In today’s digital age, the importance of local search cannot be overstated. With the majority of consumers turning to search engines to find local businesses and services, it’s crucial for businesses to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in local search. As we enter 2024, the landscape of local search is constantly evolving, with new developments and trends emerging at a rapid pace.

In this article, we will break down the top 14 local search developments that have been making waves since the start of 2024.

From advancements in local SEO to changes in consumer behavior, we will delve into the key factors that are shaping the local search industry. Whether you’re a small business owner looking to increase your online visibility or a marketer looking to stay ahead of the curve, this article will provide you with valuable insights and updates on the latest local search developments.

So let’s dive in and explore the top 14 developments that are revolutionizing the way businesses connect with their local audience.

An Opportune Moment

It is now an opportune moment to get up to speed on the prominent occurrences in local search during the initial quarter of 2024. The pace of advancements has somewhat subsided since the exceptionally eventful fourth quarter of 2023 in the realm of local SEO, yet significant updates have persisted.

We extend our genuine gratitude to all the vigilant SEO professionals who promptly disseminated the news and notable releases as they transpired.

1. Ch-ch-changes in European local SERPs

Tweet showing local SERP in Europe beginning with a feature labled "Places Sites" instead of with a local pack

The recent developments in local search engine result pages (SERPs) across the European Economic Area compared to North America have emerged as a significant topic in Q1. Among the first to report on this matter was Joy Hawkins, who highlighted the observations made by her esteemed forum members regarding notable variations in the presentation of local SERPs.

These findings hold great importance and warrant thorough analysis in order to comprehensively understand the implications of these changes.

Another screenshot showing how Places Sites are appearing in Europe but not North America.

Near Media has gone to great lengths to produce a visual glossary in order to help us comprehend the significance of the new elements at play. Their diligent coverage of Google’s response to the Digital Markets Act, which has been fully implemented since 2023, deserves commendation.

For a comprehensive demonstration, I encourage you to watch their informative video.

According to Near Media’s reports, the Digital Markets Act designates six companies, namely Google, Microsoft, Apple, Meta, ByteDance (TikTok), and Amazon, as “gatekeepers”. These entities are expected to comply with the Act’s requirements by March 6, 2024. Compliance entails refraining from exhibiting any preferential treatment towards their own products or services over those of third-party competitors.

Has Introduced Modifications

Consequently, Google has introduced modifications to its search results page and implemented new search features across various sectors such as Local, Travel, Products, and Jobs, exclusively for the European Economic Area spanning 27 countries.

This development has noteworthy implications for businesses operating solely in Europe or globally with a presence in the region. It is crucial to thoroughly examine these new search engine results pages (SERPs) to gain insight into the search experience of European consumers.

Near Media continues to be an invaluable resource, providing early reports on the impacts of these changes. Additionally, Mike Blumenthal offers a valuable tip for North American agencies that heavily rely on European local search: consider investing in the Nord VPN to gain firsthand experience of overseas search.

The proactive stance of European regulators in addressing concerns surrounding anti-trust, privacy, and fairness is a positive development. However, it also means that SEO professionals will now have to invest additional effort into studying markets that offer disparate search experiences.

2. Also in Europe… travel site hijinx

The URL of a mirror site reveals that it does not actually belong to the travel brand it is imitating.

The aforementioned image originates from a tweet shared by JC Chouinard, an esteemed representative of TripAdvisor, wherein he brings to light the emergence of mirror websites effortlessly deceiving Google into recognizing them as genuine platforms associated with prominent brands within the travel industry.

A representative from Trip Advisor reports this mirror site issue to a Google rep

JC Chouinard has informed me that he has not received any further updates regarding this matter, despite Google’s John Mueller’s assurance of passing on the report to the appropriate individuals. According to Barry Schwartz’s report, it is uncertain how much traffic is being lost to potential spammers, and this raises concerns about the potential consequences for regular users who rely on these websites to plan their trips.

The current situation does not appear favorable. Recently, while listening to a call-in radio show, I came across instances where individuals believed they were booking vacations in the Mediterranean, only to discover upon arrival that no accommodations had been arranged and their money had already been taken. This raises significant apprehension about the risks associated with online platforms.

In relation to fraudulent activities, exercise caution when receiving calls from individuals falsely claiming to be representatives of Google, as well as when encountering instances where competitors of Local Service Ads (LSA) attempt to deceive one another.

3. Google Impersonators

According to a report by Sterling Sky, a staggering $40 billion was lost to phone scammers in 2022 alone, affecting approximately 70 million Americans. To safeguard yourself effectively, it is imperative to follow the guidelines provided in their informative article and video.

It is highly probable that you may encounter deceitful calls from scammers posing as representatives from Google, often asserting issues with your Google Business Profiles. Although it is plausible for Google to contact you, it is crucial to bear in mind that they will never request your banking information.

