In order to provide users with the absolute most relevant search results, Google is doing its best to provide a more local, a more social results page. The days where location doesn’t matter on the Web are over. Over the past year we’ve seen a strong push from Google to improve results by showing users what’s located closest to their neighborhood, be it a physical neighborhood or simply the neighborhood where they “hang out” on the Web. First they began automatically personalizing results by IP, then it was real-time and social signals. And they’re not slowing down.
Let’s look at two new advancements made by Google last week and how it may affect small business owners.
On Friday afternoon Google launched ‘Nearby’ search option. The new feature will allow users to filter their search results based on a geographic location that they can set instead of appending location names directly to their search. For example, many users have grown accustomed to performing searches like [New York City pizza] or [Denver plumber] in order to receive local results. Now they don’t have to. Instead, searchers will be able to refine their search by their default location or a custom one by using the Search Options panel that appears on the left hand sidebar. It, arguably, makes search easier.
The feature is live on the google.com domain but if you’re not seeing it, Google has pre-defined some searches for people to test out.
For example, Google listed the following search examples:[things to do on st. patrick’s day] – In the Minneapolis region
[food blogs] – Near you
[farmers market] – Near the city of Ithaca
[dmv] – In the same state as Tucson
Back in December Google announced it would integrate real-time search into its search results. The change instantly put live news, tweets, and blog posts directly into the search results and gave small business owners yet another reason to be proactive about monitoring their online reputation. Well, last week Google added another prominent source to pull content from and display in its real-time search results – Facebook. While Google won’t be pulling information from your individual profile, it will publish official updates from Facebook Fan Pages, profiles generally created for celebrities, major brands and, of course, local businesses.
This is a pretty cool new addition from Google because it gives small business owners another way to dominate the search results for their name. And because Facebook will only pull updates that the owner of the page creates themselves, there’s less of an online reputation management headache to worry about. You control what Google may or may not see about you. You can make sure that customers find out about special deals, events, and whatever’s going on at your business.
What Does All This Mean?
It means you need to start thinking differently about how you market your site. It used to be that location didn’t matter. Google ranked sites based on the relevance to a particular keyword or phrase. More and more we’re starting to see Google giving more prominence to information that is relevant based on other factors.
Local is more relevant. You need to ensure that Google knows where you’re business is located. That means getting the proper local citations, making sure your Local Business Listing is accurate and that you localize your Web content by using a complete address.
Social is more relevant. If you haven’t created a Facebook Fan page for your business, now’s the time to do it. Google is pulling this information into the search results and using it when someone searches for you. Use this to your advantage. Make sure you’re sending out valuable information and that you’re also letting them find a profile that is well-built and user-friendly. We’ve previously shared tips on how to get the most from Facebook Fan pages and how to get people to join your Facebook Fan page, which may be worth another read. With Google consistently turning up the social knob and updating its idea of relevance, you need to make sure your relevant in 2010’s version of search.
Many small businesses were already focusing on location-specific terms in their online marketing such as Maryland divorce lawyer or Utah caterer. Do you think companies that already rank well on this type of term need to change their strategy? (Of course this assumes that people drop location keywords from their searches and let Google handle that part, which I’m not sure I see happening)
Great post, Lisa!
Google certainly keeps us on our toes!
The Franchise King
The local customer is very important for most businesses. As a web designer, my local area is key for marketing because there are many new businesses that need a website.
Nonetheless, it is great that Google is emphasizing local. This will surely help my business and other businesses!
Have you used this new option? Just because Google brings a new product out to the market does not make it king.
I used it extensively last night and the results were poor!
Also, it is fewer clicks, key strokes to just type in the locale I am searching, into the Google search bar at the start of my search.
Users will have to: 1)know about the options button which 95% of the users now do not have a clue. 2)know how to use this new feature with all the other options appearing on the left hand navigation bar when you click the options button.
Users want simple and easy, and this feature is not!
I am in complete agreement that local business listings are the way to go for any local business dependent upon the local consumer for their revenue. This is a good point in time in which the Internet is a good local marketing tool to be found on web searches and mobile searches.
What I am most concerned about are small and local businesses having to contend with multiple websites when it comes to their local listing. What I’m really talking about are “time resources”.
Afterall, there are over 60 websites in four different categories specifically geared towards local listings. How can a local or small business have the time resources to cover this space?
Even if you made a conscious decision to not manage all 60, there are well more than Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask. The space goes to Local.com (they went public), Yelp, Merchant Circle, and many others.
Consumers will be the ones deciding which of these local listing websites they will go and post their experience through consumer reviews. This adds to the burden that no one single local listing website will do the trick.
Something we recently read at KillerStartUps are companies that are offering a low cost service to update then manage these listings for companies. You can read about this at KillerStartUps here:
It is a changing world and the local business will benefit. There will be some adjustment to this space needed.
Good information from your post and hopefully varying opinions help give perspective.