A recent set of surveys performed by Search Engine Land found some alarming trends that small businesses and those entering local search environments should be aware of. While the surveys represented a small group of test subjects, they did illuminate a possibility that local search is not simply a beginner's field anymore, where anything goes and produces results. The information also signals a move to more reliance on skilled help to implement online marketing with a local search emphasis.
The surveys questioned small business owners and managers on a number of topics including the topics below:
- Is local search, in your opinion, getting easier or harder to implement?
- Which parts of local search seem to be the most difficult or challenging to master?
- What are the two biggest problems for service area businesses (those that operate without a physical street address)?
- Are small businesses worried that Google's search changes are permanent or temporary in nature?
- Has your business lost a search engine ranking and position thanks to Google's latest algorithm changes?
- Have your business' online search tactics changed due to Google's search engine changes?
Findings and Response Trends
The most noticeable and alarming responses provided by respondents focused on almost two-thirds of those surveyed confirming a feeling that local search has become harder to implement in practice. Review generation and brand reputation were also considered the hardest tasks of any search work by a third of respondents, and more than a fourth of service area businesses responded similarly. Ironically, more than half of respondents believe that Google's latest search engines are temporary, raising the impression that Google's definition of search engine rules is fluid and potential arbitrary versus static and reliable. Further, only one-fourth of survey respondents have seen a negative change in search rankings due to the changes already implemented by Google. Most saw no change, and a fourth saw a positive change. Yet half of the respondents still modified the way they do business with search marketing.
One could argue that responses depend on how the above survey questions were asked, and anyone can make something of statistics and numbers framed the right way. However, there are also many who believe that local search and search marketing in general have become far more technical, almost becoming a level of coding in and of themselves, especially with analytics. While small and medium sized businesses could easily spend time and resources trying to keep up with the technical changes, it may be the smarter, more efficient path to simply outsource the coding work to an online search expert and focus instead on core functions that produce new products and sales.