The rollout of Google's new Place Search is dramatically redrawing the search marketing landscape. It's more critical than ever for businesses to implement a local search, online review, and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to achieve prominent visibility in the results Google displays for location specific searches.
Place Search demonstrates Google's ongoing commitment to provide relevant results for local search queries.
As stated by Google: "One of the great things about our approach is that it makes it easier to find a comprehensive view of each place. In our new layout you'll find many more relevant links on a single results page -- often 30 or 40."
Google's merger of organic and local search is a significant shift in the way the leading search engine displays information in search queries that trigger localized results. Many businesses that rely on organic traffic to drive revenue are going to be impacted by the changes in the coming days.
Unfortunately, those that aren't prepared may be in for a rude awakening as they suddenly find their listings have changed in the Google search results. Local search is growing in popularity as consumers shift from traditional phone book directories to finding products and services online.
According to Google, 20 percent of all search queries are local in nature.
Google's Place Search, being phased in around the world, combines local and organic listings when users are looking for information. It is intended to cluster search results around specific locations so users can more easily make comparisons and find the information they are seeking.
Businesses should closely monitor their search rankings, fully optimize their Google Place Page profile, and ensure that their business has a presence on the thousands of other second- and third-tier search engines (e.g., Yellowpages.com, Superpages.com) and online directories on the web.
To optimize your Google Places listing, companies should:
- Include relevant Places categories.
- Utilize long and short tail keywords, while avoiding duplication of keywords.
- Create customized fields and informative business descriptions that utilize relevant keywords.
- Integrate brand-approved photos and videos.
- Fill out all applicable fields, including Hours of Operations, Payment Methods, and Service Areas.
- Utilize Google Places Posts to keep information fresh and relevant.
- Encourage online customer reviews (be aware of what sites are feeding reviews for your business category).
- Respond to Google customer reviews through Google Places.
- Ensure that your Google Places flag is located in the proper spot.
- Add coupons and experiment with Google Tags.
Companies that have had both strong organic and local rankings will enjoy a competitive advantage in capitalizing on Google's changes. Those that see a decrease in their rankings will need to move quickly in updating their search strategies in order to regain ground and get back in the game.