Table of Contents
It’s been quite a year. It feels like every time I’ve opened my laptop or looked at Twitter (wait, sorry, X… that happened this year too), Google has put out another algorithm update. Add to that multiple product launches, a bunch of conferences, and everything else, it’s hard to see how anyone gets anything productive done.
But, you did, and here at BrightLocal we certainly all did. As we’re winding down for the end-of-year festivities, we’ve found it’s a good time to reflect on 2023 as a whole… maybe even take the time to wrap it all up neatly, into a box with a bow.
So that’s what we’re going to do. It’s time to grab some paper, scissors, tape, and ribbon and see what comes out on top in BrightLocal’s 2023 Wrapped.
The Biggest Google Updates for Local
It appears that Google execs were booby-trapping their house, making sure it got harder and harder for people to game their system, which you have to respect… to an extent. We can almost see them rolling another update out and saying, (in the words of Kevin McCallister): “Do you guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?”
While the dust is still settling on these, it feels like some of the biggest changes for local were:
1. A new ranking factor… well, maybe. Opening hours or, in Google’s words ‘openness’.
Since the news broke, the situation has evolved. It’s been confirmed by Google that openness has been a factor for a while, but that the strength of the signal has dialed up considerably recently. However, they also say that may change.
The team tells me we’ve long used “openness” as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries. This might change in various ways, as we continue to evaluate the usefulness of it, however.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 15, 2023
We’ve done a study to see how it’s currently affecting rankings. You can find that here.
2. They’re introducing an updated reinstatement process for suspended profiles.
There’s a whole new process! Both for getting suspended and being reinstated. This has been a long time coming—and you can hear all about it in our webinar with Ben Fisher and Sherry Bonelli.
3. GA4 finally arrived, and it made everything really, really hard for everyone.
It’s been a difficult year for many a marketer, with the switch from universal analytics echoing the famous plot of It’s a Wonderful Life; imagine if the dependable person you knew, just never existed at all.
Fortunately, we have a guardian angel here to help you get your GA4 sorted.
4. SGE was teased and, for some people, rolled out.
Generative AI was the buzzphrase of the year. Google, ever the trend leader, launched its search generative experience (SGE) and released it for testing in the USA. They’ve been running various tests and, honestly, the situation keeps changing… there goes Google keeping us on our toes again.
Currently, there’s no confirmed date for it rolling out for everyone, but when it does, it could shake up search (including local search) forever.
5. They (finally) added social media link management to GBP! It pretty much made our own social media manager’s year…
It may not feel huge, but it’s been a pain for years and is a real game-changer for GBP managers.
Bloopers from our Local Search Expert, Claire Carlile
Our hostess-with-the-mostest, Claire Carlile, is nothing but professional… that being said, she does spend quite a few hours in front of a camera, and that leads to some absolute gold.
So here are our favorite Claire Carlile bloopers of 2023:
1. The time Claire got so distracted by Biscuit’s cuteness “behind the scenes” of a webinar that she had to apologize to the viewers when she went live.
WOAH that was awesome @ownyourserp – thanks for the KNOWLEDGE NUGGETS you just gave us all – what a fab @brightlocal webinar. If you joined us sorry about the funny start, this is why we were only thinking about CUTE DOGS! 🐶 Watch the recording on Youtube 📽️ https://t.co/UmLkccuyHC pic.twitter.com/G0nFfHKyZv
— Claire Carlile 🕊️ 🌊 🥑 🦥 (@clairecarlile) March 30, 2023
I mean… can you blame her?
2. The time when Claire’s daughter Betsi bought about her professional downfall live on air.
🙏Thanks for joining me on an AWESOME Local Search Clinic @StefanSomborac – so many excellent questions and so many excellent answers!
🤓Watch again here, and at the end enjoy my professional downfall as my child decides to make an entrance…
— Claire Carlile 🕊️ 🌊 🥑 🦥 (@clairecarlile) June 22, 2023
3. The time Claire’s internet completely dropped out immediately before she was supposed to host Local SEO for Good. Which caused just a little bit of panic.
4. The time Claire and Crystal Carter had so much fun during a podcast recording that their laughs messed with the sound levels and made it nearly impossible to edit.
5. Finally, this last one is a curveball. Our wonderful Sammy, the expert behind our fantastic research (and mother to the aforementioned Biscuit), managed to get herself locked in her bedroom while the team was busy putting the finishing touches on this piece.
