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Learn the trends and factors impacting the local ecosystem and ways brands can deliver an engaging experience for local customers.Local is no longer just about listings, but also about omnichannel engagement and experience. Consumers today expect a personalized experience and engagement with local businesses via digital storefronts.

Brands must focus on providing quality interactions and relevant information to gain the trust of local consumers.This article will cover local trends that search marketers must understand and implement in 2023, as well as insights from industry leaders Greg Sterling and Mike Blumenthal, co-founders of Near Media, Joy Hawkins, Founder of Sterling Sky, and Dixon Jones, CEO of inLinks.

Local trends and factors impacting the local ecosystem

Consumers are shifting away from in-store purchases and toward online shopping. Nonetheless, 49% of consumers prefer to buy from businesses with a local presence.Google is also focusing on providing a fantastic online shopping experience and connecting shoppers with a variety of local businesses.Local retail resurgence is one of the top trends that will continue to evolve in 2023.

As consumer purchasing behavior shifts, the need for high-quality, relevant content assets – from videos to real-time reviews and messaging options for consumer interaction – has emerged as a must-have local tactic for 2023.

Complex customer journey and touchpoints

Local represents up to 40% of organic traffic for location-based businesses.  But the customer journey for local search is far from linear, encompassing various touchpoints and stages.As a marketer, it is critical to think through all the stages and touchpoints, stitch data across multiple channels and then create the best customer experience possible. 

Connecting various systems, from awareness to advocacy, is challenging but needs to be thought through to ensure a consistent omnichannel experience.  

Images and videos are very  important.

Local search is evolving to become more visual and interactive.TikTok, according to Sterling, has evolved into an experiential search engine, and Google views the social platform as a competitor.Younger audiences prefer TikTok to Google because they want a visual experience.

Google SVP Prabhakar Raghavan previously stated that younger audiences use Instagram and TikTok to find peer-reviewed shopping and dining recommendations, completely bypassing Google Search and Maps.Visuals are important for other reasons as well.Blumenthal discovered in a study that images occupy 36% of mobile SERPs. Hawkins stated that custom images on Google Posts resulted in four times the conversions of stock photography.

This means that marketers must stop relying on stock photos. Instead, on Google Business Profile, use original high-quality images and videos for each product or category (GBP).Google uses artificial intelligence to recognize entities, objects, logos, facial expressions, and sentiments in images. Images of the same object can be interpreted differently.

Validating the quality and relevance of your images using Google’s Vision API to see what it understands the image to be is a good practice.Google’s AI algorithm rejects images deemed too racy, which may be false positives, but it is still critical for marketers to understand the distinction.

Invest in high-quality images and centralize all photos to help establish quality scores based on image quality, relevancy, and entities for each image to achieve better results.

Videos can deliver relevant traffic. Yet, most businesses are not leveraging them in their marketing strategy.

Since video search is localized (based on the searcher’s location and the device they are using), video results can change. Once a video is clicked, it takes you directly to a website. 

Darren Shaw of Whitespark shared how adding video to your GBP can significantly increase engagement and drive more traffic.

So to build solid discovery traffic, consider creating videos about:

  • Your company.
  • Your services and products.
  • What to expect. 
  • Customer testimonials. 
  • FAQs.  

Hawkins shares that simply adding discoverable videos can surge your traffic and help you secure quality traffic from channels like Google Discover. 

A prime example is Instagram and TikTok, which got massive attention in 2022. Consumers preferred going to Instagram and TikTok to find restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.

Social media directly influences decisions based on experience factors through videos and images. 

Reviews Will Make You or Break You

Reviews and ratings are used by searchers to make purchasing decisions. Reviews also play a critical part in Maps. However, as fraudulent activities increase, algorithms must enforce stringent guidelines.

In addition, there is growing concern about missing reviews. Google has issued clear guidelines for qualitative reviews, as well as explanations for why reviews can be flagged and removed. While businesses are encouraged to solicit feedback, Blumenthal observed that missing reviews are more common with newer listings. As a result, it’s a good idea to ask for reviews gradually.

Local businesses must provide useful content.Because it addresses low-quality content and spam issues, the helpful content update should be a top priority for every marketer and business.Accessible, relevant, and fresh content is the golden key to success for location-based businesses. Ryan Levering, a Google Software Engineer, emphasizes the importance of making sure your content is crawlable and relevant.

We’ve seen a significant increase in discovery traffic since incorporating location-based events with schema or FAQs. It is critical to assess current content and scores that perform well and poorly.