Will Local SEO Be Necessary in 2016?
“Local” SEO works as a separate algorithm from Google’s core “national” system. When a user enters a query with a local keyword (or a geographic indicator is telling Google their location), Google produces a separate set of results near the top of the SERPs. For local businesses, relying on customers in their own communities to thrive and grow, this distinguished set of ranks has been a boon—it means a shortcut to visibility for the audiences who matter most. But what about other companies that operate on a national scale? Or local businesses that haven’t yet dabbled in online marketing?
Local SEO is important for most businesses. It’s changed a lot in the past few years, and it’s going to change even more in the next few. In 2016, will it be necessary for you to leverage the strategy?
Benefits of Local SEO
First, a quick recap of how local SEO can help your business:
- Lower competition. Because your list of competitors is narrowed down to only those in your geographic vicinity, you’ll have an easier time earning a rank quickly.
- Increased visibility. You don’t have to fight for a top spot—the top three local entries will always rise above the other results for local queries.
- Peripheral ranking options. If you want to rank, it’s not just about ongoing content and inbound links (though those are important too). You can hedge your bets by using other ongoing tactics like review optimization and citation management.
- Greater visitor relevance. Anyone who sees your local entry will be a local resident, meaning the relevance of your traffic will ultimately increase.
How Local SEO Is Changing
Aside from these benefits, local SEO itself is changing. Be aware of what local SEO is today versus what it will be in 2016.
Greater unification with mobile
Local results on desktop are starting to shift to a layout friendlier for mobile devices. Earlier this year, Google released its local 3-pack update, which reduced the top pack of local results on desktop browsers from seven to three. Website and directions are available with a click, meaning local entries are probably going to keep getting easier and more convenient to interact with. Accordingly, you’ll stand to gain more and more from being in one of those top slots.
Local search is getting even more local. Instead of just focusing on a city or region, new local searches could drill down further into neighborhoods or even based on proximity to the user. That means even less competition for even more specific niches.
Users are starting to grow used to local results, and are using mobile devices (which almost always make queries local) more than ever before. In 2016, local results will be more important to users than ever—which means they’re even more valuable to rank for.
The Time Investment
Now that you’re aware of exactly how local SEO can help you and how important it’s going to become, let’s take a look at the other side of the equation: how much it’s going to take from you to get the job done. This is assuming you’ve already got a national SEO strategy in place (if you don’t, this is a good time to get one).
- Citation clean-up. Your first role is to make sure your business’s NAP information (name, address, and phone number) is accurate and present on your site and as many third-party review sites as possible (think Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.). This is vitally important, and can be both tedious and time consuming. You can also pay a few hundred dollars to get an outside company to do it for you.
- Local keywords in titles and descriptions. With a few adjustments, you can easily turn all your current titles and descriptions into locally relevant entries.
- Local keywords in ongoing content. Every so often, include a local post in your content feed—it could be coverage of a local event, or commentary on something new happening in the city.
- Local review optimization. Encourage your users to post reviews, and respond to them whenever you get the chance. The more positive reviews you get, the better.
All in all, outside of the time and money you’re already investing in national SEO, local SEO doesn’t demand much. It’s several hours or a few hundred dollars up front, then the rest of the work is minimal. There’s very little risk or investment required here.
The Bottom Line
Local SEO, like any marketing strategy, will never be wholly “necessary.” Your business won’t automatically fail because you haven’t adopted a local strategy. However, if you’re without a local SEO strategy in 2016, you’re going to miss out on a ton of traffic, and your competitors will have an easier time accumulating that traffic for themselves.
For businesses reliant on community and neighborhood populations for revenue, local SEO is an absolute must in 2016 if you do any marketing whatsoever. For other businesses, it’s a little grayer; if you’re doing a national SEO strategy already, you might as well throw in some local optimization strategies to round out your visibility. If you operate nationally, have never touched any kind of SEO, and are fine with the stream of leads you’re currently getting—you can stand to benefit from local SEO, but it’s probably not going to break you if you decide against it. Use your best judgment and remember that local SEO, when implemented properly, almost always yields a positive ROI.
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