Tag: Predictions

Expert Local SEO Predictions for 2021


Now that 2020 is well and truly behind us, we can begin looking forward to bigger, better things. That’s right folks, the time is once again upon us to bring out our BrightLocal crystal ball and enlist some of the local search community’s most well-loved experts to help us with some local SEO predictions for the coming year. 

But, before we get started thinking about what’s to come for 2021, how did our experts fare with what they predicted in 2020?

Reflecting on 2020’s Local SEO Predictions

A lot happened in 2020, but how many of our experts’ local SEO predictions came true? 

Unfortunately, a lot of our pros had hoped 2020 would see a reduction in spam, but with the introduction of new Covid-19 support, resources, and features, plus limited Google My Business support, it seems Google had other things besides spam-fighting to keep them busy…

Ben Fisher

My prediction for 2020 was right — Google figured it out and eliminated spam! Just kidding — I really said that “I think spam will increase,” and it did. The legal space, garage door, and insurance space, to name a few, are still littered with spam.

Ben Fisher (VP of Marketing, Steady Demand)

Tim Capper

I predicted that spam would get worse for 2020 and, boy, was I right.

 

Tim Capper (Local SEO Consultant, Online Ownership

We may not have seen the back of spam, but some of our experts did successfully predict some pretty major GMB news.

Andrew Optimisey

Dan Foland

Last year my prediction was that Google was going to put more effort into monetizing GMB and local search. My prediction came true with the rollout of Local Service Ads (LSAs) for professional service industries. Google had been testing LSAs prior to the rollout for quite some time and decided to finally roll it out nationally.

Dan Foland (SEO Director, Postali)

Google My Business

Towards the end of the year, Whitespark’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey showed just how important having an active and optimized GMB profile really is. With GMB being voted the number one local search ranking factor, it’s no surprise that it was top of the list when it came to our experts’ local search predictions…

Amy Toman

The prominence of GMB listings increased in 2020, primarily during the lockdowns. Businesses used GMB to get the word out as much as possible, especially when people couldn’t get to their physical locations. They remembered how to log in, and found out how to correct misinformation. With this stark reminder, I’m hoping businesses continue their interactions with their listings to keep control of their information.

Amy Toman (SEO Analyst, Digital Law Marketing)

Claire Carlile

Backed up by what many local search experts confirmed in the 2020 Local SEO Ranking Factors survey, thorough optimization of your GMB profile will continue to be key for local pack rankings in 2021. 

I’ll be continuing to take advantage of the full gamut of features in GMB, including posts and products, and making sure that the business profile of my SMB clients look totally kick-ass and that they encourage engagement and actions. Active engagement on the business’s part will be key — monitoring user-generated content like Q&A, images, and reviews needs to be a timetabled activity. Small businesses will become more aware of how their brand displays in the SERP and how third party and UGC play a role in that. Under-utilized features like messaging, and little known features like the ‘new follower offer’, will start to gain momentum as Google pushes more interactive and social features into Google Maps.

A vibrant and fully optimized GMB profile will become table stakes in 2021 as more businesses start to explore features that were lesser-known to them — so the importance of testing and measuring what works and doesn’t work for your business in terms of GMB content will be more important than ever.

Claire Carlile (Digital Marketing Consultant, Claire Carlile Marketing)

Ben Fisher

GMB will remain at the top of the list of things you need for local search, as nearly all local intent searches return GMB profiles.

I believe there are also some major changes coming to how service-area businesses are handled from a discoverability standpoint, and the guidelines will be made more clear.

I think we will see a rise in suspensions as GMB continues to narrow its guidelines and increases the crackdown on “bad actors.”

Ben Fisher (VP of Marketing, Steady Demand)

Krystal Taing

For 2020, I predicted a rise in the importance of user-generated content and engagement. We did see elements of this such as the impact of reviews on local ranking. As we look to 2021, I see the trends of local search leaning towards information and convenience. Consumers want to know everything about a product or service prior to visiting a store or making a phone call. Search engines will continue to build tools to support this and brands and search marketers are going to enable this.

