner ad. It hurts your SEO, angers your customers, and it isn’t effective enough to mitigate those loses.
Is your website loading quickly? There are tools online you can use to test this. Make sure it’s tested across platforms. That means you need to load fast and smooth on smartphones, both iOS and Android, as well as desktop computers and tablets.
Local businesses would do well to consider what people most want from their websites and let that inform their navigation. What do people want when they are loading your front page? Can they find your contact information, store hours, and address easily?
2. Google My Business
Google My Business (often shortened to GMB) has come up a bit in recent years, and only matters all the more now.
Google is putting a lot more emphasis on search intent these days. They aren’t just showing results based on keywords, but on what they know a user is really looking for.
When someone searches for the best realtor, the search engine knows that the user isn’t looking for the best realtor in the world. Google will use the location-based information they have and show the best realtors within that user’s local area. That’s going to pop up with Google My Business results.
Just how important is this for local businesses? Research shows that 49% of local businesses will have over a thousand views on their Google My Business listing each month.
So how do you make your listing perform well? First of all, if you haven’t set it up yet, it’s free. Complete your profile with as many details as possible. If you change your business hours, update them in your listing! Updating with a fresh post on there every two weeks will help keep your listing relevant and give you an opportunity to add more local keywords to your account. The more engagement and activity on your listing, the happier Google is, and the higher you’ll rank in the results.
3. Zero Click Results
This may sound like a depressing trend, but it’s an important thing to be aware of.
In 2019, more than 50% of all Google searches resulted in the user getting the information they needed from the search results page. This means they didn’t click through to a business’s website.
What can you do with this information? For one thing, look at your Google My Business page and your Google Maps information for your business. Keep them fresh, since this is where people may be discovering information they need about your business.
For another thing, try to create rich content for your website that they can’t get just on the results page. Also, put work into focusing on keywords that bring people to your website.
4. Your Website Still Matters
Just because there’s a growing trend of zero-click results does not mean that your business website doesn’t matter. In fact, this is a growing way that consumers build trust with businesses.
According to a study from BrightLocal, 56% of consumers expect that your website will be where they find the most accurate information. That means they are checking your website for the vital information they need, like your business location, hours, and contact information.
Another important fact from the study: 50% of consumers would be less likely to use a company with out of date contact information on their website.
This goes back to creating a site with a strong user experience. Keep your site updated and your customers happy.
5. Your Site Must Be Optimized for Mobile
When your customers are going about their day and realize they need to make a purchase, they’re likely to perform that search on their mobile device right then.
Recent studies found that 52.2% of website traffic is happening on mobile devices.
If that statistic doesn’t urge you to take the mobile design of your website more seriously, then consider that Google is now indexing new websites with mobile-first indexing. This means that new websites will be reviewed by Google based on their mobile design first, instead of their desktop design. And again, they’re looking at the user experience.
This means they want to see easy to navigate mobile designs that load quickly.
Is the font big enough on your mobile design? Are the most important links and pieces of information easily found right away?
6. Voice Search Matters for Local Search
When people talk to their phone or their smart speaker, they phrase their internet searches differently than if they were to type them into the search bar. These searches are longer. This means you need to think about how people naturally talk when you’re creating content on your website if you want to show up for local voice searches.
And looking at recent statistics, you want your site to rank well for these searches. BrightLocal found that 75% of people who own smart speakers use them to perform searches for local businesses on a weekly basis.
7. Video Content Matters
Above, it was mentioned that many of the searches done today are zero-click results. A lot of those searches for local businesses are met with Google Maps or Google My Business. Others are met with YouTube videos showing up in the results.
Forrester Research found that video content is 50 times more likely to land on the search results page.
Consumers like video content. It makes products, services, and businesses seem more real to them in the virtual world. Your video content can build trust. A study found that 84% of people cited a video as part of their recent purchasing decision.
8. Text Content Still Matters
If you want your local business to rise in the rankings, you may want to consider how much content your site has for visitors.
A study by Orbit Media found that success blog posts today are averaging 1,142 words long. That length is going to keep growing if the trend stays consistent.
What do your local customers want to know? Are they looking for the best root beer in your town? Do they have unique concerns? For example, if you’re a roofer in San Diego, you could create content addressing concerns like what roofs are safe for earthquakes and which materials last the best in the hot California sun.
9. Search Intent Is More Important Than Ever
Did you know that terms like “to buy” have increased in search usage by 500% in recent years?
There are four types of search intent. These include making a purchase, getting to a business’s website, getting information, or browsing and comparing products.
Google now tailors their results to meet the search intent.
If you want your local business to rank, you need content that meets their search intent. If you’re selling organic, eco-friendly coffee, then your customers probably want to know more about how that coffee was made. They want information on the flavors available and your roasting techniques. If your business has a local recycling program, they likely want to know about it.
You can develop a frequently asked questions page, with content written in a natural style, that targets more of these local searches.
10. Your Online Reputation Matters
Did you know that 87% of consumers read online reviews?
Google knows this.
Because of this, online mentions of your business matter more for your search rankings. Context matters for this. By linking out to your reviews on sites like Yelp and Facebook, you link your website to those reviews, making the connection for Google. When you respond in a professional manner to your reviews, you’re improving engagement and showing Google that your business handles complaints and engages with customers.
There was a time when ignoring a business’s reviews was often thought to be the best advice, but brand engagement matters today, and Google rewards it.
Stay On Top of Your Online Presence in 2021
In 2021, a local business’s online presence matters more than ever. Stay engaged, build a quality website, and always be thinking about the best user experience you can provide. Google is rewarding a customer-first approach. Keep that in mind, and your ranking should continue to grow.