Local SEO trends to keep in mind today

Earlier this year, we have already shared some local SEO trends and predictions for 2022. Today, let's take an overview of what has happened with local marketing by this time and what trends companies should pay attention to effectively work with location-based services and strengthen their online presence and reputation in 2022.
In the recent DataReportal study, analysts reported that 63% of the world's population uses the Internet, 67% use smartphones, and 92% of all traffic comes from mobile devices.

It's also important to note that user queries have changed over the past few years. Safari Digital research shows a 500% increase in queries that include "near me", "nearby". This means that today users are more likely to search "locally" to quickly find the right company or service.

Moreover, 28% of local queries are converted into purchases. That is, users who make local queries are a well "warmed up" audience that has a need to find and visit a specific company. Therefore, it is important for offline businesses to bring users who search locally to their points of sales or service.

Large tech companies like Google and Apple understand the importance of developing their location-based services for businesses and actively invest in them. We can draw this conclusion based on how they have developed these services by today.

As we know, changes always create trends. So, let's take a look at 5 important trends you should keep in mind today to improve your online presence and reputation.

Local SEO trends to keep in mind in 2022

1. Pay attention to SERP for branded queries

SERP is a page with results that a search engine generates in response to a user query. The page has organic search results, advertising, short responses to a query, hints (if the user made a spelling mistake), links and a map.

Last year Google has changed the look of local search results and companies' listings began to take up even more space.

Here's what local search results looked like in early 2021:

google justifications
Now first, there is a Local Pack with a map and then goes companies' websites, articles, social media and other relevant links. Let's take a look:
google justifications
Local Pack is a block with a map above the organic results, which is formed by Google in accordance with the user's query, taking into account their geolocation. Companies' listings in the Local Pack go above the site.
For branded queries, SERP looks the same — a Local Pack with a map, then goes company's website, pages in social media and other links.
google justifications
As we can see, listings take a priority position in the local search results. This means that directories, review platforms and social media are already fading into the background. What can we conclude from that? Businesses need to keep a sharp eye on information and reviews not only in social media, catalogs, and review platforms but also in location-based services.

To catch the eye of your audience, create comprehensive and beautiful listings of your company in Google Business Profile (earlier Google My Business): add up-to-date information, upload high-quality photos and videos related to your business, create posts with news and offers, and surely answer customers' questions and reply to reviews.

Mind the recent Google updates to get the most of your online presence. For example, now you can add new recycling attributes to make it easier for people to find recycling points nearby.
google local pack

2. Reviews are now an even more important local SEO ranking factor

Reviews are often viewed as a tool for managing a company's online reputation. It's true. But reviews are also among the top 3 factors that affect the ranking of your listing in search results. And its weight continues to grow.

Recent research by WhiteSpark notes that reviews are the second most important ranking factor, right after the completeness of your listing on Google Business Profile.

Reviews show search engines whether a business is trustworthy, has credibility in the market, and how up-to-date the data about the company is. That is, search engines want to show users the most accurate and useful information.
- Rating of listings

When a user writes a review, in addition to the text, he puts a rate from 1 to 5. It forms your rating in location-based services. The higher the rating of your listing, the better the search engine understands that it needs to be shown to the user.

According to a study by BrightLocal, 52% of users won't use the services of a company if its rating is below 4.

In addition, search engines take into account the company's rating not only in the location-based services but also in social media and review platforms.

- Tonality

Google tries to show users those listings that have a high rating and more positive reviews.

- Reviews from real customers

Search engines are getting smarter every year, and they have already become better at distinguishing fake reviews from real ones. There are cases when companies' listings were blocked due to a large number of fake reviews. Obviously, this resulted in the recent Google update — the Review counter.

Google has added a special tag to users that shows how many reviews they have left for a particular category of business. It is good to follow the recommendations of local experts. But it's likely that this feature will also help identify fake reviews and speed up the appeal process which can be quite useful to solve reputation issues.

What exactly affects rankings?

- Relevance and number of new reviews

It is important for the search engine that the listings contain fresh reviews. The more recent and relevant the reviews, the better the search engine perceives the listing and shows it to users more often.

This fact is also important for a potential customer. BrightLocal research shows that 73% of users read reviews written during the last month. Therefore, it is important for companies to learn how to constantly generate new reviews in listings.

So, working with reviews is crucial to strengthen your online reputation and improve your position in local search results.