The shift we saw in consumer behavior in 2020 with features like live inventory, multiple ordering and delivery methods, and virtual services, will mature into 2021. These won’t be a competitive play, but a consumer expectation.

For Google My Business specifically, I imagine they will continue to explore ways to bridge the gap with e-commerce as well as bring more tools to support virtual services. 

Krystal Taing  (Solutions & Strategic Partnerships, Uberall)

Blake Denman

With posts starting to show in the ‘Explore’ tab, we should see more emphasis on full-funnel content marketing in posts.

Getting in front of potential customers towards the top of the funnel will help get them familiar with a brand and, thanks to personalization, help bottom of the funnel queries rank higher when it matters.

Google will monetize Google My Business more. The slow rollout of the Google Guaranteed Program will accelerate and let businesses get their own Google Guaranteed badge without participating in LSAs.

Blake Denman (Founder, RicketyRoo)

I think Google will continue to make changes to the Google My Business guidelines in order to accommodate different business models —Telehealth is a great example. Currently, the guidelines say you need to make in-person contact with customers to qualify for a listing. Google has opened this rule up during the pandemic to accommodate this new health model.

So the question is whether or not this will continue into the future once the pandemic is over. I think it will. I also think we will see more e-commerce style local business models being accommodated in the GMB model.

Colan Nielsen (VP of Local Search, Sterling Sky)

Jason Brown

I see a dramatic shift coming in Google ranks in GMB. There will no longer be an emphasis on the GMB title. Google will de-emphasize it in an effort to curtail the lead generation spam and keyword stuffing. Google will instead use other, more important signals, such as the age of the GMB listing, the website, and other best practices. Google posts will continue to be a non-ranking factor just like geo-tagging photos.

Jason Brown (Founder, Review Fraud)

Monetized Google My Business

Last year, one of our pros (hats off, Andrew!) correctly predicted that we might begin to see the long-standing GMB pay-to-play rumors come to fruition. As GMB’s $50/month upgraded listings test took the local SEO community by storm, is this something we can expect to see more from in the new year?

The Google badge for Google My Business pages is starting to appear in certain categories and I predict as businesses start to pay the monthly fee additional categories will open up. As hopeful as we were last year with spam decreasing, I hope with the monthly fee that this will help dilute the Google My Business guideline violators and allow the rule-following businesses to take the lead. 

Crystal Horton (Digital Account Manager, Accelerate Marketing)

Niki Mosier

My thoughts for 2021 are that we will definitely see Google continue to roll out features for GMB. This year we saw Google pivot pretty quickly with Covid-19 related features like the Covid post type and expanded attributes for delivery and pickup. We also saw the small rollout of the $50 Google Guarantee program which I wouldn’t be surprised to see expanded in the coming months. Overall, as proximity search gets even more narrow, focusing on sending all the right signals with location-specific content will be as important as ever.

Niki Mosier (Head of SEO, Two Octobers)

Andy Simpson

Now Local Search Ads (LSAs) have finally rolled out, 2021 will see Google My Business promote the upgraded business profile. For $50/month GMB will add the Google guaranteed badge (green icon) to your listing and back services your business provides with the Google Guarantee. How this will affect GMB rankings, upgraded vs standard, we shall have to wait and see but one thing it might do is help reduce the amount of GMB spam — upgraded listings could force spam to the bottom and out of the 3-pack.

Andy Simpson (Senior SEO Specialist, Digital Law Marketing)

Dan Foland

In 2021, I predict that Google is going to continue monetizing GMB and local search. For example, in 2019 Google sent out a survey to GMB users asking if (and how much) users would pay for certain “premium” features. Google is currently testing a paid model offering a Google Guaranteed badge on business profiles, among other features. I expect that Google will roll this out or something similar in 2021 while they continue monetizing local search.

Dan Foland (SEO Director, Postali)

Local Services Ads

2020 brought with a lot of changes to Google My Business, but even more prominent were Local Services Ads, which took the spotlight. There were plenty of changes to the popular paid option, but what more can we expect from it in the coming year?