This is not an isolated occurrence but rather an ongoing concern. Last year, I highlighted the deceptive tactics employed by scammers, such as the Irish locksmith listing scam.

With the first quarters of 2024 underway, it is essential to maintain a skeptical approach towards any form of communication, be it calls, texts, or messages, which prompt you to undertake financial transactions or disclose your personal or business particulars. It is imperative to pause and reflect before taking any action.

4. Brand Impersonators

Concurrently, according to the findings by Ben Fisher, it is imperative for those engaged in the Google Local Service Ads program for lead generation to exercise caution in light of this recently discovered method of unauthorized listing acquisition.

Scammers in Google's LSA program have found a new tactic, described in the text that follows this image.

The fact that Google is designating participants in its paid advertising program as trusted providers, despite the potential for malicious individuals to exploit this system and connect two Local Service Ads to a Google Business Profile, resulting in the disappearance of legitimate entities, remains a grave concern.

The advice provided by Google representatives, suggesting that affected businesses start anew with an entirely fresh GBP, is highly detrimental, particularly for brands that have dedicated years to establish a strong reputation through their listing’s positive metrics.

It is my sincere hope that Google addresses this significant issue of trust promptly. Any company willing to employ such tactics to gain an advantage should not be entrusted with serving the public, nor should they hold the distinction of being labeled as “Google Guaranteed”.

5. In better news, third-party ordering services must now facilitate removal via a link

In better news, third-party ordering services must now facilitate removal via a link

According to Barry Schwartz’s findings, Google has recently mandated that third-party ordering integrations must incorporate a “remove provider link” feature, facilitating the effortless elimination of these integrations from your Google Business Profile. Claudia Tomina further elucidates that while the procedure for removing intermediaries such as GrubHub and Doordash is not novel, the introduction of this link is indeed a fresh development.

A tweet clarifies that removal of these third party ordering companies existed before, but that the link requirement is new, as described in the text of this piece.

The historical apprehensions surrounding the business practices of certain third-party ordering services render this information particularly significant. Previously, local businesses encountered instances where their profiles were unexpectedly affiliated with these brands, seemingly without proper authorization.

Any measure undertaken by Google to streamline the process of dissociation from a third-party, when a local business expresses a lack of interest in collaboration, signifies a commendable progression.

A tweet shares that Google is ending its experiment with online restaurant ordering.

Furthermore, it has come to light that Google has made the decision to curtail its third-party ordering service, as highlighted by Glenn Gabe. This strategic move involves redirecting users to alternative platforms for their ordering needs. It is evident that the program did not achieve the anticipated level of success, as indicated by Google’s candid acknowledgment that “individuals tend to exhibit a preference for finalizing their food orders on partner and merchant websites.”

6. Best solutions for the GBP site shutdown

A tweet confirms that Google Business Profile sites no longer exist and are now redirecting temporarily to listings.

Darren Shaw has demonstrated exceptional responsiveness and commendable action in response to Google’s decision to shut down numerous small business GBP websites in March. In my personal opinion, he has provided the most effective approach to this situation.

It should be noted that these websites will initially redirect to Google Business Profiles for a limited period, after which they will be permanently lost unless affected business owners devise a comprehensive plan to replace them.

In an extensive piece that I have crafted, I have thoroughly explored a range of options for free or affordable website builder programs. Furthermore, I have included a well-designed sample of a robust one-page website.

However, it is worth highlighting that Darren has gone a step further by taking the initiative to develop and launch an alternative solution: a remarkably affordable website offering priced at just $1 per month. If you are seeking a straightforward and cost-effective website provider, I highly recommend exploring the offerings provided by Whitespark.

Their profound understanding of local search makes them an excellent choice for you or your clients who have unfortunately lost their GBP websites.

7. One of the best threads I saw this quarter

A twitter thread of tips for conversions, described in the text that follows this image.

Despite its continuously appalling nature, X remains the primary platform I frequent in order to stay updated on the research and written works of my colleagues and peers. Occasionally, amidst this disheartening environment, there emerges a remarkable discussion, such as the one initiated by Aaron Weiche, wherein he generously imparts a wealth of conversion advice akin to a delectable serving of hotcakes. I urge you to peruse his invaluable insights on the following topics, which reflect his extensive expertise:

  • Crafting compelling headlines
  • Establishing social proof
  • Optimizing form submissions
  • Incorporating authentic multi-media elements
  • Leveraging the power of texting.

8. Related categories nearby

A screenshot of a new local SERP features labeled "related categories nearby"

Khushal Bherwani has observed that Google has introduced a recently discovered functionality termed as “Related categories nearby,” which conveniently directs users to local retail stores that supposedly stock the desired product. While this is a novel finding for me, it appears to be reminiscent of previous features. Regrettably, I have not yet been successful in duplicating this outcome.