3. Local PR as a new digital trend

Now, unique content is also needed for listings in location-based services. We used to think that it is used for the company's website and social media, but local trends and new features in location-based services convince us that content is at the helm here too.

Local SEO experts have noticed that company's listings are a great platform to build trust with your customers and tell them about what you have to offer: where to dine, which entertainment center to go to and where to find the best flowers in the city.

Local SEO will continue to grow as a valuable source of traffic and online visibility for businesses. Therefore, in addition to filling out the basics (up-to-date information about opening hours, parking availability, payment methods, and so on), you can use location-based services as a communication platform for PR activity as well.
1. Manage your photos: add high-quality content and remove low-quality one

Photos are important. According to Brightlocal research, 60% of users say that listings with beautiful, high-quality photos grab their attention and influence their decision-making. In other words, the user will evaluate your store or cafe as a whole, including photos. Our practice shows that companies' listings may have absolutely irrelevant content:

How you can build PR communications in location-based services:

We at RocketData noticed that it's not always easy to work with photos in location-based services, so we made a tool that helps with this — Photo Management Tool. Here, in your RocketData personal account, you will see a dashboard with all your photos from Google. You are able to navigate there and easily find and remove irrelevant or unattractive photos from your listings.
2. Create posts

Posts in location-based services are a great opportunity to tell your potential customers about your activities, special events and offers in the company — for example, the launch of a new dish or a new product.
3. Tell about your company in relevant media

Mentions in other sources are important for Google. This increases your ranking in the eyes of potential customers.
4. Generate customer reviews with the help of mailings and QR codes

The more positive and detailed reviews are the better chances that people will see them as authoritative recommendations. Now you can see Updates by visitors in Google listings. The feature looks like a post that a company can create in their listings. The difference is that "Updates by visitors" is a text review about a company with a photo from your customer.

Google doesn't disclose how it selects reviews to display in the "Updates by visitors" section. We noticed that often these are reviews with photos. This means that companies need to pay even more attention to customer review generation.
5. And again — keep a sharp eye on your work with reviews

This can play a grand role in your company's promotion in Google search and maps. Now when users search for a specific place, Google offers to additionally view the carousel with the recommended places to visit. These are the places with complete listings and high ratings.

As reviews are the second most important ranking factor they will obviously influence your getting on these lists.

4. Apple Maps develop its features

Today, Apple Maps has more than 200 million users worldwide, so the prospect of active development of this service is high.

In 2021, Apple Maps has a big update: the company launched the Apple Places service, which is similar to Google Business Profile. Inside it, you can find a location that has been added to Apple Maps, verify rights, and manage information.
google local pack
Today, Apple Maps has more than 200 million users worldwide, so the prospect of active development of this service is high.

In 2021, Apple Maps has a big update: the company launched the Apple Places service, which is similar to Google Business Profile. Inside it, you can find a location that has been added to Apple Maps, verify rights, and manage information.

5. Voice search is getting more popular

Voice search statistics collected in 2021 by the Invoca platform show that more and more customers are using voice to perform search queries: search for local companies, online stores, and products, as well as to make purchase decisions.

Before going somewhere users turn to Alexa or Siri. Basically, these queries are related to the fact that users are already ready to go to and want to clarify for themselves "where to have lunch", "where to dine with friends", "flowers near me".

Local businesses should think about what exactly they can do to effectively work with this traffic source. Optimizing listings for voice search is a smart move to add to your local marketing strategy.

In addition to up-to-date information about the phone number, address and links to the site and social networks, we recommend optimizing your posts for voice queries. For example, indicate at the end of the post the phrases "Now you know where to have a tasty breakfast in Riga", "The best choice of non-fiction books", and so on.

It is also good to track reviews and questions in the "Questions & Answers" section on Google and answer them using keywords: for example, "on our menu, you can find tasty and inexpensive Continental breakfasts".

To sum up

So, what are our recommendations according to the trends we have just learned? Let's sum it up:
  • Location-based services will add more and more new features, which means that it is important for offline businesses to include local marketing in their marketing plan.

  • Work with reviews, as customer feedback is an element of building online reputation and an important ranking factor for local search results.

  • Local listings are a great platform for the promotion of your brand. So use it for PR activity. Add high-quality photos and create unique posts on Google, manage and generate reviews — all these will attract customers' attention and make them get interested and visit your company.

  • Apple is paying more attention to its mapping service, so optimize your listings there to keep the pace.

  • Start optimizing company's listings in location-based services for voice search — it has a great potential to develop.

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