I would predict that next year Google will make an aggressive push to get Local Service Ads expanded to many other verticals.  I expect it to hit the insurance industry, automotive industry, and the healthcare industry next. I think these ads can potentially lower the volume of clicks that we see for the local pack as they continue to look and operate a lot like organic listings. 

Joy Hawkins (Owner, Sterling Sky)

Ben Fisher

Google will continue to invest in Local Services Ads and continue to expand the program. I predict that the quality of LSA leads will also go down as more merchants get involved and spam the program. 

Ben Fisher (VP of Marketing, Steady Demand)

carrie hill

Right now we’re seeing reviews on Local Services Ads come through separately from reviews on a business’s GMB listing. They eventually seem to merge and most (if not all) reviews are shown on the LSA page, but the LSA reviews don’t always come through to the GMB listing reviews.

My prediction is Google is going to figure out how to merge these into one system, but label the reviews that come in as part of the Local Services Ads as “verified” in some way — because the lead came through the LSAs and is “Screened” or “Verified”.  The current system is a bit messy, doesn’t always connect, and freaks clients out when their LSA profiles show zero reviews for their business, while their GMB listing shows X number of reviews for that business.  When will it happen? I have no idea, but I think something significant will happen with this system sometime in 2021!

Carrie Hill (Local Search Analyst & Community Manager, Sterling Sky)

Greg-Gifford

I think Google will continue to try to monetize local, especially with the shift in consumer behavior due to the pandemic. I think there will be an expansion of LSAs (or some similar form of ad), and expansion of a “Google trusted” type of program, and potentially a paid inclusion of products in GMB (we’re already seeing extensive tests of this in automotive). GMB will always be free, but the really cool stuff that helps you stand out will likely be more of a pay-for-play situation.

Greg Gifford (VP of Search, SearchLab)

Zero-click Search

What felt like a big phenomenon last year doesn’t seem to be quite so high on our experts’ radars this year. That said, with the introduction of GMB’s direct edit, can we expect more emphasis to be placed on in-SERP actions than ever before?

Ben Fisher

Zero Click search will be the focus of 2021. Additionally, to keep you on search even longer, I think the direct edit experience’s ongoing improvement will continue.

Ben Fisher (VP of Marketing, Steady Demand)

Maps Spam

What would a local SEO piece be without at least some talk of spam? Well, we’ve got plenty for you here. Will it improve or could it possibly get worse? Our pros chime in to talk all things #StopCrapontheMap.

Gyi Tsakalakis

Like many of us predicted last year, in 2021 I predict that spam will continue to be a massive problem in local search, particularly with respect to Google My Business. In fact, as I sit here today on December 7, 2020, all three local pack listings for “car accident lawyer,” contain keyword-stuffed business names.

Furthermore, contrary to statements from Google’s PR team, at least two of the traditional localized organic listings contain rich review snippets generated from structured data from self-serving reviews on the firms’ pages. I predict that if you continue to blindly follow the advice of Google’s PR team you will remain at a competitive disadvantage in local search.

Gyi Tsakalakis (Founder, AttorneySync)

Tim Capper

Lead gen spam is out of control even reaching the UK and AUS with reporting and takedown being exceptionally poor. I will throw the spam team a crumb and say that Covid played a small part in the slow response to the increase in spam. API loopholes are still being exploited and no ‘bad’ address databases outside of the US on the cards.

With the benefit of some Product Expert insight, I am more optimistic for 2021 with GMB tackling spam, especially SAB spam. Unfortunately don’t get your hopes up outside of the US just yet. LSA has launched in the UK but we still have not seen any live listings. Regardless, get your applicable clients signed up now ready for rollout.

Tim Capper (Local SEO Consultant, Online Ownership) 

I predict that Google will make a significant change in its effort to combat maps spam. This year we saw an increase in suspensions of both legit and spam GMBs. I think we will continue to see Google turn this dial up from time to time in order to continue the fight. But I also think Google will do something new to combat the problem. Dial down the ranking weight attributed to the business name? Perhaps. A guy can dream, right?

