This is the best time to discuss what changed in the world of local SEO and what you can expect in 2022. If you are a local business, you might know that search engine Google uses more than 200 ranking factors in its search algorithm. But what on earth are they? The local ranking factors have long been a mystery for digital marketers. If you did the local SEO for your business this year, you might have realized that certain ranking factors were completely irrelevant, while some were extremely profitable.
What do we know about the local ranking factors?
You all know that Google is smart. Well, at least as smart as a sixth-grader. However, the thing is, it is getting smarter day by day. Don’t think that the techniques that worked a gazillion years ago will come in handy in this era. If you are availing of the services of a local SEO services company, you should know that they are unaware of what’s coming next. Yes, you heard that right! Even single professionals don’t know what will work and what won’t. For SEO professionals, it has become a ‘hit and trial method.
In 2021, some of the local ranking factors most SEO services companies focused on included:
- Backlinks from authoritative sites – quality over quantity
- Strong social signals on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
- Real customer ratings and reviews on authoritative sites like Google, Amazon, or Yelp, and how the business interacts with them
- Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) that are consistent throughout directory listings
- Number of quality citations, together with vertical-specific local directories
- An optimized and claimed Google My Business listing, complete with photos, deals, events, and posts
Not all of them worked for the local businesses. And if you ask us, there is nothing wrong with the above-mentioned tactics. Every business has different needs, and thus, SEO should be done accordingly. This is where choosing the right SEO services company plays a crucial role.
A lot has happened in 2021 already that has helped us in understanding how Google works. Let’s get started.
#1 Secured Sites
Truth be told, local businesses never considered encryption until now. Customers are getting intelligent and more aware. By this, we mean that they understand what security threats are hovering around their personal information.
If you have ever accessed an HTTP website on Google without encryption, you might have seen that a ‘not secure’ warning popped out. Many consumers have reported seeing this warning when accessing a particular website.
People now know that it is not safe to access a website without a security certificate. They know whether their personal information is safe since it travels across the internet, whether you are buying game tickets or checking your bank account.
The first half of 2021 was a critical period for local businesses as they realized that securing their website with an SSL certificate is more important than ever.
The ‘not secure’ warning brings suspicion to potential customers who won’t think a second before going to the competition. For a local SEO services company in 2021, improving web security is part of their SEO effort.
While local businesses have understood the prominence of web security lately, big sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and of course, Google, have already gone on with HTTP connections.
However, despite the awareness, encryption is still nascent to local businesses. Those who accepted the change are reaping the benefits, and those who didn’t, are still looking for new ways to optimize their local business.
Long story short, local businesses got beyond just keywords and customer reviews for optimizing their local business on Google.
#2 Long-Tail keywords
Voice search has become a part of local SEO in 2021, and with a good reason. For customers, voice search is one of the coolest things that they have interacted with. Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa are all voice-enabled technologies that are performing tasks or delivering answers on your behalf daily.
According to a survey, 46% of users look for local businesses daily using voice search. Local businesses have realized that they can’t miss out on the opportunity.
The biggest ranking factor in 2021 for local businesses came in the form of keywords. Locals are using it as a more natural way to search businesses via voice.
That is, instead of searching for “restaurants near me,” people are asking their digital assistant to “find the best restaurant in my area.” It is providing users with a more personal feel and allowing them to enjoy local businesses.
Local businesses are adopting their content for this type of search. The business that answers questions like “which is the best Indian restaurant in the area?” will win the customer.
The role of long-tail keywords in this is quite big. They are usually phrases that contain 4-5 words or even more to make up a sentence or a thought. Long-tail keywords are specific to a particular type of service, product, or business, and depending on the type of search, they can be a question, like an example we have mentioned above.
All we want to say is that instead of just focusing on finding the primary keywords for your content, you need to back up your keywords with relevant phrases that the customers might use when searching for your business.
This is what successful local businesses have been doing this year so far to attract the attention of the search engines.
However, we advise you that too much fluff could harm your ranking. But there is no issue in including some filler words to help your page surface in voice search results.
SEO services companies have realized that answering questions about how a person would talk is more attractive than implementing bots.
This is more effective because people are performing a more personal search rather than a generalized one. That is, it is not the same to search for a florist in Seattle, as it is to search for a florist who can deliver the flowers today.
#3 Content-Length and Quality
We have said it before, and we are saying it once again – content is and will always be the king. There is no way around it. This is one ranking factor that has remained constant over the years. However, in the past 12 months, there are two things about the content that has changed.
For a local business to place high in SERPs (search engine results pages), they have to tell Google what their business is all about and that they are the experts in the subject with high authority and trustworthiness.
Conveying this message is only possible through content with E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
Local businesses have realized that simply posting content on their website and landing pages with necessary keywords will not do it for them.
The content needs to be fresh as opposed to outdated. Earlier, the content was used just because to include keywords so that the website could appear in search results. Now, if you want to generate business, the content length, and quality matter.
It wasn’t surprising to see a 300-word page getting increased to 600 words or a 500-words page getting upgraded to 1000 words. Customers have become more alert, and they just don’t trust anyone on the internet, claiming that they are the best without any authentication.
Good content provides self-assurance and generates interest. In 2021, marketers have focused on creating more engaging content with the right set of keywords.
This has helped local businesses to rank higher on Google. However, you need to be careful with fluff content. Google’s algorithm is so advanced that it can easily differentiate between quality content and fluff content.
With the growing use of mobile devices, the majority of the users access local businesses by conducting a mobile search. However, the reality is that 86% of small businesses don’t have mobile-friendly websites.
Creating a presence on Google is one thing, and establishing your local business on Google is another. You may know that you can easily set up your business on Google for free using the Google My Business platform.
In the recent scenario, customers back off from sites that don’t easily open on their smartphones or other mobile devices. Considering this factor, local businesses have started optimizing their websites for mobile use.
Mobile devices account for 62% of all time spent on digital media. With Google initiating its mobile-first indexing, it has become more relevant that consumers are more inclined to mobiles than desktops and personal computers for accessing a website.
It is clear that mobile devices are not going anywhere, and having a mobile-friendly website that is easy to use and responsive will be one of the most important ranking factors for the coming years.
This is the reason small businesses have started offering consistent experience on any device. It is not too late for local businesses to get mobile responsive. Create a website that is:
- Specifically designed for mobile users
- Responsive so that it easily adapts to fit any screen
- Quick to load content, video, and images
- Easy to navigate and read on all devices
- Accessible and functional in every web browser
These are the four main ranking factors that saw a primary uplift in how they were used before. Well, to be honest, these ranking factors are more inclined to change depending on the market scenario. It is all about user preference, and unfortunately, the ranking factors will change according to that. If today, it was quality content that attracted more customers, tomorrow it could be backlinks from authoritative sites. You never know.
Hence, choose a local SEO services company that can adapt to uncertain market changes so that the SEO strategies could benefit your local business.