Well, it’s back to the grind. Christmas is behind us, you’ve nearly run out of leftover turkey sandwiches, and your New Year’s hangover has finally subsided ( unless like me, you struggled to stay awake until midnight and promptly went to sleep at 12:05am ). Regardless of how you spent your holiday season it’s time for business owners to look ahead into 2019. How are you going to grow this year? It seems like we were pummelled by Google with game-changing algorithm updates on a nearly monthly basis in 2018. How do you define a strategy in the midst of so much chaos? Luckily, the start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect, breathe, and review what’s changed so you can make sure your local search strategy continues to bear fruit for another year.

Here’s a relatively quick recap on top ranking factors, what’s changed, and what you should focus on to have local SEO success in 2019.

Google My Business

Darren Shaw’s yearly survey of the local SEO brain-trust concluded that GMB signals are up – way up in fact. They credited GMB signals with 25% of the overall local ranking factor pie, that’s a skyward increase of 32% compared to the previous survey. Why is Google My Business so darn valuable you ask? Good question.

As part of Google’s quest to own the user’s attention and keep them on Google as much as possible they’ve made some changes to the features in your GMB listing.

They continue to make more and more information available right from your knowledge panel so users don’t really need to visit your website at all to find what they need and contact your business. For many local businesses the GMB listing is actually their top lead generator. Some of that info includes:

  • Your business contact info including click-to-call and text options
  • Reviews
  • Business description
  • Services + Prices
  • Questions & Answers
  • Photos + Videos
  • Google Posts

Make sure you’re getting the most from your listing by filling out all the fields, taking advantage of google posts, and acquiring new customer reviews. You might be wondering, if so many shoppers are converting right from Google My Business do I even need a website anymore? I understand the impulse but no so fast compadre.. Miriam Ellis recently wrote an excellent article on why local businesses will need websites more than ever in 2019. Google isn’t your best friend and you’d be wise to consider how they might continue to monetize the search results in the future. It’s important that you actually control some of your brand assets online. I also spent some time rambling on my podcast last year about the very same topic.

Links

I’ve heard that links are dead so many times it gives me a headache. That could very well be true in the future but that dark day has not yet descended upon us. Links still drive local search results and the experts agree – the survey results gave links 16% of the pie which is good for second spot on the local ranking factors list. I’m still suffering from that post-holiday malaise but conveniently, I wrote an article not that long ago on local link building tactics, so you can read that for some additional commentary on the topic.

Reviews

This is hardly surprising, social proof is demonstrably effective and reviews line up right behind links as one of the most impactful local search factors. Compared the previous survey reviews are up 18% Here’s a few tips for your 2019 strategy that you can take to the bank – whatever that means.

  • Get more Google reviews
  • Keywords in reviews help, ask your customers to reference the specific service they received
  • Respond to your reviews, especially the bad ones! Potential customers want to see how you handle yourself
  • Expand your review portfolio to other prominent local review platforms like Facebook, Yelp, or other sources relevant for your industry.

One of the contributors to the local SEO survey added his overview on what’s been working for him.

“Seeking a consistent flow of positive-sentiment reviews on your GMB page. BBB listings *surprising find* paid/unpaid doesn’t seem to matter. Ensure as much completeness and engagement of the GMB page as possible” Andy Kuiper – Calgary SEO Expert

Local Citations

If your plan for 2019 was to build hundreds more local citations for your business you’re probably wasting your time. Dropping 19% compared to the previous survey the experts agree that local citations just don’t carry the same weight. Making sure you have accurate listings across the top 30ish most influential local citation sites for your business is still a foundational SEO factor that you need to have success. However, all those other obscure citations probably are doing much to move the needle.

I’ll also give a quick shout out to content. Naturally, having good quality content that matches user intent and helps your customers make decisions about your products or services will be essential for both ranking and conversions.

Did I miss anything? What changes are you making to your local search strategy for 2019?