Posted by MiriamEllis
Maybe it takes a bit of daring to forecast local search developments in quarters 2, 3, and 4 from the fresh heights of Q1, but the Moz team thrives on challenges. In this post, Rand Fishkin, Dr. Pete Meyers, George Freitag, Britney Muller, and I peer into the future in hopes of helping your local business or local search marketing agency be mentally and tactically prepared for an exciting ride in the year ahead.
1. There will be a major shakeup in local SEO ranking factors.
|Rand Fishkin, Founder & Wizard of Moz|
My prediction is that the local SEO ranking factors will have a major shakeup, possibly devaluing some of the long-held elements around listing consistency from hard-to-control third parties. I think Google might make this move because, while they perceive the quality and trustworthiness of those third-party local data aggregators to be decent, they don't want to force small business owners into maintaining contentious relationships or requiring them to learn about these services that control so much of their ranking fate. I'll be the first to say this is a bold prediction, and I don't give it super-high odds, but I think even if it doesn't happen in 2017, it's likely in the next few years.
2. Feature diversification will continue to mature.
|Dr. Peter J. Myers, Marketing Scientist at Moz|
I predict that local SEO will finally see the kind of full-on feature diversification (organic and paid) that has been going on with organic for a few years now. We've already seen many changes to local packs and the introduction of local knowledge panels, including sponsored hotel panels. Now Google is testing paid home services, ads in local packs, destination carousels, trip planning guides and, most recently, "Discover More Places" map results. By the end of 2017, "local SEO" will represent a wide variety of organic and paid opportunities, each with their own unique costs and benefits. This will present both new opportunities and new complications.
3. Voice search will influence features in Google and Amazon results.
|George Freitag, Local Search Evangelist at Moz|
I also think we'll see a new wave of features appear in the local pack over the next year. I believe that voice search will play a large part in this as it will determine the most important features that Google (and Amazon) will incorporate into their results. As both companies start to gather more and more data about the types of complex searches — like "How long will it take me to get there?" or something more ambitious like "Do they have any more of those in my size" — Google and Amazon will start to facilitate businesses in answering those questions by allowing more opportunities to directly submit information. This satisfies both Google's desire to have even more data submitted directly to them and the searcher's desire to have access to more information about the businesses, which means it's something that is definitely worth their time.
4. Google will begin to provide incredibly specific details about local businesses.
|Britney Muller, SEO & Content Architect at Moz|
I predict that we will see Google acquiring more intimate details about local businesses. They will obtain details from your customers (via different incentives) for unbiased feedback about your business. This will help Google provide searchers with a better user experience. We've already started seeing this with "Popular Times" and the "Live" features, showing you if current traffic is under or over the typical amount for the specific location. Your location's level of noise, coziness, bedside manner (for doctors and clinics), and even how clean the bathroom is will all become accessible to searchers in the near future.
5–10. Six predictions for the price of one!
|Miriam Ellis, Moz Associate & Local SEO|
I have a half-dozen predictions for the coming year:
Diminishing free packs
Google paid packs will have replaced many free packs by 2017's end, prompting local business owners to pay to play, particularly in the service industries that will find themselves having to give Google a piece of the pie in exchange for leads.
Voice search will rise
Local marketers will need to stress voice search optimization to business owners. Basically, much of this will boil down to including more natural language in the site's contents and tags. This is a positive, in that our industry has stressed natural language over robotic-sounding over-optimization for many years. Voice search is the latest incentive to really perfect the voice of your content so that it matches the voice your customers are using when they search. Near-me searches and micro-moment events tie in nicely to the rise of voice search.
Expansion of attributes
Expect much discussion of attributes this year as Google rolls out further attribute refinements in the Google My Business dashboard, and as more Google-based reviewers find themselves prompted to assign attributes to their sentiments about local businesses.
Ethical businesses will thrive
Ongoing study of the millennial market will cement the understanding that serving this consumer base means devoting resources to aspirational and ethical business practices. The Internet has created a segment of the population that can see the good and bad of brands at the click of a link, and who base purchasing decisions on that data. Smart brands will implement sustainable practices that guard the environment and the well-being of workers if they want millennial market share.
Google will remain dominant
What won't happen this year is a major transfer of power from the current structure. Google will remain dominant, but Facebook will continue to give them the best run for their money. Apple Maps will become more familiar to the industry. Yelp will keep building beyond the 115 million reviews they've achieved and more retail business owners will realize Yelp is even bigger for their model than it is for restaurants. You've pretty much got to be on Yelp in 2017 if you are in the retail, restaurant, or home service industries.
Amazon’s local impact will increase
Amazon's ingress into local commerce will almost certainly result in many local business models becoming aware of the giant coming to town, especially in metropolitan communities. I'm withholding judgement on how successful some of their programs (like Amazon Go) will be, but local business owners need to familiarize themselves with these developments and see what's applicable to them. David Mihm recently mentioned that he wouldn't be surprised to see Amazon buying a few bankrupt malls this year — that wouldn't surprise me, either.
Taken in sum, it’s a safe bet that local SEO is going to continue to be a significant force in the world of search in the coming year. Local business owners and the agencies which serve them will be wise to stay apprised of developments, diversifying tactics as need arises.
Now it’s your turn! Do you agree/disagree with our predictions? And how about your forecast? When you look to the future in local, what do you foresee? Please help us round out this post with predictions from our incredibly smart community.
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