Is it Good News for Your Business?
Do you sell locally? Frustrated that big business marketing budgets have stopped your website getting to the top of Google? Tired of seeing national chains elbowing you off page one? Well new changes to the Google Places SERP could be exactly what you need to energise your online marketing. Read on….
SEO and online marketing may never be the same again after Google last week started to roll out changes to their universal search page display. Changes that radically impact on the way that results are delivered. Simply referred to as Place Search, (Google Business Centre having evolved into Google Places in April), for any search that Google deems local it now grabs the information stored against your Google Place listing, factors in your organic search relevance and returns your listing packaged and positioned above the rest of the normal organic listings at the top of of the first page.
Great news for businesses that operate on a local level.
Why are Google focusing on local search? With more than 20% of Google searches already geo-related it seems the new Google Places SERP algorithm has been put in place to meet this location based demand.
“Our goal is to help you feel like a local everywhere you go!”
Says Jackie Bavaro of the Google Blog, adding:
“Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information.”
“With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”
Gone is the 7 pack list of local businesses accompanied by a simple map. The map has now been transferred to the far top right of the page and the 7 pack replaced by local listings created out of Google Places extending almost all the way down the page and replacing the bulk of page one organic results. As well as containing the page title, description and contact information, the new packaged local search returns also include reviews relating to the site – in effect a compressed local business listing.
Google Places losers
Bad news for non local sites optimised well enough to mid first page placements but without a local business listing. The travel industry must be going completely mental at the moment with highly optimised and until recently high profile pages crashing out of view. An SEO nightmare. For example, how can travel or room booking companies expect to successfully market hotel vacancies when their rankings are being demoted below individual hotels that have local listings? Surely too, those searching for hotels might also be suffering a dis-service. Isn’t it preferable to go to a site with a range of hotel options based on a geographical location (an aggregator for want of a better word) and refine the search themselves, rather than have to trawl through every single option individually. Travellers – be prepared to be presented with a frustrating and time consuming slog when it comes to comparing accommodation options
Google search for ‘Hotels London’ before the change
Google search for ‘Hotels London‘ after local inclusion to Google serps
The jury’s still out when comes to business that covers a variety of areas and have optimised dedicated landing pages aimed at achieving strong area by area returns. A plumber based in Cheltenham with a well put together Google Places listing (we’ll come to that later), whilst potentially enjoying the boost of increased local profile with his Google Places pack listed above the organic returns of non Cheltenham based plumbers won’t win coverage in other areas optimised for. Gloucester, Stroud or Cirencester for example.
Paul Keller of Search Influence says:
“In the past businesses in suburbs who wanted to rank for ‘the big city’ had a hard time getting on the map. This may continue to challenge suburban based businesses with this new Google update. Those with strong organic rankings who previously ranked organically for their targeted “big city” could count on traffic from the searchers who ignored the map and went straight to find what they wanted in organic rankings. This update, though, adds an additional factor to what Google considers relevant in regards to geography, which may pose a problem for suburban-located businesses.”
To what extent widening the Services Area in your Google Places addresses the situation remains to be seen. Andy Williams of Impact Media comments:
“your physical location is always going to be the deciding factor when you are ranked. Companies physically closer to a searched for location will more often than not appear ahead of a company that simply covers the area.”
As with any SERP changes or Google layout evolution these new challenges also present great opportunities too. In this case, lots of opportunity for local business.
Google Place winners – why Google Places is great news for your business
Google Places is actually very good news indeed for local sites that are well optimised and enjoy good reviews and coverage in local directories such as Qtype and Yelp. Companies with multiple physical locations will also benefit by creating a Google Places profile for each separate area.
As Andrew Shortland of Search Engine Land says:
“For local businesses that focus on both organic and local SEO, at first blush, this change appears to offer even more opportunity to acquire qualified traffic. If I were a business focused on local customers, I would be truly excited about the possibilities.”
Ding – get your organic SEO ship shape and SEO fashion.
“the chance is there to leap back up into the running for companies with strong websites,”says Miriam Ellis of Search Engine Guide.
- Ensure that your titles is key phrase focused and your description compelling.
- That your tags and code are clean, lean and committed to the SEO cause.
- Add fresh, well written content that informs, entertains and persuades.
- Submit regular articles and press releases to inspire links.
- Build relationships in your vertical based on content and reciprocity that inspire a network of strong inbound links – remember collaboration will almost always trump competition.
- Apply a local focus to link building. Gaining links from relevant local sites will revel a local relevance.
- Local copy content – include information relating to areas you cover.Dong – focus on local search
- Are you even listed on Google Places?
- Is your listing optimised?
- What about submissions to local directories?
- Reviews? Google is really pushing it’s sentiment analysis – play to win. Over one in eight Americans say online customer evaluations influence their decision making, Use reviews to help your rankings, click-through-rates and conversions.Executing an Effective Local SEO Campaign
What are you waiting for? If you don’t have a Google Place listing, lack reviews or already struggle with local search optimisation you could soon be invisible. Talk to a local search specialist straight away to take advantage of the new Google geo-search. Don’t delay though – claim your listings before the competition grabs all the top spots.
It’s not just Google Places either that is focusing on the importance of Local Search. Cover your local bases and support your site with listings on other sites such as:
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Local
- Best of the Web Local
- HotfrogLets take a look at some more comments and opinion on the Google Places local search revolution –
Eric Ward on Search Engine Land says:
“I personally love this change and it makes sense. Why should Google direct the searcher to a third party directory that charges for inclusion, has marginal content but a huge SEO budget, when Google can simply direct the searcher to where they were headed anyway. Now go ahead and call me a Google kool-aid guzzler, as you always do and I almost always am, but explain to me how this is a bad thing? This is brilliant.”
“Now is the time to take a long, clear look at your website to see if it’s as awesome as you can possibly make it. Is it optimized? Is it usable? Is it rich in solutions to users’ problems and answers to their questions?”
“Work on the local pages, work on the review pages, work on the site SEO, leave the ppc to those who have $ to burn or don’t know better. It’s been a great strategy and from what I see so far with new layout, little guy local still has a great shot at page one.”
That’s what the SEO experts say. What do you say? Are you up for the Google Places challenge?
Want to know more about how a killer combination of natural SEO, local optimisation and Google Places can send your online business sky-rocketing?
Talk to your SEO for more information on how you can turn Google Local to your competitive advantage.
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Posted by Chris Horner SEO Specialist