What you need to know about the Google local business search update

2017-03-22 10:51

If you own a small business, there has been an important update in how Google shows your website in search results when people search locally. Moz is one of the most authoritative companies when it comes to SEO, and a recent post by Moz has revealed that the proximity is the new king of the local search.

If you search for a local business like dry cleaners or a restaurant using a mobile device in a small city, you are likely going see that all the dry cleaners are listed out on the map. However, in a bigger city, this whole scenario will change drastically. If you will search for a local business, you will only be able to see a few options. For example, if you search for “Restaurants”, you will only see 6-7 restaurants on the map.

So how is Google determining which business to show? 

Is it about the number of links? mobile friendliness? positive reviews or a measurable presence in the local directories?

It's now just about one thing: “proximity”. Only those businesses who are closest to the searcher's physical location appear on the map.

This makes it more difficult for businesses working in some of the larger cities and it also produces a lower quality search result for the searcher as they may be looking for the "best" plumber, not the closest one.

So what can you do?

  • Google changes all the time so continue to work on citations and reviews but understand the important role proximity plays in the local search algorithm.
  • Don't forget about Bing. Although the search volume is lower, people still use Bing and you may find it is easier to rank and generate leads there.
  • Continue working on your organic rankings to generate leads that way.
  • Pay attention to other popular review sites including Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook where you can create complete profiles, get reviews and rank those listings.

What I did for one of my clients

One of my clients, who owns a wedding photography business in Ashville, North Carolina has dominated local search in his city and smaller nearby cities for a long time. Now after this change, the strategy we created for him is to register offices for his business in every nearby town to make sure that his business appears on the Google map search result when people search for wedding photographers locally. You can register your business with Google at Google.com/business after which they send you a letter to the address you gave them to verify your access to the address. Once you mail back the letter, they put your business on the local map. The local map is great because it is usually one of the very first items that appears on the list of businesses when people search locally. Usually the map appears right below the ads section.

Is Google stealing search results? Is it ethical?

If you do almost any local search these days, the pattern of results will be very similar. First, it shows you up to 4 ads. After the ads, it shows you the Google map with businesses.

In other words, people have to scroll pretty far down to see actual organic search results that are websites other than Google.

In the past, Google was all about showing relevant search results as an independent search engine. Today, Google-owned listings (ads, local map and sometimes YouTube videos) are taking up about half of the physical space on the search results page because the map is so large and there are often up to 4 ads before organic search listings appear.

Do you think what Google is doing is fair to other small businesses?

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