Although it received very little press coverage here in NZ, in late October Google made some dramatic chances to their search engine. In Auzzie, the newspapers perceived it as a major blow, with many SEO ‘experts’ alarmed.
So, what’s changed to cause such an outrage?
Google has basically merged their organic listing with their Google small business ‘places’ and maps technology. With it, Google is clearly becoming more of a local search engine.
Fantastic News for Store Owners
If you own a store or have a physical place of business customers come to, this is great news. Google is making the [correct] assumption that more and more people (approx 30-40%) go online today not just to ‘research’ stuff, but more to seek out products and services they want to BUY. And more and more, their search is being done on their mobile device.
Here, using their free business Places, Maps and brand new ‘Hotspot’ services, they instantly serve up locations, most needed details and customer reviews of the closest stores and outlets.
Although a good website and multiple SEO factors all help you get to page one of the search result, Google now supplies enough information for mobile users to stay within the Google search and ‘places’ page. There’s often less need to click through to the customers actual website, which makes sense, since under 10% of websites today are optimised for quick mobile download and display. Google is.
The best way to show you the general effects of their local emphasis is to compare a search of ‘printers’ in Yahoo vs Google for both Printers and Restaurants. The Yahoo results represent what Google used to provide earlier this year.
The Demise of Yellow?
As you can see from the results of Yahoo, vs Google search and Google’s additional ‘Places’ search, for those with a physical address it’s pure gold. Note Google now places much less emphasis on the industry directories too. All this means the chances of ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses like printshops, restaurants, retailers etc now getting to page one of a Google search have improved tenfold!
Google places, maps and hotspot tools are each another nail in the coffin of the Yellow Pages and similar industry directories, although ironically, Google still uses your placement in third party directories or sites (including any Youtube presence), to confirm your web profile and overall business credibility score.
And in all this, Google is now also factoring in any customer reviews on these sites or directories. Those with plenty of good reviews, tend to have a higher chance of being on page one of a search! This is something SEO schools are yet to teach. i.e. a business strategy to encourage your happy clients to write you an online review…
However from a users viewpoint, when Google can instantly service up highly relevant results like this, why use Yellow or go to another industry website? Already search volumes through Google for local NZ businesses are ten times that of Yellow anyway (1 million vs 100k per month) and this Google upgrade will ensure their number one status in the search world. What retailers must now do is ensure their own website and SEO strategy makes the most of this change and ‘claim’ their page one listing.
Here’s two good summaries of the changes by SEO super-guru Bruce Clay.