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Just when you thought you’d figured SEO out, Google goes and changes the game again! If you’ve searched for something on Google at any point over the past few days, you may have noticed a new feature they recently rolled out. “Google Places” (formerly “Google Locations”) now sits above the Sponsored Links sidebar in the top right corner of the search engine results page (SERP). The new Google Places format alters the Google SERP in a big way by prominently displaying up to seven local listings for your search followed by the normal organics.
Different searches yield different layouts – for instance, a search for “pizza” shows three organic listings before the seven local listings, whereas a search for “hvac companies Maryland” lists the local Google Places results/pages before anything else. We’ll have to wait and see if this is intentional or if Google is still working on standardizing it.
How Will the New Google Places Impact SEO?
While it’s still a little early to tell, it looks like SEO in terms of traditional organic rankings will remain largely unchanged. Tests run in the Blue Corona office showed that for the most part, the organic listings stayed about where they were, with only slight and occasional variations in rank.
So does this mean you shouldn’t bother taking Google Places into consideration when doing SEO? Absolutely not! For one thing, getting your business onto Google Places is now going to be extra important, as this new feature will allow users to much more easily find businesses close to them (and, if Google beefs up the reviews section, consumers will have more information to help determine the best ones).
According to Google’s estimates, 20% of all searches are for local listings, meaning that if you’re not showing up in the local listings, there could be millions of people a day finding your competitors.
Not only that, but in many cases, the new Google Places listings appear below the first three organic listings, moving these to the very top of the page. Again, maybe not much of an impact on your rankings, but it makes those top three spots that much more promising…and desirable. Google Places is clearly meant to favor small local businesses. Or at least, to favor small businesses with good SEO.
Previously, if your business didn’t rank on Google’s Seven Pack (local listings next to the map area), you still had a pretty good chance of getting seen in the traditional organic listings part of the page. Now, competition for local rankings is going to fiercely heat up. Businesses with no physical location near the searcher will get pushed down the page, while places with customer reviews will move up it.
Watch for national companies taking out multiple local addresses just to game Google’s new system!
How Does Google Places Affect PPC?
Again, we don’t want to jump the gun here, but our immediate response is that the sidebar ads are in trouble. Advertisers are really going to have to pick their keywords carefully because you’ll have to bid much higher to be seen in the (now) much more prominent top three paid search listings. As you scroll through the SERP, the map in the top right hand corner follows you down, covering up all pay-per-click ads in its way.
Paid listings on the top appear to be unchanged.
Google Places does have its own version of PPC (or at least, its own version of Adwords), called Google Boost. A Google Boost ad will look like a cross between a traditional PPC ads and one of the new places listings and will hopefully help deliver more relevant paid ads to searchers. So basically, with the addition of Google places, and especially with the addition of Google Boost, if you don’t have a Google Places account YOU NEED TO GET ONE RIGHT NOW. Contact us today to learn more or get set-up!
Because getting listed in Google Places (and creating a Google Boost ad) requires more than just SEO. Only businesses with an existing Google Places account will show up. This explains why Google has spent the last year or so asking if “we want to create a Google Places account.”
As with any major Google change (here’s looking at you, Google Instant), there is a whole group of people bemoaning the death of SEO as we know it. Is this the case? Will Google Places finally defeat SEO? Probably not. Though it looks like real estate on Google’s SERPs is going to become more valuable than ever.
Between the standard paid and organic listings, Google News, Google Images, Google Books, and now Google Places, the page is getting extremely crowded and distracting – if you want to be seen, you need to be at the top.
How about you? What changes have you noticed now that Google Places has rolled out?
About The Author:
Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers