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If your business has local customers, getting a listing in Google’s “7-Pack” maps section is now more important than ever.
For roughly 1-in-5 search queries, Google has trimmed three organic (unpaid) search listings from its Page One results, when users type in navigational related searches. That means the free, organic listing has shrunk by 30%, giving more of that valuable Page One real estate to paid listings. So if you had a Page One ranking (let’s say it was the #8 ranking), your site may have fallen to Page Two, where it’s far less likely to be seen or clicked.
However, if you have a strong presence on Google+ Local (aka Google Places), there’s still a great chance you can achieve search visibility “above the fold” — and get clicks from potential customers in your local area.
Below is a screenshot for a Google search for “pizza San Diego” and the resulting page. Notice that, apart from the Google paid listings (AdWords) at the top and right side of the page, there is just one traditional organic listing at the top (for Yelp). The user’s eye is then inexorably drawn to the Google+ Local “7-Pack” maps list. Making sure your business is in this first-page position is crucial to being found by customers.
Now is a great time to evaluate your current Google+ Local presence. This summer, Google actually replaced about 80 million old Google Places pages with new, more dynamic Google+ Local pages.
The Google+ Local pages are integrated with Google+ (Google’s social network) and include placement in regular search, mobile search, maps, Google Reviews, as well as other features that allow users to find reviews and recommendations of your business by their friends, family and colleagues. If you’re in the restaurant business, free Zagat reviews (with a 30-point rating scale) are also integrated into your Google+ Local page.
Other Google+ Local Changes
Along with the changes mentioned above, Google+ Local pages also feature:
- Richer, dynamic content. For example you can now feature video content on your Google+ Local page. The page is now much more like a true, fully functional web page.
- More functionality. Users will be able to sort and filter search results by several criteria, such as posts, categories, reviews, location, friends in their “circle,” etc.
- More Social components. Local businesses can now gather and communicate with followers, via messaging and video “hangouts,” as well as engage in social interactions similar to what now takes place on Facebook and Twitter.
Google+ Local Pages Added to the Search Index
Unlike the old Google Places pages, the new Google+ Local pages are included in Google’s main search index. That means SEO staples like on-page optimization and off-page optimization (link-building) can also be used to improve your business listing. Coupled with the new social engagement elements, Google+ Local pages have a lot of potential for not only making your business more “findable” online, but they also create the opportunity to engage with customers and prospects in a new way.
And… The Downside?
To be sure, there are some major “cons” to the conversion from Google Places to Google+ Local. For one, the changes are likely to be a bit disorienting for both users and site owners. For example, users will not be able to write a review of your establishment unless they have – or create – a Google Account. To be clear, no one will be forced to use Google+ to view your content, but in order to interact with your site, they’ll have to log in to Gmail, YouTube or one of Google’s other popular services. As a business owner, you can still manage your page as you did before, but you’ll have to familiarize yourself with Google+ and learn the ins-and-outs of this social network. Not an easy task for a busy business owner, especially if you’re not already adept with Facebook and Twitter!
My Web People has experts on hand who can create and/or manage your Google+ Local page, for as little as $150 per month (setup fees may apply). If you’re interested in learning more about how your business can increase traffic and sales with a Google+ Local page, please contact Steve Chung at 250-878-2100.