Colan Nielsen (VP of Local Search, Sterling Sky)

Andrew Cock-Starkey Optimsey

I’m not sure if it’s just the year we’ve had in 2020 addling my brain or just making me outrageously optimistic but… I think a reckoning is coming. A reckoning for Google Maps spammers.

We’ve all seen #StopCrapOnTheMap and equal parts hilarious and horrifying examples that make it onto maps. This is not a good look for Google, especially when some of those locations are ‘drug rehab’ centers and the like… when in fact they’re not and are (at best) lead gen fronts.

Some of the examples are outrageous and egregious and there’s a growing swell of people getting upset by it, not least the ‘free labor’ Google gets to fight their spam problem in the shape of local SEO folks and their Product Experts.

Google has the capability and the technology to make big strides in improving this and at a stroke could help struggling small business owners, score political points (which given the number of court and anti-trust cases coming their way would help!), and appease local SEOs and Product Experts. Win-win, right?

Or maybe optimism has gotten the better of Optimisey this year…

Andrew Cock-Starkey (Founder, Optimisey)

Dan Foland

In 2021, GMB spam is going to continue to be a problem. My hope is that Google pays more attention and dedicates more resources to cleaning up spam in GMB, but I’m not sure that it’s a top priority for them.

Dan Foland (SEO Director, Postali)

Online Reviews

As the second most important local search ranking factor, it’s no surprise that reviews should remain front of mind throughout 2021. Our experts discuss how reviews might gain even more prominence in the coming year.

Amanda Jordan

I predict for 2021, reputation management will continue to be a huge factor for local performance. In addition to reviews continuing to be a ranking factor, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google made review responses a much bigger deal. This may include the number of review responses becoming a rank factor in itself or more review management options within the GMB platform. I also expect to see more attributes to be added for medical and retail business categories.

Amanda Jordan (Director of Local Search, Locomotive Agency)

Shane Barker

Reviews will become a critical local search ranking parameter. So, it’s a good time to optimize your GMB listing, perhaps by adding a messaging feature to it. You can also focus on other tier 1 directories and niche-specific directories. If you really want to step up your review game, you can create standardized review responding templates or use review management tools. It is also wise to read between-the-lines of reviews to gain deeper customer insights.

Shane Barker (Cofounder, Attrock)

Links and Link Building

Link building has stood the test of time when it comes to helping businesses rank in search results, but how can building relevant links help local businesses in 2021?

Blake Denman

Links will still be important but agencies and SMBs are going to shift more and more towards pure local links rather than relying on third-party metrics to determine the value of a link. Entity building, entity leeching, entity optimization, entity sculpting, whatever you want to call it will start becoming more popular at the local level.

Blake Denman (Founder, RicketyRoo)

Conclusion

When it comes to local, things can change pretty quickly. What do you think of our experts’ local SEO and Google predictions? Can we expect to see paid-for GMB profiles come to life? Will review responses gain even more importance as a ranking factor? And the big question: will Google finally put a stop to crap on the map?! (No shade Google, we know you’re working on it!)

Whether you agree or not, we want to hear your own search predictions for the coming year! Share your 2021 local SEO prediction with us in the comments below.

Stephanie Newton

Stephanie is responsible for managing BrightLocal’s community outreach and engagement, as well as producing and managing content to help inform and educate the local SEO community.



The Future of Local Search: 20+ Predictions for 2020


With the decade having drawn to a close, here at BrightLocal we’re preparing to don our flapper gear and sashay our way into the Roaring Twenties 2.0 in style.

Great Gatsby GIF

To celebrate the end of a very eventful year — the year in which that Google My Business survey, BERT, and of course, the Bedlam Update, took place — we’ve reached out to some of the industry’s leading figures.

Read on as we bring out our crystal ball and discover what the top experts in local are predicting for the year ahead.

