According to Marketing Land, a Northern Virginia locksmith has launched a lawsuit against Google, Yellowbook, and Ziplocal. Backed by multiple state and federal laws, the locksmith is suing with the demand that these entities “remove fraudulent locksmith listings from their search results.”
After a reported 8.4 million dollar profit loss due to Google and the other defendants permitting illegal listings from unlicensed locksmiths, you can’t blame the plaintiff (Baldino’s Lock and Key Service). As of today, there’s no word regarding whether Google will settle or how search listings will be affected. But the entire fiasco has put our Google “bird watchers” on high alert. The question we’re all entertaining is straightforward: What’s ahead for local Web content and SEO?
A Look at Superhero SEO
You’re no doubt wondering about the “Superhero SEO” in my title. What does it mean? The term struck me as fitting when reading about the case of Baldino vs. Google. In the world of business, we’re often called on to be the superheroes of our respective companies. It’s our job to save the day both locally and online, and sometimes these areas overlap.
It’s a jungle out there! Illegitimate, illegal, and downright dirty “businesses” try to steal clientele at every turn. And when it comes to SEO, the Internet is like the fictional Gotham City from the Batmancomics; it’s a city that needs to be cleaned up.
Google and its birds – Penguin and Hummingbird – are figuratively playing Batman and Robin. Hummingbird is all about synonyms and context. It’s capable of judging search intent. It allows us to stop stuffing mechanical keywords into our content and write naturally instead. Penguin, much like the cruel cold of the real birds’ natural habitat, is geared at decreasing the rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Get caught engaging in black-hat SEO, and the Penguin will leave you out in the cold.
Together, Google’s birds are on a mission to clean up the Internet, one spammy, low-quality website at a time. Google’s search engine algorithms either elevate or plunge the ranking status of a website based on the content, links, and SEO tactics that are actively leveraged. It all comes down to whether the webmasters in question wear black or white top hats; are they using white-hat best practices or unorthodox and shady black-hat tactics?
Local Web Content Trends
What is local content? Simply put, it’s a commitment to build locally. It’s targeted at your local community, and it often involves the city you’re based in. Local SEO took off in 2014, just as we and other content experts predicted.
Google has pioneered local mobile searches, and their algorithms have supported stronger accuracy and results. However, the case of Baldino’s Lock and Key Service shows that Google’s birds still have a lot to reconcile. Interestingly, this scenario of alleged illegitimate businesses scooping up business because of their SERP ranking is nothing new. In fact, it resembles the allegations raised against Google in the Canadian Pharmacy case.
But what trends can we look to that indicate where local content is headed? How can we ensure our content is performing properly?
Trend #1: Google Explore Makes Local SEO Extra Important
Throughout 2014, we’ve seen the rise of various local SEO trends. For example, Google’s new “Explore” feature for Maps was released just a few months ago in July of 2014. And it told us a bit about the future of local content and SEO:
- Explore users get information about businesses around them.
- Using Explore, users can scope out listings for a specific city or neighborhood.
Marketers quickly realized that Explore had the potential of helping new patrons discover local businesses – if their content was optimized for local search. It held the potential of putting companies in front of people who were ready to buy. According to Yelp, approximately 27 percent of people who look at local business reviews buy within one day, if not within a few hours.
Image Credit: OfficialBlog.Yelp.com
Trend #2: Beefed Up Content Is Essential
Google’s Explore feature also showed marketers that customers seeking local businesses online were often directed toward companies that provided Google with a full snapshot of their operations. In most cases, this was done through Google+ profiles and beefed up website content. It signaled marketers that local Web content needed to be beefed up for successful local marketing.
Trend #3: The Facts Don’t Lie
Before we begin to extrapolate the probable future of local content, let’s consider the latest SEO stats. After all, the facts don’t lie:
- According to Search Engine Watch,
59 percent of consumers use Google to find a reputable, local business every month. 50 percent of all mobile searches are conducted with the purpose of finding relevant, local results.61 percent of those searches result in a purchase.
- 33 percent of traffic streams to the top listings in Google’s organic search results.
- Approximately 27 percent of total U.S. Internet time is spent on social media sites.
- 48 percent of users who land on a business site that doesn’t work well on mobile take it as an indication that the business just doesn’t care.
5 Predictions for the Future of Local Web Content
It’s pretty obvious that local search and SEO are big business. Users are on the hunt for local results. The only way you’re going to compete is by optimizing accordingly. But with situations like the ones surrounding Baldino’s Lock and Key Service, how can you prepare for what will undoubtedly be an evolving future?
Prediction #1: You Must Become an Authority
As Google’s birds continue to peck out spammy, low-quality websites, you can bet on the future of local Web content hinging on authority status. You must become an authority and continually work to remain one.
Building authority will not happen overnight. And there’s no ONE way of rising to a highly credible status. Becoming an authority involves numerous elements:
1. Informative Content: You’ll need to continually produce and publish informative content. It must be relevant, well researched, well written, and engaging.
