5 Biggest Trends in Local Search Right Now
2015 saw some big changes in local search, with Google basically demanding that all websites be mobile-friendly or pay a price. Mobile searches outpaced computer searches for the first time, and Google searches now return only three local search results where there used to be seven. Clearly, the times are changing when it comes to local search. Here’s what you need to know to stay on top of what’s happening in the New Year.
Local Data and Local Search Are Linked
You probably already know that it’s important to make sure that your business name, address, and phone number (your NAP listings) are in sync with one another for SEO purposes. Even small variations in the way you list that information can impact your search rank, so if you haven’t already done so, take a tour of your online listings and make sure everything matches.
In 2016, Google is taking things beyond SEO and using NAP listings to help gather relevant local search information. This trend is especially important given the surge in mobile searches in 2015. When your customers are out and about, you want them to be able to find you – and you can be sure that if they can’t locate you because of confusing information, they’ll find your competitor instead.
Speaking of local search, one of the most popular kinds of searches on mobile devices is the “near me” function that uses NAP information and GPS to direct users to local businesses. No local business can afford to ignore this trend.
Google Is Prioritizing Local Search
Just as Google made mobile readiness a priority in 2015, they are making local search a priority in 2016. The latest Search Quality Ratings Guidelines put a lot of emphasis on local search, to the point where they included a Google My Business API to allow business owners and managers to control information about their companies.
The first sign of disruption from Google regarding local search was the removal of local business information from social media site Google+. It’s safe to assume that more disruptions will be coming, so keep your eyes and ears open for changes. The businesses that stay on top of Google’s priorities won’t end up getting caught flat-footed the way some companies did with 2015’s Mobilegeddon.
Google never makes their algorithms public, but if you notice a big change in your local search listing, it’s a good indication that Google has been tweaking their formulas. There’s no way to predict how or when that will happen, so for now, the smart business owner should focus on standardizing all NAP listings.
Mobile Wallet Usage Is on the Rise
2015 was the year of the beacon, with many companies making use of the store-based devices to interact with customers as they neared the store. While some retailers are still using beacons, the wave of the future appears to be moving away from beacons and embracing the idea of mobile wallets.
A mobile wallet is a mobile storage app that allows users to store a variety of things to make shopping easier. For example, they might store their credit card information, identification, and special offers and coupons from their favorite companies.
The uses for mobile wallets are always expanding. The popularity of “near me” searches on mobile devices combined with customers’ desire to get insider information and special deals are on trend to make mobile wallet usage go through the roof in 2016. You can expect to see retailers moving away from beacons and getting on board with communicating with customers’ mobile wallets, instead.
Apps Are Getting in on the Local Marketing Game
There has been a lot of talk about apps in recent years, as one expert after another weighs in on whether local businesses should have their own apps. Now there’s a new trend, which involves using well-established global apps, such as Periscope and Snapchat, to target local customers.
One recent example involved Dunkin’ Donuts using Snapchat to promote National Coffee Day. Using an established app offers the opportunity for big corporations to reach out to local customers, enticing them to visit a particular location. Local businesses would do well to notice the trend, as it could easily be adapted to their purposes too.
It might be worth experimenting with Snapchat or Periscope to see if your customers might be influenced by app-based local marketing.
There’s New Competition for Google
While Google is still the undisputed king of search, there are barbarians at the gate. As local search gains in importance, Facebook has an eye on giving them a run for it when it comes to search.
Facebook is already a popular search engine for users seeking out local businesses. The social media giant already has a good handle on user demographics thanks to the profile information of its users. They continue to fine-tune their search function, and it’s probable that before long, they’ll be displaying local business information next to queries about what to buy.
Apple iOS is in on the game too, offering a powerful local search tool with iOS 9. Google is still in the lead for now, but for the first time in a long time, they have some serious competition.
Facebook appears to be the bigger threat based on reach, but don’t underestimate Apple, either. The trends in local search may end up attracting other competitors to the game too. It should be interesting to follow.
No matter how you slice it, the trends for 2016 are clear. While our society tends to be more global than ever before, the marketing trends are all about localization and personalization. In many ways, 2016 looks to be an ideal year for local marketing.
The trends are all heavily geared toward helping local businesses (or local locations of national or international businesses) reach customers where they are. And with the increasing importance that Millennials put on personal service, the time couldn’t be riper for making the most of your local search options.
