#LSS2017: LSA’s Sterling Says Local Brands Must ‘Be the Answer’ in Search
April 27, 2017 | Contributed by: Joe Morsello
Last night Greg Sterling kicked off the 2017 Local Search Summit (Rio SEO’s client event) by exploring the past, present and future of search. From the first connected computer at UCLA in 1969 to artificial intelligence, voice search, virtual assistants and more, Greg’s talk covered almost 50 years of digital developments.
He started with a brief history of search, exploring the early players in the space (above). Early on, search engines competed with one another by offering progressively larger indexes. The explosion of digital content resulted in trillions of webpages being indexed — in Google’s case, 60 trillion by 2014. However, consumers and enterprises are now overloaded with data.
This information overload has coincided with the shift to mobile devices over the past 10 years. In addition, mobile has generated a set of new consumer expectations; creating challenges for not only search engines but equally for marketers, enterprise and small businesses. Multi-location businesses are faced with perhaps the greatest challenge: managing location data and content for hundreds or thousands of brick-and-mortar locations in a cross-platform and cross-channel world.
Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, consumers have come to want and expect greater relevance, context, speed, personalization and convenience from search and from brands. Multiple studies have shown that large majorities of consumers are likely to look unfavorably on or abandon brands that deliver bad mobile experiences.
Google has responded by providing more structured data (“answers”) and fewer traditional links to web pages (above). But these structured answers are data and content rich. In a way this represents more information in a more condensed package.
What does this mean for “local businesses,” particularly multi-location brands? Greg said that local SEO is more important today than ever, though it’s an evolving and moving target. New technologies like virtual assistants, voice search, AI, etc., are on the cusp of transforming the search and discovery experience again in ways that are potentially more profound than the iPhone.
He argued that brands need to “be the answer” in this new search paradigm. This implicates an emerging set of SEO best practices, involving featured snippets, rich cards and schema/structured data. All of which will be discussed in varying capacity during today’s sessions.
So while the industry has come a long way in indexing and organizing the digital universe, search engines must now become digital assistants, offering more context and even actionable solutions to impatient consumers eager to get things done.