Local SEO in 2015 – A year in review
In Local SEO, a lot can happen in a year.
Whilst many of us are busy reading & making our own local search predictions for 2016, it can be useful to take a step back & review the last 12 months in full. So we’ve put together a quick guide to 2015, and the biggest local SEO events which unfolded within it.
We’ve picked out some of the biggest news stories from each month, and linked to the sources we found most insightful. Happy New Year!
You can use the following links to jump to a month:
37% of SMBs plan to spend more on internet marketing in 2015
At the start of the year, BrightLocal published findings from the 2014 SMB Internet Marketing Survey:
- 37% of SMBs plan to spend more on internet marketing in 2015
- 32% say internet marketing is ‘very effective’ at attracting customers
- 50% of SMBs spend less than $300/month on internet marketing
Zomato buys Urbanspoon for $50-$60 Million
International restaurant search provider Zomato acquired Urbanspoon to enter the North American local search market.
Read more: SEL
Bing Maps rolls out Super Bowl XLIX updates
Ahead of Super Bowl 49, won by the New England Patriots, Bing released a series of Map updates including satellite imagery, streetside imagery & a detailed map of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Google My Business announces photos upgrade
An exciting new update saw Google My Business give users more control over their business photos. Google announced several new features, including the ability to choose which images you want to appear when customers search for your business. Options included profile, logo & cover images as display for maps and search.
Google tests Live Chat in search results
Google began testing an option to Live Chat with businesses in the local knowledge box. Only available to some businesses, the button would immediately launch into a chat via Google Hangouts (on desktop & mobile). Spotted by @MattGibstein.
Mobile search spend to reach 83% by 2018
A promising end to 2014 saw eMarketer having to readjust its ad revenue forecasts. A report in February suggested mobile ad spend will account for a staggering 83% by 2018.
Read more: SEW
YP launches Marketplace to help national brands target local audiences
“The Leader in Local Search Just Reinvented It”, claims YP as it launched the ypSearch Marketplace, which helps to maximize clicks, calls and conversions by connecting to markets at the local level.
Mobile usage surpasses desktop for local information searches
Research from the Local Search Association showed that mobile devices were now used more often than desktop for local searches. The findings coincided with a new study entitled ‘The “Mobile Fanatics” – How Mobile is Transforming Local Shopping.’
71% of experts say local citation quality is more important than quantity
BrightLocal enlisted the help of 22 local search experts in the Expert Citation Survey 2015:
- 55% say accurate citations are ‘critical’ to local search ranking
- 45% say you should update existing citations before building new ones
- 57% say that it is ‘very important’ to merge or delete duplicate citations
Google’s update on doorway pages
Google published an update to make clear its algorithm intentions towards doorway pages; “We have a long-standing view that doorway pages that are created solely for search engines can harm the quality of the user’s search experience.”
Amazon Home Services rivals Google
Amazon Home Services launched in March to help connect consumers with service professionals in their area. Amazon also recently expanded Home Services to offer more than 900 professional services, to 15 US cities.
Apple Maps shows TripAdvisor & Booking.com reviews
Edward Snowden in the President’s office
Phil Rozek published an interview with Bryan Seely in May 2015.
RIP old version of Google Maps
In 2013, Google previewed a new version of desktop Maps, and in April 2015, the original version was shut down for a new “lite mode” of Google Maps to replace it.
Google Mobile Friendly update released
Google’s Mobile-friendly search algorithm went live on April 21st, 2015. Following this, mobile results began to exclusively display search results that included ‘Mobile friendly’ classified sites.
Google unveils ‘Collections’ for Google Plus
After initial testing in April, Google rolled out the new Collections feature in early May 2015. The release foreshadowed news of a new Google+ in December, as a place for interests, ‘Communities’ and ‘Collections’.
Google suspends Map Maker till further notice
“Map Maker will be temporarily unavailable for editing starting May 12, 2015. We are terribly sorry for the interruption this outage might cause to your mapping projects. Please bear with us and plan your activities suitably.”
Google Maps list White House for offensive racial terms
Unrelated to the Map Maker suspension, if users searched for an offensive term in Google Maps, then they would be directed to the White House. This later affected Howard University also.
“Some inappropriate results are surfacing in Google Maps that should not be, and we apologize for any offense this may have caused. Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly.”
61% of mobile users more likely to contact a local business with a mobile site
Following the mobile friendly update we launched a survey to discover how consumer usage of mobile & mobile devices to find local businesses had changed:
- 38% have searched at least once per month for a local business
- 58% have searched for a restaurant on a mobile device
- 50% prefer a mobile internet browser to maps / apps
Yahoo announces decision to shut down Yahoo Maps
Yahoo confirmed that it was shutting down Yahoo Maps at the end of June. The announcement, which was made in a product report for 2015, also highlighted the closure of several other products, including Yahoo Pipes.
Yahoo gave up on Maps a long time ago, but they’re formally shutting it down, at long last. http://t.co/6dIEde4l5r
— David Mihm (@davidmihm) June 4, 2015
Bing makes significant improvements to Bing Maps
In July, Bing made several improvements to the Bing Maps Preview, including higher quality results, auto-suggestions, and a consistent search bar. Now users could enter their trip details & view an estimated drive time.