The return of Google+? (Kind of)

Google+ GIF

As Google continues to introduce new functions (such as the ability to follow Local Guides) theories of the resurgence of Google as a social network have begun to emerge. Spam-fighting pro and latest addition to Sterling Sky’s expanding team Jason Brown speculates:

Jason Brown

Google will launch a new service similar to G+ and a new community will be built around Local Guides and reviewers.

This ties in particularly with his second prediction, that Google will rely more heavily on user-generated content (UGC) than ever before:

Google is going to increase its demand and push for UGC, photos, reviews, Q&A and ‘Know this business?’

And Jason’s not alone in his thinking – Local Product Strategist at Rio SEO and GMB Gold Product Expert Krystal Taing predicts that if local businesses don’t start playing the UGC-game, they’ll miss out in a major way:

Krystal Taing

All brands need to get up to speed on the many different ways user-generated content can impact your local visibility and rankings, from consumer reviews to suggested updates to local listings to GMB Q&A and beyond. Active listening, the ability to respond in real-time, and then using that UGC to drive greater visibility and engagement are key.

Spam be gone!

Spam GIF

When we reached out to the experts for their 2020 predictions, there was one word on everyone’s lips – spam (no, not that kind). Sadly, despite the Nov. 2019 Local Search Update (aka the Bedlam Update), it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing the back of GMB spam just yet. Local SEO Consultant at Online Ownership Tim Capper shares his thoughts on the controversial issue:

Tim Capper

Google has attempted to get [spam] under control but I don’t see it getting better in 2020. If Google does want to get a handle on this they need to close API loopholes and expand ‘bad’ address databases to other countries, not just the US – there is spam outside of the US too!

Meanwhile, Crystal Horton of Accelerate Marketing remains optimistic about the spam outlook come 2020…

Crystal Horton

I’m hopeful that fake listings and fake reviews will start to decrease in rankings once data from review place topics and service area specificity become more prominent.

AttorneySync’s Gyi Tsakalakis offers a happy medium…

Gyi Tsakalakis

I hope 2020 will bring major improvements to Google’s ability to fight spam in local packs. It’s absolutely out of control. Unfortunately, I neither predict nor expect that much to change. While there’s been a ton of local flux recently, there’s still no shortage of spam, at least in legal SERPs.

…And Location3’s Matt Lacuesta suggests taking things into your own hands:

Matt Lacuesta

Spam in GMB is rampant and I think we’ll see Google try to address it more in the coming year, but don’t plan on that solving the problem. In 2020 business owners and agencies alike will need to actively monitor their local search landscape and report suspected spam. 

Finally, GMB Gold Product Expert, Steady Demand’s Ben Fisher – an ever-shining light of optimism – told us:

Ben Fisher

2020 will be the year Google catches more spam than ever before…

 

…Just kidding! If anything, I think spam will increase. While Google states that the spam that is in the system is small compared to real data, the system is too easily gamed and fake listings along with fake reviews are on the rise. Will Neural Matching help curtail it? Maybe, but even so, spammers will find another way and Google is always a step behind. The redressal form was a great first step, but it is not enough.

Pay-to-play and ads, ads, ads

Paid Ads Google

Last year, one of the most prominent topics among local SEOs (partially owing to that GMB summer survey) was pay-to-play. In 2020, director of SEO at Postali Dan Foland continues to anticipate the rising popularity of paid options: 

Dan Foland

I see the future of local SEO going more towards paid offerings which will make it more difficult for businesses relying on organic visibility. Google has been aggressively testing more local ad placements and even sent out a survey asking GMB users their opinions on making aspects of GMB paid. It’s clear that Google is starting to focus more on monetizing local search and GMB and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Tim Capper warns GMB users to keep an eye out for ads making their way into more and more places:

You should expect this ad encroachment to increase and to keep an eye on what is being displayed in your business’s knowledge panel.

In fact, it’s entirely possible that the first page of SERPs will be entirely filled with various types of paid ads – at least that’s what Kick Point’s Dana DiTomaso is anticipating:

Dana DiTomaso

Paid search is going to continue to take over more of local SEO when it comes to the ‘traditional’ SERP. We’ll see results where paid is the majority of the first page, along with Google specific products, such as Local Service Ads.

