The future of Google search is AI (artificial intelligence).
Which means, in order to do effective local SEO today, you have to learn how to tailor your strategy to the reality of Google’s artificial intelligence.
But the truth is, the future of Google AI has been around since 2015.
We may be able to go back even further to 2013 when Google started talking about deep learning.
Before that, there used to be a bunch of engineers who analyzed search data and feedback. And based on the analysis, would decide what updates to the make the Google search algorithm.
Those days are gone!
Algorithm updates are now driven by artificial intelligence, and I see this as a great thing for Local SEO!
What’s A Local SEO AI Strategy
In this article, I’m going to talk specifically about how you can harness the power of AI (artificial intelligence) in local SEO.
More specifically, what things you can do to increase your rankings, presence, and productivity in Google local search and Google Maps knowing that artificial intelligence is powering your results.
But first, let me give you a brief overview of the mechanics – the way I understand them – behind how artificial intelligence is powering Google search.
Quick note here… I am not an expert on artificial intelligence, nor am I expert on the AI that goes into RankBrain.
That’s probably evident to most of you, but I figured I’d just make that note.
Ok, so in order for artificial intelligence to make high quality decisions, it simply needs a lot of data.
So at the core of any AI to work effectively, massive amounts of data must be analyzed at a very rapid pace.
The amazing component of effective AI is that the machine, or algorithm, or whatever it is being driven by AI, is able to learn and adapt based on the outcomes of the decisions it makes from all of that data.
Data is critically important… and lot’s of it.
And that’s it!
That’s my brief overview on what you need to know, for this article anyway, on what’s needed for effective AI.
Knowing that artificial intelligence requires a massive amount of data to make decisions and learn, and a continual influx of more data to learn and adapt even better, is at the core of what I’m about to get into as AI pertains to local SEO.
How Is Local SEO Influenced by AI
The purpose of this article is talk through how to perform effective local search engine optimization knowing that artificial intelligence is at the core of Google search.
As such, we have to start with the premise that any effective local SEO campaign must, by nature of the fact that AI is determining the results, somehow feed Google an increasing amount of data.
But what kind of data effects local SEO?
Or what type of data can we produce that would influence our rankings, presence, and productivity in Google local search and Google Maps?
The answer is citations.
Ok, that’s great… but what is a citation and what are local SEO citations?
According to SEO Mark, who holds the featured snippet for the question “what is a citation for local SEO?” this is what a citation is:
What are local SEO citations? A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business.
In other words, a citation is a data set made up of your business location data.
So that data set is the citation, which is the sum total of your local business data.
But what local business data makes us a citation?
What Are The 7 Components To A Local SEO Citation
There are 7 variables, or pieces of your local business data, that make up a full citation.
- Your business name
- Your business street address
- Your business city
- Your business state
- Your business zip code
- Your business phone #
- Your business website URL
In other words, the exact mailing address of your business location plus your website URL.
That’s what a full citation is.
Here’s the full citation for our business, Bipper Media:
Bipper Media: Website Design & SEO
855 Gaines School Road
Athens, Georgia 30605
Again, a citation for local SEO is a data set made of up those 7 variables mentioned above.
Here’s a couple of key points to remember, or more so lessons learned, from our experience in dealing with citations when it comes to effective local SEO.
First, always use the The United States Postal Service as the most authoritative reference point for your defined citation.
We used to base our citation work on the front end version of the citation displayed in Google Maps.
But this would be a mistake.
Even though Google Maps, in most cases, matches The United States Postal Service’s version of the citation, it’s definitely not 100% of the time.
Google Maps can generate some weird stuff when it comes to things like Suite, Street, even zip codes.
As such, we’ve come to rely on the USPS as the authoritative source on confirming a business address.
Also, major data aggregators use the USPS as the authoritative source for business addresses.
