Google recently launched Google Place Search, completely integrating Google Place pages with organic results for any search terms that Google perceives as local, such as [Atlanta pizza]. This new results format offers more information at a glance to users, and presents new opportunities for business owners – as well as new challenges.

What Has Changed?

Before Google Place Search came into play, there was a clear distinction between organic search results, paid search results, and Places results. Paid ads were placed at the top and right-hand side of the page. Beneath the paid results came the “7-Pack,” a map accompanied by seven Google Places business results. Scroll past the 7-Pack and you would find the organic search results.

Google Place Search and Google Boost have blurred these lines, giving a significant advantage to businesses with a Google Place account. One of the first changes the user might notice is that the map has moved from the main search results section to the right hand side of the page. As the user scrolls down, the map will remain visible at the top right corner. Paid search results will continue to appear at the top of the page, but business owners can now use Boost to generate a sponsored result that draws from the information on their Place page. Boost users will stand out from the other Place results with a different colored map pin.

The most significant change to come along with Google Place Search is the complete integration of Places with organic results. The 7-Pack has been demolished; instead, Place results are interspersed throughout the organic search results. Previously, a business with a well-ranked website could easily appear multiple times on the results page: once in the 7-Pack, and again in the organic results. Google has now consolidated the results to eliminate duplicates. A business with good organic rankings will still appear near the top of the list, but elements from its Google Place page, such as photos or customer reviews, will now be included in the result listing.

What Does This Mean For You?

Because Google is now including Place pages directly in the organic search results, a business fighting for the top search result may find itself competing against businesses that do not even have a website at all. The Google Place Search algorithm includes Place pages in the search results based on reviews and perceived relevancy. So, if a business does not have a website but does have a Place page with plenty of relevant content and lots of positive customer reviews, it could rank higher than a business with a good website but no reviews or content on its Place page.

Google Place Search has made it more important than ever for business owners to claim their Google Place page and listings at review sites such as Yelp, Kudzu, and Citysearch. Google places considerable weight on customer reviews. To reap the benefits of these developments, business should strive to obtain as many positive reviews as possible through customer follow-up and reply promptly to any negative reviews through a reputation management campaign.

The search industry is constantly changing to respond to user needs. Cardinal Web Solutions can help you navigate these new developments and ensure that the winds of change are pushing your forward, not holding you back.