When most people are looking for a service in their area, from a specific kind of clothing store to a repairman to fix a broken dishwasher, the first step is generally to search online. Providing a simple way for consumers to access reviews and locate the best options near them, Google is a valuable tool for those in search of services and amenities, which makes it an equally beneficial tool to companies seeking to make themselves visible for eager consumers. Since Google Local’s inception, companies have been able to show important information to searchers as one of Google’s seven local results, improving visibility and driving additional traffic. That is, until now.
The Importance of a Strong Web Presence
Online information and reviews are vital to a company’s online reputation. Over 80% of consumers use online reviews to make business decisions, making internet presence and reputation exceptionally important. Companies with the strongest visibility to consumers are more likely to be contacted by interested customers, which in turn leads to more reviews, recommendations, and organic business growth. A web presence doesn’t create itself, however; a professional-looking site, active social media pages, and interaction with consumers creates high search engine results rankings and a name area customers will recognize.
While customer perception matters, search engine perception is also a big part of making sure your company gets noticed. Google Local has been a great tool for companies, highlighting everything from hours to reviews right within the search interface. Providing simple, convenient access to information on the top seven search results, Google made it much easier than ever for small, local companies to make a statement. The recent shift, however, poses threats to those counting on Google Local status to keep their web presence front and center.
The Changes to Google Local
Historically, Google Local provided seven listings, offering extensive information including map location, address, hours, phone number, reviews, and more. For smaller metro areas, this approach provided most relevant businesses with an active web presence the opportunity to be featured prominently to searchers, an advantage that thousands of companies have long been counting on. However, in Google’s latest algorithm change, what used to be a great way to gain exposure is now a competitive environment intended to highlight only the top alternatives.
Google has replaced the top seven results with the top three results, eliminating many key features like exact address, Google+ profile, map overview, and phone number. Intended to be more mobile friendly and easier to use while on the move, the seven-pack layout is now a competitive three, leaving businesses with a scramble to be competitive enough to land one of Google’s coveted spots. Even Google’s reduced features are desirable for businesses seeking to improve visibility and online reputation, making the fight to be one of the top three fierce in popular industries.
Putting Your Company in the Spotlight
Google’s algorithms prioritize companies with a strong, professional web presence, making it more likely that your company will be noticed by searchers from your area. In order to make sure your business is seen, it’s important to take certain steps to bolster your search engine ranking.
Creating a strong web presence and solid base of reviews, on Google and elsewhere, can make all the difference, growing your presence across review sites and making you more visible. Make sure your website is professional in appearance with comprehensive metadata and meta titles to attract search engine attention, offering promotional material or seasonally appropriate information if relevant. High quality content marketing can also be a benefit when it comes to search engine results; providing a large array of material makes it more likely that a search engine will generate your page as a result. In addition, make sure your website is fast and efficient. Speed is a very valuable factor in Google’s SERPs, making your slow page inundated with Flash graphics your worst enemy. In order to take advantage of algorithm changes for mobile, having a mobile or responsive design site is also an essential element.
Google Local has long been an asset for small businesses across the country, offering a simple and convenient way for web searchers to find all of the information they need, from contact numbers and reviews to website links and map locations. Unfortunately, as of Google’s latest algorithm change, the competition for a spot on Google Local’s ranking is much more difficult than it used to be. Instead of seven available listings, Google is now displaying limited information for three listings, making it all the more important that small businesses take the initiative to ensure their company is one of the top local businesses on Google.