Google Place Search Feature – How This Change Affects Local Businesses

Thanks to Google, now it’s easier than ever to find the closest burrito to you.  The new Place Search feature changes the way local businesses appear on Google’s search engine result pages.  So if you’re searching for a place in San Diego to grab a bite, Google will recognize this and provide local business locations, based on your search, and rank them higher in the results.

The Place Search results will now include longer descriptions, as well as important contact information. In addition, it will provide a picture and reviews for each local business, building on the previous local map listings.  This feature will compete with local directories such as Yelp and Citysearch, and help local businesses compete for space on that first page of Google, leveling the online playing field.

What does this mean for SEO?

In a recent article from Mediapost.com titled “Google Place Search Emphasizes Local SEO”, David Harry, community manager at the SEO Training Dojo commented on the Google’s new search feature.  “The ability to rank high in the search engine results pages for local search will require SEO professionals to consider domain extensions such as .com .ca .co .uk” .

This change will mean businesses that don’t have a physical location in the city may get pushed down in the results. Also, businesses that have customer reviews are more likely to appear higher in the rankings. The organic results are being merged with the business’ local listing, if they have one.

Google’s new Boost advertising is another way that local businesses can better amp up their online presence.  When Google believes web users are searching for a local business, Boost ads appear in the “Sponsored Links” section and only cost the business owner when the ad is clicked.  A map located in the right hand corner of the page will appear containing various local business locations related to a user’s search.  The map also moves as the user scrolls down the page.

We tested this by doing a search (not logged into a Google account) for “sushi in San Diego”. What we found was that this highly competitive first page of Google empathsized the local listings more than the organic results. It takes quite a bit of scrolling with your mouse before you get to see the rest of the organic results.

It will be interesting to see how this feature changes the way searches are done for local businesses such as restaurants and other attractions. Put yourself in the best position by making sure you have a Local Buisness listing, with a captivating picture and keyword rich description. Also make sure to have people leave positive reviews on your listing on multiple local directories such as Yelp, Citysearch, and InsiderPages. Don’t have time? Ask us about our new local business package.

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