We have been getting more and more updates on Google’s local search features lately. Whether they are temporary experiments that Google carries out regularly or permanent changes, there is one very reliable marketing shortcut for bypassing the negative effect of Google’s past, present and future experiments and updates.
Think about it. While many marketers spend hours and loads of resources on adapting their website and digital marketing plan to every Google algorithm change that knocks on our doors, there is really a much easier (and smarter!) way of simply being ready for any change that Google may throw on us.
The key is in the logic, and as long as the professional SEO services you're using is in tune with it, you should be fine for a year at least. That logic is the following:
Any major change that happens in online marketing and is introduced by giants like Google, Facebook, Instagram and others is driven by the willingness to provide relevance to every user.
Do you understand now? As long as you build your website, digital marketing and online reputation to be consistently relevant to the users you want to attract, no algorithm or change can ruin your rankings or traffic source. In fact, Google might only make your job easier!
Local Search is ALL about Being Relevant
When you’re in urgent need of a plumbing service located near Greenville or South Carolina right now, you start googling in hopes of finding a service that is nearby, right? Why would you search for such a service across the country? And it’s not just you, everyone wants to find results that are relevant to their location at the moment. That is why local search is the foundation stone of your Search Engine Optimization strategy.
Businesses that majorly rely on local consumers need local search optimization to make their prospect’s path to their brand shorter. According to Search Engine Watch, 50% of all mobile searches are conducted in hopes of finding local results, and 61% of those searches result in a purchase. For these businesses, local search is like oxygen in space.
If you’ve already completed the standard Google’s local search suggestions for the sake of your organic traffic, here are a few updates Google has rolled out just recently.
1. Adwords Listings are Always the First on Google
As you might now, Google used to place its adwords listings on the right side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), not interfering with the organic results. Back then, if you managed to get on the first position of SERP, you truly were the first! Not anymore, though.
Google now places its adwords listings on the top of search result page, just before the organic listings. Moreover, Google can show up to 4 adwords listings before that desirable first position you’ve worked so hard for.
There are two ways to perceive this. First, yes, businesses will lose a considerable amount of organic traffic because the first results usually get the most clicks. However, if your keyword list is relevant, to-the-point and targeted, paid advertising should not get between you and your visitors. Users are very educated today and will notice which listings are paid and which appear organically.
This could be good news for you, if you’re using paid advertising (PPC) to reach the desired audience. Your paid traffic will very likely get more clicks on the top then if they’re placed on the side.
The conclusion: If you’re doing PPC, your budget will most likely bring you good ROI. If you’re dependent solely on organic traffic, have a second look at your keywords and SEO services you currently use.
2. The Local Pack Reduced to Three
Whenever you searched for a local business, Google Maps results, which SEO people call “Local Pack” showed 7 listings, which meant more chances for your brand’s visibility. The number has now been reduced to only 3.
Have you worked very hard to be the 5th on that list? You might need to work harder now.
Another Google update that was noticed recently is the paid ad listings on those Local Finder results. While many would consider this an increase of spend on Google's paid advertising, we consider this a need for better targeting. Start by evaluating your traffic channels to understand which ones bring the most leads and sales. If Google Maps brings traffic that is relevant to your website and results in lead generation, the budget invested in paid advertising might be more important than the hours spent on Facebook marketing.
Instead of looking at the changes as bad news, look at them as a sign that you'll need to adapt your marketing plan.
3. Social Media is Still Relevant
Believe it or not, Google believes in word-of-mouth too! Whatever your customers are talking about you on social media networks, Google hears them all. As local search upgrades are being introduced across search engines, Facebook, for instance, also gets its share.
Facebook’s Locations Framework feature, which can be upgraded for all companies that are represented in different locations, can only be activated by a Facebook agent. For example, if you are a business consulting company located in Greenville, Charlotte and Atlanta, you can manage 3 different local pages on Facebook, one for each city you operate in. More personalization, more relevance, more local signals to Google!
Google makes all of its local search updates based on three golden words - Relevance, Distance and Prominence. Therefore, if you want to be found by the local community, having a physical address and relevant content is not enough. Prominence. You need to be popular not only on social media, but also on Google itself.
The Click-Through-Rate, or CTI, is one of the ways Google determines your popularity. If your website was shown to 1000 searches, and it received only one click, that can be an indicator to Google that your website might not be what it’s claiming to be.
Here’s when you’ll really need the careful conversion architecture, personalized and professional SEO services and those reviews that proudly point at 5 stars. According to BrightLocal’s 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey, 88% Of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google knows it, which is why every single positive rating and review on Yelp, Facebook, and Google ads more digital points for your marketing plan.
We now come to a very important word I’ve been mentioning from the very beginning.
Keep your brand, website, content, social media, SEO, PR relevant to your audience. Understand the core values of the inbound methodology. Find the zero moments of truth and win them. By doing that, you will no longer have to worry about Google updates down the line.
Finally, it is important to keep your digital marketing plan up-to-date. Techniques and tricks that worked perfectly well a year ago might earn you a penalty today. Yes, Google is moving fast … very fast. Keep an eye on possible surprises!
Still having a hard time understanding the language Google speaks? We are happy to help, download our Free SEO Checklist and follow the instructions.
If you think you are ready to optimize your business online, schedule a consultation with us! You can reach as via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 864.288.6162.