This post is part of a series of 2016 predictions from industry experts.
A Tumultuous Year for Local SEO
With all of the recent changes in Local, 2016 looks to be a tumultuous year for Local SEO. In 2015, Google removed Google Plus from the Local mix as well as the ability to set your city and look at SERPs in different areas — both moves that impacted Local SEOs.
According to this year's Local Search Ranking Factor study from Moz, Google My Business signals were the 3rd most important signal. I predict in 2016 that number will drop drastically.
Yes, that location data (business name, location, phone number) will still be important — but the GMB listing won't be important. Currently, we don't see categories or descriptions — they may lose value, they may start showing more prominently in the Maps listings. We just don't know.
Google is also starting to explore pay-for-play scenarios, and it's likely we'll see much wider testing for paid Local results with potentially even a rollout of paid local results in certain verticals.
All of this uncertainty… and that's only looking at the Google side of things.