They’ve Changed the Local Game with “Place Search”
Just when we were getting comfortable with local search, Google flipped everything on its head with the launch of their Place Search feature. This new kind of local search organizes information around specific locations making it easier for users to compare places and decide where to go.
If you’ve conducted a local search within the last week or so, you will have noticed a number of changes to the results page, including the following:
- Elimination of the 7-Pack Google Map listing
- Ranking algorithm for local listings has been updated
- Google Places pages have greater visibility
- Local results with more information (ie: 3rd party review sites)
- Information is grouped to make it easier to digest and compare
- New link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want
- Google map now on the right side above the paid search listings, which scrolls as you scroll down the page
Google is building in web intelligence! A Google Place Search result will begin appearing automatically on Google when they predict you’re looking for local information. Their goal is make it faster and easier for searchers to find the local information they are looking for that will ultimately help them decide where they want to go.
What Do These Changes Mean To Your Business?
A Web Presence is a Must and Credibility Matters
Google’s launch of their “Place Search” feature is another step toward becoming an online version of the Yellow Pages. This means an optimized web presence is a “must” for businesses if they want to attract local customers online. Experts are saying that unless businesses have engaged in long-term search optimization best practices across all fronts, including organic, local and social, they will likely be impacted by this change.
For example, the fixed-position map now located on the right-hand side of the page moves pay-per-click ad positions down the page. In addition, it hides their ads and continues to draw attention from users as they scroll their way down the page. Essentially, local search results are now much more prominent on the page, pushing general content down.
Online reviews and ratings also have more prominence on the page (appearing alongside the listing). This makes online brand credibility and brand reputation management critical for businesses that appear in a local search result.
Early testing indicates that listings from third party directories are also being pushed further down in Google’s results pages, by listings of companies who have combined a solid web page, with their Places listing and customer reviews.
These new adjustments are a real game changer as far as local search is concerned.
What Can You Do to Stay Competitive?
10 Guidelines to Optimize Your Google Place Listing
Its now more important than ever for businesses to claim their Google Place, complete their company profile and ensure they have a well-optimized site with relevant, localized content to ensure strong visibility. Here are 10 things you can do to optimize your Google Place listing.
Step 1. Make sure you select relevant Place categories
Step 2. Use long and short tail keywords and avoid duplication
Step 3. Create customized fields and complete business descriptions using relevant keywords
Step 4. Integrate photos and videos into your listing
Step 5. Fill out every applicable field possible, including hours of operation, payment methods and your service area
Step 6. Use Google Places Posts to keep information current
Step 7. Encourage online customer reviews
Step 8. Respond to reviews through Google Places
Step 9. Make sure your Google Places flag is in the correct spot on the map
Step 10. Add coupons and experiment with Google Tags