Google Place Search Changes How Local Searches are Displayed

Google Place

Today, November 8, 2010

Businesses will now have to have a visible and physical location if they want to be listed in a local search.

Google Local and Map have become a big influence on how people search and get results. We can demonstrate this by searching for ‘accountant’ and the search result returns a broad list of ‘accountants’, but perhaps too broad so we tend to search again by narrowing the result – adding a location to the search – ‘accountant in city’ and the results we see are now closer to home.

So it’s no surprise that Google should be taking a closer look at how we search and attempt to refine the process and provide a more meaningful search result by changing the Google Local search algorithm to make it easier for us to find what or who we are searching for locally.

Today, November 8, 2010 we see searches that reference local business and all the relevant places in that location in a new clustered visual display located in the upper right corner of a search result page. The now familiar map displays each business with red lettered pins, and links to each business. And as you scroll down the page the Google Places Map will scroll with the page so that it is always visible.

In addition to the way we see businesses displayed on Google Places, a new product is being launched – Google Boost.

Google Boost is a Google AdWords product that allows local businesses to feature more prominently in local searches. It allows small to medium size businesses the ability to feature more highly in searches, and concentrates much more on the relevance and location of that business than ever before. Now searchers will see sponsored location searches appear on the Google Places map as blue lettered pins and in search results with the blue marker pin next to the content description.

Search results for the ‘accountant in city’ will now appear first below sponsored listings and above organic listings. What this means is that results for a business in a location will now appear grouped with the other search results, making it much easier for searchers to find what they are looking for in a local area.

Google reports that Place Search results will begin appearing automatically when Google determines that you are looking for a ‘business in location’ search result.

Google-MapsGoogle also says “We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Google Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”

Google Places is being rolled out across the world and will be available everywhere, in 40 languages once complete. Google is hoping to provide a better, local search to users, while exploiting a different revenue stream. It’s also competing with Facebook Places which was launched a while ago. Facebook was able to use very targeted advertising to provide a similar service to its users.

Google should have the advantage here though, as most Facebook advertising is passive, appearing alongside the primary content. Google’s Place Search is active and should have the advantage when it comes to conversion.

Location-based services are seen as a growing market, with Facebook Places and location aware services like Foursquare enjoying significant growth since their inception. Placing Google Place Search alongside search results, Google can hedge its bets while not detracting from its standard offering.

From an SEO perspective Peter Bowen at First One On says, “One of the downsides to this new display of results is how it will affect businesses that previously enjoyed number one placements for ‘business in location’ or featured well alongside the old Google Map.”

“Now with the introduction of Google Place Search in results it is quite possible that businesses that had worked hard to get top placements on page one now find themselves listed on page two! Other businesses that did not even have a listing on the old Google Map are now being brought to the top of the search results based on the location of their business and business listing in Google Places.”

What this means is that in the long run it will be more difficult for businesses to rank at the top of a local search unless they realize that they will have to spend much more time and effort on local search engine optimization. Businesses that had previously enjoyed a prominent position on the old Google Map without a website, which was possible before, will now find it almost impossible to maintain a listing without a well developed and locally optimized website.

Businesses will now have to have a visible and physical location if they want to be listed in a local search. In the past, businesses could hide their physical location and yet still be found locally through their websites, but now consumers searching for a business in a location will be able to determine if they contact that business or not based on their location. So as Google exposes competitors in searches, it is now revealing where those businesses are located – hopefully providing the consumer with more information before making a purchase decision.

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Content Over Location > Advertisers Should Focus on!

Content Over Location

There’s a debate going on in the online advertising world. It’s getting tougher and tougher to grab the attention of viewers with so-called banner ads. Yet, some sites are charging more than ever for space.

Online Broadcasts vs. Television
James Kewageshig tipped me off to a piece from PC World that states advertisers are paying more for a slot online than on primetime.

“If a company wants to run ads alongside an episode of The Simpsons on Hulu or, it will cost the advertiser about $60 per thousand viewers, according to Bloomberg. On prime-time TV that same ad will cost somewhere between $20 and $40 per thousand viewers.”

Could it be that they don’t have to worry about fast-forward? Hulu claims their space is “clutter-free” — unlike many sites. So they’re banking on the viewer’s full attention. Plus, the ads are usually a lot shorter than the 30-second-minium television ads. As I viewer myself, the ads can still be annoying. But at least they’re not as frequently annoying as being interrupted every seven minutes during a 30-minute primetime show.

