2018 is just about to come to a close. So, now’s the best time to talk about what’s going to change in 2019 in the world of local SEO. Over the years, local search, and ranking factors along with it have evolved. Online reviews were of no importance at one point in time but they matter now. Search user behavior and engagement didn’t matter much to rankings in the past. But, ranking factors seem to have changed to accommodate this as well.
In a world that is progressing towards voice-assisted search and zero-click buying, what is going to define local search rankings in the future? To answer this question, here are the top 5 local search ranking factors that we think will matter in 2019.
1. Are you local?
January 2019 is going to mark the historic occasion when the physical YellowPages will finally be killed off. Its final edition is going to land on the doorsteps of homes in Brighton for the last time in January. This is simply because of the fact that nobody looks at a phonebook to search for a business, anymore. All they do is search on their phones. Even YellowPages realizes this. Which is why they made the move to the internet for a long, long time back.
You’re likely to know this already if you’re reading this, but Google pioneered the local search revolution. They’ve started to consider the location and proximity of the user to provide more relevant results. Since the Google Pigeon update in 2014, people have been more than happy to adopt this type of search behavior. In fact, in May 2018, Google announced that “near me” searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” have gone up by over 500% in just the last two years. Everything’s gone online and local by now. But, there’s still only one great way to tell Google where exactly you are with respect to the user.
Making sure that your Google My Business listing has accurate details about your business’ location and address is also going to be as important as ever in 2019. Awareness and usage of the internet for local searches are at an all-time high. Despite this, each and every one of us still have had experiences where we reach a location only to find that the location specified on your car’s navigation system or Google Maps was wrong.
But from a perspective of searches and businesses, this means a lot more. Your business location may not show up when a user searches for a business like yours near them. That is even if your business location is marked as even a block away from where you are really located. Incorrect and unreliable location data might make Google misjudge the proximity of your business to the user. This is why getting listed accurately with online and GMB signals are the top local search ranking factor in 2019.
2. Categorizing is important
“Ah, one of the newer local search ranking factors that I don’t see on listicles as much!”
Or is it, really?
Properly associating your business on Google and other business discovery websites are one of the most prominent local ranking factors, and it’s been this way for some time now. Why? Two reasons:
- It helps Google realize what exactly your company does. Which further tells it when a user searches for “*category type business* near me”. With this, you can show up as a relevant result.
- Search queries that contain the keyword in them are both navigational and informational.
Google is keen on users providing accurate category data. They also mention it thoroughly in their guidelines. And with the increase in “near me” searches that are transactional in nature, this beats more other factors to be a top local search ranking factor in 2019.
3. Everything mobile
Mobile-first index. That’s surely a buzzphrase that you’ve heard at least once, by now.
Google rolled out its mobile-first index in March 2018. Which means that the mammoth search engine will now display results with search rankings on all devices appearing as they would on a mobile device. This is as opposed to them appearing as they would on desktops.
Now, this means that website owners neglecting mobile responsiveness is going to cost them to grow forward. Making it not only important but also one of the most explicit local search ranking factors for searches in 2019.
Google is, in fact, helping businesses optimize their website for local search and mobile firstness with its Mobile-Friendly Test.
The tool provides data about whether a website is mobile-friendly. It also gives detailed information about page loading issues that web developers can use to fix issues on their website.
Google has also published articles about mobile SEO and how it can help your business implement a mobile website with more ease. Which again, explicitly shows that mobile-first search is going to be a search ranking factor.
4. Shoutout to structured data!
Schema has GOT to be one of the most underrated and underused SEO/local SEO techniques of all time. A lot of the apprehension stems from SEO-ers think that it doesn’t really impact local SEO all that much. But, many authoritative websites in the SEO community definitively agree that schema is important to local SEO.
And so does this user from a post about schema on r/bigseo:
One of the major reasons why we think schema is going be a huge ranking factor that you should work on in 2019 is because schema is more than just a ranking factor. Local schema is a great way to provide more information about your business to the potential customer directly on the search results page that they’re viewing. And this includes star ratings. These ratings include prices, reviews, service areas, and what not.
With Google being all about giving more power and data to the user, local schema is going to be one of the top local search ranking factors that you should be looking at optimizing.
5. The good ol’ website optimization
And finally, at #5, we’re gonna go back to the basics. Optimizing your business website for local searches is going to play a huge role in local search rankings, as it always has. While it might be a bit of a cliché, this an undeniably integral part of local search optimization. Why? Let us show you why. Look at these top results that show up on Google after the ads and the business listings.
Apart from the Yelps, TripAdvisor, Angie’s Lists, and Grubhubs that show up (which is why listing your business online is super-important), you’re going to always find business websites on your local results. This happens if the websites are optimized for it.
While bidding on Google Ads for local keywords, having a well optimized Google listing is going to give you a lot of traffic. There is an evergreen value in optimizing your business’ website to rank organically on Google search.
But more importantly, from a ranking factor perspective, a website which is local keyword optimized and is linked to all of your business listings will give your local search rankings just that boost that it needs.
And that’s our list of top 5 local search ranking factors for 2019!
While these 5 ranking factors are going to play a major role in your local SEO next year, it is important to have a well-rounded SEO strategy to ensure that your business ranks well on SERPs. Using a checklist for local SEO when you’re working on building a solid online presence for your local business will help. But, keep in mind that you use it smartly. Google dislikes over-optimization, and in all honesty, so do we.
Harsha Annadurai manages content at Synup. He spends all his time hunting for the best burger in town or writing about content marketing, SEO, and growth hacking. His excessive love for music and football has led many to believe that he was a jukebox in a football stadium in his past life.
(This is a guest post.)