The Transition from ‘Local SEO’ to Location Data Optimization

virtual assistant

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At one of the SMX receptions, Andrew Shotland and I had a discussion about how “local SEO” was now something out an outdated concept — the idea of boosting your position on the Google SERP/snack pack.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.

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3 Responses to “The Transition from ‘Local SEO’ to Location Data Optimization”

  1. Gib Olander says at

    Greg, I could not agree more about the importance of distributing location data across the search ecosystem. One of the biggest challenges brands face is, how to do so? I’ve long advocated that businesses avoid embracing a paid inclusion model it’s not scalable and doesn’t create a foundation for all the other incredible location based marketing opportunities that are emerging. I’m a big proponent of creating a network effect by focusing on building relationships with a smaller group of high-impact “data amplifiers,” which consist of data aggregators such as Infogroup, Localeze and publishers such as Google and Foursquare that share a brand’s location data where & when people conduct near me searches. The data amplifiers are really calling the shots when it comes to distributing location data. BTW I contributed to an ebook on location data management, in which data amplifiers are discussed, for anyone who wants to dig into the topic more  As always looking forward to participating in future panels with you.

  2. Jeffrey Magner says at

    Similar sentiments were echoed yesterday at Searchfest in Portland. The snack pack is dwindling down to a disappearance of local rankings and it’s evolving really fast. How far we’ve come from that failed carousel experiment. Wow, the AI world is coming fast! Rumblings such as this tend to precede major shifts in Local. Crossing my fingers that this next one is a good one.

  3. Greg Sterling says at

    AI and much more sophisticated ranking variables may render traditional SEO techniques ineffective (e.g., backlinks).

  4. Online Marketing Strategy & Online Customers | Round-up says at

    […] Are the days of searching without a results page quickly approaching? While virtual assistants like Siri have provided results to voice search for years, devices without a screen (i.e., Amazon Echo) also serve local results to its audiences in a very untraditional fashion. Maximizing brand exposure on newer platforms will likely be made possible through concise data optimization that caters to voice search and local mobile users, writes Greg Sterling. […]

  5. Radio – Influencer Marketing says at

    […]… […]

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