Websites vs. Magazines
So how does this all compare to print? A short FastCompany article that surmises that the reason print is dying is because of online ads being crud. Advertisers are still prepared to pay higher for ad placement in a well curated magazine than your website.

How about simply adding interactivity to your banner? According to, the addition of interactive doodads to banner ads increases click through up to 70%!

Their parting shot:

If Web advertising’s formats were half as clever as all the internet content out there, wouldn’t everyone be better off, and making a lot more money?

It’s All About Relevancy
True. The key is knowing your target and providing them with interesting, informative information. It’s our job to provide the exceptional experience, not the space we buy.

Stephen Murray takes this a step further:
There was a quote this morning in the newspaper that struck me. The author was discussing the Obama administrations recent efforts to overhaul how professionals are paid (Teachers, Doctors, Executives). Essentially, the goal is something that’s closer to a Pay-For-Performance model:

“In executive suites, he says, we rewarded reckless risk-taking and got the worst recession in half a century. In doctors’ offices and hospitals, we pay for more care instead of better care and get a wastefully expensive health-care system. In K-12 classrooms, we pay teachers, good and bad, for showing up instead of successful teaching and perpetuate schools that fail.”

Attempts at progress increase the risk of failure….

“The risks of unintended consequences are large, and there’s a chance we’ll get more of what can be measured — not what we truly want or need.”

These same goals and risks apply to our business as well. We must not fall into the trap of focusing on what can be measured easily. In our role, as Intelligent Marketers, the most important skill we possess is the ability to listen closely and be sure we’re answering the right question. We could all design misleading ads that had tremendously high click rates. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing our job of delivering an exceptional user experience.

Why is Local Search Important for your Business

As the web gets bigger and bigger it is becoming more of a battle to ensure your website gets listed higher up in the search engines. Local businesses can sometimes get lost or struggle to get listed at all for relevant keywords or phrases.

As you will already know it is important for your website to appear as high up in the search engine results as possible. This is a technique known as Search Engine Optimisation or SEO for short and this process can take anything from a few months or even longer depending on the competitiveness of the keyword or phrase you want your website to get listed for.

Google has recently made some changes to its algorithms so that when you search for something Google will display local results on the page allowing you to find local businesses relevant to your search query.

Internet users will be looking for local businesses when searching on the Web

Internet users are becoming more savvy and will learn to broaden their search phrase e.g. locksmith services becomes locksmith services London. This will allow the search engines to deliver content that is more specific and relevant to the user.

Research has shown that around 70% of household users perform some kind of search for a local product or service on a daily basis.

Do you know if your website is being found for Google Local results?

Most internet users will want to deal with a company based in their local area first before dealing with a company based further away. Why not perform a search on Google for a keyword or phrase relevant to your business along with your geographical area and find out if your website is being listed or not. Your listing should appear next to the location map (on the right hand side) being displayed underneath the Local business results on the page.

There are currently two search engines Google and Yahoo! who offer local result listings as part of their service.

How to get your business listed in Google Local listings?

To create your business listing in Google Local you will need to register an account first. When you first login into your Google Local Business Center account you will be asked to enter your username and password.

Once you are logged into your Google Local Business Center account you will be asked to enter your business details such as company name, address, telephone number, website URL address, opening hours, payment options and a brief description about your business along with the categories you would like your website to appear under.

You will need to verify your business listing before it goes live. To do this you will need to enter your pin number and this can be retrieved either by phone, SMS or postcard. After verification you should start seeing your business listings on Google within one day.

Your business listing may not always appear on the first page because of your proximity to your location. However some useful tips to get your listing to appear higher up or on the first page is to make sure your title contains keyword phrases and also ask your customers to leave a review about your business.

How to get your business listed in Yahoo! Local?

Unfortunately Yahoo! Local listings is not a free service and prices may vary depending on your area and the keyword phrase you want your website to be listed for. Why not visit the Compass SEO website to request a quotation on how much it would cost for your website to be listed in Yahoo! Local.

You may think to yourself why should I pay to get my website listed in Yahoo! Local when it is free to get listed with Google?

There is one advantage with Yahoo! Local. All BT users have Yahoo! installed as their default web browser on their PC or laptop and this will help you to introduce your business to an entirely new market who may not use the Google search engine to find what they’re looking for online.

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