The digital revolution has completely transformed the way in which consumers find, engage and make purchases with local businesses. Through websites, social media, search engines, mobile apps and review sites, consumers look to multiple outlets to find local businesses and gather information to make informed purchasing decisions. Now more than ever, local SEO strategies are a critical component of marketing for many businesses, as they can directly impact both online and in-store visits and sales. Studies show that 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases and 50% of mobile visitors will visit the physical location within one day.
How Local SEO is Changing
Local-facing platforms including Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. are increasingly trying to get a leg up on each other by providing the most relevant data points, reviews and local information at their user’s fingertips. While Google has yet to be seriously challenged in market share of local search, Facebook is seen as the dark horse in the race and has the size, audience, and resources to give the search engine a run for its money. Before we make any predictions, take a look at how local search is changing and who’s bringing what to the table.
Google is a household name synonymous with online and local search that answers over one billion queries daily. We don’t need to get into the details, we all know how Google works and the monopoly it has over search. In other words, it would be extremely challenging for another site to gain dominance in the local search industry.
For the most part, Google provides high-quality, relevant local search results ranked typically on Google Places info, reviews, citations, local media, and users’ interactions with the site. Google Maps provides a convenient way to search and find local business based on your location. The only downside of local search on Google would be that the recommendations and reviews are from people you don’t know. Overall, Google is the leader in local SEO and continues to make providing the most relevant results their highest priority.
Facebook for Local Searches
With Facebook’s enormous base of active users and the mass amount of user’s personal data, there’s great potential for the social media platform to start helping users in their search for local businesses or services. All the key components are available to them: millions of established business pages, location data, demographic and behavior data, social networks and user engagement. While Facebook is an excellent platform to build brand awareness and engage with customers, users are still leaving the social network to perform searches for local businesses and information. Despite their readily available key information, Facebook hasn’t found a way to compete with Google but are making huge strides.
Facebook Local Listing Updates
- Facebook prominently displays maps and directions of the top of every local business’ page both on the home and about page.
- When users search from the top search box, often it will automatically suggest results based on the user’s location.
- Facebook has begun beta-testing on features that would include integrating friend posts, check-ins and reviews into local search results. Word of mouth has long been considered the best tactic for lead generation and consumers are most likely to trust the opinion of their friends. This extra piece of information could be a game-changer in local search.
- Recently, Facebook introduced City Guides, which provides information on popular attractions, restaurants, etc. in major cities. Its main feature is a list of the user’s friends who have been to the city and what places they’ve visited while they were there. There’s also the “local favorites” guide that provides information and suggestions based on the locals recommendations.
The Future of Local Search: How to Optimize Your Site for Local Searches
Business owners should be prepared for any shake-up in local search by optimizing their web presence correctly across all platforms. Even if Google continues to hold a monopoly over search, it’s still critical to have a cohesive online brand presence. To make sure your Facebook and Google My Business pages are using best practice, do the following:
- Make sure your profiles or listings are completely filled out with correct information including name, web and physical address and phone number.
- Confirm that the map pin on the physical map location is displayed correctly.
- Add relevant business categories and description to help improve visibility, depending on the search terms used.
- Upload your logo
- Add content (for Facebook) and pictures (both GMB and Facebook) regularly to help your listing stand out and get clicks.
- Encourage visitors to upload their own photos or leave reviews
- Monitor traffic and use paid Facebook ads or AdWords to help drive more traffic to your business when you’re open but not typically busy.
Facebook continues to make significant strides to gain ground against Google’s monopoly over local search, particularly by using its users’ data and connections to their advantage. But, will this be enough to make waves and turn the tide towards making it a major player in local search? It may be too soon to tell, but our advice is to start preparing now. Having a well-established and cohesive brand presence across all platforms will help build brand awareness, reach, traffic, and rankings.
If you need help with your business’ online brand, contact us today!