In the ever-evolving landscape of local search marketing. Staying ahead of the curve is crucial for businesses looking to maximize their online visibility and attract more customers. As we kick off the first quarter of 2024, it is important to take stock of the latest developments in local search. And how they can be leveraged to enhance your marketing strategy.

From algorithm updates to new features and best practices, keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and insights can make all the difference in driving traffic to your business and ultimately increasing your bottom line.

In this article, we will delve into the key insights and trends that are shaping local search in the first quarter of 2024. Providing you with the knowledge and tools you need to stay ahead of your competition.

Whether you are a small local business or a large enterprise. Understanding the latest developments in local search is essential for achieving success in today’s digital marketplace. So, let’s explore the top strategies and tactics that you can implement to ensure that your business remains at the forefront of local search marketing in 2024 and beyond.

The Significant Events

It is now the opportune moment to review the significant events in local search during the initial quarter of 2024. Following the tumultuous Q4 of 2023 in local SEO. The pace of developments has slightly slowed down, yet important updates have continued to emerge.

Gratitude is extended to all vigilant SEO professionals who diligently shared the latest news and noteworthy releases as they unfolded.

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 advancement marks a significant milestone achieved in the initial quarter. Joy Hawkins was one of the first to document that residents in her community were noticing substantial changes in the display of search engine results in the European Economic Area as opposed to North America.

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

Near Media has taken the initiative. To create a visual glossary in response to the significant changes brought about by Google in compliance with the Digital Markets Act. This act, which became fully effective in 2023. It requires designated “gatekeepers” such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Meta, ByteDance (TikTok), and Amazon to adhere to regulations by March 6, 2024.

Google, in particular, has introduced modifications to its search results page and features in the European Economic Area. Spanning various verticals including Local, Travel, Products, and Jobs.

This shift emphasizes the importance of understanding and adapting to these new search engine result pages (SERPs) for businesses operating in Europe or targeting European consumers.

For agencies with a vested interest in European local search. Investing in tools such as Nord VPN can provide valuable insights into overseas search experiences. While these changes may require additional effort on the part of SEO professionals to navigate differing search landscapes. The proactive measures taken by European regulators. Signify a commitment to upholding principles of anti-trust, privacy, and fairness in the digital marketplace.

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 screenshot displayed above showcases a tweet by JC Chouinard of TripAdvisor, highlighting the observation that mirror sites are successfully deceiving Google into recognizing them as legitimate platforms belonging to 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 there have been no updates regarding the issue, despite Google’s John Mueller indicating that he would escalate the report to the appropriate individuals. As highlighted by Barry Schwartz, the potential loss of traffic to suspected spammers is a significant concern.

I am particularly worried about the impact on ordinary individuals who rely on these websites for trip planning. The current situation is unsettling, as evidenced by reports from a recent call-in radio show where individuals believed they had booked vacations in the Mediterranean, only to discover upon arrival that no accommodations had been arranged and their funds had been taken.

It is evident that the online environment poses risks that must be addressed.

Speaking of scams, beware of callers impersonating Google and LSA competitors impersonating each other

3. Google Impersonators

According to a recent report by Sterling Sky, a staggering $40 billion was lost to phone scammers by approximately 70 million Americans in 2022. To safeguard yourself against potential scams, it is crucial to follow the recommendations outlined in their article and video.

It is common for scammers to impersonate Google and falsely claim issues with your Google Business Profiles. While Google may contact you directly, they will never request your banking information.

This trend of scams is not a recent occurrence. As highlighted in my previous coverage of the Irish locksmith listing scam, fraudulent activities are prevalent in today’s digital landscape.

As we navigate through the initial months of 2024, it is imperative to exercise caution when receiving any communication urging you to disclose financial or personal information. Prioritize critical thinking and refrain from taking immediate action.

4. Brand Impersonators

In the interim, according to Ben Fisher’s findings, those utilizing Google’s Local Service Ads program for lead generation should be mindful of the potential for listing hijacking techniques.

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

It is a matter of great concern that Google is designating participants in its paid advertising program as trusted providers, even though there is potential for malicious actors to exploit this system by linking two Local Service Ads to a Google Business Profile, leading to the disappearance of the legitimate entity.

The suggestion from Google representatives that affected businesses should create a new GBP from scratch is concerning, especially for brands that have spent years building a positive reputation and strong metrics for their listing. It is imperative that Google addresses this issue of trust promptly.

Any company resorting to unethical tactics to gain an advantage should not be allowed to serve the public or be labeled as “Google Guaranteed.” It is essential for the integrity of the platform to maintain high standards and hold all participants accountable for their actions.

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 latest findings, Google has implemented a new policy mandating that third-party ordering integrations must include a “remove provider link” for enhanced ease of deletion from your Google Business Profile. As articulated by Claudia Tomina, the procedure for eliminating intermediaries such as GrubHub and Doordash is not a novel concept, but the inclusion of this link marks a significant advancement in the process.

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 significance of this matter lies in the historical apprehensions surrounding the business practices of certain third-party ordering services. Local businesses have previously experienced unauthorized inclusion of their profiles on these platforms, causing distress. Any measures taken by Google to streamline the removal process for businesses unwilling to engage with third-party services are commendable steps towards progress.

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

Additionally, it has been observed by Glenn Gabe that Google has decided to reduce the scope of its third-party ordering service and shift focus towards alternative solutions. It can be inferred that the program did not meet the expectations of its creators, as evidenced by Google’s acknowledgment that “individuals typically favor finalizing their food orders on partner and merchant platforms.”

