Google is laser focused with enhancing user experience and they continually make changes and enhancements to attempt to make their search experience better. The strategies and tactics used for local listings and SEO need to be adaptable to conform to the updates that Google makes, for example: the New Google Maps.

Local search is paramount to small business for the following reasons:

  • 97% of consumers search for local business online
  • 43% of Google search queries are from people looking for local results
  • Local SEO is 16 – 20 times more cost effective than PPC

The Disruption Caused by New Google Products

The New Google Maps is, in my opinion, a foreshadowing of the future of local search. Google has been integrating its products to be more ubiquitous as users take their search on the go with their phones and tablets. For example, with the New Google Maps App, users can avoid traditional SERP results altogether to find things around them.

As displayed in the promo video, the search experience is changing and business should take note or get left behind. Make sure that your local business is properly listed in Google Places and have a presence on Google+ Local, so that you’re not left in the wake change.

Google Places, Google+ Local and the Knowledge Graph

You may be thinking, “Hey, I thought they replaced Places with Google+ Local??” Well they did, roughly a year ago, but Google Places for Business is still alive and kicking. According to Google, you should continue managing your business listing by verifying your listing data, making updates, and responding to reviews.

It is important to make sure that your business listing is accurate and up-to-date so that your business’s identity is accurately represented across Search, Maps, and mobile. Doing so will ensure that your customers find the correct information and that your business will not be hit with any negative penalties from Google if they believe you are falsely representing yourself.

Another reason to make sure you keep these pages updated is because Google will pull information from these sources to fill information into its Knowledge Graph.

The Knowledge Graph exists outside of the traditional “blue-link” organic results and typically takes up prime real estate above the fold where a majority of click-through happens. New Google products like the Carousel utilize the Knowledge Graph to consolidate results from a query, for example: Atlanta Hotels

As you can see, only the first organic search result is displayed above the fold because of the array of Google products that take up a majority of the space (Carousel, Ads, Sponsored, and Map). Keep your business listings up-to-date on Google Places and enhance your listings in Google’s Knowledge Graph by engaging with customers on Google+ to ensure that you get a piece of this prime real estate because you can show up at the top even if you aren’t the top ranked site for the keyword query.

The Importance of Ratings and Reviews

The search experience has become increasingly personalized and crowd sourced. Social Media signals, your social network, and the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings play an important part in where a business will rank in local search. It has been 2 years since Google acquired Zagat, but don’t forget that they did as search becomes more integrated with Google’s other products.

Zagat is considered a trusted authority for exceptional experiences and if we know anything about Google it is that they regard user experience very highly. Additionally, Google has made a promise that Zagat will plan on expanding to 50 national and international destinations and will cover more “places of interest” than only restaurants – something to keep in mind. My guess is that Zagat will initially  focus on the follow categories of the New Google Map App: Eat, Drink, Shop, Play, and Sleep as these also tie into the Carousel results in Search. Google also considers other third party sources as references, so it is important to not discount having a presence in multiple review sources.

The Take Away

Google’s products are becoming more ubiquitous and search channels are converging. There was a day where products like Search, Maps, Reviews, and Social Media were all in individual silos, but we can see that this is changing with the introduction of innovative products like the New Google Maps. Implement strategies and tactics to adapt to these changes to ensure that your business gets seen in search.