Local SEO – Thinking Outside the Local Snack-Pack Box
Published: February 8, 2018
Author: Gavin Hirst
Local SEO is important. That we can all agree upon. However, one thing that we tend to get hung up on as SEOs is Google’s Local Snack Pack results. There are other ways to maximise your local SEO without it all being about the local snack pack.
There is no doubt that the local snack pack drives considerable traffic to sites ranking in that space. Since the Possum algorithm update back in September 2016, however, those snack pack results have been much more volatile and difficult to track. After Possum, we saw a client go from ranking in position one for nearly all their ‘keyword+location’ search queries to getting some really mixed results across the board.
The fact that local search results are now impacted more by searcher location than citations and on-page SEO means companies have had to change their focus. The fact that local results change based on searcher location also means it is much harder for SEOs to track and monitor search rankings. When results can be different from one city block to another, accurately reporting local results becomes tricky.
That’s why it’s important to think outside of the box and look at other potential opportunities. Here are some of our top tips to maximize your local SEO potential.
Near Me Searches
There is a slight caveat to this approach. While ‘near me’ searches are still on the gradual increase, this is likely to be a short-term strategy. Recent research from Think with Google suggests that ‘near me’ search queries will soon be a thing of the past thanks to the number of searches carried out on mobile. People understand that if they search for ‘restaurants’ when they are in a city, Google’s results will show them the nearest restaurants. (Previously, the searcher may have added ‘restaurants near me’ or ‘restaurants + city’, for example.)
Having said that, we can see that here in New Zealand, ‘near me’ searches are still on the rise; this could be a great strategy for you to adopt if you are struggling to appear in the local snack pack. This might require some on-page optimization and tweaks to your page titles, but you may see some traffic gains from this tactic.
Cynics might argue that one of the reasons the local snack packs change so often is so that companies are more inclined to pay to appear consistently on that space. We’ll let you make up your own mind on the motives, but what we do know for sure is that it is possible to pay to appear in the local space, including ads in the local snack pack.
If you have found yourself filtered out following the Possum algorithm, now might be the time to look at paid opportunities in that space.
It is our belief that 2018 will be the year of voice search. It’s true that this has been a prediction of many SEOs for the past 2-3 years, but we feel this year will be the tipping point. In a post earlier this year, Branded3 presented some compelling stats to support their own predictions. Here are some of the headlines from that article:
- “By 2019, the voice recognition market will be a $601 million industry”, according to a report from Technavio via Skyword.
- “About 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020,” via Mediapos
- “50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020,” according to comscore
- “Google voice search queries in 2016 were up 35x over 2008,” according to Google trends via Search Engine Watch
- “40% of adults now use voice search once per day,” according to Location World
- “25% of 16-24s use voice search on mobile,” via Global Web Index
- “Mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text,” via Search Engine Watch
- “Humans can speak 150 words per minute vs type 40 words per minute,” via Katherine Watier
- “43% cite that using voice search is quicker than using a website or an app,” via Katherine Watier
- “Today, speech recognition word error rate is 8 percent,” via Bruce Clay
Those are some pretty compelling stats to support the argument that voice search will soon be the way that most of us carry out search. With that in mind, it’s sensible to start planning for the future, especially with your local content.
Featured snippets are on the increase. A recent study from Stone Temple Consulting found that, of the 1.4 million search queries they analyzed, more than 30% of those queries delivered a featured snippet.
Identifying opportunities within the featured snippet space has also got a lot easier. Tools like Stat and SEMRush both allow you to identify search queries that deliver a featured snippet in the results. This should form an integral part of your keyword research strategy; the potential click-through rates from featured snippets, essentially ranking you in position 0, are huge.
The Possum algorithm update led to a lot of results being filtered out of the local snack pack results. Proximity to other similar businesses is one of the reasons you can find yourself filtered out of the snack pack; however, there are potential opportunities here.
Reviews have always had an impact on your local search ranking. With the ability to filter results in the snack pack by review score, it’s now more important than ever to work on your review strategy, focusing on getting more and delivering products/services that ensure you are getting positive reviews.
If you can outscore those similar companies that are causing you to be filtered out, chances are, you will soon see them being the ones filtered out.
The local snack packs results will always be a crucial part of any local SEO strategy. They are not going away anytime soon, and we know plenty of people click through from the map results. However, there are other areas you can focus on that have the potential to deliver more consistent results.