Given the increasing frustration with Google My Business (summarized nicely by Optimisey’s Andrew Cock-Starkey as a “great big dumpster fire”), can we expect paid features to emerge? According to Andrew, this might be the only way for Google to feasibly clean things up:

Andrew Optimisey

One way Google could clean up GMB is to make it a paid for product – or at least parts of it. Most people in local SEO saw the survey which slipped out from Google, asking about which services you might pay for,  how much, and which packages you’d get most value from. I’m going to stick my neck out and say before 2020 is done there will be some form of ‘pay to play’ system in Google My Business.

Similarly, co-founder of Ignitor Digital Mary Bowling anticipates more ads within Google Places, stating:

Mary Bowling

We’ll see more ads and more types of ads in more Google Places and Google will continue to find ways to insert itself into the online sales processes of local businesses.

Alexa, tell me about voice search

Voice Search

As if the year ‘2020’ didn’t sound futuristic enough, it looks like we’ll be seeing even more of an increase in the use of voice search, AI, and other similar techniques. Digital Strategist Shane Barker predicts voice search will have increasing importance in local:

Shane Barker

There will be an increased focus on optimizing for voice search, even by local businesses.

Though you might think machine learning happens mostly online, we can expect it to have some very real-world consequences. VP of Search at SearchLab Chicago Greg Gifford explains:

Greg-Gifford

Google is going to really push the entity angle in local even harder. We’ve seen so many patents around entity analysis and the newest patent involves using quality ‘repeat visits’ to a location as a ranking factor. I think Google (especially in local) wants to use real-world signals to rank businesses instead of links and content. Machine learning has finally allowed Google to gain a better understanding of entities, and those real-world signals are much more reliable than links and content. We’ll see physical visits, unlinked mentions, and reviews become some of the most important ranking factors.

Making the most of GMB

Two well-loved UK SEOs, Claire Carlile and Andy Simpson both touched on similar points when asked to get their crystal balls out. Referencing the myriad new features introduced to GMB in 2019, Claire commented:

Claire Carlile

In GMB, new functionality will continue to roll out and businesses will need to take advantage of existing opportunities such as photos, Q&A, Google posts, product editor, short names, messaging, and reserve with google, as well as keeping an eye on new features as they emerge.  Businesses will need to actively engage with GMB as a communications channel to reach and respond to clients and potential clients. The importance of GMB will continue to grow and small businesses will do well to think of it as a CMS separate to that of their website.

Similarly, Andy emphasized the importance of taking control of what’s visible to users on the SERPs:

Andy Simpson

Taking control of how your business’s brand is displayed in the SERPs should be on everyone’s radar for 2020. When potential customers search for your brand by name, what appears on the first page of Google? It should almost be a given that your Google My Business listing should appear. In 2020 business owners large and small have to be aware and ‘take control’ of what is displayed on the first page of Google about your business and make sure it’s the best it can be.

Meh, links

Backlinking

When it comes to the conversation of link building, it’s hard for Gyi Tsakalakis’s famous catchphrase not to be the first thing that comes to mind – and really, we couldn’t justify calling this section anything else. But in all seriousness, here’s what Gyi had to say on the matter:

I predict: Meh, links.

Well, what did you expect?

Continuing with the theme, owner of Rickety Roo Blake Denman shared his thoughts on the age-old practice:

Meh, links (hat tip to Gyi for coining this). 

All jokes aside, Blake suggested that local businesses should focus on “topically and locally-relevant link building.” 

Zero is the loneliest number, actually

Great Gatsby GIF

Towards the end of the year, the local search community was rife with talks of the elusive ‘position zero’ and zero-click searches. PatientPop’s Joel Headley anticipates:

Joel Headley

With the broader SEO community focused on the growth of zero-click searches, local SEOs know that zero-click is the bread and butter of bringing customers to the front door of storefronts through phone calls and driving directions. 

