If you hadn’t heard about or noticed Google’s most recent changes to their organic search results page, then you're likely just starting to learn about Local Search Optimization. Here at chatmeter, we wanted to write specifically about the potential effects it has on SMB owners. The most predominate change that has come with the new design has an enormous impact on local searches. When Google believes the user is looking for services provided at the local level, they are now displaying a lot more local business results at the top along with their Place page information (address, reviews, etc) displacing many of the directory results (such as Superpages, MerchantCircle, Yellowpages.com, etc). The previous “7-pack” has been abandoned. Sometimes organic results and place page results are intermingled and other times, as you see in this graphic, nearly the whole first page is place page results pushing the organic website results to the bottom of the page. Old Layout New Layout Above is an example of the comparison between Google’s old and new layout formation. As you can see, the Local results are now taking up most of the initial page, which allows consumers a quicker approach to finding what they are searching for. The information presented shows the address, phone number, customer reviews and 1 click access to the Google Place Page
“The big take away is this: Google is getting better and better at interpreting what people are searching for. If someone is looking for something that could potentially be found locally, be that a business or a non-profit organization, they’re going to be served up local results in a much more noticeable way. Because of this, users are far more likely to see and visit local organizations after conducting an online search.” – Kiwi Marketing Group Google’s new SERP’s layout can potentially have a dramatic effect on an SMB owner’s success. In order to fully capture that success their business information needs to be accurate and complete. Claiming and optimizing their business listing on “Google Places” will enable SMB owners to improve their rankings and take full advantage of the new layout. Experts such as "Search Engine Land" and "Small Business SEM" have frequently been writing about the new layout and the impact it may have on local searches and SEO. Here at chatmeter, we know the impact that customer reviews are having on people’s decision making. So, we are scratching our heads wondering about that very important firstcustomer review that now accompanies many of the local results on the new Google Search page. Below is an example of how the reviews are displayed in correspondence to the local search. The reviews found under these local listings are a huge factor in what brings potential customers to a local business. That is why now it is more important than ever for SMB Owners tomonitor their customer reviews, comments and overall online reputation. This insight will also help them maintain a better grasp on how their business is being perceived. Considering the importance of this first online review, we tried to determine Google’s selection process for determining which review is shown in this valuable real estate. If it’s a bad review, that could have a seriously negative effect on the business, and logically, if a great review, that should have a positive effect. The most recent review would be a logical place to start, but that didn’t prove true. We also tested to see if certain providers were favored over others, but that didn’t hold true either. We then looked at whether reviews left on Google had a priority, but found no consistency there. And finally, we tried intermingling a few of these methodologies, but unfortunately all came up short. The hope was that if we could crack this code, we could help business owners focus efforts on getting positive reviews left on those sites that have the most impact, but our study proved fruitless. We’d love to hear any other theories of how this occurs and call out to Google to reveal their selection methodology behind this extremely valuable review. Please leave comments on what you think. What we do know is that this review is VERY important to the success of local business owners. We’ve heard many stories in which a bad review posted prominently has led to huge drops in business and some even shutting down completely. This only emphasizes the importance of local business owners to monitor their online reputation and be proactive to drive new positive reviews on a consistent basis. **As an addendum to this blog, we wanted to share this informative video and article posted on Google’s blog that relates to local search rankings. Many factors are taken into account when providing you with the best results to match your current search. This article helps SMB owners understand the importance of enabling potential customers the ability to connect with your services or product through on-line searching. How Local Search Ranking Works provides tips and recommendations on how to strengthen local business rankings that are shown within the organic search results.