There’s a new buzz that Google organic results for businesses are being completely replaced by Google+ Local listings. Previously, both local and organic results for the same company could show up on the first page of SERPS when entering in keywords that were relevant to their field (provided their website and Google+ Local/Places profile was properly optimized for these terms). Naturally, this would double the company’s exposure, but it seems the big G is placing more emphasis on its own local listings, and traditional organic results are disappearing overnight.
It was more than three years ago that Google Maps results started appearing above organic results. What’s going on is similar but different this time around. The closest information I could find about this is Google’s Venice update that rolled February of last year. The update was supposed to be about local results appearing in broad search terms. But it was around that time that a number of people observed that local businesses do not dominate results anymore. Now, in recent weeks, we are observing that small businesses don’t seem to appear in Google via organic and local listings anymore. It’s now one or the other.
For example, I searched for “seafood restaurant boston,” and the results are shown below:
Notice two of the top 3 results are directories, followed by seven local listing results. Below that are even more directories and no organic results were found on the first page. Now, let’s take the websites that are appearing in the local results and try and see if we can find their organic listings in SERPs. When trying to track down the organic listings for the top four, we only found results for one of the websites (legalseafoods.com). The rest had nothing. Could this mean that their organic listings had been replaced? We can’t say for sure, as we haven’t been tracking their rankings. However, we have seen this happen for numerous websites that we do track rankings for, and it certainly has me wondering what the future holds for traditional organic rankings.
Next, I did a search for “hotels san francisco”:
Again directories are the top results followed by local listings. This time, organic results are on the first page but only the Marriot hotel was placed on both organic results and local listing results. I guess the rule is still not absolute.
This means that you must spend more time optimizing your Google+ Local listing. This involves filling your profile out with as much information as you can, uploading images and linking to videos. You can also link your Google+ Local page to your website as a “publisher,” which informs Google that your website is the publisher of your Google+ Local profile’s content. This can be greatly beneficial for search engine rankings. Also, gathering lots of customer reviews can help dramatically. Also, don’t forget about creating lots of relevant content on your website. This will help strengthen your brand which Google seems to be favoring lately. In fact, speaking of your brand , once you’ve developed what Google calls a “meaningful following” on your Google+ profile, apply to have your brand verified. This will add a little check mark onto your profile, and it will no doubt help you show up more among the local listings.
All of these actually help your business in the long run as optimizing for Google+ Local Listing has several benefits aside from a higher search ranking. One is searchers would be able to see the number of reviews your business has immediately. Another is that your location will be pinpointed on the Google Map on the right side of the results page. Finally, local listings are more likely to be clicked, at least, according to an eye tracking test.
As a social media outlet, Facebook is still ahead of Google Plus, but it looks like the world’s largest search engine is so determined for its own social network to succeed that it’s bullying organic results off of SERPs, so that businesses simply can’t afford to ignore it. So don’t forget about your Google+ Local Business profile or else your business might become very hard to find online.
Have a comment or experience with Google+ Local listings replacing your organic ranking? Share it with us below or contact a BBEX project manager.