To get an update on search ranking factors and the state of local search engine optimization and marketing, Search Insider caught up with experts Pete Meyers, marketing scientist at Moz, and Neil Crist, VP of product and engineering at Moz.
As the two experts points out, local SEO continues to change from an explosion of new Google My Business features to an increasing emphasis on the importance of reviews. They put together some key stats to identify trends.
The findings from the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey and the State of Local Search may seem a little contradictory. Even as the need for a website continues to grow, 64% of 1,411 surveyed local business marketers agree Google search is becoming the new home page for local businesses.
More business information is ending up in search queries, so there is little need to go to a website. What follows are excerpts from the discussion.
Search Insider: Why is Google Search acting like the business’ home page?
Meyers: Google’s owning more of the data for local businesses because their websites are a mess. We’re in our car and try to pull up the website to find a PDF of the menu and 17 pictures of the owner’s dog. We can’t find the address, phone number or the hours of operation.
Google wants to monetize data, but they also know people need information. Businesses have not done a great job of this. The simple truth is people need to get to the fundamental information about a business, and they can’t. So Google started to take that away from us and display it in a consistent format. As a market this scares me, but as a user it’s valuable.
Search Insider: How important is having a website in 2019?
Crist: As a basic first step, companies need to make sure their Google My Business profile is built. Some are filled out, but a lot of the characteristics of the profile drive the user toward an action.
Meyers: We don’t want to let go of the metrics we’re used to, the direct traffic to the website. The battle we’re fighting is if someone goes onto Google and finds the hours of operation and other information, we shouldn’t fight it. That’s a win, even though they never make it to the website. We shouldn’t be tied to these vanity metrics if Google drives business into the stores.
Search Insider: What are the most important metrics for business this year?
Meyers: For the hyperlocal business, such as the restaurant and coffee shop, we need to be more mindful of calls and foot-in-door traffic. Maybe we need to realize that people visiting the website isn’t that important.
For some local businesses we’re trying to push them through more tangible results. In the next few years, we’re going to be able to tell when someone went to Google before coming into the shop, which is both good and scary.
To conclude, there are a few important factors that marketers must consider in 2019. Meyers and I both agreed that proximity has become more important with the increase of mobile devices. When it comes to ranking, there are two sets of factors causing concern and confusion. Marketers should also focus more on giving Google better data in 2019.
It is important to ensure data is accurate. It’s easy to control, but people get lazy. Some traditional factors like citations and unlinked mentions of a business, can lose significance.