If you’ve been making the necessary changes to rank in local search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo, it’s time to take a look at what the ‘stars’ predict for SEO in 2014.  The competition will get tougher this year, and it’s going to take even more effort to maintain visibility in the local search index rankings than before.

In order to meet this challenge head on, it is important to see where local SEO is headed in 2014. Will quality still trump over quantity of local citations needed to rank for local keywords? Will the number of reviews your local services earn, still matter? Will Google Places Listing, still rule the roost? Should you still strive to earn Domain Authority? Should your focus still be on earning as many reviews on Google Places?

Enough questions! Now for some answers!

Straight off the bat, the top local search ranking factors won’t change, but certain changes in the SEO landscape such as the new Hummingbird Algorithm, Google further embedding Google+ into the search experience, convergence of social media and SEO and various others, will make it mandatory for you to tweak your local SEO efforts and make them 2014 friendly.

Let’s take a look at what you need to consider for powering your local SEO efforts this year:

1.     Factor in Google Hummingbird’s Impact on local SEO

The “funniest” aspect of Google’s Hummingbird is that the initial launch, of what Google calls its most significant search algorithmic update in a very long time, took place almost a month prior to its announcement.

Webmasters didn’t realise an event of such significance had taken place, because there was no perceptible shift in the search rankings of their site. However, now that this algorithm is well and truly in place, you need to mould your SEO efforts to suit the new search algorithm.

First, it’s important to understand why Google Hummingbird is the best thing to have happened to the “world of SEO since Google itself”. The Hummingbird matches queries to results by paying attention to each word in the query rather than focusing on certain ‘words’. So, if you enter a question like “where can I find the best Cupcakes near the Creative Quarter in Nottingham?”,  chances are that Google will understand your location and also the fact that you are looking for the ‘best cupcakes’ and you’re looking for brick-and mortar cupcake shops in a specific area. With the Hummingbird, Google can make sense of the whole query and bring up results that make sense of this query. This is opposed to picking a word from the query like ‘best cupcakes’ and ‘Nottingham’ and throwing up tons of results at you that just match the keywords its chosen.

So, your local SEO focus should now be on optimising the use of Hummingbird. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

  • Produce informative and fresh content whose core focus is to answer direct queries that are usually related to your business and its product and/or services offerings.
  • Claim your Google+ business page and continuously update it to ensure all information is current, useful and meets the requirements of your target users.
  • You need to start creating content targeting each specific place of business. Providing services in both Nottingham and Leicester?  That ‘Our Locations’ information will not work anymore! On the other hand, publishing content specific to Nottingham and Leicester will deliver better results.

2.     Merge Mobile with your Local SEO Efforts

According to a Pew Internet Study, six in ten persons that is 63% of cell phone users, access internet through their mobile phones. And, 46% of consumers use mobile as their primary research tool to search for local products and services. No prizes for guessing then that your local SEO efforts shouldn’t exist in a desktop quarantine.

So, now you need to double down on optimizing your mobile presence for local search as well. A standard local SEO strategy won’t do at all; get cracking on a local mobile SEO strategy. You don’t have to overhaul your local SEO efforts; it’s just that you need to factor in ‘mobile’ in your overall tactics. So make sure that your local pages are optimized for mobile search; integration of mobile functionality like GPS, geo-location and even click-to-call in your localized pages is a good starting point.

Something else that you need to take into consideration is there are plenty of consumers using Facebook graph search to search for local businesses through their mobile devices. So make sure your business’s page on Facebook is kept updated all the time.

3.     Getting Extra Specific will Help

In 2014, it’s time to get right down to the details of your local presence. Your local SEO efforts need to go right down to the neighborhood level. Whether you’re offering services in a small town or a large City, the focus should be on the least common local denominator with respect to your location. Getting citations from organizations active in a particular neighborhood will offer better results as compared to tapping into general local directories.  One great way of focusing on getting hyper local citations is to target blogs that provide specific info about a particular area.

What you’ll also need to do is give your online strategy an offline boost. Participate in local events, speak at a local conference, and make sure your brand gets a shout out in the local community. And do not forget to keep leveraging social media to connect with your local customers. There is nothing better than social media to converse with your target consumers specific to a particular location; push location specific offers to them, and keep sharing location centric content to them. Make sure they have no doubt your business is catering to their neighbourhood.

So in conclusion

The basics of local SEO won’t change so do not see 2014 as the year when you need to completely rework your SEO efforts; but it’s time you start exploring new avenues to expand your local reach. So, if you’ve not been using video production and optimisation as a part of your local SEO strategy, start using it. You also need to start finding new ways to optimise the use of Google+ for local SEO. We all know Google+ is playing a huge role in improving a business’s local visibility, so it’s time to start doing more with it.

We hope these pointers give you a fair idea of what to expect in 2014. Remember, do the simple things right and don’t expect too many radical changes! That should be your mantra moving forward this year.

Charlie

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