Google changed the local search landscape recently which has caused a major shake up in terms of the local search results. They seem to do this every year or two. However, this most recent move is a dramatically new display for local search queries. And what makes it somewhat difficult to grasp is that the display seems to change depending on things like the query, location, and so forth.
At first glance are my thoughts on what this means for local search. Why? Well, first of all, let’s look at something in context…
Did you know that there are over 500,000,000 unique local searches performed on Google each month?
That’s more than HALF A BILLION searches every month!
And here’s another fact about local marketing…
The Yellow Pages are loading their ground. In my opinion, it’s on its last leg as a viable marketing tool.
This is for 2 main reasons:
1. Its expensive…it costs upwards of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars a year. That means it takes a lot of sales to cover your investment.
2. Its outdated and irrelevant. I know I throw mine away instantly now…right in the green recycle bin in my garage. Most people under 35 do the exact same thing too. Now, I’m sure some people still use it from time to time, but that number is shrinking fast.
So…now you know that Google local search is exploding and that the Yellow Pages is becoming irrelevant.
So, you might be sitting there thinking, “Google Local must be really expensive then right? I mean if you were able to steal HALF A BILLION eyeballs each and every month from the Yellow Pages, you would charge a pretty penny, right?”
But the cool thing is that Google doesn’t charge a cent!
Nothing at all. Totally free.
And you will at the VERY top of the search results..above the organic listings.
BUT (and here’s the clincher) – Google only displays between 2-7 results in the Google Locals listings on the front page of search results – even though there are dozens (if not hundreds) of businesses in that local area that match the search term.
So – how do you go about achieving one of these coveted spots?
I’ve looked closely at the businesses in these spots and studied their listings and they all seem to have a couple of things in common. Here’s my take on it all:
1. Reviews and citations become more important/visible.
In the new display, not only is Google showing how many reviews it has in its system, but it’s also featuring a variety of third-party sites (like Yelp, Insider Pages, etc.) and calling out exactly how many reviews are on those sites.
I’ve always been a believer in the power of social proof – but with Google local, never has the opinion of the individual been as powerful as it is today.
2. Building out your Google Place Page becomes more important.
While paid ads sometimes replace the 7-pack for a number of local search queries, in cases where paid ads don’t appear or when the searcher scrolls down to see local listings … wow, the new display is like having a mini-version of your Place Page right there for the world to see. No extra click needed.
Look at all the information showing for this result from a search for “sydney museums.” You’ve got the regular title and snippet listing, then from the Place Page you get a photo, address and phone information, a review snippet, links to additional reviews on third-party sites, star ratings on the right, an overall review count, and a link to the Place Page. Moral of the story: build out those Place Pages, and fast.
3. SEO becomes more important.
Google specifically says that there are no longer two separate algorithms — one for the local 7-pack and one for traditional search. 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.
Next year’s edition of Local Search Ranking Factors should be really interesting.
To read Google’s official announcement about the changes click here