This blog has certainly been no stranger to the importance of Google Places, its useful connection to AdWords, and the importance of building relevant citations to improve your local rankings. Local search engine optimization is incredibly powerful for small businesses to increase their visibility online and foot-traffic to their brick and mortal locations. Well Google just keeps on rolling, introducing two new features in the past two days that will place an even greater emphasis on Local SEO.
Yesterday Google announced the release of Place Search, a new and easier way to find local businesses. Before, searchers had to either look through the coveted 7-Pack above organic search results to find a Place listing, or click-through to Google Maps and compare listings along the left-hand side. The new Place Search however, is a hybrid of the two:
- The 7-pack is now gone and local results are now included in the main results section.
- The results themselves are richer and include an image, description, address, phone number, Sitelinks, a brief review quote, and links to 3rd party review sites.
- To the right of each listing is an average rating, number of reviews, and a link to its Place Page.
- The results map is now displayed on the far right and floats along as you scroll up or down on the page.
- Organic results are now pushed all the way to the bottom and only show 4-6 results instead.
Small Business Impact
These changes will most likely influence the way sites handle Local SEO. Overall Place Search will make it even more important for small businesses to claim and fully optimize their Place Pages:
- It is critical that you continue to seek reviews because these are highlighted the most on the new search results. Get reviews not only for your Place Page, but 3rd party sites like Yelp and Citysearch as well.
- Always be looking to build citations, especially relevant local websites in your area.
- Ensure your site is optimized for your location and includes relevant keywords within the title tags, meta descriptions, and throughout content.
- Because Sitelinks appear, be sure to access your site’s Google Webmaster Tools account and specify any pages you don’t want included (Google will generate Sitelinks automatically and exclude ones you specify).
On Monday, Google announced the testing of a new advertising solution specifically designed for Google Place Pages. Boost is designed as a quick and easy way to create search ads right from their own Google Places account that will appear in the Sponsored Links section of either the main Google search page or Google Maps. These ads can include the ever important NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), average rating, and display the number of reviews you have received. Boost ads will also be highlighted by a blue pin.
Boost ads will be easy to set up. All you need is an ad description, a link to either your website or Place Page, relevant business categories, and a monthly budget. Once the ad is complete, no ongoing management is required. Google will optimize your budget for the most relevant keywords that can trigger the ad. And just like AdWords, you only pay per click. While this program is being tested only in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago, business owners can sign up to receive alerts of when it will be available in their area.
It is almost certain that Place Search will tie in with the new Boost solution, Google Tags for Place Pages, or even AdWords location extensions. Put all these tools together and there is great potential for small businesses to reach out and find new customers.