Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is an integral part of modern life but it is also a moving target for businesses because of it’s constant state of change. Sometimes these “improvements” are minor but other times they can be significant and disruptive. Such is the case with the recent changes to the Local Listings in Google results. Years ago, Google started adding a map with nearby matches to a query in order to localize results and better serve searchers by geographic location. This subset of search has undergone many changes but the most recent one has narrowed results to a shocking degree. The local results occur in a “stack” and the local stack has been reduced to a mere 3 entries. You can see an example below.
This seems to fall into step with Google’s approach of giving mobile search preferential treatment. The local stack on the desktop is now the same as the mobile version. This has several implications. First, with only 3 results displayed, your chances of showing up in the first group are extremely diminished. Second, if you do click on one of the results, they have inserted an interim click to get to the listing’s website. You can’t get there from the first screen, instead you have to click on the listing which then displays a Local Listing Card where you can then click on the listing’s website. This exposes a potential customer to a lengthy list of additional results which represent your competition. It looks like this:
Confronting This New Challenge
The local results are gold for business. It’s the easiest way to connect a need to a location and that makes them very valuable but ranking in local results is a tricky business. The factors that Google uses to determine the best results for a local search are nebulous at best. However, relying on best practices and then employing other standard approaches to marketing seems to send the right signals to the algorithm at Google.
Corralling Your Local Listings
The best way to improve how your business appears in Local Search Results is to shore up your local accounts. These are the listings that occur in directory sites all over the internet. Many of these listings are auto created from the best information the directory sites can scrape together from data they find online. Unfortunately, that information is often out-of-date or even flat-out wrong. This can create a confusing picture of your business for customers and for Google. These listings are the primary source of citations about your business online, which is basically a listing of your business name, address, phone number, website, and other relevant information. Aligning these citations sends a clear signal to Google that you are a legitimate business and provides a clear picture of the geographic area in which you operate. But to manage these can be a nightmare of hunting down accounts and claiming profiles in order to align your citations. Fortunately, there are services that allow you to complete a full business profile and have it automatically submitted to directory sites to clean up erroneous data but this approach still requires time to set up and manage.
A better alternative is to work with a marketing company that can set up primary local accounts as well as submitting your business for proper citations. These are then monitored on a monthly basis to look for duplicates and errors as the information flows out.
Other Ways To Improve Local Search Results
Google’s ranking factors remain nebulous and are always a moving target, but a solid approach to online marketing will increase your chances of ranking well in local listings. Leveraging core practices like consistent Content Marketing and a solid approach to Social Media have been shown to improve overall search performance, particularly in the local stack.
You Can’t Ignore This
While there are many marketing activities small to medium sized businesses can devote time and resources to, local search results must be a priority. This is the gold standard for search marketing because it connects a motivated consumer to a nearby solution. You can’t afford to have a competitor push you out at that moment. By following the steps outlined in this article you can radically improve your chances of making the cut in the newly downsized local stack.
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