Andy Simpson elaborated on the current state of so-called zero-click SERPs, outlining the consequence we might expect it to have for local businesses:

Users are finding what they need to know about your business directly from the Google search results. Your business address (including directions to it), phone number, and even customer reviews, so the user has no need to click through to your website. This could mean fewer clicks through to your site, less traffic and perhaps lower sales/bookings in some cases. Way back in early 2017 Mike Blumenthal called it “Google as your new homepage”, but should we now be thinking of it as “Google IS your homepage”? 

Long live schema markup

In addition to the state of SERPs, spam, and GMB features, our experts had plenty to say about the future of schema markup. Of course, when it came to discussing schema, CEO of Schema App Martha van Berkel, was the first person we turned to:

Martha van Berkel

2020 is looking to be the year of schema markup (aka structured data). Why? Throughout 2019 we’ve seen an acceleration of features released and announcements pertaining to schema markup. On November 4th at the Google Webmaster Conference, one of the top trends was schema markup, with Google stating that they will be investing in more features in 2020. As we see more searches be for questions on mobile, desktop, and through typing and voice search, schema markup will make sure that the content, services, products, and locations are fully understood and stand out in these search channels.

Shane Barker also anticipates that schema will be a prominent factor for local businesses in 2020:

Local businesses that use structured data, especially for business information, will be more successful in their local SEO efforts.

Further predictions

Great Gatsby GIF

We received so many insightful predictions from our experts in local, we couldn’t possibly fit them all in (on that note, be sure to follow us on Twitter where we’ll be sharing exclusive snippets from our conversations with the pros).

But what else can we expect from Google in the year ahead? Ending on an optimistic note, Head of Search at Local SEO Guide Dan Leibson predicts we’ll have even more communication from the major players in 2020:

Dan Leibson

Now that Danny Sullivan is providing comms for Google’s GEO products (like the Google My Business September Core Update), I would expect to get more information from Google around that product. Now how accurate it is is an entirely different discussion.

He also suggests that Google will continue to localize SERPs in general:

I think the biggest trend in all of search, the one no one is really talking about except AJ Kohn and myself, is that Google wants to be able to localize parts of all SERPs and SERP features. I expect this trend to aggressively continue in 2020.

Join the conversation

Now the experts have spoken, why not have your say? Will 2020 be the year spam is eradicated from GMB? Will the rise in no-click SERPs increase? Drop us a comment below with your predictions — if nothing else, we can all return to this post next year and laugh at the inevitable naivety and optimism a new decade brings with it.