9. Amenity mapping

A screenshot of the new custom amenity maps you can build via a new features of the New Merchant Experience dashboard.

This thread provides comprehensive visual evidence pertaining to the news initially covered by Sohan Jain. Within your New Merchant Experience dashboard, you will now find an additional feature labeled as “Incorporate amenity map into your website.”

A screenshot of how this feature is located below the main icons in the New Merchant Experience.

The product in question presents itself as complimentary for initial exploration, but upon closer examination, it becomes evident that it is indeed a paid offering. Its primary objective revolves around empowering brands to construct personalized maps showcasing solely the pertinent characteristics for their specific target audience.

To illustrate, a hospitality conglomerate could create maps highlighting nearby points of interest for tourists. This noteworthy advancement warrants attention.

10. AI-generated business descriptions

The New Merchant Experience now includes a button labeled "suggest description" that uses AI to generate a description.

Credit goes to Elizabeth Rule for discovering this button that automatically generates a descriptive profile for a Google Business account. It presents an intriguing opportunity to explore how Google perceives our individual profiles and may prove particularly useful for business owners who require assistance in articulating their offerings in a dominant language they are not fully fluent in.

However, it is expected that most business owners possess the capability to concisely depict their enterprises, as this skill is fundamental for a comprehensive local search content marketing strategy.

11. Review recency study

Please peruse the case study conducted by Sterling Sky, which has successfully established a positive correlation between the recency of reviews and shifts in ranking. I sincerely admire the consistent research endeavors undertaken by this esteemed agency, and this particular study further reinforces the preeminent strategy of consistently garnering fresh influxes of reviews for your Google Business Profile.

12. Make a GBP video for free

The organic search engine results pages (SERPs) are now predominantly filled with video content. To ensure the completeness of your Google Business Profile’s “images” section, it is essential to include at least a couple of short films.

In this comprehensive tutorial that I have authored this quarter, I provide step-by-step instructions on how to create a professional-quality video using Canva. The best part is, you can access this tutorial for free. You don’t need to possess an expensive smartphone, advanced technology, or even professional design skills.

With just six high-quality photos and your business logo, you can generate compelling video content enriched with music, text, and sound effects. This content can be seamlessly incorporated into your listing, website, social media platforms, and even a dedicated YouTube channel.

Considering the current trend, video content has never been more influential. Therefore, it is imperative to seize this opportunity and make use of this tutorial to enhance your online presence. Prepare to embark on this exciting journey without further delay if you have been eagerly awaiting the perfect moment to dive into video production!

13. Social posts in GBP

Google may start displaying your social posts on your GBP

Regarding your social media content strategy, Stefan Somborac has recently discovered an intriguing update on Google’s ‘Manage Social Media Links’ page. It has come to light that incorporating your social media channels into your GBP (Google Business Profile) may lead to the visibility of your posts on this platform.

The prospect of syndicating social content across various platforms is always a positive development. If you have not yet availed yourself of this opportunity in the past, today is an ideal occasion to enhance your listing by including your profiles through the New Merchant Experience.

14. What YOU can do about Climate Change

90% of SEOs believe climate change will impact them

I would like to conclude by highlighting the utmost significance of Matt Tutt’s recent industry survey on Climate Change, which has been published on Search Engine Land. An astounding 90% of SEOs firmly believe that Climate Change will have a direct impact on our lives.

Many of us have already witnessed the devastating effects firsthand, witnessing the destruction and damage caused to our clients’ businesses due to flooding, wildfires, and severe storms. Some agencies have taken proactive measures by refraining from collaborating with clients in the fossil fuel industry, adopting sustainable alternatives to plastic at conferences, or securing environmentally-friendly hosting for their clients.

Matt’s survey uncovers a multitude of further actions that we can undertake if we possess the courage to voice our concerns and become the catalysts for change in our cherished world. I implore you to share this crucial survey with your colleagues, clients, friends, and family.

As we wrap up the first quarter, I extend my best wishes for a successful start to the new year for your local business and clients. I invite you to check back in June for the subsequent installment of this quarterly series.

In Conclusion

The first half of 2021 has already seen significant developments in local search, from Google’s core algorithm updates and new features to important changes in consumer behavior. As businesses continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape of local search, it is crucial to stay informed and adapt your strategies accordingly.

By keeping an eye on these top developments and remaining proactive in your approach, you can set your business up for success in the local search arena. So keep an eye out for future developments and continue to refine your local SEO tactics to stay ahead of the competition.

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Moreover, if you looking for a Local SEO and Marketing Company to help you rank locally, we at Brian Zenarosa Digital can help you out. Book a discovery call today.