What to Know About 2018 Local Search Algorithms for 2019
Posted by Nikki Wardle on Dec 26, 2018 10:38:00 AM
Wow, it’s been quite a year for businesses in every industry to keep up with all the changes in Google’s search algorithm. Instead of a single 2018 massive update from Google, it has been a constant barrage of changes throughout the entire year. Google has done an excellent job of keeping everyone on their toes.
Looking Back To Move Forward
Going into 2019, we have to look back at what the most influencing factors were in local search for 2018. Recently, Darren Shaw from Whitespark ran a survey of SEO leaders to get their insight on what has been the biggest influence in local search Algorithms for this year. He then compiled and aggregated the three most significant influencing factors for us. They were: Google My Business with 25% of local search influence, links coming in at 16%, and reviews coming in at a close third with 15%.
Google My Business
June 2014 is when Google My Business launched, and businesses were slow to embrace it in the first year or so. But since then, the products and services of Google My Business have expanded to allow companies to brand their Google page and provide a plethora of information to customers and leads without them ever having to visit the company’s actual site. Click to call, get directions, hours of operation, and reviews are all served up on the Google’s knowledge panel (when people search for your business, Google will display your knowledge panel on the right side of your desktop screen or the very top of a mobile search. The knowledge panel has pictures, a phone number, your Google maps location and hours of operation, just to name a few).
Keep Your Profile Up-to-Date
Make sure you fill out all of the fields and populate as many of the services or products fields as you possibly can. Google has added a few new ones this year, so it’s important to update that information right away. Post recent and relevant pictures and videos, but be sure that your Google My Business page reflects your brand accurately. All of these elements are served up on the knowledge panel and are the first impression your potential customers are going to have of your brand and business.
Google Posts have been available to businesses since last year (2017) on the My Business Platform, but have recently picked up popularity in the last year. You can post recent news, events, special offers, and even your products on the My Business Platform. It’s recommended that you post at least once a week to your My Business platform, and more if you can. Keeping Google "in the know” of the ongoings of your business will only benefit you.
Gaining high-quality links to your site is still a key component when it comes to how Google ranks you. The idea of links to your site, or link building (or link earning), has been around since the early 2000s. Google has gotten smart about sniffing out link webs and other black hat tricks hackers have used to game the system. Providing consistent, good, in-depth content is genuinely one of the best ways to organically earn links to your site for other highly ranked websites.
Not just from Google Reviews, you need them from Facebook, Yelp, Travelocity, Amazon, and other review sites applicable in your industry. Again, getting good reviews is not a new idea, but how Google is ranking you on those reviews is key. Gone are the days you can ask someone to give you just a 5-star review. Now Google looks for keywords within customer reviews. Today, it’s important to ask your customers to leave reviews specifying what services they received or what products they purchased.
Importance of Responding to Reviews
Users get notified when you respond to their review on Google and other platforms. And responses can be a very powerful thing.
Companies rarely, if ever, respond to good reviews, which is a shame. Think of how good a happy customer feels when you acknowledge what they said about your business. It could be the difference between just a happy customer or an advocate for your business.
Responding to bad reviews is a two-fold effect. First, if a customer is upset, and they see you responded to their review, they know they have been heard. There is value in knowing a company you had a bad experience with is listening and responding to you. Second, other potential customers can see your response to the review and know that you are the type of company that is listening to customers and responds.
When responding to any type of review, make it personal to the customer. Address the customer directly. Don’t make them feel like a robot responded to their review.
Local Search Ads
If Google can monetize it, they will- and they have. Ever heard of Google Hotels or Google Flights? You can actually book a flight or a hotel directly from Google (of course they take a cut), but that is how granular Google is getting now. You can now post your service through Google Local Service Ads to help boost your business. Yes, you have to pay Google for the lead, but it’s one of the best ways to get in front of new people and gain new customers in a very competitive local market.
In the words of Tumbuk 3, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” Good luck navigating your business through 2019 in the ever-advancing local search algorithm and rankings. I hope this blog has helped you set some goals and initiatives for this next year!
Written by Nikki Wardle
Nikki has a degree in Marketing from Boise State University and has been an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Tribute Media since 2014.