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.
Sad Unicorn
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





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26 Response Comments

  • Jason Brown  January 12, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    So prediction was just disproved by Mike Blumenthal’s post today about GMB testting Website Builder via GMB. I have a niche where shopping can not replace the local search. Just my 2 cents.

  • Tim Coleman  January 12, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    If you’re a plumber in san jose or san diego it feels like Local SEO has been dead for about 6 months. Or at least in a coma. Worst thing there is pay to play is invite only, can you believe it?

    But even in those cities Adwords doesn’t show and we know for sure that’s not going away.

    Google is constantly testing.

    One thing that will not die is that small businesses will need professional help from Search Marketers. Just keeping up is a full time job in this space.

    That’s why I read blogs like this one 🙂

      • David Rodecker  January 13, 2017 at 9:48 am

        Yup, ungainly is certainly one way to describe it. Nevertheless, sources point to a widespread rollout of GHS this year. They’re working to perfect the UX, availability, process and revenue model in select categories. For those affected, it is a tectonic shift.

  • Heckler  January 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Obviously local is changing, but saying it’s ‘Dead’ is just stupid. I wish I had a dollar for every time some talking head told me “Links are dead.”

    I’m sure Larry is just like every other Talking Head, he’s just trying to sell someone something.

    • Andrew Shotland  January 12, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      I guess I am sensitive to the whole FAKE NEWS thing this month for some reason…

      • Heckler  January 26, 2017 at 11:41 am

        It’s OK fam. I still love you.

  • Larry Kim  January 12, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    hi andrew. if you read the whole post, you’ll see that i said that i was trying to guess some more unusual things that might happen this year, and that the over/under for this list is only 50% (as opposed to predicting that mobile will be important or other ridiculously obvious things). but when you explain in your post how great things are going in Local SEO, you’ve kind of made my point for me. Google sees this too, and they need to grow revenues by 20% or so this year by selling more ads somewhere. TBH i don’t think we’re that far apart. I mean if you’re just upset about the phrasing of the content, look at your own stuff…

    • Andrew Shotland  January 12, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Well met Larry! I took umbrage with the absolutist nature of your dire Local SEO prediction, regardless of your qualifiers. And as for the phrasing of my own stuff, well I just call em as I feel em…:)

  • Cannabis Compliance Training  January 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Andrew, this is not the first time that – and I’ll be diplomatic and use the word ‘questionable’ – Larry’s written questionable information, and as if it’s undisputed truth. Respect to how prolific and hard working he is and Wordstream’s been around forever, but I’m glad someone called him out and I love the title of your post. I’ve been quietly suspecting Larry’s either on some kind of medication, “on the spectrum”, or perhaps (most kindly) he’s just a quirky genius with a direct tube from brain to fingers. Hat’s off to you for calling out BS when you see it, not sure I would have had the guts to do so publicy!

    • Chris Boggs  January 26, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Not sure if you would have the guts? It seems you just dissed Larry as well as made some very rude suggestions about him, while clearly behind a veil. Unless the link is you – if so, congrats on the nice training niche. (seriously!)

      In either case I disagree with you about both Larry and his information. Please cite something you didn’t trust as an example. This one isn’t quite fair because it is a prediction versus most of the recent SEO-related studies Larry has published.

      For the record I agree with Andrew that this does paint a nice future for a more paid-oriented shop like Wordstream, and also that there is a vibrant and ongoing – even growing – need for specialized local services that will continue to surround any future paid ads IMO. Congrats Mr. Shotland on the recent deals the GMB one sounds like a good cat-herding!

  • Michael Dorausch  January 12, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    To answer your title question they probably don’t get enough exercise and have poor nutritional habits. 😀

    • Andrew Shotland  January 13, 2017 at 9:05 am

      It’s always the right time for some fiber Mike…

  • Andy Kuiper  January 13, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Google will monetize Local, that’s a given. Local SEO will die? – I highly doubt that – we do much more than getting folks to ‘rank’ in the 3 pack 🙂

  • Mark Alan  January 13, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    With Google splitting their index and giving priority to mobile, local SEO will be more relevant not less moving forward.

  • Spidersauce  January 14, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    To be fair, Larry did title the article ‘9 Crazy Predictions for SEO in 2017’ and finished it with the 50% over /under phrase. Did you find any of the items listed in that article likely?

    The loss of positions 6-10 in the serps is a leap but given the way organic has been squeezed in the last few years, I would not be at all surprised if that happened.

    • Andrew Shotland  January 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Perhaps I may have over-reacted, but I still think the “Local SEO is Dead” thing is exactly the kind of pronouncements coming from marketers that cause confusion, over-reaction (mine included) and costs less-informed readers time and $.

      • Larry Kim  January 26, 2017 at 9:26 am

        here’s a different way of putting it. when i look at all the possible areas in SEO there are niches that i think are more vulnerable than others in terms of near term aggressive ad expansion. I would put local seo near the top of the list. It’s not because local SEO isn’t valuable and in-demand as i think you’re trying to say in the post here. But rather, because it’s so valuable and in-demand. For example, only a week after my story ran, this appeared on google: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-local-pack-showing-google-shopping-ads-23271.html

        • Andrew Shotland  January 26, 2017 at 1:17 pm

          I agree with you there Larry but, because I play a blogger on TV and can’t let someone else – even someone else trying to be reasonable, have the last word in my house, there’s a big difference between “Goodbye to Local SEO” and “Hello More Google Ads in Local SERPs”.

  • Jacob  January 15, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Man that’s funny sometime to see how poeple try to attract attention in a way that pay them off (they think!). When you read stuff like micros-moments at think whit Google, LOCAL SEO is not dead, it’s over taking the web. GMB, map etc just will get bigger, it’s what poeple look for! and like Andy Kuiper say big “G will notize that’. Thumbs up I love your blog! Thx man!

  • Adam Davies  January 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    A new year, a new “Google’s X property is dead”. Local SEO isn’t dead, far from it. If you read the recent patents filed by Google, they will be placing more emphasis on citations and local data derived from unstructed data sets. It’s no secret that Google plan to capitolise on the, until very recently, missed opportunity of the local snack pack. SEO people don’t totally ignore organic search because of Adsense, do they? I sure as hell don’t.

  • Nathan  February 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    … stumbled across this after spotting the title — lol! Great stuff Andrew, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  • Steve Graham  February 19, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    The harder local SEO becomes, the better for the local SEO agency. Google’s drop of video on Valentines Day saying an SEO needs 4 to 12 months or more to get a site ranking is fantastic for closing deals and not getting hassled by the customers after two or three months with no rankings.

  • Jennifer L Metro  March 6, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    I wish we could vote comments up or down. Or rather, maybe you guys should get a room.

  • Comment Spammer From U.K.  March 10, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Local SEO have big competition – Adwords