So, we’re awarding her an honorary place in this list. From eyewitness reports, the door just closed behind her and the handle refused to turn, leaving her stuck with none other than Biscuit himself.
Worry not, she managed to escape through a window and get someone to come over with a spare pair of keys for her front door.
BrightLocal Product Releases and Updates
We’ve had quite the year here at BrightLocal, and we’re incredibly proud of the advances we’ve made to our local SEO tools and services. Not only have we gone beyond the Horizon with the launch of our new multi-location command center, but we’ve also created our own GBP post scheduler and changed the listings game with Active Sync.
1. BrightLocal Horizon
Just this month we launched our brand new multi-location command center. This powerful tool uses Local Search Grid to give you a country-wide view of the rankings for all your locations.
2. Active Sync
We changed the listings game with Active Sync, an API solution for listings management, offered at a fraction of the cost of other services.
3. GBP Post Scheduler
With this useful tool, you can now you can publish to all your Google Business Profiles from one convenient location.
4. Local Rank Tracker 2.0
We upgraded our already fantastic Local Rank Tracker to add a host of new features and insights.
5. Local Search Grid Flexible Grid Points
Now, you can place your Local Search Grid grid points where you want, making our tracking even more accurate.
And that’s just scratching the surface of what we’ve managed to achieve at BrightLocal this year. We’ve also added all kinds of sites to our local citation builder service’s network, grown the team behind the product across the globe, and so much more!
The Content We Loved, by You
There’s a lot of content on local SEO published every single day. With AI flooding an already cluttered space, we wanted to highlight the hard work of people across the internet who are creating excellent content on SEO and local marketing—no AI-Grinch stealing everyone’s hard work on our watch.
1. Miriam Ellis, Moz: The Local Business Content Marketing Guide
It’s a wondrous collection of guides, and just another example of Miriam’s excellent work. We’re always a fan of Miriam’s content here, like this guide on GBP photos and this piece for Wix on being COVID-conscious.
2. Greg Sterling, Near Media: Google SGE: Meet the New Pack
Near Media’s content is always excellent and their newsletter is essential for anyone working in local. Go subscribe. Seriously.
3. Kick Point Playbook: Grow Your Agency with Google Analytics Training & Templates
The whole Playbook is well worth your time to help you with your analytics—plus it comes with a ringing endorsement from Claire Carlile (and Biscuit!).
4. Marie Haynes, Marie Haynes Consulting: Search News You Can Use Newsletter
A wonderful resource for anyone looking for SEO news or insights, with a real focus on AI… all in one helpful feed.
5. Ann Smarty, Smarty Marketing: The State of the Link Building Industry 2023
Ann surveyed 300 SEO professionals from across the industry (all with years of experience) to find out what they’re doing to build links in 2023, and whether it’s working. It’s an incredibly thorough study and worth checking if you’re planning on doing link-building in 2024.
Our Favourite Insights
At BrightLocal, our mission is to help every business be successful at local SEO—whether that’s through our tools or our content. We’ve performed insightful research, given people a platform to talk about the industry, and helped thousands navigate local SEO with BrightLocal Academy. Plus, we re-launched our podcast, and our webinars have gone up a level too.
Here are a few that we’re particularly proud of:
1. Local business discovery and trust report
Our research speaks for itself, from the Generative AI Study to the first-ever Big Brand Review Showdown, but we’re particularly proud of this year’s trust report, which highlights the discovery platforms local consumers trust the most and least.
2. How to Do Insightful Competitor Analysis for Local SEO on BrightLocal Academy
A question we get asked all the time! Well now you can do an excellent course in BrightLocal Academy… and it’s completely free! Plus, it’s with Greg Gifford, so you know it’ll be a blast.
3. Adventures in Local Marketing with Crystal Carter: Powerful Applications of Schema Markup
Our podcast came back with a bang this year, and Claire’s chat with Crystal on schema is well worth your time.
4. Live GBP Audit with Colan Nielson
In the first of our new live audits, Colan looked at auditing and optimizing the GBP for a dental practice. It’s not to be missed.
5. George Nguyen, Wix: Diversifying Your Publication
We launched BrightLocal Spotlight this year, a column where industry professionals were given a platform to talk about issues important to them. George’s encapsulated everything Spotlight stands for and is an important, insightful read.
