It’s been a busy year in digital marketing, with numerous new developments, and local SEO was no exception.
As local markets became more competitive, search engines evolved to meet consumers’ informational needs.
Businesses, local SEO professionals, and their agencies now have easier access to new tools and data.
What about the general public? They’re getting more of the information they want as a result of a more rich, engaging, and seamless local search experience.
Google And Changing Consumer Buying Habits Disrupted Local Search
It should come as no surprise that Google has provided many of this year’s top local search updates.
Google reacted quickly to changing consumer purchasing habits caused by the pandemic and remains the market’s dominant force.
- Google currently has a global search engine market share of more than 92.4 percent.
- Google Search is used by 83% of local consumers to find information about local businesses, and 90% make a purchase within a week of their initial search.
- By 2020, Google will have facilitated 2 billion connections between US businesses and shoppers, such as reviews and bookings.
- In 2021, searches for [available near me] increased by 100 percent; searches for [now nearby] increased by 200 percent; and searches for [along my route] increased by 1000 percent.
When the numbers are this high, businesses can’t afford to ignore local SEO. Capturing even a small portion of these searches can be game-changers for any business and can mean the difference between life and death for those in need.
This entails anticipating how the local search will change in 2021 and adjusting your 2022 local SEO strategy accordingly. So, what do you need to know about the numerous updates and changes that will take place in 2021?
Read How to Get Your Business Started When You’re Just Getting Started for more information.
1. Google Business Profile has simplified local SEO for businesses
Google renamed Google My Business to Google Business Profile, bringing with it updates and new features.
Perhaps the most significant change is that business owners no longer have to sift through an app or platform to update or correct their listings. Contact information, business hours, images, and other details can be added or updated directly from Google Search and Google Maps.
You can also complete the verification process and address issues such as Search suspensions, making it easier than ever to establish a strong presence in local search results.
2. Google has simplified the process of finding and reading the most recent local news
Google added features to the local SERPs to make local news easier to find and create after searches for [news near me] tripled in the last five years.
Google launched two initiatives to help journalists improve their stories by incorporating local data and information:
Census Mapper Project
Data about a local area collected and processed by The Associated Press can be collected, analyzed, and visualized.
The Common Knowledge Project
Geographic comparisons, charts, and visualizations for data analysis are available at the county, state, and national levels.
With these updates, the search engine also made it easier to find local news stories in the SERPs:
- Local News Carousel: Local news stories that are relevant to a user’s query now appear at the top of the SERPs, making them easier to find and increasing visibility for local journalists and publications.
- Carousel of Top Stories: Authoritative local news sources coexist with major publications, which used to dominate this section of the SERPs.
- More News in Search: Google has improved its ability to link news to broad topic queries.
- Local Tweets: Rather than just published stories, tweets from local publications and journalists appear in local news.
3. Bing has increased the number of visual elements as well as the number of rich results
Microsoft Bing released five updates in March 2021 to provide a richer experience to local searchers by improving the integration of visual elements with its text-based search results.
- Additional information is displayed when a user hovers over a result in an expandable carousel.
- Infographic-like results now entice searchers who use broad queries to delve deeper into a topic.
- Intuitive highlights extract information from a page, such as ingredient lists, calorie counts, and nutritional information, without requiring the user to navigate to another website.
- By clicking the integrated visual search button, users can use integrated visual search to visually search for similar-looking items.
- Why are these specifics important to local SEO experts? These same concepts were implemented in Bing’s local search results.
Instead of a simple image carousel or text-based facts, Microsoft Bing provides a visually-rich SERP for local queries that include Bing Maps resources, top images, visitor reviews, and other sources.
As a result of these changes, focusing some of your local SEO efforts on Bing has become a more appealing option. Businesses that are willing to get creative with the many local search opportunities have the potential to own the local search space.
Add a variety of media types and content to your site and listings, including user-generated content, if you haven’t already.
Remember to use the schema as well.
4. Everyone develops new skills
Google appears to be releasing new features regularly and for good reason.
On Google Business Profiles, attributes are prominently displayed and provide proactive answers to frequently asked questions about a specific business type.
