Earlier today, Brightlocal, one of the leading and most respected SEO software vendors in the local search industry, hosted a webinar entitled “The State of Local Search in 2020”. Webinar panelists included local SEO experts Joy Hawkins, Ben Fisher, David Mihm, and host Myles Anderson of Brightlocal. From my experience, you couldn’t ask for 4 more knowledgeable guests as it relates to local search. Here are some key takeaway from the hour long discussion.
Back to the basics
Sometimes, in SEO, we are always looking for the new shiny red ball, but all 4 participants agreed that traditional on-page factors continue to go overlooked in 2020. Page titles, meta descriptions, website load times, quality of content, and other traditional ranking factors are still extremely important in 2020.
Google My Business interactions
One of the participants pointed out that local search users don’t always view a GMB profile and simply click on the company’s website. A number of different users will use the GMb profile to read reviews, read Q and A, look at pictures, and find out more about the business before clicking onto the website, if they even visit the site before contacting the business. Make sure your GMB profile is optimized with as much useful information as possible.
Hawkins: Links are still very important
Joy Hawkins mentioned in the webinar that links from local organizations, getting mentioned in the press are still viable ways to obtain new links, which are still ultra important for local SEO. Not necessarily citation building, but building domain authority via link building from sites relevant to your geographical area or service offering still makes a huge difference for local SEO.
Google My Business Insights not always reliable
As many have speculated over the past year or so, Google My Business Insight reports which shows actions and impressions aren’t always 100% accurate. Joy Hawkins brought this up, and mentioned that the search views and other data can be valuable, but that the data generated in other categories isn’t always 100% accurate.
BERT, AI, Semantic Search
To attempt to summarize Ben Fisher’s explanation of semantic search and how Google continues to evolve following 2019’s launch of the BERT update and implementation of AI, Google continues to attempt to understand information. Long-tail search queries can easily be confused, but if a website’s common theme and topic can be narrowed down through informative and relevant content, the better chance that Google can understand semantic search as it relates to that website.
Enable Google Messaging in GMB
Make sure you download the Google My Business app on Apple app store or Google Play to allow customers to message you via Google My Business. Also make sure to build out your Q and A section of your GMB whenever possible.
Mihm: Keyword-rich GMB titles are still effective, if not spam
David Mihm mentioned in the webinar that, if you’re starting a new business, attempting to integrate your service’s main keyword into the business title could be a way to give you an early ranking advantage over your competitors.
Reviews = scalable content
Ben Fisher also went on to explain that customer reviews are the most scalable content pieces you can integrate into your local search strategy. Fisher says to make sure your clients leave detailed reviews, and to make sure you have a solid process in place for collecting new client reviews on your GMB profile. He also mentioned that he and his team developed a piece of software that allows users to upload images to GMb profiles via text, but if you download thew GMB apps on your smartphone you should easily be able to add images to your GMB profile, which do get a fair amount of views and can be good for improving brand visibility.
Predictions for 2020
Joy Hawkins: “you need to be tracking keyword rankings across multiple zip codes, not just in one area. Especially for hyper-niche industries like dentists and restaurants.” Local Falcon is an excellent tool to see how a business ranks across multiple zip codes and different parts of a city.
Fisher: “Test, adapt, and learn”. See how Google evolves in 2020, stay informed, and be willing to try out new things and test new theories.
Those are the main takeaways from an extremely informative Brightlocal webinar, we hope this information helps provide some guidance to improve your website’s SEO efforts in 2020.