The Most Essential Guides
We’ve published some absolutely essential guides this year, continuing our mission to help educate local marketers, whatever level they may be. A lot of our guides come directly from questions we get asked in The Local Pack or our webinars, so never hesitate to ask!
1. Abigail Leow, BrightLocal: How to Rank Outside Your Area.
A question we seem to get asked more than any other. Abigail busts myths and collates all the advice you may need on the subject of ranking beyond your physical location.
2. Andy Simpson, Digital Law Marketing: How to Choose the Next Location for Your Business Using Local SEO
Local SEO may not be the first thing you consider when deciding where to open your next branch, but Andy Simpson makes a very convincing argument on why you should.
3. Emily Brady, Podium: How to Craft Unique and Helpful Location Pages
Location pages are a key part of local SEO for multi-location brands, and this guide goes into everything you need to know.
4. Dani Owens, Pigzilla: Local SEO Schema: Types and Templates
Schema doesn’t need to be as mystifying as it appears. Dani’s templates are simple to understand and easy to implement.
5. Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync: Local SEO for Lawyers
Gyi does a deep dive into everything a law marketer could ever need to know about local SEO.
The Times Barry Schwartz Told People it’s “Not New”!
It happens to the best of us. It feels like not a day goes by without an expert being absolutely certain they’ve spotted something new and game-changing in the SERPs. They tweet it to Barry Schwartz, only for the one-man-search-encyclopdia to reply with two withering words; “not new”.
Here are some of our favorites from just the last 12 months.
1. The time he trademarked it.
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) August 2, 2023
2. Google charging for phone support.
Not new https://t.co/RmAEF8KzSQ
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) December 14, 2023
3. Places of interest.
yea, rare to see but not new
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) December 1, 2023
4. Special SERPs for cities.
that is not new, it is pretty old, i need to find when i covered it
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) April 26, 2023
5. The time he got not newed himself, by Mike Blumenthal.
Image of notifications from Sept of last year pic.twitter.com/2SZra8ZiFi
— Mike Blumenthal (@mblumenthal) June 22, 2023
The Best Conference Talks of 2023
2023 was another huge year for the conference circuit. While we helped make brightonSEO special with our Pin It to Win It game, we also enjoyed a number of talks here and elsewhere. Plus, we hosted a virtual conference of our own to raise money for charity.
Here are our favorite talks from around the SEO world:
1. Claire Carlile, BrightLocal at brightonSEO: Google’s Local Knowledge Panel—The CMS You Never Knew You Had
2. Harmony Huskinson, Victorious at Local SEO for Good: Developing Your E-E-A-T Strategy for Local SEO
3. Syphaïwong Bay, Assonance Agency at Women in Tech SEO: Creating Meaningful Content
4. Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point at LocalU: Customizing GA4 for Local Business Reporting
5. Amanda Jordan, RicketyRoo at MozCon: Build Better Backlinks for Local Brands
Oh wow, it’s been a big year for every part of the business. Whether that’s the Philippines team’s annual basketball tournament, the hackathons with our Ukraine and Poland teams, or the big refresh of our brand, there’s something for each team to celebrate.
A few big moments from across the year include:
1. BrightLocal at brightonSEO
Not once, but twice our stand stole the show, surprising and delighting visitors with the absolute best swag and the most engaging game: Pin It To Win It. We hope you enjoyed coming to see us, and we can’t wait to see you next year.
2. The Phillippines Christmas Party
It was hard to pick just one moment from this team, who consistently show up the rest of the business when it comes to having fun! Their Christmas party really stood out this year, though.
3. Local SEO for Good
We put on a two-day virtual conference of our very own and raised $78,401.47 for a host of charities, all while connecting marketers with experts to help them learn something new.
4. The Big Rebrand
You may have noticed, but the website looks just a little different than it did at the start of the year. Our design team did an amazing job completely revamping the site and our illustrative style.
5. Our Hackathon in Poland
Our product and development teams got together to come up with a host of new ideas. In fact, this is where BrightLocal Horizon was cooked up. It was a great few days of fun and, evidently, awesome ideas.
This just scratches the surface! There was so much going on at BrightLocal this year that it was hard to really narrow it down.
See You in 2024
We can’t wait for what 2024 will hold for BrightLocal and local search marketing. We’re sure there’ll be a whole host of surprises from Google, at the very least. In the meantime, happy holidays from the entire BrightLocal team, and we’ll see you in January.