If there’s one thing you need to know about search engine optimization (SEO), it’s this: nothing stays the same for long. For example, there were 11 confirmed and unconfirmed Google algorithm changes in 2020 alone. This statistic, of course, only takes into consideration the major changes that were easy to spot and widely discussed.
As a small business, SEO is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website and/or people into your store. On the flip side, consumers love the fact that they can quickly obtain accurate information by typing simple, relevant questions into Google. And because a lot has changed over the past 12 months in the search engine world, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic moving to the forefront, it’s critical to have a sound understanding of the trends that will take shape in the months to come.
Local SEO Trends to Watch in 2021
The trends you pay the most attention to are the ones that are likely to have the biggest impact on your business. For example, you may be most interested in local SEO trends that can help you boost sales revenue. Conversely, you may be tempted to follow the lead of other companies who have their eyes on trends that can drive traffic to their storefront, first and foremost.
While there’s no shortage of local SEO trends to guide you in 2021, these three are among the most powerful:
1. An Even Greater Focus on Search Intent
Search intent has been critical to SEO success for the past couple of years, and you can expect more of the same in 2021 and beyond. This is due in large part to Google’s BERT algorithm (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers).
With a combination of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML), BERT has made it easier for Google bots to interpret user intent. For you, this means one thing: websites with content-intent mismatches will struggle to move to the top of the search engine rankings.
Before you publish any content — from a blog post to a local guide — make sure it matches what visitors are looking for. However, while matching your content with searcher intent alone will improve your SEO results, it shouldn’t be the only action you take in your strategy journey.
2. The Use of Long-Tail Keywords
This has been a general SEO strategy for many years, but in 2021 you’ll begin to see more local businesses focusing on long-tail keywords. Through the use of long-tail, targeted keywords, you have the potential to connect with searchers who are ready to buy.
Take for example a pest control company in Los Angeles, California. In the past, the company focused solely on seed keywords, such as:
- Los Angeles pest control
- Pest control in Los Angeles
- Best pest control in LA
While this is a good start to a pest control SEO strategy, it leaves something to be desired. This “something” comes by way of long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume than seed keywords. However, the people searching long-tail terms are often more targeted and ready to take action.
Sticking with the example above, here are some long-tail keywords to consider in the same search:
- Pest control services in northern Los Angeles
- Insect and ant control in Los Angeles, CA
- Best rodent control companies in Los Angeles
It’s important to take your time when conducting keyword research, since that allows you to dig up the low competition, high-converting long-tail keywords.
3. An Understanding of the Customer Journey
Simply researching your local keywords, however, won’t produce results alone. It’s more complicated than that. You also must put yourself in the role of your customer and how they make their way to your site.
As you work on building an SEO strategy, you’ll find it easier to drive traffic when you have a customer journey map in place. This can help you answer questions such as:
- Where do your customers typically start their search?
- What types of search queries do they use?
- Is your target audience receptive to both organic and paid search?
In 2021—just the same as last year—expect a growing number of customer journeys to start with an internet search. Just in July of 2020 alone, 81% of people searched online for a product or service. This becomes especially important for local queries, since people understand that an online search is the quickest and most efficient way to find what they’re looking for.
If you’re the person in charge of local SEO at your company, you know how difficult it can be to beat your competition in the search engines. Along with this, you’re also faced with challenges in showing return on investment (ROI) to your manager, company owner, and/or investors among others. While there’s no magic pill for dominating local SEO and impressing your colleagues, an understanding of these growing trends can position you for success.