2. Social Media Presence: You can’t be an authority without social media. It’s just not possible. Social signals are important to SEO and authority. And your social networks can’t be successful if they’re filled with fluff followers. Fluff followers are people with no vested interest in your business; they just liked or followed to like or follow. You need followers who engage and interact with your media.
3. An Adaptable Online Presence: Earlier we covered some SEO facts. One of those facts stated that 48 percent of users who land on a business site that doesn’t work well on mobile take it as an indication that the business just doesn’t care. It’s crucial to have an adaptable presence, one that’s responsive on any device. In truth, this is relatively easy. Responsive website designs are incredibly prevalent. If you don’t have one, get one. Now! It will show you care, a factor that contributes to credibility and authority.
4. Relevant Citations and Links: Finally, citations and link building are huge factors of authority. Your audience respects your opinion, but they want facts. If you present well-researched facts and backed claims coupled with citations and links to highly authoritative websites, your credibility will grow. Your audience will come to see you as a reputable authority. Suddenly, your opinions will carry greater weight. But in order for this aspect of authority building to be truly successful, you need to watch your real estate. In other words, you need to position your website within an authoritative neighborhood.
Tip #2: Live In an Authoritative Neighborhood
Moz has become a pillar in the SEO community. They’ve built an incredible library of link building material, and they’ve become a staple for building local SEO. MozBar is an epic tool for ensuring your website stays in the best Internet neighborhood.
Each link to and from your website builds a neighborhood. Since your goal is to become an authority, it’s important to reside in the right neighborhood. MozBar allows you to gauge the domain and page authorities of a website. Based on this information, you can decide if an industry website will further increase the authoritative value of your neighborhood. But MozBar’s usability goes even further.
Moz’s technology allows you to monitor and potentially improve everything from your link profile to your SERP placement through detailed analysis. You can analyze your pages and ultimately your entire domain. It’s a powerful tool for making your website prime real estate for existing authority neighborhoods.
Tip #3: Invest In High Quality Content
Content isn’t just king of the Internet; it’s king of local search marketing, too. As Google continually updates its algorithms, high quality content becomes an even bigger element in determining ranks.
Content creates a bigger signal of what can be found on your website when local consumers conduct a search. Their original search term may not be for a business or service. It could simply be for general information about a topic. Your locally targeted content will signal them to visit, thus allowing them to make a new local discovery – your business.
Remember that high quality content is specific. It’s educational, accurate, and engaging. It offers useable value. It’s free of grammatical and technical errors, and it’s expertly crafted to your style. It is never haphazardly thrown together with little to no forethought or concentrated effort. Local content needs just as much attention as general Internet content that’s potentially seen globally.
Tip #4: Don’t Discount the Little Things
Successful local SEO depends on the little things, and chances are these little things will grow more important over time. As Google continually seeks to hand users the most relevant results, local searches will depend on specific local information.
According to Moz, you’ll need to:
- Incorporate city, state in landing page titles.
- Include city, state in local landing page URLs.
- Add city, state into landing page H1 and H2 tags when relevant and appropriate.
- Ensure a search engine can read your physical address for city searches.
- Insert geographic keywords into your content naturally.
The trick will be to incorporate local optimization without becoming spammy. It is vital to follow best practices and Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Steer clear of black-hat SEO. Popular black-hat forums have chatted about their tactics working for local ranking boosts. But you can bet this won’t last for long. It will hurt your website in the long run.
Tip #5: Be Legal
Since the inception of the Internet, it’s become exceedingly difficult to weed out the con artists from the legitimate businesses. If you’re following the above tips, then you’re well on your way to standing out as legit. But anyone can appear legit. Just look at the current case against Google for indexing and directly or indirectly pointing traffic to allegedly illegal locksmiths overcharging customers and operating without proper licensing. How will reoccurring situations of this nature affect the future of local SEO?
In purely theoretical terms, Google just might start looking at the feasibility of identifying legit versus illegitimate businesses. There’s a number of ways to accomplish this, but chances are the focus will be heavy on the quality content side. After all, illegitimate businesses are good at creating shady content. They tend to travel in shady circles. It just might be that following the above tips keeps you out of the shadowy underbelly of the cyber version of Gotham City.
Outsourcing Will Expand
Deloitte’s 2014 Global Outsourcing and Insourcing Survey predicts that outsourcing “is expected to continue at rates of 12 to 26 [percent] across [all] functions.” The survey is a clear indication that businesses of all sizes, located around the globe, are seeing the benefits of outsourcing. And we recently discussed 25 reasons to outsource your content creation process.
It’s a fair assumption that as content creation grows increasingly vital to local content and SEO, the need for outsourcing will grow alongside it. Content is the cornerstone of business today, and it will be even more engrained in the coming months. If you haven’t already, find a strong, pro team that’s ready to expand and improve your local content.