Across the globe people are taking stock of how they did in 2016, resolving to make changes and do better next year. We make New Year’s resolutions in our personal lives, but it’s a great time to step back and evaluate your performance and plans in business, as well, particularly when it comes to the rapidly evolving local marketing space.

2016 brought a whirlwind of new local search technologies but more importantly, we began to really realize the potential of existing ones. Retailers refined their beacon strategies; many became more successful at assisting rather than intruding on in-store shoppers. Multi-location brands like Hallmark learned how to tap into their data goldmine and reaped the benefits of deploying accurate, real-time content across the search ecosystem.

In 2017, successful brands will further refine and perfect their local marketing strategies, making better use of the tools and data they have at hand to connect with searchers in the moments that matter. They’ll more effectively assist consumers all the way through their journey, from search to sale, by delivering the right content at the right time, via the right platform.

Where to begin? Start with these 5 ways the local marketing game changed for the better in 2016 and make sure you’re set for what’s next:

1. Google My Business API Gives Brands a Leg Up on Listing Management

The new GMB API that launched in mid-December 2015, automates the process of business listings management. Consumers expect to see accurate business location hours, directions, contact information and more in real-time; the old way of bulk uploading and potentially waiting days for information to change simply wasn’t cutting it.

Now, large brands can manage location information through software like ours and have it updated across Google Search and Maps in near-real-time, with GMB API integration. If a handful of locations are affected by a weather event, for example, the brand can temporarily update hours for those locations. Service areas, business photos, descriptions, location managers and more are all administered at the brand level, providing corporate control alongside the benefit of local input.

See Mastering the New Google My Business API: A Guide for Brands for more.

2. Digital Assistants Bring Local Home

First, mobile came along and fundamentally changed the way people search for things in the physical world around them. Now Google Home, Amazon Echo and other personal digital assistants are again reshaping consumers’ expectations, bringing information from the world over right into their homes without so much as a typed query.

Consumers are going to choose their favorite voice search platforms, despite the fact there’s little room for differentiation. As a business, it’s your job to ensure that whatever platform they’re using to find answers to their needs, your business listings are optimized for maximum visibility, accuracy and relevance to the right queries. Read Local Search and the Personal Assistant: Impact of Google Home & Other Digital Assistants for more.

3. Mobile Voice Search Calls for a Better Understanding of Query Intent

Outside of personal assistants in the home, consumers are increasingly using voice search on their mobile devices, as well. Business Insider reports that 51% of people who use voice search do so while driving. The local intent for these queries is high, as people seek out information and answers about the things in their immediate vicinity. Often, voice search is used to solve an immediate need.

Understanding those various intents behind voice search and what motivates searchers to use voice empowers you to better optimize your content to show that your product, service or location is the best answer. See Driving Voice Search to Sales: 5 Local Strategies to Capitalize on Voice Search to learn more.

4. Consumer Generated Content Becomes Easier to Manage & Deploy

In 2017, focus on improving your SEO performance, driving more targeted search traffic, and converting searchers to buyers by harnessing the power of Consumer Generated Content (CGC).

Consumers no longer rely on a single source of information as they’re making purchasing decisions. In fact, the information they’re relying on is often outside of our ecosystem or sphere of influence. Get to know the pathways your customers are taking to make their decisions, then meet them where they are in that ecosystem. Doing so with consumer generated content eases your content creation burden, sends freshness signals to search engines, and instills greater trust in your brand. Read Driving Local Revenue with Consumer Generated Content: Local Marketing Experts Share Best Tips to improve your CGC strategy.

5. Individual Location Listings Become More Valuable

Store locators are a lucrative and largely untapped opportunity for multi-location brands to gain higher rankings and greater visibility for their locations. As consumers increasingly use search to find solutions nearby, optimized local business listings are mission critical.

Consumers are incredibly unlikely to decide they want to deal with your brand, then go to your store locator to find a store nearby. Instead, they’re going to search for what it is they need and make a decision based on what comes up in Search or Maps listings. Once they click through on a listing, they want to see interesting, engaging content like videos, images, and local events and promotions that accurately conveys the experience they’ll have should they visit your location. See 6 Reasons to Make Optimizing Your Store Locator #1 Priority to learn how to start making better use of your store locator and location pages.

As consumer expectations continue to evolve and they rely more and more on search to solve their local and immediate needs, local marketers will be increasingly challenged. Are you ready to meet your customers throughout the local search ecosystem with optimized, accurate, compelling content?

One of our local search strategy experts are happy to help you integrate some of these techniques in the new year. Contact us and let’s talk about maximizing your brand’s presence for each location.