Hot off the press! Today Google announced a fundamental change in the way they display local listings. Called Google Place Search, it’s set to dramatically increase the importance of small businesses having a well-optimized Google Places listing.
Here’s how the new service works:
When you type in a general search like ‘IT support’, Google will continue to display listings in the same way it always has. But if you type in a locally-focused search like “IT support Chicago,” Google will automatically change its display to a Google Place Search page. Here’s what it looks like:
As you can see, it shares a lot of similarities with the Google Places “onebox” that currently appears: local business listings appear next to a map, with a corresponding red pin indicating where they’re located in that geographic area. The big difference is, the new Google Place Search page eliminates all the non-local listings from the page and includes a lot more information for the local listings that are displayed.
What this means for you: since Google is displaying a lot more local listing content on its Place Search pages, it stands to reason that they’ll give strong preference to displaying Places pages that already have lots of content first. It also stands to reason that if your small business’s website appears at #1 in the organic search results for a local query, but has no Google Places listing (or a poorly-optimized local listing), you’re about to lose a lot of market reach.
We’ve recommended that small businesses optimize their local search listings for a long time on Small Business Tech Tips – the new Google Place Search results are a perfect illustration of the benefits of having a well-optimized local listing. If you haven’t claimed and optimized your business, do it! And keep in mind, it’s not just about optimizing the Google Local Business listing itself – the more directories across the web that include your listing, and the more reviews your business has garnered at various different sites, the more content Google will pull in.