The latter part of 2018 has been bustling for local SEO. Google released a Google My Business App, changed how service-area businesses function in maps, and is now allowing users to follow Google My Business profiles as social becomes further ingrained into local search.
To cap off a wild year in local search, the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey has recently been released and it includes a treasure trove of information for businesses big and small looking to succeed in local search. There are some very interesting trends in factors that are gaining in importance (and others that are diminishing), so let’s dive into a couple of central themes that are being uncovered.
Targeting Tier 1 citations
In 2012, you’d have to be crazy to not pour resources into citations (online mentions of your business name, address, and phone number). The way Google showed local businesses relied heavily on matching up online citations. Businesses that successfully created citations on hundreds of sites saw a huge boost in their online rankings.
In 2018, however, this reliance on citations is a thing of the past. To be clear, we’re not recommending that you shouldn’t invest in citation management. In fact, proper online citations are table stakes at this point. The shift here is that you no longer need to create hundreds or thousands of citations; rather, you just need to focus on Tier 1 sites like Google, Facebook, Apple, and major niche sites like TripAdvisor.
Once you’ve properly secured your citations on places that actually have traffic and volume, you can stop. You don’t need to create citations on websites that have no traffic. This is very clearly illustrated in the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, with citations moving from 17.14% in 2015, to 13.31% in 2017, to 10.82% in 2018. This downward trend in the importance of citations is not one you should take lightly. In 2018 and beyond, spending time building out citations beyond Tier 1 sites is a waste of time. Your marketing efforts should be spent elsewhere.
Mastering reputation management
With citations seeing a vast drop off in importance—a trend that has continued for years at this point—online reviews are growing in importance, and it has become critical to complete your Google My Business profile to the highest possible degree.
With the time you are not spending on building out citations, you should be focusing on knocking out the four important areas of reputation management. Every business should have a plan to:
- analyze, and
- action their reviews.
In 2019, online reputation management will be more important than ever before, and brands that figure out how to scale and utilize technology to help them in this quest will reap the benefits.
Additionally, Google is doing everything in its power to incentivize businesses to regularly log into their Google My Business dashboard. They want you to complete your business profile, utilize Google Posts, respond to reviews, fund Ads, and interact with your profile followers. Businesses that fully utilize the product offering of GMB will again reap the benefit.
Succeed in local search
Local search is getting a lot of attention from Google—and brands should be taking notice. Focusing on citations is no longer a marketing tactic that will lead businesses in the right direction. Instead, focus on review management and completing Google My Business profiles to the extreme. Marketers that direct their efforts to where Google is heading will position themselves for success in 2019 and beyond.
For more insights on how your business can excel in local search, please get in touch!