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Welcome to our Yearly Roundup!
Another year is in the books and there were some big changes in the digital marketing space, especially with local.
Here’s a roundup of the biggest changes and trends we saw in Local Search in 2017 and a checklist to get your business off to the best start in 2018!
Check them off one at a time or download the cheatsheet at the bottom of the page.
First some in-house news. If you didn’t hear us shouting it from the rooftops, Odd Dog Media won a Landy Award this year! The Landys are a prestigious award given by Search Engine Land to honor great work done in the field of search.
We are so proud to have won the Best Local SEO Initiative of 2017!
OK, we’re done self-congratulating…  high five!

GOOGLE LOCAL

Google My Business

It was a big year for Google Local. As Local is our scene, we’ve been paying close attention to the changes and have implemented some of the new updates for our clients.
This year Google My Business released a slew of new features including posts, q&a’s, messaging, Google websites, reservations, and busy/wait times. It’s changing the way that searchers interact with the knowledge panel both on desktop and mobile. Searchers can find just about everything they are looking for about a local business without clicking to the website. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? We’re not sure. So far the results page has not replaced a website, and in order to rank well, you do need a strong and optimized website.
This is KEY for local business owners to understand in 2018. Google wants to become THE homepage of the internet. How can your business improve it’s search results in 2018? By playing by Google’s rules.

To-do

Do a branded search for your business. 
How is your knowledge panel showing up?
What other websites are showing in the results on the first page and how is your brand represented there? If you find any incorrect information on any of these pages, fix it.
Make sure you have full access to your Google My Business page (if you haven’t claimed or set one up yet, go here first)

Local Service Ads

This year we saw the testing and release of Local Service Ads. Google started with some of the more “spammy” industries, like locksmiths, to test out these new ads. The pros we’ve seen is that Google requires more in-depth vetting of businesses before they can run Local Service Ads. So that means that the companies that just spam ads and local listings to sell leads to the honest companies by using a fake business name and information are not going to be showing up in these types of ads. Even Google AdWords with local extensions is starting to require additional business verifications to help weed out the imposter businesses.
However, when we’ve tested the local service ads with some of our service area clients, the leads were less than stellar. We’re watching this space closely and as Local Service Ads become available to more industries. We will be excited to see how Google can improve on the delivered results.
The big question that is on everyone’s mind, however, is this: Is Google moving towards a strictly pay-to-play structure for local?
We shall see!

To-do

If you are a service area business, look into services ads for your business.
As of the time of this post, industries that can run Local Service Ads in select cities are Locksmiths, plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and garage door services.
You can find the full list of available areas and more information here.

Local Guides

Google rolled out their Local Guides program a few years ago and 2017 saw a big upswing in the number of Local Guide participants due to their stronger promotion of the program and the added incentives. Perks for being an active Local Guide can include things like a free month of the New York Times online and credit in the Google Play store.
How does this impact local businesses? Now you’re not the only one asking your customers to leave you reviews! With location services turned on, Guides will receive messages from Google asking them to leave reviews, share photos, and answer questions about businesses they have visited. Local Guides on the Android platform can even add videos to your Google My Business page as well as photos.

GOOGLE AND OTHER  SEARCH NEWS

Moblie First

Google keeps it’s promise and moves toward mobile first indexing. 2015’s “Mobilegeddon” which started ranking websites that were mobile-friendly over websites that were not got everyone in a panic! Now two years later, Google has been testing mobile-first indexing, which explained by Google, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”
What does this mean for your business and website? Possibly nothing. If your website is already responsive and can be seen correctly on all monitor and mobile sizes, you should be just fine.
Just make a note that mobile is becoming increasingly more important. AMP, or accelerated mobile pages, may also be on the rise as Google will rank sites with faster load times higher as well.

To-do

Test for your websites mobile visibility.  Check here. Google Mobile Test
But don’t stop there. Do a branded search on your mobile device. How does your business appear on mobile?
Do a speed test as well here to make sure that slow load times aren’t impacting your rankings. Check the speed of your website

Voice Search

Voice search on the rise in 2017 with Google Home and Amazon Echo.
Adding to the already popular Siri and other voice searches available on mobile, it is estimated that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice searches. 

50%!

In May this year alone, Google announced that 20% of all mobile queries were voice searches.   Voice search will only increase.
Announced this year, Google Assitant will now help users find home services. If you run a home service business you can understand the importance of making sure that your website is properly optimized for voice search.
See this demo provided by Google:

To-do

If you’re a local business trying to get local customers – write with “local intent” – Include the city name on your home page and location page. What content can you include your location in? Example, “How to find the best plumber in Seattle.”  Use “trigger words” – More than 20% of featured snippets are triggered by these top 25 words (seoClarity)
Words like, how, what, where, etc…

FACEBOOK

While Facebook isn’t strictly local, they’ve made some changes that are impacting all businesses.
October 2017 – Facebook tested segmenting pages from the main newsfeed. Is Facebook leaning towards fully paid for pages as well? The signs are pointing that way.
Organic reach has been way down, and paid is up for Facebook Pages this year.
In other updates from the social media giant:
Released messenger for kids.In an effort to create a safer space for kids, this new feature will give parents more control over who their children message.
They are currently testing a tool to allow business to send blast messages on Messenger.
So, while organic reach is going away, at least Facebook is trying to make their platform still work for businesses as a marketing tool.
Facebook Local is born out of Facebook Events
Currently only available for a select number of businesses, like restaurants and bars, Facebook Local (formerly Facebook Events) is aiming to bring the social element to local listings. See your friends reviews of a business and find events happening near your location.
No more dark posts 
In response to election interference in 2016, Facebook announced this year that there would no longer be dark posts. Which means that every post that a business makes will be viewable on their page. Currently, when a business runs a paid ad, that post cannot be seen on their page.
Even if you are not being targeted by an ad, you will still be able to see it the post on the respective companies Facebook Page.
The no dark posts update should be released in early 2018.

To-do

Get on your Facebook Game
First, do an audit and make sure that all of your information is correct
Check for duplicates and fix any discrepancies.
Next, ensure that you have a Facebook Pixel installed on your website and create a website visitors custom audience. This way if you do ever want to run ads you can retarget your website visitors.
And finally, brainstorm other ways you can make your Facebook presence work for your business type.
Can you use messenger to help respond to inquiries faster? What about campaigns for different promotions during the year? Again, just because organic reach down doesn’t mean that your business can’t get a ton of value from Facebook.

 

This is just a small fraction what 2017 offered us! We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

 

What big changes impacted you the most? Or what big changes are you looking forward to in 2018?
 Local search in 2017 checklist