What Are The Major Data Aggregators
In the United States, there are 4 major aggregators:
- Acxiom (www.acxiom.com);
- Factual (www.factual.com);
- Infogroup (www.expressupdate.com)
- Localeze (www.neustarlocaleze.biz)
Although Acxiom is supposedly closing its doors and I’ve heard that Foursquare will be taken over as one of the four major data aggregators.
But the point is, use the USPS as your starting point in confirming you have a properly structured citation for your business.
Once you have clean version of your citation, it’s time to make sure you add that as the address to your Google My Business listing.
Even though Google may alter the way your business data is displayed in Google Maps and on your GMB, you still want to enter your business data as shown via the USPS.
Once your Google My Business listing is updated with the USPS version of your business address (citation data), you are now ready to start feeding the artificial intelligence engine that’s driving Google’s local search results and Google Maps.
Remember I said at the beginning that artificial intelligence requires a massive amount of data in order to understand and optimize most efficiently?
The data you are going to be feeding Google’s AI for local SEO is your citation.
But how do you go about feeding Google’s artificial intelligence engine with your citation data?
You do that through the process of citation distribution.
What Is Citation Distribution
Citation distribution is the process of getting your business location data (citation) published across the web in places like directories, websites, and data aggregators.
The more you can distribute your citation across the web, and the more you can get your citation published in authoritative sites and directories, the more you’ll be feeding Google’s artificial intelligence that’s determining the search results.
The sum total of your citations published across the web are what I refer to as your citation portfolio.
There are two main objectives you want to achieve while building your citation portfolio:
The quality of your citation distribution portfolio will be determined by the authority of the websites and directories where your citation is published.
But quality will also be determined by relevance of the websites and directories as well.
For example, if you are a law firm in Atlanta, Georgia, you can increase the quality of your citation distribution portfolio by getting your citation published in directories and websites that are specific to Atlanta and also specific to the legal industry.
So to increase the quality of your citation distribution portfolio, focus on three things:
- Get citations from the most authoritative websites and directories on the web
- Get citations from websites and directories that are related to your city
- Get citations from websites and directories that are related to your industry or business category
The quantity of your citation distribution portfolio is pretty straight forward… it’s basically focusing on getting as many citations (volume) as you can.
Again, back to the relevance of how all of this relates to local SEO AI.
The more you focus on building an authoritative citation distribution portfolio for your local business or location, the more data you are producing to feed Google’s artificial intelligence.
And the data you feed the AI engine, the more the AI will understand the relevance and authority of your location.
And the more authority your location has, the higher you’ll rank in Google local search and Google Maps.
And of course, the higher you rank, the more presence and productivity you’ll experience in your business.
We refer to this as location authority.
What is Location Authority
Location authority is in essence your power to rank in Google local search and Google Maps search results.
The more location authority your location has, the higher you’ll rank for relevant search queries and at an increasing radius around and away from your specific location.
In other words, location authority is the rank factor that’s determined by Google’s artificial intelligence.
You feed the AI component of Google’s search algorithm with your citation data.
And the more you increase your citation distribution portfolio, both in quality and quantity, the more location authority you’ll build for your location.
Google’s algorithm is now leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to determine who ranks where in the search results.
Since AI is behind the search results, it’s important for you to know what is the fuel that drives AI.
And that fuel is data.
For local SEO AI, or local search engine optimization artificial intelligence (wow, that’s a mouthful), you can influence this by feeding Google’s AI with the data called citations.
Your citation is basically the data set that makes up the specific address of your location plus your website URL.
The more, both in volume, scale, and magnitude you can build into your citation distribution portfolio, the more data you’ll be feeding Google’s AI.
And more Google’s AI can clearly understand and attribute authority to your location, the more location authority you’ll have.
And again, the more location authority your location has, the more increases you’ll see in your rankings, presence, and productivity from Google search.
I hope this overview of Local SEO AI is helpful to you and your overall local SEO strategy.
Let me know what you think about this article, along with any questions or feedback you may have, by leaving a comment below.
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