Let me start out by saying I don’t really know Larry Kim. I have had a few conversations with him on Twitter. He seems like a smart, hard-working entrepreneur. I have never used his company, Wordstream, so I can’t really speak to anything about Larry or his service other than what I occasionally read on Twitter or what he publishes elsewhere. But some 2017 SEO predictions he published a few days ago kind of chapped my hide and I am in procrastination mode so I figured I might as well post a rant.
Here’s the prediction that got me:
5. We’ll Say Goodbye to Local SEO
Google Shopping (a.k.a. Product Search) used to be great. Then Google changed the game and Google Shopping became a 100 percent pay-to-play system.
The local SEO train has gone on for way too long. These are 100 percent commercial queries and Google’s next big land grab.
There’s no easy way to cushion the blow for my fifth SEO prediction for 2017, so I’ll just say it: local SEO as we’ve known it will die.
Google plans to make $5 billion from local search. So that means one thing: goodbye local organic packs.
I’ll caveat my reaction to this with the fact that I am clearly biased. About 60% of our revenue comes from business related to Local Search so we have a lot to lose if Larry’s prediction came true. Good thing that’s about as likely as that unicorn jumping off this page and farting a rainbow…
There’s no question that Google will continue to take over Local SERP real estate with more monetization and more Google-owned properties.
There’s no question that Local SEO will continue to get harder for many brands.
And there’s no question that many more brands will say “hello” to Local SEO in 2017 v. “goodbye”.
Ask any practitioner of Local SEO what their lead volume looks like in the first two weeks of January. I can’t say I have done a statistical study, but anecdotally everyone I have talked to says it’s off the charts. Over the past three years or so, Local SEO has seen an explosion in demand driven mostly by the inevitability of millions of local businesses gradually awakening to the realities of digital marketing – not to mention all of those digital marketers who have been blogging them into the market – Larry and yours truly included.
Now I am not above saying certain aspects of Local SEO are dying. See my last SEL column:
It may just be that the time of the “scalable” SMB SEO agency is finally ending;
But before we go all nail-in-the-coffin on Local SEO, let’s consider the following:
- Product Search went 100% pay-to-play a while ago and guess what? We still get site audit inquiries every month from ecommerce clients who are paying for Google Shopping. In fact, just this morning we fixed a technical SEO problem for an ecommerce client that will make a substantial impact on topline revenue.
- Yesterday we got an inquiry from a b2b company that has a consumer keyword in its business name and doesn’t want consumer inquiries from its GMB listing. How do you solve that with a paid ad?
- On Monday, we spoke with a large multi-location brand that had over 100 duplicate GMB listings and wanted someone to help fix the problem and come up with a strategy to use GMB more effectively to “help offset the cost of paid Google traffic”.
- This week, we have received multiple inquiries about our white label local seo service from agencies who all see this as a growth area for them in 2017 based on what they are hearing from their customers.
And that’s just the last few inquiries in our inbox.
As for Google increasing the monetization of Local SERPs, I think if you ask any Local SEO practitioner, they would probably say they welcome it. Not only does it give marketers an additional lever to pull in local marketing, it also signals that Google is actually investing in its Local service, something which is much needed.
I don’t begrudge Larry making some wild predictions. I am sure I have put some whoppers out there over the years. I even agree with some of Larry’s predictions and he does wrap up his post with an “all is great in SEO world” message which is always good to hear – see Lucky To Be In Local SEO! for my version of sunshine and rainbows. But it’s the absolutist nature of his call under the guise of expertise that ticks me off.
Perhaps Larry’s next prediction really shows what he’s up to:
6. Black Hat SEOs Will Create Fake Engagement