This post is part of a series of 2016 predictions from industry experts.
Vertical Directories & Beacons
I believe 2016 will be a year of change and a year of new technology adoption. Let's start with the changes.
Over the past few years Google has made many changes that have tied organic and local rankings closer together and relying more on their traditional algorithm. This will have several implications for those trying to gain popularity in local search. Doing the basics and having a great citation profile will be still be essential but you will have to pay more attention to industry specific directories. Over the past year we have seen major players like Yelp or Avvo gain and lose some visibility. The directories that are succeeding are typically following and implementing better organic SEO strategies.
This means that the strong vertical directories will see an increase in rankings. When this happens you need to pay close attention and be sure to be properly optimized for these resources. If you're not showing up where your customers are looking you're going to be in trouble. Pay close attention to the major players in your geographic area and industry in 2016 and don't ignore traditional organic ranking factors.
Beacons will continue to trend and evolve in 2016. Having bluetooth or GPS based location devices will continue to grow and become more widespread. This is something you need to jump onto if you haven't already. The value of being able to market to advertisers who have entered your establishment is huge. Maybe in the future we will see search engines integrate this into a local ranking factor as well. After all I can't think of a more valid popularity metric for a retail store than having actual visitors. Google is already getting better at predicting popular times when customers visit local retailers. We are just getting started with location based ranking signals.