Amanda Jordan: What Local SEO Demands Now

Covid sparked a massive digital transformation among small businesses and multi-location brands alike. But for those who adapted early in 2020 and may have hoped to regain a sense of normalcy by now, the pandemic has instead supplied an endless series of demands for change.

Amanda Jordan is a local SEO expert and the director of local search at Locomotive, an enterprise technical SEO agency. Street Fight connected with Jordan to assess how this second year of Covid is affecting SEO, what SEOs should be doing to master local search, and what’s on the cutting edge of the discipline.

Below are Jordan’s takeaways: all direct quotes edited for clarity and length.

Covid makes data difficult to read

It’s hard to even look at the data as an SEO [these days]. It makes it hard to compare your data — why traffic loss might be there. Is it one of these updates Google has been doing lately or is it related to changes in customer behavior?

Covid affects each industry differently

It’s really important that you consider how what’s going on is going to impact your specific industry. If you are a company that does home healthcare, you may have fewer people willing to have someone come in and sit with their parent … because they have concerns about their family members getting coronavirus.

Make sure that any questions someone has about that, you can answer not only on your website but also on your Google My Business listing.

SEO isn’t just about getting customers

I have a massive home healthcare client who has recovered very well from a drop in leads due to coronavirus, but now they’re suffering a drop in caregivers available. Now, our SEO efforts are focused on helping them rank for terms related to caregiver jobs. Not only did they have to pivot — we had to pivot.

How local SEO publishers have performed during Covid

Google has done a good job of addressing having the ability to say masks are required or extra cleaning is being done — things like that in GMB panels. I wish all those attributes had been there from the start, but I understand that’s something that takes some planning. Google did an OK job.

Some of those features, I hope they stay — like no-contact delivery, curbside pickup, and other attributes in the GMB panel. Those helped a lot of companies innovate because they had to adapt to the situation. The attributes have also made it easier for consumers to get information.

The Covid era lessons that will endure

Convenience to customers is a huge deal. Curbside pickup is great, and companies are seeing new, or different, types of business from that. The more businesses can accommodate how things have changed, the better off they will be.

The most important features were more custom attributes in GMB based on the situation. I would love to see growth in the Google product section and GMB in services as well. They can be built out a lot more and have a lot of useful information for people before they even get to the site. There’s not a lot of information out there for businesses to understand how to use [those attributes and features].

If anyone wants to see a good example, Target does a really good job with their GMB profile. They have products listed there.

Zero-click search is an opportunity

This reminds me of the featured snippet conversation all over again. These are just featured elements — with products and services, especially, you choose what pops up for GMB. I think it’s most beneficial for businesses to use it. Products and services can be useful for sharing information, and you can link to the site.

I’d do a competitor analysis for my industry and see what features people are using. WhiteSpark has a great tool for that called the GMB Explorer. That’s a good way to see if competitors are using [Google’s new features].

Third-party data will play a bigger role in Google search

We’ll see a lot more third-party data on Google. They’re already doing it. That’s why you should pay attention to what’s going on on third-party sites. If that information is incorrect and Google puts it in your Knowledge Panel, you’re in a bad spot. Any major industry or local site, you should make sure your information is up to date there.

A lot more social media information is also showing up in organic search results and in the GMB panel. The future on Google will be almost like a tiny landing page for brands. Search results for local will be more robust.

Data science is powering the cutting edge of local search marketing

Agencies headed in the data science direction are doing great. Agencies that do a lot of A/B testing, agencies trying to figure out the CTRs for different elements in GMB panels — those are the people on the cutting edge. People working on understanding intent and building the relationship between the content on their sites and the GMB panel, too.

What differentiates how SMBs and enterprises approach search

Small and medium-sized businesses have an opportunity to pivot and meet the needs of the time better than enterprise-level businesses because they don’t have as much red tape. Then again, enterprises have more funding and are likely able to do things like curbside pickup and delivery much faster than a smaller business. They my also be able to do it in-house instead of outsourcing it.

The best thing enterprises can do right now is have consistent messaging across the brand and be very responsive to reviews on Google.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018 and compiled the daily newsletter since 2016. Joe is a journalist who has written widely about technology, business, and politics. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.