Google has made significant changes to the way it displays local search results, which have made it even more important to focus on SEO best practice.
Until early August, local searches (ones that contain a place name or that Google interprets as someone trying to find a service or supplier in their local area) returned a ‘local pack’ that listed 7 businesses.
The new ‘local pack’ has been cut to just 3 businesses and the information displayed about those companies has been stripped back, with the full address, phone number and link to a Google+ page no longer appearing.
Instead the new listing displays only links to Google reviews, the company’s website and Google maps, along with opening hours and the street the business is located on.
Users who click on a result are taken through to a ‘knowledge graph’ about the company, which shows more detailed contact information, reviews and web results for the business. It is not yet clear whether people will actually use this rather than clicking through to the company’s website.
The images below show the ‘local pack’ results (which appear below Google ads, but above the normal organic search listings) for the term Porsche Servicing and the ‘knowledge graph’ from the top result. The search was conducted at the Smart Arts office, so the local results relate to the Huddersfield area.
What does this mean for your business?
The most obvious effect of the change is that it is now harder to achieve a high ranking in local search results. There is a ‘More’ option in the ‘local pack’, which takes users through to a map view with 20 results, but people tend to prefer instant results from search and focus on the first listings they see.
It is more important than ever to focus on best practice for local search to give yourself the greatest chance of appearing in the ‘local pack’. That will involve:
- Making sure your Google Maps entry is filled out fully and accurately, complete with opening hours and photos
- Asking satisfied customers to review you on Google (note how the star rating stands out in the example above)
- Ensuring your website is properly optimised for search and up to date. Even if you can’t secure a spot in the ‘local pack’, this will help your business to appear in the organic results below it
- If you have a Facebook page or are listed in business directories, making sure they are up to date and that your contact details are correct, as these will appear in the web results on the ‘knowledge graph’
One other thing to consider is that with the phone numbers removed from the ‘local pack’ display, a prospective customer’s first point of contact with your business is more likely to be clicking through to your website than ringing you.
Make sure that they are greeted by a professional looking homepage with a strong message and/or details of any current offers to give them a reason to visit your premises or make an enquiry.
At Smart Arts, we have extensive experience of helping businesses of all sizes to improve their digital presence and increase their online visibility. If you require assistance with your website, SEO or long-term digital strategy, please call us on 01484 30 20 10 or contact us via email@example.com to arrange an initial discussion.