When 7 becomes 3 – Google Shrinks the Local Business Map

When 7 becomes 3 – Google Shrinks the Local Business Map

If you run a locally based business, Google's latest update could affect your search traffic. Find out more here. www.bigthinkingonline.com

As of Friday, Google made a significant change to its search results.

Now instead of having 7 businesses represented in search results with local intent, there are only 3.

google local seo

 

What’s different?

Well first and foremost the map has moved from the top right of the Google search results to the left hand side. This would be in keeping with the view that users get on a mobile device and as reported last week, in the UK mobile usage of the internet is greater than desktop usage. So to keep congruency for the user, regardless of the device they are using, makes sense.

 

Another difference on the desktop version is the fact that your business phone number is now no longer displayed. Instead the options are to click directly to the users web site or get directions.

 

Oh and of course, the big one. What was 7 business listings on last week is now just 3.

 

Using the same search criteria on a mobile device you can see that the website and directions buttons have been replaced by a phone icon, which is a click to call feature. 

 

google local mobile view

 

How Will the Change Impact Businesses?

It will only impact businesses that were in the 7 pack prior to the change. After all if your business wasn’t there before the change then it will have no impact. If you were in positions 4-7 on the map then you can expect fewer calls and inbound leads via Google.

 

If you are on the new listing in positions 1-3 then I would suggest that the change will have a positive impact for you.

 

Put simply, your business is only going to be competing with 2 others in the area meaning the chance of you getting a phone call from the map has increased roughly 2.5 times from 14% to 33%.

 

How can you increase your chances of getting more calls?

 

To increase the chances that your listing will be picked over the other two then you need to optimise your listing to stand out from the other two. Ways in which you can do this include:

  • Introduce business photos:
  • Add Videos
  • Add updates to your listing.
  • Get and respond to Reviews

 

If your business is not in the new local listing of 3 then the following is a good place to start.

  1. Check that you have a Google My Business account.
  2. Verify the account.
  3. Update all details including; business name, address, postcode, hours of business, main business category.

 

Chances are this alone will not get you into the top 3 positions but will provide the foundation for a local search engine optimisation strategy.

 

Final Thoughts

The cynic in me is saying that this is all about Google digging deeper into the pocket of advertisers. As there are a lot of businesses that were in the old 7 pack that will no longer be on the first page of Google for their service and locality at all. Meaning that if they do want visibility and to continue getting the inbound leads and calls they were getting then one of the options is to pay for that privilege through Google Adwords.

 

In a blog post on Search Engine Land, Barry Schwarz shares a quote from a Google spokesperson with regards to these changes that says:

“We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.”

 

Is this a trial by Google? How long will it last? Will it benefit Consumers? Will it benefit businesses? Only time will tell….

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Google Make Big Changes in the Local Space.

Google Make Big Changes in the Local Space.

There was an important Update to Google Recently, If you run a local Business this could affect you! Google Makes Big Changes To The Local Space | www.bigthinkingonline.com

The Past Few Months

Have seen Google make some big changes in the local SEO space. Most of these changes stem back to the fact that Google has finally accepted that Google+ will never be Facebook and all their attempts to effectively ‘force’ people to use Google+ including tying YouTube to the platform are starting to be uncoupled.

 

And while that will not impact most users or business owners the fact that Google has also announced that they are going to “unverify” inactive Google+ Local pages could have an impact on local listings.

 

What does this mean for business owners?

Back in 2012 Google made the decision to combine what was Google+ Local pages and Google Places together and automatically provide 80 million businesses with Google+ Local pages. While that might seem a little confusing the crux is that whether you know it or not you probably have a Google+ Local page.

 

If you have never verified that page or Google perceives the page owner to be unresponsive then the page might be shut down.

 

According to a message that has been in the local search forums:

In the past few months, you may have seen some changes in the look of Google+ pages that have been associated with Google My Business (GMB) accounts. These changes, including how we treat business pages without owners, are part of Google’s ongoing effort to simplify people’s experience with our tools. We are constantly working to provide only valuable and rich content to our users.

 

On July 28th, Google will begin shutting down those GMB–associated Google+ pages that have not been associated with user accounts and are also not verified. You may find that some of your Business View tours also sit on such pages, but note that after their removal of unverified Google+ pages, the Business View tours will still remain available on Google Maps and Google Search.

 

How does this affect your business?

First off it depends whether you have verified your Google+ pages.

 

If you haven’t verified your Google+ local page then here is some advice for you to follow from the Google Maps team:

Encourage your business customers to verify their listings if they wish to retain their Google My Business page.

 

If a business owner decides later that they would like to have a Google My Business page, please advise them to create a new page and verify their listing. The Business View virtual tour can be then transferred to the new verified listing.

