July 24, 2014 Google Local Search results took a drastic change in US search results. Many business owners are now discovering that their Google Places listing is not showing up in search. What happened?
Why is my business not showing up on Google Maps?
Google has changed the local search results. All changes they make are in an effort to provide the best results possible they can to their users. This means delivering relevant search results, or the best computer-generated results that they can via an algorithm. Of course, this never works 100%. Results are very mixed right now. If your Google Places listing is not showing up in search, read on..
How is Google determining relevant local search results?
There is already a lot of bad information floating around the Internet about this. Many people are pointing to traditional search ranking and stating that having a strong Internet presence is what leads to showing up in the new results. This is not true (more on this below).
Never, ever, place all of your eggs in one basket.
Having a strong SEO strategy on a website that YOU control should always be your #1 priority. Many people will find this hard to believe, but in almost all cases the benefits of ranking in local organic search far outweigh those of having great reviews or showing up in local places results. Online platforms come and go. For example, businesses are currently losing all of their Yahoo reviews with no warning. If you need assistance showing up better in Google Local Search email me here now; it is what I do for a living.
Google Places search results are different depending on where you are located:
Your listing may not actually be missing from local search results. The results displayed are completely different from one user to the next. If you are in Raleigh North Carolina and perform a search, you will get different results if you perform the same search 20 miles away (examples below).
Is the update complete?
At this point (August 1, 2014) Google has not made an official announcement and local search results are changing daily. The update has also not been rolled out worldwide yet.
Is this the Google Pigeon update?
Yes and No. It has been nicknamed this by someone in the SEO field (source). It is a great name for it, but Google will likely call it something different because Pigeon was actually an April Fool’s joke by Google back in 2002.
The “local 7 pack” has changed
I am currently seeing results consisting of a 1 pack, 2 pack, 3 pack, and a 7 pack. Some verticals have completely lost their 7 pack, such as DUI attorneys. In other industries the local results change depending on where you are located. In yet other verticals a slight keyword variation will completely change results displayed.
Are the results geographically targeted?
No. The days of your location being very important in local search results are over. Of course, they still play a role (examples below).
Do local reviews play a role?
Sometimes. How much is unknown. I am seeing plenty of results for businesses with absolutely no reviews. Historically and currently though, there is usually a business with a lot of reviews prominently displayed.
An example of the same search phrase resulting in 4 different results:
This first example we have here is a search completely random search I just came up with. Roofing in Morganton Kentucky. Roofing is one of the verticals that has plagued both Google maps and business owners for some time now (other examples include businesses like plumbing, taxis, and locksmiths). I googled “Roofing Morganton Kentucky” (without the quotes) from 4 separate computers (or proxy servers) and came up with 4 completely different results:
An example of a pack that has recently changed:
Below is a search result for Personal Injury Attorney Los Angeles, performed 8/1/2014 while logged out of Google from Raleigh NC. The results for this were a 7 pack of local attorneys. Unfortunately I do not have the screenshot, but it was 7 local firms. Now, it is one lucky firm, AVVO, and Lawyers.com. The “lucky” firm, Farrar Law Group, also happens to be #1 in organic search for this same result.
An example of a service business with no public address showing in local search:
Now these were not very common before but I now am seeing them all over the place.
What else do we know?
I am currently working with multiple local clients to keep an eye on call volume and driving directions. Unfortunately these will not be precise measurements, and some businesses do not properly display the correct number of driving directions (these can be seen in your Google My Business dashboard):
Other directories win:
Yelp and other directories continue to grow in Google search. I would assume that Google would want to keep their reviews important, however, with Facebook pushing their reviews lately, it is no surprise to me that Yelp and others are displaying more prominently in Google’s local search results. Of course, maybe this is a coincidence and a result of recent algorithm changes, and the fact that people are using Yelp like crazy. Just a couple of days ago I put out a post on using Yelp for business which has some SEO tips in it as well.
What about Google Plus?
You know, on one hand Google tells you how important Google Plus is. That you can use Google Plus to reach a larger audience. It can integrate with local search. The potential is there. Then on the other hand we have businesses which are not even claimed displaying in the local search results. #WhatsUpWithThat? Just goes back to the “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” saying.
Want to rank better in Google Local results?
So far my clients dependent on local search have seen an increase in traffic. A solid content strategy is a solid Internet marketing strategy. Without this, expect problems. I love small businesses and hate to see them punished by failing to take advantage of the Internet, but, it is a change that is definitely not going away any time soon. It is a gigantic opportunity. Penguin, Panda, and Pigeon have all boosted the businesses that I am working with. I will follow up with traffic reports in the near future. If you would like to grow your business feel free to contact me today.