In 2016, we witnessed local search evolve and transform the way we market our businesses. There were upwards of 30 Google updates alone in 2016 (see map below): Google mobile updates, implementing a sort tool, etc. Along with the Google and GMB local search updates, we saw big social media changes, from Instagram implementing business pages to Facebook adding store pages. With the close of a big year for Local SEO, it’s now that time to strategize for your SEO success in 2017. These are LocalBrandManager’s top picks for 2017 trends that all SEO marketers need to know about in order to bring in more customers and revenue.
The Top Google Updates in 2016
Light Blue: Official Google Updates, Orange: Google’s Webmaster Blog Posts, Grey: Products Google Launched, Navy: Top Google Patents Published
The overwhelming number of changes and updates that happened in 2016 can only attest to where local search is headed in 2017. This year will be the pivotal year for all local technology and the Local Brand Manager team anticipates the following trends will be dominating the industry.
Google is Dropping Desktop-First Indexing
Throughout 2016 we watched the mobile trend explode upwards and know that it is now required to be optimized for mobile if you would like your business to succeed. Mobile search has transformed over the years and is growing at a rapid rate, with no signs of slowing down. Website traffic has been shifting away from desktops and moving towards mobile devices and smartphones.
So now what?
Google announced back in November that it is experimenting with mobile-first indexing:
“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile first.”
We can expect the switch from desktop-first index to mobile-first to be in the next 90 days. Knowing this, we now have time to prepare for creating a website that is responsive to mobile. Read up on Mobilegeddon in our recent blog post to learn all about Google’s mobile friendly updates.
Keep in mind that this shift to mobile-first does not mean that we should throw desktop search to the wayside. There are many industries in which desktop searches are significantly higher and are likely to remain higher, such as ecommerce sites.
Local Search Outpacing Mobile
As much as mobile search is growing, Local Search has seen even higher growth percentages. Google has officially announced that local searches are growing 50 percent faster than mobile searches overall. In the past, Google offered a variety of “local as an overall percent of mobile” statistics and would simply lump local searches as a part of mobile.
Consumers are turning to Google Maps for their searches over Google.com because local search connects them to their local area, making it easier for them to find what they want. When searching for basic and everyday needs (restaurants, groceries, entertainment, etc.), most consumers are trying to stay close to their surrounding area.
With this knowledge, small businesses have a huge advantage over large corporate firms. By implementing SEO optimization changes, SMB’s can drastically improve their search rankings and therefore, their revenue.
Accelerated Mobile Pages = Rank Boosters
Along with the shift to mobile devices comes a rise of AMPs and potentially a new standard for building web pages. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are a stripped-down form of HTML that allows web designers to create extremely fast loading mobile pages. This is a project created by Google and Twitter with the idea that an HTML page designed without factors weighing it down, the site will load four times faster and use eight less times data.
Google is already loving it too and has been seen to reward AMPs with higher rankings. An AMP is easily recognized with a small lightning bolt under the page title.
If your business has already been optimized for mobile, it would be smart to look into creating AMPs which seem to really improve rankings. To further stress how AMPs are shaping up to be big in 2017, Google’s Adam Greenburg talked about the importance of them:
Voice Search is the New Search
The use of voice search through tools such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana has easily become the fastest-growing search option. Google announced at I/O that 20 percent of all searches have voice intent and as the technology continues to improve, this will be a trend that will become very significant in 2017.
Google’s director of conversational search, Behshad Behzadi, discussed that the speech recognition error rate has been reduced from around 25% two years ago to just 8% today!
The increase in use of voice search for consumers is clear because it’s fast and easy to use. But why does Google have an interest in voice search? It goes back to Google’s main purpose: “to provide the better answer to user’s’ needs”. To do that, Google must understand natural language and what users are searching for.
After watching this trend evolve over the past months, it is now clear that voice search is much different from search engine queries. Voice search is much more conversational and seeking out actions in comparison to typing into a search engine. For example, a user might type in keywords “auto repair near me” but might tell a voice assistant, “There’s a burning smell coming from my engine in my Toyota Camry.”
More consumers are expected to begin adopting virtual assistants, ComScore estimates that by 2020, a full 50 percent of all searches will be voice. SEO marketers will need to understand the differences between voice search queries and search engine queries and then utilize this in order to have their local business be found in voice results.
Artificial Intelligence for Rankings
A very interesting trend that we see evolving in 2017 is the increase in machine learning. Google launched RankBrain to improve their algorithms and further understand what consumers are looking for. The algorithm learning artificial intelligence helps Google to process search results and provide more relevant search results for users. We expect to see further advancements on the AI this year and some industry experts are saying we may even see machine learning in other areas such as data interpretation or marketing automation.
2017 will be an exciting year with all the changes and advancements that could potentially happen. Consumers are becoming increasingly connected with content as the digital marketing world advances with ways of creating a more personalized user experience. It is crucial for SEO marketers to take advantage of the trends.
It’s more important than ever to stay on top of the trends in SEO and the rankings. By tracking your rankings online, your can identify if changes in SEO are pushing you up or down in the search results. One change in Google can have major effects on rankings and can turn your bustling store into a ghost town. If you’d like to see how your business ranks against your local competitors, sign up for a free brand audit!