 

Please log a case to our support teams to request that images for your business customer be forwarded to the new GMB page. Please point your business customer to their images in Google Maps.

 

If you have verified your Google+ page then you will have nothing to worry about. In fact I would hesitate to suggest that if your page is verified and optimised then you will be getting an advantage over your competition as more and more competing pages will be removed from the Goole+ listing. Leaving customers and clients in need of your services a greater chance of finding your business first.

 

If you have any questions or thoughts on this topic put them in the comments box below.

Protect Your Online Assets – Even if You Don’t Think You Have Any!

Protect Your Online Assets – Even if You Don’t Think You Have Any!

Protect your online Assets – Even if You Don’t Think You Have Any!

protect your online assets - life ringWe’ve said it many times before, but a website really is a non-negotiable part of doing business. I spoke to a prospect earlier today who said that he doesn’t do any marketing, online or otherwise. Yet this same prospect had a website, has local directory listings and has clients leaving opinions of his services online, Google even brought up a newspaper article from last month that mentions his name and business directly. All of this was (except for his basic website that has been in place and unchanged for years) was without his knowledge and out of his control.

It’s never been easier for potential customers to find out what others think of your business. Likewise, it’s never been easier for existing customers to leave their opinions of you, good or bad, very publically and without contacting you to let you know.

Even if you are like the prospect that I spoke to earlier and don’t wish to actively market your business online there are steps you should be taking to protect your online interests that shouldn’t take you too much time, but will ensure that you are protecting your assets to a certain extent.

Claim your Google+ Local Listing.

Every business in the world has a Google + Local page or they can claim one. The vast majority of businesses haven’t done anything with theirs as they haven’t even realised it’s there to be claimed. If you claim your Google + Local page you can give yourself an advantage when potential clients are searching for businesses like yours in your local area because Google wants to offer its own results over and above anything else. An optimised Google + Local page will also help when people search directly on your business name, because Google will recognise this as another citation of your business being valid.

Claim your local directory sites.

customer reviews - yellSites such as Yell, Thomsonlocal and Yelp are like the evolved version of the old phonebooks. They list business contact details, addresses and usually a brief description. This information will most likely have been auto filled from your website, but won’t necessarily have been refreshed even if your website information has been. These local directory sites hold a large amount of credibility with search engines who recognise them as a valid source of information. Many local directory sites have been online since the early days of the internet, which adds into their trust factor as far as the search engines are concerned. If you claim your business listing in an online directory you are given the opportunity to add additional information, for example pictures, offers, or even just give more accurate detail about what you do.

Set up Social Media sites in your business name.

You may have no desire to represent your business on Social Media, but the fact is that millions of people do use it, and you may have customers or potential customers looking for you on there. The worst thing that could happen is that someone else could set up a page using your business name and pretending to be you. Ensure this doesn’t happen by setting yourself up, and if you don’t want to use the sites leave a message clearly stating the best ways to get in touch with you. Once you’ve set the sites up, set up email notifications for if anyone does write on your wall or send you a tweet just so nothing slips through the cracks.

Make sure your Business Name, Address and Postcode are correct.

Each business has a unique Name, Address and postcode (NAP) and Search Engines use this information to ensure that information they return is about the same business, not another business with the same name. If you have moved premises you’re likely to remember to update your stationary and forward your post, but you also need to make sure that you update your address details with all local directories, Google and on your own website so that online searchers can find you too. It’s also important to keep all citations of your name and address the same, for example if your building number is 24-26 High Street, some people may just list it as 24, or 26. Whilst a postman would hopefully understand and deliver your mail, a search engine would see these as different things and therefore not give you the same credibility in the search results.

Encourage Positive Reviews

local seo - excellent customer service

It’s an unfortunate fact that people are more likely to complain than they are to praise. Your business may have had hundreds of satisfied clients over the years, and you may even have a box full of glowing testimonials, but it only takes one dissatisfied client to vent their frustration publically online to ruin your online reputation. Whilst the obvious solution is to always provide excellent customer care, there’s always going to be an occasional slip. If you already have dozens of happy customers talking about you online then one bad review will be a drop in the ocean. If you have no positive reviews then the bad one is all that anyone can see. Take pre-emptive action by encouraging everyone you deal with to leave a positive review of your business online. If you’ve followed the advice above and claimed your local directory listings then you can even ask people to go to a specific site to leave their reviews. We set up private review portals for our clients to make sure reviews can be captured and posted as easily as possible.

Not every business wants to actively manage their online profile, but it is important to have some kind of system or process in place as even if you aren’t interested in being online, I can guarantee people will already be talking about you and your business on the internet.

To find out how you could make it easier for clients to share their great reviews about your business online click here!