In this week’s update, learn about Yelp’s new health and safety confidence features; local SEO predictions for 2021; SEO tips for 2021 from a Moz expert; DuckDuckGo’s new search milestone; TikTok outpacing Facebook; and Local Guides settings moving out of Google Maps.
Yelp adds new health and safety confidence features
In an effort to “instill confidence in consumers to continue supporting local businesses,” Yelp will now let users see and share feedback about the health and safety practices of stores, offices, and restaurants. Yelp reports that, after COVID-19 updates were added to its business profiles, consumer interest increased by 41%. Back in June, Yelp began gathering feedback from users as to whether businesses were actually upholding the safety practices they may have advertised. Now, Yelp has begun displaying a green check on business profiles where most users agree that the business has upheld safety practices, and an orange question mark where users report that safety practices are not always maintained.
Yelp says that, in order for the green check or orange question mark to appear, there must be enough responses in the last 28 days to show a consensus. Franchise businesses will be treated independently, and Yelp is using “advanced technology” to determine the legitimacy of user feedback. Users can offer feedback via surveys prompted by Yelp, or by suggesting edits to the business profile. Yelp has also recently added additional COVID-19 attributes, including “staff checked for symptoms,” “disposable or contactless menu,” “covered outdoor seating,” and “1:1 sessions.”
Yelp’s announcement has garnered widespread press attention including coverage on CNN.
Image courtesy Yelp / StreetFight
Local SEO predictions for 2021
Bright Local has published the latest edition of its annual series of predictions for local search in the coming year. Commentators like Ben Fisher, Joy Hawkins, Claire Carlile, and Niki Mosier weigh in on topics such as Google My Business optimization and monetization, Local Services Ads, zero-click search, Maps spam, reviews, and link building. The experts generally agree that Google My Business will continue to expand its feature set in 2021, with increasing emphasis on interactive and social features as well as what Blake Denman calls “full-funnel content marketing,” with businesses offering more information about products, services, delivery methods, and more in order to provide for a range of consumer needs and, ultimately, drive more conversions. Many experts, such as Hawkins, Fisher, Carrie Hill, and Greg Gifford, predict that Google will expand its paid offerings in 2021, with particular focus on Local Services Ads for additional verticals. Colan Nielsen suggests that Google might finally crack down more heavily on Maps spam in the coming year, while Amanda Jordan and Shane Barker suggest that reviews and review response will become increasingly important.
21 SEO tips for 2021
In the first Whiteboard Friday of 2021, Moz SEO expert Cyrus Shepard offers 21 tips for SEO success in the coming year. Shepard’s recommendations fall into four categories: increasing clicks, content/on-page SEO, technical SEO, and link building. Click optimization involves getting more clicks from the rankings you already have, and recommendations include optimization of favicons, breadcrumbs, and meta descriptions, as well as utilization of How To and FAQ schema. Content and on-page tips include relaunching of top content, improvements in internal linking, optimizing old content with new links, removal of unnecessary links, and investment in quality long-form content. As for technical SEO, Shepard emphasizes Core Web Vitals factors such as site speed, as well as leveraging of dynamic sitemaps. On the topic of link building, Shepard recommends passive link building -- creating the types of content journalists and bloggers are looking for.
DuckDuckGo reaches 100 million daily searches
Last Monday, January 11, privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo reached the milestone of 100 million searches in a day. The average number of searches in January 2021 is expected to be 90 million, up from 52 million in January 2020, a 73% year-over-year increase. This will mark the fourth consecutive year in which DuckDuckGo has seen at least a 50% year-over-year increase in searches. Most remarkably, DuckDuckGo is now second only to Google in terms of popularity in mobile search, eclipsing both Bing and Yahoo. It continues to hold the #4 position on desktop, but most searches today are conducted on mobile devices. DuckDuckGo makes use of Apple Maps to power local search results.
Users spend more time on TikTok than Facebook
According to a new report from App Annie, time spent on TikTok is up 325% year over year, meaning that TikTok has overcome Facebook in terms of time spent in the app per user per month. Just about every app has seen increases in the past year, but TikTok’s gains are especially notable, placing the app in the top five by time spent along with Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. All other properties in the top five are owned by Facebook. TikTok is on track to reach 1.2 billion active users in 2021. Very few apps have 1 billion active users; the list includes Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, and China’s WeChat.
Image courtesy Search Engine Journal / App Annie
The report from App Annie also notes that Americans spent more time in 2020 on mobile devices than watching TV. Mobile ad placement grew 95% year-over-year in the U.S., and time spent on business apps grew 275% with so many workers staying connected remotely. YouTube was another big winner in 2020, with users spending an average of 23 hours a month watching YouTube content, compared to just 5.7 hours on Netflix.
Local Guides settings moving out of Google Maps
Google is moving Local Guides settings and functionality out of the Google Maps app and into a dedicated page at maps.google.com/localguides. The new page will give Local Guides access to their points score as well as an accounting of the reviews, photos, answers, and other data points they’ve contributed to Google Maps. Other functionality includes a Connect tab that links users to the Local Guides community website, as well as settings that allow users to configure their home city and manage email preferences. The changes do not necessarily signal a change of direction for the Local Guides program in general, but rather a shift to make more Local Guides resources accessible in their own dedicated interface.