State of Local Search in 2018

The Gamut of Changes to Google My Business

In less than 2 years, Google has relentlessly rolled out a series of updates to Google My Business features. In 2017, they had added a featured post feature, Q&A section and introduced a messaging option. In December 2017, we wrote about a post on some of the new Google My Business features. In 2018, they have added a business description section which allows businesses to capture user attention with a 250 character message about the business. Clicking this description shows a longer description, up to 750 characters.

What does this reflect?

One thing is clear - Google is devoting a lot of resources towards Google Local. This particular segment has been identified by the search giant as one of its most important segments. To continue being the most popular search engine, it must deliver the most relevant results to users.

Finding service providers is a BIG part of user search behavior and includes all kinds of queries like restaurants near me, plumbers in Vancouver, dentists, plumbers and so on. In fact, the device you search from would know your location and if one searches for pizzas, one expects Google to show pizza places near me. So we, the users, are even going to stop saying things like 'near me' or 'in Vancouver' but expect geographically relevant search results for a variety of queries.

This indicates two things -
1. Businesses need to make Local SEO a bigger priority in their marketing plans
2. Google Local is expected to be an important revenue generator for Alphabet

How Significant are Organic Search results now?

Take a look at the Google search engine results first page real estate for the query - 'Dental Implants'

As you can see, one organic search result popped up right below the top 4 paid ads and then the rest of the organic results are buried half way down the page. For some queries, these results are going to be higher up in more prime spots but for a variety of searches, they are getting pushed as far down as shared in the example above.

The map results are the result of Local SEO and those have become extremely important for businesses to generate phone calls and website leads. These map results can also include paid ads in certain cases. E.g. for 'Dental Implants Near Me' -

WHAT IS ONE TO DO?

The Local Search Optimization includes actively managing the following -

  • Citations - business listings across various online business directories
  • Reputation - soliciting and responding to customer reviews across important directories
  • Map listings - updating business information on Google My Business (Bing and Apple listings are less important to maintain as regularly)