Why? Google is always looking for new ways to help businesses stand out and better satisfy queries.
Searchers who want to support businesses that share their values, for example, can use features like the Black-owned or Women-owned business attributes to help them make these connections.
In February 2021, Google added health, safety, and pandemic-related attributes to Google Business Profiles.
With the addition of these features, local businesses can share information about safety protocols and advertise changing or new services such as curbside pickup, no-contact delivery, and dine-in service.
Google has also added features for online appointments, estimates, online classes, and digital care.
Call logging, messaging, and access to new data and insights in Google Search and Maps aid in customer retention by allowing businesses to track customer phone calls and respond to missed calls.
For a busy business, all of these factors can be significant. If you haven’t already looked into the numerous new features that will be available in 2021, it should be one of the first local SEO tasks you tackle in the new year.
5. Pointy Increased Local Ecommerce
Before purchasing holiday items in June 2021, 50% of US shoppers said they would check online to see if an item was in stock. Before that, however, searches for the phrase “in stock” increased by 800%.
This means that adding your products to your Google Business Profile and maintaining an up-to-date inventory is extremely beneficial. Nonetheless, it can be a time-consuming feature that businesses do not always have time for as sales increase.
To make things easier, Google announced Pointy integration.
With this new feature, eligible US retailers can have their in-store product inventory automatically added to Google.
It is then updated every time you sell an item, keeping the product available online up to date so that searchers know what you have in stock at all times.
6. The Mobile-First Indexing Rollout Continues
Since Google first announced it at the end of 2017, mobile-first indexing has been on the horizon.
There have been several expansions, stops, and starts since then, including a September 2020 delay in which the search engine stated that mobile-first indexation would be delayed until at least March 2021.
What is the root cause of the issue? Google provided several examples, including robots’ meta tags, lazy-loading, blocked assets, primary content, mobile images, and videos.
It would be unwise to be caught off guard in any case–if you aren’t already providing a seamless mobile experience, you should start now.
According to Google search statistics, 76% of people use their smartphones during the day to look for something nearby, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
So, how do you get ready?
According to Google, the best advice for local businesses and marketing professionals looking to attract on-the-go local searchers is to focus on creating a positive mobile experience.
7. New Local SEO Tools And Insights Are Now Available For Free
Local businesses and SEO professionals who want to stay on top of all the changes now have access to some new free tools.
One of these tools is the Local-Pack-O-Meter, developed by the Local SEO Guide. It enables SEO and business professionals to track data for ten different Google search features, including local packs, knowledge panels, shopping, job postings, and advertisements, to name a few.
Traject Data data from roughly 60 million US search queries are used to power the tool. As a result, the sample size is much larger, and it more accurately represents all US queries.
Users can scour the data for exciting trends and insights to power their future strategies, with data dating back to May 2020.
Another excellent resource published this year was a research paper from Milestone Inc, which examined 500 location-based businesses, their sessions, and page views to better understand which channels generated the most revenue at the best ROI.
Among the revelations are the following:
- In terms of ROI, referral traffic came in third place, trailing only organic and local search.
- Referral traffic, on the other hand, had higher rates of engagement.
- Local search has the highest ROI and the most page views per session.
- Meanwhile, Rio SEO has been analyzing aggregate GMB performance metrics from over 200,000 U.S. business locations on its platform. Every month, the company releases a new report with vertical-specific benchmarks for Search Views, Clicks to Call, Clicks to Website, and other metrics.
Look into these and other options if you’re looking for data to inform your 2022 local SEO strategy.
What You Need to Know in 2022 for a Successful Local SEO Strategy
While these seven updates are essential for your 2022 local search strategy, they are not the only ones to be aware of.
If you’re new to local SEO, make sure you’re setting up Products in Google Search for maximum visibility and conversions, as well as utilizing Google Maps for your business.
If you have a large, multi-location business, make sure you’re using the data available in the Google Merchant Center to power your local SEO campaigns.
You should also address any enterprise local SEO issues as well as any common Service Area Business issues.