I’ve now been at two conferences in the past week: SMX West and LSA16, which I programmed. There was a modest amount of local content at SMX West and LSA16 was all about location technology and market changes.
At SMX I moderated a session with Gib Olander of SIM Partners, Benu Aggarwal of Milestone Internet Marketing and Local SEO maven Andrew Shotland. That session was supposed to be about getting your location data into mobile and desktop maps. But it was really about the “local search ecosystem” and making sure that location data were correct and distributed across the internet.
At one of the SMX receptions, Andrew Shotland and I had a discussion about how “local SEO” was now something out an outdated concept — the idea of boosting your position on the Google SERP/snack pack. Given all the changes in the market, as well as those on the near-term horizon, what we’re really talking about now is something more like “data optimization.”
The difference between that idea and older notions of “the local data ecosystem” is that more fields, more markups and more data will be required in the future to “answer user questions” and complete tasks (e.g., bookings).
At LSA I discussed this concept in my interview with Google’s Chandu Thota and in several other sessions. In particular the session “Virtual Assistants and A.I. Will Change Search – Forever,” discussed how voice UIs, artificial intelligence, predictive search, virtual assistants and new devices (e.g., Amazon Echo) were changing the nature of the search experience.
The session featured Kelly Thomas from Microsoft, Manpreet Singh from TalkLocal, Ron Braunfeld from Pingup and Tim Tuttle from MindMeld. If you had been there you would have come to the unavoidable conclusion that it’s increasingly foolish for marketers to focus so much attention on “ranking” in local search results. That remains an important source of traffic; however multi-location enterprises, agencies and those that manage marketing for small businesses need to consider the myriad “search” experiences and devices that are coming.
There are devices with no screen and no “SERP” in the traditional sense, such as Amazon Echo, which provides local search results. There will also be many new screens to contend with — the connected car and VR.
Therefore, as “search” migrates to a range of devices devices and new contexts, and as virtual assistants/voice search gain more adoption, users will be increasingly seeking specific answers or recommendations and transactional capabilities. Mobile devices and mobile search are inherently more transactions oriented.
The notion of a “list of links” is increasingly archaic, including for Google.