Digital Marketing Trends for 2016 (Local Business Edition)
The end of the year is fast approaching, and it is natural to want to look forward and see what the big digital marketing trends will be for 2016. With technology advancing so rapidly, it is important for marketers to stay abreast of new developments and take advantage of them. Here are some of the digital marketing trends you can expect to see emerge in the coming year.
Video marketing is already hugely popular, so this trend isn’t exactly new. However, there are some recent developments that make it highly likely that video marketing will become indispensable in 2016. Google (the world’s largest search engine) owns YouTube (the world’s second-largest search engine.) They recently announced that they will be enabling embedded video ads for search results, which means that many companies will use Google AdWords to run video ads going forward.
The video marketing you do can include commercials, but you can also find other ways of using videos to promote your business. For example, you can make a video demonstrating different ways to use a product, or make an unboxing video to show the things that come with a particular product. You might also make videos giving customers a behind-the-scenes look at your manufacturing process or answering customer questions.
Optimizing for Digital Assistants
Siri, the digital assistant who comes with the iPhone, is known for being able to find answers to almost any inquiry. While digital assistants may sometimes use traditional search engines like Google to find information, they only do so when necessary. Some of the things you may need to do to optimize your online content for digital assistants include:
- Researching how customers are likely to use digital assistants to find your business
- Allowing for casual, verbal inquiries instead of formal keywords
- Posting content in forms that are compatible with wearable mobile devices, such as audio or video streaming
Digital assistants are already widely used by iPhone owners, but the introduction of wearable mobile technology like the Apple watch makes their increased popularity likely.
Mobile marketing is increasingly popular, and with good reason. Text messages have a far higher open rate than emails do, and they are a very effective way to stay in touch with customers. Large companies like Starbucks have made it possible for customers to pay for their coffee using mobile devices and the evidence suggests that mobile payments are going to be a major trend for 2016.
Another thing to keep in mind is that mobile traffic is very likely to outpace desktop traffic in the near future. Mobile access to the internet is increasingly common and easier to come by in many places than desktop access. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, now is the time to update it. Mobile users are notoriously impatient and will not patronize your site if it takes too long to load or if it isn’t optimized for mobile devices.
You probably already know that, thanks to Facebook’s algorithm changes, you now have to boost a post if you want to be sure it is seen by all of your social media contacts. At the moment, Instagram still works the way Facebook used to – meaning that the content you post is free and can, at least in theory, be seen by everybody who follows you there.
However, Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012, and Instagram is expected to follow in Facebook’s footsteps and introduce similar changes in 2016. What that means is that Instagram advertising is about to take off. Year to date, the site has made about $600 million in advertising sales, and that number is expected to more than quadruple by 2017.
The good news for advertisers is that user engagement on Instagram tends to be very high. A lot of brands use the site’s tools for sharing visual content and find that their customers are approximately 2.8 times as likely to recall the advertising they see on Instagram as they are to recall ads they see on other online platforms.
Until now, internet searches have largely been conducted on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. However, there is a trend that looks ready to explode in 2016, and that’s social searching. YouTube is a classic example of how it can work. While it is primarily known as a video sharing site, YouTube is also a search engine. You can expect Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to follow.
What that means for marketers is that soon, things like customer reviews on social media will be searchable. If you’ve been diligent about maintaining a solid social media presence and cultivating customer relationships, this particular trend will be a very good thing for you. If not, it’s not too late to get started. Pinterest has already implemented guided searches, and Facebook and Twitter will soon follow.
If you’re advertising on Facebook, you already know that you can target your ads there using detailed demographics (things like age, gender, and location) as well as psychographics (hobbies and interests.) Digital advertising platforms are adding new ways to target ads all the time, and in 2016 it will be easier than ever to focus your ad spending on the people who are most likely to buy what you’re selling.
One of the best ways to take advantage of this trend is by using Google AdWords to place remarketing ads. These are ads that target customers who have visited your website without making a purchase, or who have bought from you previously. They identify display targets by using cookies. It is already possible to target customers based on a wide array of criteria, and if you start now, you’ll be able to avail yourself of updated options as they become available.
Digital marketing offers options and advantages that were not available a few years ago. Those advantages make it possible to get better results from your advertising dollars than ever before. While traditional print advertising can feel like a crapshoot, digital marketing is increasingly sophisticated and scientific. You can make the most of your marketing budget in 2016 by getting out ahead of these trends.