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Local SEO in 2015 – A year in review

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:

January | February | March | April | May | June

July | August | September | October | November | December

January 2015

January 7th

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:

internet marketing spend

  • 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

Read more: BrightLocal | SEL | WebProNews | Streetfight

January 12th

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

January 28th

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.

Bing Maps Super Bowl

Read More: SELBing | Microsoft News

February 2015

February 24th

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 My Business photo updates

Read more: Blumenthals | SEL | Imprezzio Marketing | Local Search Forum

February 24th

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.

Read more:  SEW | SEL | Blumenthals | Techcrunch

February 26th

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

March 2015

March 4th

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.

Read more: SEL | SEW | YP

March 11th

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.’

Read more: LSA | Screenwerk

March 12th

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:

quality local citations
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

Read more: BrightLocal | Location3

March 16th

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.”

Read more: Google | Local SEO Guide | Moz

March 30th

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.

Amazon Home Services rivals Google

Read more: SEW | CNBC | LSA Insider

April 2015

April 6th

Apple Maps shows TripAdvisor & Booking.com reviews

It was reported that Apple’s Maps app had started including reviews from not only Yelp, but also TripAdvisor & Booking.com on some hotel listings.

Read more: Apple InsiderSEW | SEL | Blumenthals

April 15th

Edward Snowden in the President’s office

He’s now Director at Freedom of the Press Foundation, but back in April Edward Snowden (or ‘Edwards Snow Den’) was officially in the White House…. according to Google Maps via Bryan Seely.

Phil Rozek published an interview with Bryan Seely in May 2015.

Edward Snowden in the White House
Edward Snowden in the White House

Read more: Marketing Land | The Verge | Local Search Forum

April 15th

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.

Read more: SEL | Blumenthals | SEW | SER | Google

April 21st

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.

Mobile friendly test

Read more: BrightLocal | Google | Local SEO Guide | Screenwerk | LSA Insider

April 23rd

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+ Collections

Read more: TWCN | SEO by the Sea | Blumenthals

May 2015

May 11th

Google suspends Map Maker till further notice

Following ‘Edwards Snow Den‘, and other incidents Google temporarily suspended Google Map Maker;

“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 suspends Map Maker

Read more: SEL | Tech News Today

May 20th

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.”

Read more: Washington PostSeely Security | Huffington Post

May 13th

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:

Mobile Optimized Site
BrightLocal Mobile Consumer Survey
  • 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

Read more: BrightLocal | Smart Traffic

June 2015

June 4th

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.

Read more: YahooSEL | BrightLocal

July 2015

July 7th

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.

Read more: BingSEL | SEW

July 13th

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.

Enrich Google Maps

Read more: Google | SEL

July 29th

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.

Read more: Blumenthals | @dr_pete

July 29th

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

August 2015

August 3rd

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.

Read more: SEL | Bloomberg | Nokia

August 6th

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 Local 3 Pack

Read more: Local Visibility System | Blumenthals | Integrated Digital Marketing | Imprezzio Marketing | Boostability | Local Search Forum

August 18th

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.

Read more: Blumenthals | @daveminchala

August 20th

92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses!

In August, BrightLocal published the Local Consumer Review Survey 2015:

Online Customer Reviews

  • 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

Read more: BrightLocal | Entrepreneur | Getgivestars


September 2015

September 1st

Google unveils its new logo

Just 1 month after a major company restructuring (Alphabet), Google unveiled a playful new logo!

New Google logo

Read more: Google | The Guardian | Techradar | Sim Partners

September 10th

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.

Read more: SEL | Blumenthals | GMB | SER

September 14th

Local Search drives more Clicks & Calls than any other marketing channel

Local Search drives Clicks and Calls
Local search delivers 23% of website traffic on average

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

Read more: BrightLocal | LSA Insider


September 24th

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:

Local ranking factors

More important

  • Behavioral/Mobile Signals – 9.5% (+2.6)
  • Link Signals – 20% (+1.7)
  • Personalization – 8.5% (+0.1)

Less important

  • 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% (=)

Read more: MozBrightLocal | SEW | Local U

September 29th

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.

Read more: Blumenthals (video guide) | Google | SEL  | Imprezzio Marketing

October 2015

October 10th

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.

Read more: Yahoo | The Search Marketing Shop

October 27th

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.

Read more: Marketing Land | Tech Times | Mashable | The Verge


November 2015



November 16th

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.

Read more: Apple Maps Marketing | Apple Insider

November 17th

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’.

The New Google+ Page
The New Google+ Page

Read more: Blumenthals | SEJ | Local SEO Guide | Google

November 30th

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.

Read more: Local SEO Guide | Blumenthals | Google

December 2015

December 9th

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?

Read more: Acodez | SEL | Screenwerk | LSA Insider

December 15th

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.

Google My Business API

Read more: GMB | Blumenthals | SEL | Sim Partners

December 22nd

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:

do you expect to grow

  • 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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Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.