[plugin your business category]” are, and starting their search from there.
#1: The ‘near me’ phenomena.
As the local search results have evolved, the ‘near me’ search results have exploded in popularity. This is primarily due to Google automatically attributing the ‘near me’ search phrase to the end of locally relevant search queries. Here’s an example of what I get when I type just the word “dentist” into the Google search app on my iPhone:
Notice how Google automatically presents me with the “dentists near me” option. Why keep typing out the words “in Athens” when I don’t need to. As I’m typing, I’ll just tap on the local search recommendation. And this is what millions of people are doing every day as they search for nearly all types of local products and services in their area. In fact, the more population density there is in your particular city, the more relevant the ‘near me’ descriptor becomes. Google will always favor your exact location for any locally relevant search phrase.
#2: Mobile first local SEO
This was true in 2015, and is even more relevant in 2016. For any successful local seo strategy, your small business must have a mobile first mindset. There’s just no escaping the influence that mobile devices are having on our lives. From kids as young as 3 years old, to your grandparents in their 70’s and 80’s, mobile phone usage is becoming the predominant way people access information.
Bringing this home to the impact on local SEO for small businesses, it’s safe for me to predict that at least 80% (probably more) of your prospective customers have used Google search on their mobile phones. Most important, as of 2015, Google states that more searches are being made via mobile devices than desktop computers.
All of this means that your 2016 local SEO strategy must, without fail, take the mobile first approach. Your most profitable customers and clients are searching for what you offer on their mobile phones. Just having a mobile phone gives you some insight into customer demographics. In to have a mobile phone implies that you have enough discretionary income to afford the text, calling, and data plans that come with the phone.
#3: Voice search is on the rise
According to Google, voice search has more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. The ‘near me’ descriptor example I gave above is most relevant when you are physically typing a search phrase into the Google search app. But over the past two years, voice search has exploded in popularity. This is most true amount teens who are searching. Here’s a screenshot from Google’s research published in 2014 showing who’s using voice search the most:
Although there’s not a huge disparity between the two segments (teens vs. adults), it’s clear that the younger generation are adapting voice search at a faster rate. But this does not negate the importance of voice search for your small business local SEO strategy in 2016. Because 41% of adults surveyed are still using the voice search feature in Google’s mobile search app.
What’s also interesting from the findings of Google’s research is when people are using voice search. Here’s a screenshot showing when people are using Google voice search the most:
The geographic / location awareness impact on voice search:
Finally, when you combine voice search with the fact that Google favors search results based on your location, you have see the full power of local SEO for small business come to life. If I’m hanging out with friends (see chart above) and we start talking about dentists, I might just pull out my iPhone and use voice search to see what I get. And if you’ve been implementing strong local SEO strategies for your business, and you are in close proximity to the person who’s searching, the stage is set for you to be seen in the local search results.
#4: High quality photos in your Google business page
The fourth local SEO tip for small businesses in 2016 centers around the quality of the photos in your Google business page. I recently posted a question to @GooogleSmallBiz asking about the impact of high quality photos in determining authority and rankings for local search results.
Here’s the question I asked:
And then 8 days later, here’s the response I got from their #AskaPhotograher hashtag:
Let me go ahead and breakdown the responses for you so it’s a bit easier to digest:
- There’s a strong correlation between high quality photos on your Google business page and consumer confidence.
- Local businesses with high quality photos get 42% more requests for directions.
- High quality photos results in 35% more click thru’s to the small business website.
- Virtual tours make your local business twice as likely to book a new customer.
Ultimately, uploading high quality photos to your Google business page will dramatically increase the power of your local SEO strategy in 2016. Google typically requires any image on your Google business page to be at least 750px on any either the height or width. And within your Google business page, you are given many different sections to feature photos of your business. These sections include interior, exterior, team members, profiles, logos, and more.
The gain an advantage with this local SEO strategy for small business in 2016, it’s really just a matter of taking the time up front to produce high quality photos of your business and then uploading those to your Google business page in their respective category.
Taking this one step further, getting a virtual tour of your small business office will, according to the research, will make it twice as likely that you’ll book a new customer or client.