10 Local SEO Predictions for 2019: Job Security For Local SEOs




  1. SMBs As a Group Will Continue To Not Get SEO
    A little over a year ago, my dentist moved his office but never thought about updating his listing in Google Maps, Apple Maps or his website. I showed him how to fix the issue, but this morning on the way to my end of the year teeth cleaning, not only was his old location back on Apple Maps, but he had also decided to change his business name from Joseph A. Grasso DDS to San Ramon Valley Cosmetic & Family Dentistry (perhaps for SEO reasons?), but had not bothered to update either his GMB or Apple Maps listings, let alone his Facebook page or any other citations. I mentioned this to his receptionist. Her response was “Wow, I didn’t know anything about that stuff.” I envisioned my kids’ future tuition bills and sighed with relief.
  2. Voice Search Will Continue To Be YUGE, But So What?
    We keep seeing reports of how everyone is increasing their use of voice search to find information and buy stuff. Outside of being the default app for specific type of query on the various assistants, the end result is still often position #1 or #0 for a Google SERP. For local businesses this means you’ll want to be #1 or #0 for relevant local queries, and if there’s an app (e.g. Apple Maps, Yelp, etc.) that shows up in that position, then you’ll want to be #1 in those apps. Kind of like the way local search has been working for years…
  3. Some Of Your Clients May Actually Ask For Bing SEO Help
    If people are asking Alexa a lot more questions, per the previous prediction, Microsoft’s Cortana recently announced integration with Alexa may lead to more Bing results surfacing via Alexa. So those clients who have a data issue on Bing and the CEO happens to hear their kids looking for their business using Cortana on Alexa might send you that urgent message for “Bing SEO ASAP!” OK, we know – we just needed an extra prediction to get the right number for an Instant Answer result…
  4. Google My Business Posts Will Be Where The Action Is
    Since the roll out of GMB Posts, we have been calling them “the biggest gift to SEO agencies in years.” The ability to add minimal content to appear on a business’ GMB/Knowledge Panel that can attract clicks, most of which are from brand queries, and show clients how these impact performance will be hard to resist for most agencies that are currently blogging for their clients and praying someone cares about their 250-500 words of cheaply written brilliance. Expect GMB posts to be standard in most Local SEO packages, until of course Google deprecates them later this year.[spacer height=”10px”]Bonus Prediction!: And while we are on the subject of GMB, I expect to see a lot more functionality, and promotion thereof, poured into this service. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Super Bowl ad this year that shows how a business uses all Google services (websites, GMB messages, Q&A, Local Service Ads, GMB Post Videos, Reviews, etc.) to run its business and get customers.
  5. Retailers Will Invest More In Local SEO
    Google will continue to cannibalize SERPs with ads and “owned and operated” content such as GMB (which is basically training wheels for ads) making it easy for brands to increase their ad spend to eye-popping levels. Sooner or later multi-location brands who are tired of having to re-buy their customers every week will realize that for about 1% of their Google Ads budget, they can make a serious dent in their organic traffic and revenue. Topics like rebuilding their store locators, rewriting location pages, local linkbuilding and GMB optimization (including feeding real-time inventory to GMB) will no longer cause the CMO’s eyes to glaze over.
  6. Links Will Still Be The Biggest Line Item In Your Local SEO Budget
    There are only so many ways you can publish the best content about how to hire a personal injury attorney, before and after bunion surgery photos, or local SEO predictions. I am sure there are some cases where E-A-T trumps links, but sooner or later, in 2019 we will all need a link or two, or twenty…
  7. We Will See More Consolidation In Local Listings & Review Management
    While the business has become somewhat commodified, there is just too much value to owning the customer relationship attached to thousands of locations. Yext appears to be continuing its focus on high-value verticals (healthcare & financial services), international expansion to serve global brands and adding related functionality like Yext Brain. Over the past year, Uberall gobbled up NavAds and Reputation.com grabbed SIMPartners. Any big digital agency serving global multi-location brands sooner or later will want to own this functionality. Look for Asia to be a big growth area for these services.

    And I Wouldn’t Be Surprised If One Or More Of The Review Management StartUps Gets Acquired

    While online review management feels like something of a commodity, kind of like listings management, it’s also a great gateway drug for multi-location brands & SMBs to eventually buy more of your services. I recall Ted Paff, founder of CustomerLobby, once telling me “the value of review management is trending towards $0.” Of course, that was right before he sold CL to EverCommerce and took off to Nepal to find his Chi. Fast-growing services with review management and related services that are not trending towards $0 are prime targets. Keep an eye on Broadly, BirdEye, Podium, GatherUp, NearbyNow and others.

  8. Google Search Console Will Specify Local Pack Rankings In The Performance Report
    Yeah, right. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll get regex filtering?
  9. Apple Maps Will Continue To Be The Biggest Local Search Platform Everyone Ignores
    Apple made a big deal in 2018 about its new map platform and while it is exciting to have more vegetation detail, Apple still shows little sign of giving a shit about its business data. In the four years since Maps Connect launched, the functionality for businesses to control their Apple Maps profiles has barely changed. While I find Apple Maps generally fine to use (except for that time it led me straight into a dumpster in San Francisco), I still see plenty of people criticizing it. At some point perhaps Apple will realize that businesses and their agencies can help make Apple Maps much better. It would be great if we could get actual analytics, ability to enhance profiles, true bulk account management, etc., but I am skeptical that will happen in 2019.
  10. Amazon Will Not Buy Yelp!
    But if the stock price goes below $25, it seems like there’s a private equity play here. cc: David Mihm.

So in 2019, Local SEO will pretty much look like this: