As a small business owner, it can be difficult to keep up with the number of changes going on across all the different local sites, from Google Maps, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Citysearch, …not to mention all the local sites in your town that keep changing as well. However, in the last month alone, Google Place Pages has undergone a frenzy of important changes. This posting will get you up to speed on what’s new and what you can do to improve your profile, increase your ranking on Google Maps and other local SEO strategies for the small business.
- Enhanced Listings
- Reviews added from local media, bloggers, and unconventional review sources
- Special Announcements and messaging
February 2: Google Maps launches a new testing ad platform for local businesses. It’s called “Enhanced Listings” and it allows you to enhance the appearance of your listing to stand out from others. The test started in a few cities; so keep checking to see if it’s been deployed in your area.
The content pieces/links that you can call out in your ad include one-click access to your profile content (photos, videos, directions, coupons), or your own content (website, menu, reservations page). At this point, the enhanced listings are not supposed to affect your ranking at all. At least that’s what Google is telling the experts so far. Mike Blumenthal has provided some great examples on his blog.
UNCONVENTIONAL REVIEWS ADDED: January 18: Reviews added from local media, bloggers, and unconventional review sources.
The reviews section of your Google Place Page will be changing. Until now, Google has been aggregating reviews for your from third party review sites like Citysearch, Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, etc (Notice Yelp omitted from the list. Yelp has intentionally prevented Google from crawling their review content). However, they have announced that they are beginning to identify articles, blogs, etc as “reviews” and will integrate them into that section. Currently, those articles have been tagged in the section “More about this place”. They are now using sentiment analysis tools to establish an article as a review. It’s hard to tell if this will focus on both positive and negative reviews, but it does change the landscape of reviews.
This update will also provide greater exposure to the local bloggers and could continue the evolution of the local landscape and publishing of local content. Managing your reviews is crucial to reputation management for the small business; however, this integration may make it more difficult to control the content on their Google Place Page. To date, owners have not control over the content in this section. The order of reviews in this section has no logic since it does not seem to be chronological. This integration of article based reviews may be experimental and it will be interesting to discover if this is what consumers want. The other interesting impact is that these references may reduce the number of citations that a listing has an increase the number of reviews. Since reviews have less impact than citations in terms of Local SEO for Google Maps, then this could actually have a negative effect on your rankings, we’ll just have to wait and see. Has anyone seen this on their listings yet?
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND OWNER-VERIFIED BADGES (JANUARY 14TH)
Another recent update to Google Place Pages is the ability to add messages, event information, specials, and other timely information to your listing. This allows the small business owner to reach out to current and potential customers with new information about the business, products, or services. At this point, users must log into their Local Business Center dashboard to create updates. I would assume that some sort of mobile interface similar to Twitter will be coming in the future since many small businesses (cafés/restaurants/bars) may not be online during the day. At this point, the messages seem to be pretty buried for the end user, so it’s not likely to have much impact until it’s called out more on the page and especially on the mobile service.
Owner-Verified Badges: In addition, in the screen below, you can see the badge that identifies if a business owner has claimed and been verified by Google’s automated system. This badge is supposed to indicate to consumers that this listing has been updated by the business owner, so the information provided is accurate. Of course, that is the information they have control over (business details). The information that Google has scraped from the web may or may not be accurate and certainly not verified by the owner.
Refer to the screen below to see the implementation of these 2 features. For more information on either of these announcements, see Google’s Blog.