#5: Direct Data that impacts local SEO
Finally, the impact of direct data about your business is becoming increasingly more important in Google local search. The goal for any effective local SEO strategy is to not compete, but to differentiate and dominate your specific market. And that’s where the magic of direct data for local SEO comes into play.
Direct data about your business includes the things that make you unique, or that are directly related to your business. For example, if you search for dentists near you, you’ll see the search results for general dentists. But perhaps you specialize in pediatric dentistry, and you are only open Monday – Thursday from 10am – 7pm. These are all unique attributes related to your specific business. The more direct data you include in your Google business page, the more relevant you are for appearing in the local search results for specific search queries.
Including direct data in your Google business page means you are going the extra mile to include granular level data about your business. Again, what makes you unique, or what unique attributes are associated with your location, products, or services.
Direct data impacts local SEO because Google will always strive to present the most relevant search results based on a particular query. If someone searches or speaks “pediatric dentists” into the Google search app, Google will instantly go beyond the general dentistry category and present dentists in your area that specialize in pediatrics.
The same granular level approach to direct data for local SEO can be applied to nearly every small business in existence, whether you are an locally owned business or a franchise operation. If I were to compare your small business with someone you’d consider a direct competitor, I’m willing to bet that I can come up with some granular level differences. It might be a slight variation in the hours of operation, or perhaps in the methods and techniques of implementing your product or service. Or better yet, your small business might focus on a very niche segment of the general category, whereas your “direct competitor” might focus on the general category as a whole.
Whatever the case may be, in order to exploit the direct data impact on local SEO in 2016, you have to dive deep into the details of your business that make you unique. Even the smallest variation in details matter when it comes to direct data. Google looks far beyond the title of your business page and the specified category for your business. They look at the complete picture of all available data within your Google business page to determine the relevance of your location.
The more attention to detail you place on direct data, the more you’ll differentiate your small business from all of your competitors. This is especially true considering that most small business local SEO strategies only scratch the surface when it comes to direct data.
Again, the goal is to differentiate yourself in your market space. Your goal is not to compete, but to differentiate and dominate your specific business category. And direct data is the vehicle that drives that differentiation for your small business.
How to prepare now for your small business local SEO strategy
Looking at the small business local SEO tips for 2016 above, there are some definitive steps you can take right now to differentiate your business, exploit your competitor’s weaknesses, and dominate the local search results in 2016.
Mobile First Local SEO: Voice & Near Me Searches
The mobile first mindset is the common theme across all of the local SEO tips shared above. You have to embrace mobile search as your greatest opportunity in 2016. The ‘near me’ descriptor is getting exponentially better at determining the local businesses in close proximity to your location. And voice search is clearly on the rise. Both of these features are relevant to the mobile first local SEO strategy.
Direct Data & High Quality Images
Going beyond mobile, the question then becomes how to get your local or small business more relevant for those searches. The things you are control right now are the quality of the photos you upload to your Google business page, and the granular level data – the direct data – that you include in your Google business page listing. Research shows that high quality photos directly impact the customer’s perception of your business, and this influences the brand authority of your business, which definitely impacts rankings.
And the direct data included in your Google business page will allow you to differentiate your small business from all of your competitors. Direct data gives you the power to include data at the granular level. And this attention to detail approach will quickly separate your small business from the rest of the competition.
These local SEO tips for small businesses in 2016 are all premised on the fact that Google is serious about mobile and local search. Mobile has always been a top priority for Google, even far beyond the local and small business impact. One look at Google’s product lines will tell you how important mobile is to the future of Google’s success. The mobile app for Youtube, for example, continues to evolve at a rapid pace as video consumption on mobile devices grows at a recording breaking pace.
Even with one of Google’s most popular products, Gmail, you can see the emphasis and influence of their mobile first strategy. Take a moment to scroll down through the official Gmail blog, and notice type of device that’s featured in the screenshots and videos. You’ll notice very quickly that mobile devices are the core focus of Gmail updates.
Once you implement these local SEO tips for 2016 in your Google business page, you’ll be well on your way to dominating the local search results.
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