October 11, 2018 Last updated October 10th, 2018 1,655 Reads share

Will Local SEO Exist in 5 Years?

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If Search Engine Optimization was a kid, it would have gone through puberty about 4 times by now.

We’re not sure if what we’re looking at is beautiful… or a monster.

When it was a baby, it was so simple: keywords, keywords, keywords. Since then, it has gotten more intelligent and much more complicated. It’s still possible to manipulate search engines, and many SEO’s still make a great living doing just that. However, there have been countless who have metaphorically lost their shorts during algorithm updates.

One aspect of search engine optimization is called “Local SEO”, which is the specific process of helping local businesses get found in the Google “map pack”. It’s much different from traditional SEO, which puts its focus more on content and link-building, whereas Local SEO sets out to prove location, industry, and brand in a much more tangible way. This is done by building citations (directories, listings, etc), optimizing Google Business, procuring reviews, performing onsite optimization, etc. I won’t be getting into the mechanics of it, but here’s a Local SEO Guide that dives much deeper.

The question of where Local SEO will be down the road takes a quick look in the rearview mirror.

This is what the map pack looked like just a few years ago.


Then it looked like this.

Now it looks like this.

Sure, there’s still three slots available, but if you didn’t notice, the top spot is an advertisement. As if Local SEO’s didn’t already have enough trouble ranking in the three pack! Now, in some cases, it has become the two pack.

And it looks like this could be just the start. Google has also recently created a “Google Guaranteed”, purely paid section for certain markets.

If there’s one thing that we’ve learned, it’s that Google always keeps us on our toes. The silver bullet – the thing that works today, might not work tomorrow.

The Future of Local SEO

In short, the theme of the Local SEO game is “adapt or die”. You literally have to be able to drop long-established norms and processes when they are no longer viable. Just kill ’em off. This seems like obvious advice, but you’d be surprised to see many crappy PBN’s, crappy content pieces, and crappy sites still exist out there today.

I wish I had better news for you, but this is how things are, and how they’ll be.

Google has showed that they prefer brands as opposed to generic sites (see exact match URL’s). And if you didn’t know this already: Google is a profit-driven business. They want to bring the world’s info to your fingertips, but they also want that cheddar. This means that ads may play an even bigger part of the SERP’s soon. There could be more than three ads at the top of basic searches, more than one in the map pack, even ads in the image searches! This line of thinking also leads to the ultimate end of SEO – the first page of Google being 100% paid ads. Everything monetized. I don’t think this will happen in the next year or two, but with Google, anything is theoretically possible. They tend towards a game of attrition: slowly buying up assets and technologies that will keep people on Google for more and more things – users won’t even need to click to actual websites since it’s already in Google.

Off the top of my head, here are three things that Google has killed off, or are in the process of killing off:

  • Searching for flights – they now have their own tool
  • Simple queries, “How tall is Kevin Hart?” – it will simply spit out the answer
  • World times – no need to go to a tool or site, Google has the answer

Again, the answer is simple, yet it can be difficult to process. As with any business, pivoting is necessary. Sometimes big pivots. With your SEO business, you have to be able to turn on a dime and (just like Google) kill off systems and products that aren’t working anymore. Adaptation is the only constant.

Dan Christensen

Dan Christensen

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