Big data is driving major changes in the field of digital marketing. One of the areas most affected by advances in data science is SEO.
Search Engine Watch author addressed some of the changes wrought by big data in recent years. He provided some great insights, but there are other impacts of data analytics that he didn’t have a chance to touch on heavily.
Big data can help identify some elements of Google’s algorithm, which can be used to reverse engineer the ideal SEO strategy. You should keep this in mind moving forward. Local SEO strategies will be most impacted.
Big Data is Transforming Local SEO
Gone are the days when local businesses competed with national and international corporations for search rankings. Thanks to search engines’ improved algorithms, local search is much stronger, so web users looking for local services are all but guaranteed local search results.
However, just because certain searches will garner local results doesn’t mean that every local business is guaranteed a good ranking. Despite the fact that local search has been around in some form since 2005, many businesses have failed to engage with local SEO — and many that do operate under some serious misconceptions. The good news is that sensible data analytics practices can help improve the effectiveness of their campaigns.
Here are a few of the most major mistakes and misunderstandings surrounding local SEO and ways data analytics can help.
Withholding Contact Information
First and most fundamentally, businesses need to list contact information on their websites. Easily identifiable contact info is an enormous ranking factor for business domains, in both regular and local search. Plus, web users who manage to navigate to a business site need a way to get in contact with the business to inquire about products and services. It should go without saying that businesses should prominently display contact information, to include physical locations, phone numbers and perhaps customer service email addresses as text, and every listing of contact information should be consistent.
The good news is that data analytics can help identify missing elements on your web pages. You can use analytics tools to screen pages for essential content and fill it out appropriately.
Lacking Control of GMB Profile
There are a number of ways that Google has incorporated big data into the SERPs. One of the biggest big data applications is with the Local Pack.
Perhaps the defining feature of a local search is the so-called Local Pack, a section of search results that ranks at the top and provides critical business details, like location, hours and customer reviews. The likelihood of a web user clicking on a link in the Local Pack is remarkably high: 44 percent of traffic went to the Local Pack, according to Moz. Appearing in the Local Pack isn’t pure chance. Google awards placement in the Local Pack based on a number of factors, including proximity of business to the web user’s location as well as information contained in the business’s profile.
Many businesses believe that the profile Google draws up for Local Pack info is randomly scraped from the web — and some of it is. However, the best Google business profiles are expertly managed by the businesses themselves. Business leaders need to take ownership of those profiles, managed on a platform called Google My Business (GMB), to add information that can make their profiles more valuable to web users and thus more likely to appear in the Local Pack.
Neglecting Relevant Categories
Just because a business has ownership of their GMB profile doesn’t mean it is using that profile to the greatest effect. One of the most overlooked changes to a GMB profile is inputting relevant categories, which help Google determine what kind of local searches should lead to which businesses. The more categories a business lists as relevant to its products and services, the more opportunities that business has in appearing in the Local Pack.
However, businesses shouldn’t go overboard in selecting relevant categories. The keyword here is “relevant;” if Google catches wind that a business is selecting irrelevant categories, it is likely to take punitive action, even removing the GMB profile altogether.
Which categories are most relevant? You can use data analytics to identify search volume and contextual relevance for your content.
Discouraging Customer Reviews
A business has much to lose from a bad review, which is why many businesses don’t encourage their customers to leave reviews on sites like Yelp or Google. Yet, a lack of reviews can be even more damaging to a business’s reputation, not to mention its ability to rank within local search. Businesses need to make garnering positive reviews a top priority, asking customers to leave reviews after every beneficial interaction and making the process of leaving reviews as easy as possible.
Forgetting Content and Links
Local SEO isn’t divorced from regular SEO; many of the ranking factors that improve a webpage’s position are applicable to both local and organic search. By far the most impactful of these factors are quantity and quality of content and links. Businesses looking to rank in local search still need to be aggressive in their content and link strategies, which means they should strongly consider teaming up with experienced SEO firms in their region. For instance, a business trying to improve their ranking in Southwest local searches should seek the services of a Phoenix SEO agency.
Ignoring Social Media
Google uses sophisticated data analytics tools to mine social media data. You can find out which data is most relevant and incorporate it into your profiles to boost your organic rankings.
The connections between social media and search ranking can be confusing. Unlike links and content, social media followings do not directly correlate to higher rankings; instead, activity on social media drives more engagement with links and content elsewhere on the web, which does impact ranking. For local businesses, social media can be an invaluable resource for connecting with a local community and making local customers feel more valued. In this way, social media is far from a waste of a business’s time.
There is a difference between knowing about local SEO and doing something to benefit local SEO. Businesses need to better understand how local search impacts their online success and invest in tried-and-true strategies for increasing ranking in local results.
Big Data is Key to Modern Local SEO
Local SEO is undergoing a renaissance. You need to use big data effectively to get the most value of your local SEO strategy.