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Predictions are cheap; strategic and tactical advice is much more valuable. To discover what leading local SEOs are thinking about in 2020, I asked a number of local experts to offer their top three recommendations or pieces of advice for colleagues this year.

I was curious if there was going to be any consensus advice. Beyond the fact that everyone needs to focus on Google My Business (and the repeated injunction to “test, test, test”) there really wasn’t any. The following four sets of recommendations, from GatherUp’s Mike Blumethal, Moz’s Miriam Ellis, RioSEO’s Krystal Taing and LocalSEOGuide’s Dan Leibson, illustrate the range of opinions and diverse tactics that constitute local SEO today.

Mike Blumenthal, GatherUp

Help your clients run better businesses. To do this you need to move from the tactical to the strategic in terms of your client relationship. The job that will earn you the most and return them the most is helping your clients find and keep customers. It isn’t just about getting reviews, for example, it’s about using reviews to stay in better touch with customers and to use the review data to help the client understand what they need to do to build a better business. 

Don’t waste your client’s money or your time. Be sure that the tactical efforts you are making are actually moving the needle. For example, structured citations have long been a staple of local SEO but rarely do they provide ongoing value or move your clients closer to their goals, and they are an unnecessary expense. Why waste their money and your time if that is the case. 

Test, test, test. There are lots of suggestions and “hacks” to improve ranking. Most of them are bunk, but if in doubt try and test them rigorously to see.

Miriam Ellis, Moz

Go deeper with local content. In the year ahead, pay attention to the many ways in which Google is getting to the point where they can offer a substantially customized local experience to each user, based on perceived intent. If it’s appropriate to your business model, I recommend lavishing extra care on photos, posts, and reviews, all of which Google increasingly understands and is displaying in new ways, like query carousels. And dive into rich snippet FAQs this year to expand visibility beyond local packs. 

Listings spam. Fight all of the listing spam that outranks you. Regularly
audit for the appearance of new spammers and report them.

Lessen your reliance on Google. Draw a line in the sand between Google as discovery conduit and Google as transaction controller. Depending on your industry, you may have to participate to a degree in Google’s encroaching lead-gen and LSA aspirations. But take every customer Google sends you and turn them into a keeper with exceptional face-to-face human experiences. Find ways to lessen your reliance on Google by developing real-world community and loyalty. 

Krystal Taing, Rio SEO 

Content: In order to be surfaced to a consumer at their time of need, you have to give them the information they’re looking for. Prioritize all aspects of content, from on-site to on-SERP to increase your findability in 2020.

Engagement: Don’t just listen but participate in the conversation about your brand in search, whether that’s via reviews, Q&A, chat and so on.

Conversion: Invest in driving consumers to do whatever it is you need them to do — buy, book, call, in GMB, on-page, or in-store.

Dan Leibson, LocalSEOGuide

Multi-location retail brands need to really focus on their websites. Their dev teams are likely pushing aggressively into modern (complicated) web frameworks. This is great news for SEOs as your job is critical to making this work right. But this is also bad news, as most local SEOs are likely unfamiliar with these types of challenges. I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with client/server-side rendering, React vs. Angular frameworks and all those fun things. It will help keep your skills relevant for years to come.

Be skeptical of GMB feature releases. It’s easy for SMBs to adopt new features as they roll out, but brands can be trapped if they’re going through significant efforts to implement a feature and then Google kills it — as they are known to do. This happened to me when I had a large brand that I helped integrate into the GMB chat feature, only to have their chat provider be excluded from the beta as Google migrated chat platforms. Thankfully, the vendor was able to get it resolved. But be warned.

Test, test, test. Search is something that is very context-specific. The specific businesses in your vertical, your geolocation all help create a unique fingerprint for your organization. While there may be lots of SEO advice that is applicable to various business types, don’t make any assumptions. Always be testing with your own sites before rolling out any big changes. It might save you or your client your jobs!

At SMX West, can’t miss local SEO sessions include Maps, Verticalization And Spam: What Local Search Marketers Need To Know and Google My Business: Optimizing Images, Content And Q&A For Ranking Visibility And Engagement.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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