Internet search is a field in constant motion, with Google constantly shifting and updating the landscape to provide a more sophisticated product. One significant recent amendment to the search goliath is its update to local listings and how these appear to users on the results pages. These changes, while seemingly minute, have powerful implications when it comes to how your business is represented.
Last year, Google rolled out a new local search format worldwide. The verdict is still out on whether it will be better for businesses or for consumers – or neither. It’s all so confusing! No need to fret: Here are a few changes we can be sure of:
Organic Still Crushes
The SEO firm Nifty recently performed five different search studies of both desktop and mobile platforms with the new local listing setup implemented by Google. Across all studies, organic search results performed the best, receiving nearly 50 percent of all click throughs. Compare this to average click-through rates of 25 and 24 percent for paid ads and local packs, respectively.
If you caught our previous post, it should come as no surprise that it pays off for businesses to aim for high organic rankings rather than placing too much focus on paid search engine spots and other channels, such as social media.
What Does This Mean for Your Business?
Organic results remain the No. 1 way search users are likely to click through to your website. It makes sense, because when someone searches, “I’m looking for [service] in [location],” a keyword search matching the words they type seems to fulfill their search query much better than paid ads or local results, which are essentially suggestions from Google.
Nifty took the results of its study and implemented an SEO strategy that “moved away from a laser focus on maps and really focused on growing organic traffic for phrases that show map results and phrases that don’t.” Overall, the company claims to have had great increases of traffic across all clients since the shift.
Decrease in the Local Pack
Google’s local pack in the search results used to feature seven entries. Now, it’s down to three, although the resource is more visual than it used to be.
What does this mean? For starters, featuring fewer local businesses means that your business could receive less visibility. A keyword search for “plumbers in San Francisco” will yield paid advertisements, local listings and organic search results. Of the local results, your business may show up, or it may not.
The factors contributing to when and how your business show up include the internet provider of a given user and his or her relative location. For example, two people could search the exact same keywords next door to one another and receive two completely different sets of local results in their SERP (search engine results page).
Some have speculated that the new layout is simply a way to streamline the user experience, while others have argued that it’s foreshadowing a larger Google plan to monetize local packs. Searching for different keywords will yield an even wider variety of local listings.
How to Adjust to the New Organic Search Results Landscape
So, how can you keep your business and your website relevant given all the changes to Google’s search layout? Here are a couple of good places to start:
Fill Out Your Google My Business Page Properly
Even though a link to your Google My Business page is no longer available for searchers, you can still claim your Google My Business listing if you haven’t yet.
Be sure to fill out the important details on your GMB page:
- Add a unique, properly formatted description that includes links.
- Choose the correct categories for your business.
- Upload as many hi-resolution photos as possible.
- Add a local phone number to your listing.
Earn Positive Reviews Within Google Maps
Even though they’re no longer called Google+ Reviews, the reviews on your Google My Business page are still used for local pack snippets. Users generally leave reviews by finding your location in Google Maps and then clicking on “Write a review.”
Your business card will not only include your overall review rating, but your negative reviews as well. This is especially crucial for businesses in the hospitality industry to pay attention to. Why? Because Google has added an option to filter searches to include only businesses above a certain rating, such as four stars or higher.
Pay Attention to Opening and Closing Hours
Since each local listing’s snippet now includes the business’s working hours, make sure to include correct opening hours on your Google My Business page.
Keep Earning Reviews Elsewhere
Business reviews have a direct impact on local search rankings, so you need to spend some time acquiring them. And these are not only Google reviews, but also reviews on your Yelp page and other local directory pages.
Optimize Your Storefront
At the end of the day, your spot on a search engine results page is your storefront. Getting people to see your storefront was already tough, but Google continues to keep raising the stakes.
You want to do everything in your power to get users to walk through your door. Are you getting seen? How does it look when users see you? Get started on finding out the answers to those two questions.
If you’re looking for some help on optimizing your website for search engines as well as filling out your Google My Business page properly, give Eminent SEO a try. We have several new marketing packages available to help your company rise to prominence on many fronts. Just call us today to learn more about our new offerings: 800.871.4130.