Google is now rolling out a huge change in the way it presents search results. Called “Places Search” or “Google Integrated”, it especially affects businesses who rely on local search traffic – which probably means YOU.
Google has, in a sense, combined the map-based Google Local/Places listings – part of what’s often referred to as “Local Search” – with the organic/natural results. They’re also incorporating more reviews into the results they display. So now the Map that used to appear (for some searches) in the middle, below the Sponsored Links, is now on the right. And the listings that were next to the map are now combined with the natural search engine results listings, in the middle of the page.
Here’s an example, from SearchEngineLand.com:
These changes are not yet consistent, especially when you search in different browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome). And search engine experts are all “abuzz” about this, as they try to figure out what’s going on and what it means for their clients.
A brief summary of what national experts are saying:
* Local results (e.g. “dentist columbia mo” or “columbia mo restaurants”) are now highlighted, more obvious on the page than general search results.
* If you were relying on your Places page (Map listing) and didn’t have a website, you may be in trouble. With Google now combining the local and organic listings, businesses that do well with BOTH are more likely to rank high.
* Conversely, if you didn’t rank #1 in the Map but ranked well organically, you may now leap back up to the top – I’ve seen that happen with at least one clients’ site I’ve checked today.
* Fleshing out your Google Place Page is more important – because Google is pulling data from it and enhancing the search results they display.
* Adwords Ads – at least the top ones – are easier to see, making them more important. Google seems to be making an effort to get small business owners to advertise using Adwords, which also means that it will get more competitive (costly) too. So you need to know what you’re doing if you use Adwords, or work with someone who does.
* You may get less clicks directly to your website, because there are a lot more things to click on in the search results. (Sites like Yelp or Citysearch, for example.) Those third-party sites that show reviews are more important and visible.
* Directory-type sites, such as ServiceMagic and SuperPages, are less prominently ranked.
Bottom line, as far as I can tell SO FAR, this is what it means to YOU – your site needs to rank well in the search engines AND have a well optimized local “Places” listing.
It used to be that there were two separate algorithms Google used – one for traditional search (relevance-based) and one for local/Maps search (geography-based.) Google specifically says that this is no longer the case. It sounds, then, like traditional SEO factors will more heavily influence who shows up for local search queries… and Google will then apply the local data to create the search results.
For many Columbia business owners, this can be a game-changer as far as their online marketing goes. Please share this with to your colleagues – members of your networking group – fellow business owners – Chamber members, et cetera.
And yes, I DO SEO – so if you need help, or need someone who says on top of all this to manage your search engine presence, please contact me.
Here are some of the sites I visited, if you want to learn more: