Saturday, February 18, 2012

2012 Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Update

It is clear that local SEO continues to frustrate most that have been trying to solve Google's local algorithm over the last few years. 2012 is no different. The lack of consistency in the map results can drive a person bananas. Google is clearly running thousands of tests per day to try and determine which style of map results produces the highest click-through-rate (CTR). Amidst all the confusion, I want to try and hash out the things that we do know moving forward in 2012 regarding local search and optimizing for the map results. Here is an update!

7-Packs Are Still Alive

There was a period throughout 2011 when it was hard to come by the traditional 7-pack of map results. However, it is clear that Google is still displaying the 7-pack for many local search queries. Typically, you will see the 7-pack for common queries, such as, "restaurants in new york" or "hotels in new york". You should not expect to see a 7-pack if you are searching for something particular in a smaller city or town.

Organic SEO Influences Local Rankings

We started to see this in 2011, and moving forward in 2012, it is clear that Google is incorporating organic SEO factors in to their local algorithm. For example, if your homepage is optimized and performs well for a particular query, that will bode well if someone searches with that query + geographical identifier. Knowing this, it is important that you supplement your local SEO efforts with on-site optimization and link building.

Reviews are the New Citation

For a long time, the number and quality of citations you had around the web dictated your presence in the map results. Google is smartening up, and knows that anyone with time and the ability to click "submit" can get a high volume of quality citations. It doesn't mean that you are offering a good service or product (the companies Google does want to return to people searching). However, if a large number of people say that you offer a good service or product through reviews, then you probably do. Google is using reviews as a stronger ranking signal in the map results, so make sure you put a review strategy in place for 2012!

Proximity Not as Important?

It is still extremely important. Where your business is located ultimately determines whether or not you can show up in the map results in a specific area. With that being said, it is clear that Google is expanding the geographic radius for who is eligible to rank locally. Why is that? My guess is that if your business has a great reputation online, you may be able to sneak in to areas that you previously were not showing up in. Again, reviews may be affecting that.

PO Boxes - In or Out?

Will Google send your PIN number (for listing verification) to a PO Box? For a long period of time, the answer was simply no. However, a few weeks ago, Google updated their policy and stated the opposite, only to change it back several days later. So, at the end of the day, Google will not send your PIN number to a PO Box. Google simply will not risk getting spammed to death in 2012 by those trying to set up pseudo-locations for their business.

There you have it - the factors I know for sure will play a major role in local SEO in 2012. If you have any questions that may not have been addressed in this post, feel free to contact me at any time and I will be happy to respond!

1 comment:

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