How Local SEO Has Evolved

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How Local SEO Has Evolved Twenty years ago, nobody with a business would ever think of investing thousands of dollars a year in online real estate. Ten years ago, a…
How Local SEO Has Evolved Twenty years ago, nobody with a business would ever think of investing thousands of dollars a year in online real estate. Ten years ago, a local business -- say, a restaurant or a cafe -- didn’t need a website to get customers. It was just an added marketing expense back then. These days, not having any online real estate is like operating your business in the dark. You’re physically there but potential customers can’t find you where they’re most likely searching for a business like yours: online and on mobile. According to Vox, online ads exceeded global ad spending on TV in 2017. This was the first time online ads outspent TV ad spending, and by billions of dollars, too. The same happened in 2018, leading analysts to believe the trend will continue well into the 2020s.Data Source: Zenith. Screen-capture from Vox.So it appears that local SEO is part of the future of digital marketing. But how has local SEO evolved and what useful insights can we learn from its evolution?The Early Days of Local SEO Local SEO started with the launch of Google Local in 2004. Google used data from all the websites it indexed and combined it with other offline data sources to provide users with relevant information on businesses in their neighbourhood. This local search service was better than the traditional yellow pages because of the way it was integrated into the Google SERP (search engine results page) whenever users added a location to their search keywords.Source: Google PressBut of all the services and updates Google released in the first ten years of the 21st century, the one that propelled local SEO to grow exponentially wasn’t Google Local. It was, in fact, Google Maps.Putting Your Business on the Map (Literally) Google Maps was first released in 2005 and subsequently added as an app to the Android OS in 2008. The earliest version of Maps resembled traditional road maps where street networks and a few landmarks (mostly parks) helped users get from point A to B. Google Maps was integrated into Google Local early on, with maps and directions appearing alongside local search results.Google Local using MapQuest for local business listings, 2005. Source: googlesystem.blogspot.comAnd then a small update was included that really put local SEO in the map -- literally and figuratively. In 2005, Google added pop-up details of business listings in Google Maps. These pop-ups showed business NAPs (name, address, phone number -- whenever applicable) as well as store hours and links to sources. Most of these sources were third-party websites and websites such as Craigslist where businesses placed their ads. It would take a few years more before businesses fully tapped into the power of Local.Source: enews.orgGoogle Maps was fully integrated into Google Local with the release of the expandable “Plus Boxâ€? in December 2006. At that point, businesses started claiming their entities online by registering to Google Local listings.Google expandable “Plus Box” in the SERP. Source: every update released, Google Map’s reach also expanded. The 2007 launch of the Google Street View coupled with the gradual increase in the number of businesses that are slowly transitioning to online marketing meant a potential customer could find not only your business address but also discover you when they search Street View around your vicinity. In 2012, Google combined Local -- its original business listings -- with Google+ and data from Google Maps to create the Knowledge Graph. This is the information box located to the right of the search engine results page that summarizes data from multiple sources into one information panel. The Knowledge Graph wasn’t much of a big deal for businesses in the early days because it focused more on popular people, places, and things. But in the years that followed, it proved to be a very powerful tool as Google continued to refine it with subsequent updates.A Business Knowledge Graph. Source: Yext.comToday, a Knowledge Graph for a local business contains: ●photos sourced from other online sources;●the business’s location on the local map;●the business’s NAP (name of the business, address, and phone number);●link to the business’s website, usually to the landing page;●overall customer rating based on Google reviews;●users’ questions and answers about the business; and●related searches, among other things.All these features and more made it possible for users to get all the information they need without having to scour the business’s website. A Google Ads campaign on the business’s end even allows users to call the business straight from the knowledge panel. But Google didn’t stop there.The Launch of Google My Business The year 2014 saw the launch of Google My Business, Google’s integrated platform for businesses to claim their online entity, unify and verify details about their business, and update those details whenever applicable.Example of a Knowledge Graph that leads to a website’s landing page. Source:, GMB has become the best way to get your business found online. Here are some of the ways GMB changed the game for local SEO: ●Integration of Google Maps and Local with Google Ads, the company’s premier online marketing tool.●The inclusion of the Knowledge Graph that links to a business’s website.●The ability for local users and business owners to answer questions from potential and current customers.●The ability for businesses to respond to customer feedback, allowing them to clarify things and win over lost customers.●Appearing on top of organic local searches if they’re using Google Ads for online marketing.●Presenting your business profile in a mobile-friendly format for mobile users who are searching on-the-go using Maps, Google Assistant, or Google Search.Local services ads appearing on top of paid search results. Source: study by Moz in 2018 shows that Google My Business already has a significant impact on businesses’ online presence on both Local Finder (Google Maps) and Local Pack, and organic local search results.Source: Moz.comSo while Google doesn’t quantify these factors in their SEO “recipe” to prevent exploits and level the playing field, it’s clear from this study that Google My Business is one feature businesses should take advantage of when implementing local SEO.Insights on the Evolution of Local SEO: Future-proofing Your Local SEO Strategy Google is all about innovation. They’re not afraid to explore new avenues and cut off projects that users ultimately ignore. Some of these changes and innovations led to websites losing traffic, such as when Google released its series of Panda updates starting in 2011, or when the Knowledge Graph wasthought to cause a major decline in Wikipedia’s traffic, competing with Wikipedia’s user base, which, before then, was largely unchallenged by other websites. The key to all these changes is not the advertisers that pay Google for their Ads and other related services. The key factor for Google’s innovations has always been its users: how to improve “search” for users, how to get them the information they need in the shortest possible time, and how to get them the most up-to-date and accurate information available out there. In this ever-changing environment, how can you future-proof your business’s online presence?Optimize for Google My Business. Google sticks with what works, and they’ve proven that GMB works very well -- for them, for businesses, and for users. It’s a feature that’s here to stay, so leverage its power to help your business get local traffic.Optimize for mobile. In 2016, mobile surpassed desktop in terms of web traffic worldwide. Three years later, that trend is still holding. Google is paying attention to this, and so should you.Source: StatCounterSource: StatCounter.Keep your ears to the ground. Google has press releases for new features and functionalities, but smaller updates that are related to technical SEO happen quietly in the background. Stay abreast of these changes by subscribing to industry analysts such as Moz, SearchEngineLand, and Ahrefs.Content will always be King. Google rewards content that adds value to users. And make sure to observe white-hat SEO for all your web content; nothing hurts a website like a “gray area” SEO exploit that’s suddenly outlawed by Google in a snap.~ Looking for SEO In the Sunshine Coast? ~Contact WebsiteStrategies: Website: Phone: 0401 827 976 Email: WebsiteStrategies: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Pinterest: YouTube:
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