Google prepares to reopen Map Maker
Following spates of Google Maps vandalism, Map Maker was temporarily suspended in May 2015. However, by mid-July, Google had announced that it would be reopened for editing in early August. It was also announced that more community moderation would be employed to prevent further incidents.
Google begins testing sponsored Snack Packs
It was noted that Google had begun testing sponsored results for home services, after Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz spotted a test result for “plumbers” in San Francisco.
Yelp cements status in the mobile search space
In a quarterly report, Yelp’s number of mobile unique visitors surpassed those from desktop for the first time. “Consumers are increasingly turning to apps when using their mobile phones, and we are excited about the growth we’ve seen in app usage,” stated Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp.
Read more: SEW
Nokia sells HERE Maps FOR $3 Billion
A German consortium of car manufacturers (BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG & Audi AG) successfully bid $3 billion (€2.8 billion) for HERE Maps, which they use in their dashboard navigation systems. With Google already testing its own self-driving cars, the HERE acquisition was important to secure access to the detailed maps which will be required by smart vehicles of the future.
The Google 7 Pack becomes a 3 Pack
With the reduction of the 7 pack to a 3 pack, Google reduced the opportunity for local businesses overnight. The new display provided more opportunity for Organic results, and many saw the move as a push toward AdWords.
Google starts testing Organic results in Local Finder
Google started showing organic results in the Local Finder panel. The results were only related to the particular business being viewed, and often included competitors & directories.
92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses!
In August, BrightLocal published the Local Consumer Review Survey 2015:
- 92% of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014)
- 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews
- Only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating
Google unveils its new logo
Just 1 month after a major company restructuring (Alphabet), Google unveiled a playful new logo!
Updated App for Google My Business
Google updated the Android app of GMB, and promised an iOS app wouldn’t be far away. Amongst other features, the update brought the interface more in line with Google search and included an improved editor, greater visibility in Maps & search, and the ability to view closed listings.
Local Search drives more Clicks & Calls than any other marketing channel
In mid-September, BrightLocal published the findings from a survey designed to establish which marketing channels deliver the most clicks & calls:
- Local Search & Organic Search deliver the greater ROI than other digital marketing channels
- Local Search & Organic Search deliver highest quality leads
- Local Search delivers more clicks & calls than other marketing channels
Local Search Ranking Factors show links & user behavior grow in importance
Moz published their 2015 Local Ranking Factors study showing that behavioral / mobile factors had seen an increase in importance. The most significant movements year on year are represented below:
- Behavioral/Mobile Signals – 9.5% (+2.6)
- Link Signals – 20% (+1.7)
- Personalization – 8.5% (+0.1)
- External Loc. Signals – 13.6% (-1.9)
- Review Signals – 8.4% (-1.4)
- Social Signals – 5% (-0.8)
- On-page Signals – 20.3% (-0.7)
Stays the same
- My Business Signals – 14.7% (=)
Google My Business gets a makeover
GMB got an updated navigation to make it easier for users to access the primary features, and more straightforward to access multiple locations. Google introduced tabs for editing, photos, insights, and reviews.
Yahoo Local Listings move to Yext
Yahoo partnered with Yext in September & outsourced its local listings management. Now by visiting Yext, you could submit your claim for a business listing on Yahoo.
Amazon Echo offers local business information with Yelp
It was noted that Amazon Echo could use data provided by Yelp to give information about local businesses. After an initial voice search, the mobile app would also show search results that included Yelp star ratings.
Foursquare added as Apple Maps business listings supplier
It was noted by Andrew Shotland that Apple Maps had updated its Acknowledgements Page to include Foursquare as a business listings provider. Furthers signs that Apple continues to make steady improvements.
More changes to Google+
Google unveiled a new look Google+ that removed information such as business descriptions, reviews, videos, and photos. Based on feedback acquired by Google, the new Google+ is a place for ‘interests’, with an emphasis on its ‘Communities’ and ‘Collections’.
Google removes the ability to set your location in search
In late November, Google removed the function which enabled users to define their location before carrying out a search. Thankfully, many workarounds were soon established.
Facebook Professional Services ready to rial Yelp & Google
With the new Facebook Professional Services area, users are able to locate “local businesses and organizations with the best Facebook reviews and ratings”. Business categories include Spa, beauty & personal care, Event planning, Pet services, Medical & Health, Arts & Marketing, Automotive, and Business Services. A potential threat to Yelp & Google?
Google My Business API lets you create & edit locations in GMB
Now you can use the Google My Business API to create and edit locations in Google My Business. These locations can be used in Ads but need to be verified to be eligible to appear in Search and Maps.
89% of SEOs definitely expect to grow their business in the next 12 months
Towards the end of the year, BrightLocal published the Local SEO Industry Survey 2015:
- 89% of SEOs definitely expect to grow their business in the next 12 months
- The median SEO’s income is $50-60k per annum
- SEOs personally handle 14 clients on average
- The median company revenue is $150-250k per annum
Read more: BrightLocal
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