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 effectiveness in addressing the recent Google shutdown of millions of small businesses’ GBP websites. In my view, his proactive approach stands out as one of the most commendable responses to this situation.

Following the redirection of these sites to Google Business Profiles, there is a looming risk of complete loss unless affected business owners devise a strategic plan for replacement.

In my comprehensive analysis, I have outlined various options for free or affordable website builder programs, while also providing a detailed mockup of a robust one-page website. In contrast to merely offering advice, Darren has taken proactive steps by developing and launching a new product: a $1/month website solution.

This innovative offering serves as a valuable resource for individuals seeking a simplistic and cost-effective website provider. For those who prioritize local search optimization, Whitespark’s solution is highly recommended for those grappling with the loss of their GBP sites. I urge you to explore their offerings for yourself or your clients in need of a reliable replacement.

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.

Although X remains a disheartening sight, it remains my primary destination to keep abreast of my colleagues’ and peers’ research and writing endeavors. Occasionally, I am pleasantly surprised by valuable threads such as the one provided by Aaron Weiche, where he generously shares a plethora of conversion insights akin to a delectable serving of hotcakes.

Discover his wealth of expertise in:

  • Crafting compelling headlines
  • Leveraging social proof effectively
  • Optimizing form submissions
  • Creating authentic multi-media content
  • Mastering the art of texting

Concise and highly recommended for the enhancement of your business. Highly appealing!

GBP grab bag

8. Related categories nearby

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

Khushal Bherwani recently observed Google unveiling a new feature called “Related categories nearby,” which directs users to local stores that reportedly carry the desired product. While this concept is unfamiliar to me, it appears to be a novel addition to Google’s search capabilities, despite similarities to previous features. Thus far, I have not succeeded in replicating this particular search result.

9. Amenity mapping

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

I have comprehensive visual documentation available in this discussion regarding the breaking news initially brought to light by Sohan Jain. Your updated New Merchant Experience dashboard may now feature a card indicating the option to integrate an amenity map onto your website.

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

The product is available for a complimentary review, however, it is designed as a premium offering with the objective of empowering brands to curate bespoke maps showcasing tailored features for their target demographic. An illustration of this concept could be a hotel conglomerate creating maps highlighting local points of interest for visitors. This innovation heralds a promising advancement in the industry.

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 creates a Google Business Profile description. This tool could be of interest for experimentation, allowing users to see how accurately Google understands their business.

It could also be beneficial for business owners who may need help with a language they are not fully fluent in. However, it is essential for business owners to be able to effectively describe their own businesses in order to effectively execute a comprehensive local search content marketing strategy.

11. Review recency study

Please refer to the case study conducted by Sterling Sky, which highlights a strong correlation between the recency of reviews and fluctuations in rankings. The consistent research manage by this agency is greatly evaluate, with this particular study reinforcing the importance of continually generating new reviews for your Google Business Profile.

12. Make a GBP video for free

The landscape of organic search engine results pages is now control by video content, making it essential for businesses to incorporate short films into their Google Business Profile’s “images” section. To ensure completeness and maximize visibility, learn how to create compelling videos for your local business or clients using Canva.

In my detailed tutorial, I provide step-by-step instructions on how to produce a relevant content, compelling content and high-quality video content for free. Without the need for expensive equipment or professional design skills. With just a few photos and a business logo, you can easily enhance your online presence with engaging videos featuring music, text, and sound effects.

Embrace the power of video marketing and elevate your digital strategy. By leveraging this valuable resource to showcase your brand across various platforms. Now is the perfect time to capitalize on the growing demand for video content and elevate your online presence.

13. Social posts in GBP

Google may start displaying your social posts on your GBP

Regarding the social media content strategy, Stefan Somborac recently discovered an interesting update on Google’s ‘Manage Social Media Links’ page. It has been great that integrating your social media channels into your Google Business Profile (GBP) could potentially lead to increased visibility of your posts.

The ability to syndicate social content across various platforms is always a positive development. Therefore, it is endorse to take advantage of this opportunity. By adding your profiles to your listing through the New Merchant Experience, especially if this has not been done previously.

14. What YOU can do about Climate Change

90% of SEOs believe climate change will impact them

I am happy to share with you the latest industry survey conducted by Matt Tutt on Climate Change. Which has been produce on Search Engine Land. The survey reveals that 90% of SEOs believe Climate Change will have a personal impact on us.

Many individuals are already feeling the effects of Climate Change. With some experiencing devastating consequences. Such as flooding, wildfires, and extreme weather events that have damaged or destroyed businesses in their communities.

In response to these findings, some businesses have begun to make important operational decisions. Such as refraining from working with clients in the fossil fuel industry. Opting for sustainable alternatives to plastic at events, and transitioning to green hosting for clients. Matt’s survey highlights the numerous ways in which we can take action and make a positive impact on our environment. If we have the courage to speak out and lead by example.

I urge you to share this crucial survey with your colleagues, clients, friends, and family members. As we wrap up the first quarter of the year. I hope that your local business and clients are off to a successful start in the new year.

Please stay tune for the next installment of this quarterly series, which will be release in June. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

In Conclusion

The first quarter of 2024 has brought about notable advancements in the realm of local search. That present significant opportunities for businesses to refine their strategies and enhance their online visibility. From the increased emphasis on personalized search results to the growing significance of voice search and the evolution of augmented reality experiences. Staying abreast of these developments is paramount for organizations looking to maintain a competitive edge in the digital landscape.

By leveraging these key insights and incorporating them into their marketing strategies. Businesses can position themselves effectively to connect with their target audience, drive engagement, and achieve sustainable growth in the increasingly competitive online market.

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