Google makes sudden change to local search – is your business affected?

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 16 Dec, 2015
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With no prior warning and little in the way of explanation, Google has made serious changes to the way local search results are displayed as a result of a reorganization at Google+.

                   

With local search absolutely crucial to many businesses, this change is an important milestone and highlights the need to double check all information has been completed in full on the Google My Business Platform.

Local search is an area of SEO that has a far greater impact than many realize. According to a number of studies, it is directly responsible for a good portion of sales and physical bricks and mortar store visits. This makes local search a key part of online strategy for many, so it’s vital to keep pace with any and all changes which may impact on search results.

What has Google changed?

The key change for how local search is displayed centers around Google +. In the past, when a local search result appeared on Google, a link to a Google + Local page was displayed. This page held all of the useful and important information about your business that a search user may need to get hold of you. Information like address, contact telephone number as well as reviews and photos. This is no longer the case.

Google has dramatically changed Google+ and repositioned the platform more as a social network focused on interests and communities. It’s part of a pared back approach to reinvigorate the platform – and means local search has been hit in the wake of these changes. As a result of the change last month, Google  no longer displays a Google + business link on the local search listing and business information has started to be removed from Plus.

How will this affect your business?

Google says that the changes won’t have an impact at business level, with the shift simply reflecting developments at Google+. Google local search results are still displayed at the top of the search results page, with a map display and then additional information also shown.

If you have relied on your Google + Local page for your local search results, you will be affected. The most urgent course of action is to create a Google My Business account if you don’t already have one and access the dashboard. From here, check that all pertinent information related to your business has been inputted, paying particular attention to anything you may only have initially filled in on Google+.

If you haven’t spent much time on Google My Business it’s also worth while navigating through the platform and familiarizing yourself with its tools and functionality. Moz’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors report credits Google My Business with a 14.7% share of overall ranking factors – something you can expect to increase.

Why is local search so important?

  • More searches are now conducted on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets than on desktops. This makes mobile listings and paid search ads incredibly important.
  • Search engine watch calculates that 61% of all local searches lead to a purchase and 59% of all consumers use local search to find a local business.
  • TMP and comScore report that 82% of local searches result in a store visit, a phone call or a direct follow up

The changes to Google Local stemming from Google+ reorganization do not mean local search is less important. If anything, the move away from the flagging Plus means Google is actually prioritizing local above other assets.

What do you think to the changes? How important is local search to your business? Let us know in the comments.

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