It’s a fun subject for me, but for others, they’re left scratching their heads, and twiddling their thumbs wondering what’s next, what’s the next change that’s going to shake up their business?
In 2015, we saw more Panda action, mobilegeddon fear mongering, Google exploring paid placement, reducing the pack from 7 to 3, among other things!
In this post, I’m going to share with you my thoughts on what the areas of focus need to be, and what you need to do in order to get results for yourself and your clients in 2016.
5 Areas of Focus in 2016 for Local SEO
1.) On Page Optimization is STILL Crucial and Will Continue To Be
You guys have heard it from me before, on page SEO is the most important thing you can do. One of my most popular posts shared on this blog, is where I talked about just using on page optimization to rank a site in lots of different cities for lots of different keywords.
Maybe this one isn’t really a surprise, but I continue to see people preaching “more backlinks” or “more citations” every day; when the foundation for good results with local search, is based upon solid on page.
On page optimization doesn’t end with the website itself. In 2016, on page optimization of your Google My Business listing, citations, and other properties also play a big role.
Remember, local SEO is all about relevance. Location relevance and industry/keyword topic relevance.
As co-occurrence continues to gain steam in SEO, this makes proper on page optimization of your website, and business properties (listings, social media, web 2.0’s, etc.) one of the most, if not THE MOST important thing.
Important Tip: Don’t focus on one keyword, you want varied keywords that support the same range of topics. Industry relevance.
2.) Citations Still Important But NAP Consistency Not As Much
Citations have actually been decreasing in importance over the last couple years.
That doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, they certainly still are. After all, I created a guide on building citations that dispelled a lot of misconceptions surrounding the topic.
However, the way you think about citations has to change.
If you follow certain groups of people, they will tell you all the Google guidelines you should follow. They act as a cheerleader squad for Google’s web spam team.
I think most of the guidelines are fine. I think most are accurate and should be followed, but I’m not a sheep that believes what everyone says without testing things out on my own, and I hope for you to be the same!
There was a day, where citations were the local search’s backlink. Those days are over.
So How Should You Treat Citations?
Very rarely will you see citations be a difference maker in the results, especially now with the 3 place snack pack instead of the full 7.
The value of citations, aren’t as much about how many you can have, but how you can use them to bring in traffic and impact your rankings.
For sources that allow you to connect your social media accounts, or link to other properties OTHER than your website, you should take advantage of that.
Citations are about increasing your clients’ or your business’s reach or digital footprint. Of course, there is some ranking benefits to it, but it’s less about having your NAP, and more about striking a strong reach of co-occurrence between third party sites, you, and your business.
You could also use some citation sources as a buffer site, or parasite platform to further your efforts without risking a penalty.
Is NAP Consistency Still Important?
Here’s the deal… you should WANT your citations to be consistent. You don’t want conflicting information out there, but if it happens, it’s not a big deal.
The Google Local SEO cheerleading squad will tell you how devastating it is to your rankings, but the reality is that there is very little correlation that suggests problems in NAP consistency will be reflected in the SERPs.
It benefits you to have consistent NAP. As of right now, and from what I can tell in the direction Google is heading, NAP consistency will become even LESS important and LESS of a factor (if it even is one) than it is today.
So if you have a client that moved their office to another location, or some citations have a tracking number instead of the regular number…. it’s no big deal. Sure, you don’t want your customers to be confused, but really, it isn’t a big deal.
I’ve seen countless top 3 rankings where people had a mess of citations. Some only had as little as 10 citations in a very competitive field, but they were still doing well.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to share a post on how to use citations in a new way, that actually DOES make a big impact in local search. However, the reason they make an impact, isn’t because of name, address, phone number format, but because of a more macro approach.
3.) Panda Will Be Adjusted to Impact Local Search
One of the best kept secrets of Google My Business, or Local SEO in general is that you are almost immune when it comes to many of the Google penalties.
How could Panda have hit local results for businesses that don’t have much to talk about? Can you imagine a locksmith have 2,000 word posts on their site? The fact is many of the local businesses out there don’t have a need for content rich sites.
Does that mean they’re going to be targeted for having “thin content”? Probably not.
Something I’ve always believed about Panda, is that it is less about having thin content, and more about reducing PR flow throughout a website. Yes, PR, even though it isn’t publicly updated anymore, and we don’t know what the PR of a site is, Google does use it as an internal metric.
Will will see some version of Panda or maybe it will be something else, that will hit many of the local results.
I have a feeling, it will be more targeted at directories than it will businesses in GMB. After all, if Google is wanting to make a run at pay to play results, it is in their best interest to hit some of the directories that dominate local organic search.
This in theory, would be a welcomed event for most local business owners.
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4.) Exact Match Domains Are THRIVING with Local SEO
In January of 2015, I wrote a post on here about 3 myths of local SEO, and one of them addressed the hype around exact match domains (EMDs) and its’ “decline” in SEO.
A while back, there was an announced update by Google that exact match domains would be given less weight.
As with any Google announcement or public change, there were a lot of people crying about it, saying they don’t work anymore, that you’re better off going with a branded domain, etc.
I mentioned earlier, the 3 pack stack and local search in general seems to be a bit immune to a lot of the updates that happen. This was and is, no different.
Maybe Google did reduce the weight that EMDs carried. A reduction in weight, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. If you lose 5 pounds, does it mean that you’re no longer there? Maybe you carry slightly less mass, but you’re still there, breathing and living life.
I have seen absolutely no evidence that EMDs are not useful for local SEO. The announcement of the reduction of weight given to these domains, was over 2 years ago.
If EMDs aren’t working…. then why are the results for local searches, showing a TON of EMD’s in the snack pack and in organic?
Look for yourself… In some cases they will be partial match domains, but it’s still the EMDs getting a lot of love by Google!
5.) AMP Will Be About as Effective as a QR Code
I still remember at some point in 2011, maybe 2012, I was telling people to forget about QR codes. The Mobile gurus, product creators, and blind followers thought I was crazy, or stupid, maybe both!
My argument was that it isn’t practical. Your potential market is reduced, you need people that have smart phones in their hand, that have a QR code scanner app, in order to even see your “special offer”.
In my opinion, it was a marketing gimmick that didn’t work. When Google dropped QR code support for their local listings, that was the death of the QR code. No more. It’s over, it’s done, it’s dead.
Now what does this have to do with AMP?
For those that don’t know, AMP is Accelerated Mobile Pages. Supposedly Google will have an icon or something that says “fast” by the search result.
By no means, am I suggesting AMP will be worthless like the QR code, but I do believe you’re going to hear a lot of hype around it, and you will see product creators taking advantage of that hype even though it likely won’t make a major difference.
Mobile browsing is still relatively new. AMP may be a standard for a year, but technology is evolving rapidly.
Those big into technical SEO, think it’s going to be a HUUUUUGE difference maker.
It won’t be.
As of right now, a non mobile compatible website or non responsive website, still performs quite well on mobile searches.
Google said that it will/does factor in page speed for mobile searches. How much? Very little. After AMP is widely implemented, it will probably factor in, a tiny by more but not enough to justify all the hype.
Don’t buy into the hype or the hysteria that follows the hype.
This wouldn’t be the first Google project that goes nowhere, and won’t be the last. Remember Buzz? Dodgeball? Google Answers? Jaiku? Didn’t think so… Google+ and AMP will join their cousins in the digital cemetery soon enough.
We’re already in February, but still have a long way to go to the end of 2016. A lot of things can happen, and I’m sure we’re going to be in for some surprises.
What do you guys and girls think? Am I wrong, right? Did I miss something? What are your predictions? Let me know in the comments below!