We have just emerged from a year in which the ongoing pandemic has led to budget cuts, strategic issues and a lack of resources to challenge SEO professionals at all levels.
Many focus more on being ready to pivot than having a plan set for next year.
This is especially important in local search, where consumer behavior is changing rapidly and Google updates can have rapid and far-reaching impacts.
What trends and technologies should you have on your radar to report on a more agile and adaptive local SEO strategy in the future?
Joy Hawkins is the owner and founder of the local SEO agency Sterling Sky. She is an expert on Google’s business profile products, a well-known and respected writer and lecturer in the industry, and a member of the Local U faculty.
In this question-and-answer interview, Joy shares her tips on where market leaders should focus their attention on local SEO this year, what SEO technologies excite them, how to build a career in local SEO, and far more.
Local Trends To Watch In 2022
Miranda Miller: “What are the local SEO trends that CMOs should really be looking at this year?”
Joy Hawkins: “Google released an algorithm update in late 2021 that caused some serious fluctuations for local businesses.
We dubbed it “Area Update” because the biggest impact at the time seemed to be a customer’s ability to move farther away from their physical location.
Google seems to have given much more weight to the location and proximity of a business.
If this update is maintained, it’s important to look at the competition closest to your customers, especially if they now appear in the Pack of 3, to see what they’re doing to your customer.
Google has increased the LSA (Local Service Announcement) program in recent years, so there’s a good chance we’ll continue to see this platform continue to grow and expand throughout 2022.
If your customers do not use this point of sale, I would recommend that you take a second look.
We are also seeing many more image results in the SERPs than before, both on mobile and desktop.
Paying attention to the images you use, especially the best-performing pages, would be a wise decision. “
Local Optimizations To Focus On (And Where To Let Go)
Miranda Miller: “Are there any local optimizations or tactics that you think marketers tend to spend more time on than they should, or even something that we should drop completely by 2022?”
Joy Hawkins: “Until the proximity algorithm was updated, it was understood that having a keyword-rich name was a big boost for customers who wanted to appear in the 3 pack for a wide geographic spread.
But that is no longer the case.
Based on the data we analyzed, companies that had heavy keywords in their keywords along with a strong outreach were the most successful.
It’s a little early to tell for sure that adding keyword descriptors to names no longer works.
But for now, I’d say it’s a tactic that sellers can definitely reduce.
Another tactic we have shown time and time again that offers no value is geotagging images.
When you geotag images, the information is removed from the image during the upload process, so it’s useless to spend time adding it.
It’s time to dump her and move on. “
Embracing AI Content Creation Technology
Miranda Miller: “Are there any new or developing local SEO technologies that excite you?”
Joy Hawkins: “Content is such an important part of SEO, especially creating valuable, high-quality content.
But it can be a challenge for content creators to find unique things to say about certain topics.
For example, how much can you actually write about concrete repairs?
Over the last year or so, we’ve noticed a huge improvement in AI capabilities when it comes to content writing. There are now several AI writing services on the market to choose from, such as Peppertype.ai, Rytr.me or Writesonic.
We’ve found that these services are a great way to help our content writers get started when they feel blocked.
It would not completely pass the content writing to AI, as the content they create still needs to be cleaned and refined. But these services are incredibly useful as a starting point.
Another tool we just started using is Transparency Company.
False reviews are a very tough but common challenge in the local search space.
It’s great to have a tool to help you determine which competitors may be buying reviews from Google. “
The Pros & Cons Of A Local SEO Career
Miranda Miller: “What are the hardest and most enjoyable parts of your day-to-day work?”
Joy Hawkins: “The best part of my day is the people I work with. I work with a great group of people who care about giving everything for our clients and who are investing in the profits we can make for our clients.
Getting to work with them and giving ideas to each other is definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of my workday.
I’ve also always been a person who likes to research data, look at numbers, try to figure out mysteries, and that sort of thing.
SEO is this ever-changing puzzle that needs to be solved as the pieces change shape, size and color. I find it difficult and fun to try to determine how these pieces of the puzzle fit together.
As for the challenge, I would also say that it is sometimes very difficult to balance the management of a business with all the volunteer work I do.
Being a Google product expert means I’m constantly helping users in the Google forum. This often causes a lot of people to email me or tag me on Twitter.
Volunteering and managing expectations is not for the faint of heart. “
Local SEO Career-Building Advice
Miranda Miller: “What tips or advice do you have for those just starting out in their local SEO careers?”
Joy Hawkins: “SEO is constantly changing. If there’s one thing the November update taught us, it’s that you can’t count on a strategy to work forever.
If you are entering the SEO industry, it is important to read about the latest and most recent trends to understand where the industry is and to develop strategies using this information.
However, it is important that you keep these strategies in check. At some point, there are a lot of chances that they will stop working and you have to adapt.
I recommend that you always use several different SEO strategies, so that if one stops working, you don’t have all the eggs in your basket.
I would also recommend networking with other people in the industry as much as possible.
There are some really great minds in the SEO world, and it’s an amazing opportunity to learn from them through blogs, forums, conferences, and even social media posts. “
Featured image courtesy of Sterling Sky Inc.