When most of us need information, the first place we head to is the internet, and usually that means a search on good old Google. In order to be found in a highly crowded marketplace, every business needs a professional and relevant website – regardless of whether or not you have a bricks and mortar presence, your website is the foundation of your business and it supports your digital marketing tactics.

Not too long ago, any Google search for goods and services would immediately throw up a pack of local businesses who had the credentials the searcher was looking for. But in more recent years, Google stopped being the fairy godmother who gave away those gifts of rankings, traffic and conversions to websites. These days, local businesses are facing challenges with the plethora of mobile changes thrown at them, coupled with layers of Google-owned interfaces such as Google Knowledge Panel and constant updates to Google algorithms.

Some recent but very key developments from Google have impacted the search engine results pages (SERPs) of Google queries with local intent, shrinking the number of generous SERPs available to local businesses – even if you are exactly what the searcher is looking for. These key developments are:

  1. Zero-click mobile SERPs – according to a report by Rand Fishkin, a staggering 61% of mobile searches result in no clicks at all. The implication here is that Google is succeeding at solving searcher’s queries in the SERP itself, before any click takes place. On mobile, Google works very hard to be an answer engine rather than just displaying a list of search results.
  2. Paid ads are encroaching on more relevant local results – sure your search might include the location of the business you’re looking for, but have you noticed that many of the results you’re served up don’t actually have a presence in your area? That’s because Google is serving up some paid ads along with a few relevant results, and those paid ads don’t always align with your search intent.
  3. Your branded SERPS may be working against you. When someone does a search that is specifically for your brand, your Google Knowledge Panel should pop up to the right of the screen (and if you don’t have the right credentials in place for this to happen, you’re missing out, so make sure you contact us now!). Here’s what the top bit of ours looks like:

But even in your knowledge panel, Google is promoting other businesses with it’s “people also searched for” section:

Depending on the competitive nature of your business, Google may also allow your competitors to directly advertise at the top of your Knowledge panel.

  1. Local businesses consider Google to be their ‘homepage’. Because your Google Knowledge Panel contains basic information about your business, searchers can grab your contact information, see your hours of operation, read reviews, ask questions and get directions – so the user may be fully satisfied with the information they see without the need to click through to your website.

So, what does all of this mean for local businesses and is it important any longer for a local business to actually have a website in 2019? Well….it all has a significant impact on how successful your online marketing efforts will be, but the short answer is – yes, it’s still highly important to have a website in 2019. One of the reasons for this is that there is a very strong correlation between organic and local rank – so if you have a functional website with lots of relevant content, you’ll organically rank well, and that will help your local pack rank.

The key takeout here is that your website needs to be a strong one. This means that it combines the technical basics with excellent usability, relevant content, on-site optimisation and publicity. Do your keyword research and don’t forget about those all-important internal links.

What’s required is a single, integrated approach to researching, writing, and publishing the website. No more stuffing keywords into a tag or a page’s content – rather, the focus has shifted to building topical authority in the eyes of search engines by becoming an authoritative resource for your consumer demographic. The more closely you are able to reflect customers’ needs in every possible component of your website, the more relevant your website becomes.

Building authority relies on many things, not the least of which is external link building (watch this space for a new blog on this very topic coming soon). The best local links usually result from real-world relationship-building, and natural link opportunities can arise just from being active in your local community (think sponsorships, event participation, online news, blogs and business associations).

A great way to start is to check out your high-ranking local competitors and take a close look at what they’ve done to build an external link profile.

We understand that creating a great website from scratch can be challenging as it needs time, effort, and of course, the skills and expertise. It’s always best to hire a team of experts who can dedicate the time and skills needed to create an awesome website for you while you run your business. Broadcast SEO has the right skills and experience to develop and optimise your website, making sure that you rank high in searches. If you need a hand with your website, check out some of our work here or contact us for a chat.