Google made several new updates to search engine results in 2013. Three of these major changes focused on local search results, and their implementation is critical if local businesses want to be seen.
For local businesses, not paying attention to these changes could limit exposure to current and potential customers in the search results.
Google Local Interface
This year, Google updated the user interface for claiming your Google Local page. The new Google Local (also called Google Places for Business) provides a more intuitive navigation that allows you to upload images and update information more quickly than the older system.
However, as Google Local makes changes, brands need to log into their pages and make sure content is updated and optimized. Failure to do so can affect rankings within local search results.
The Google Carousel
We have mentioned the Google Carousel before, but it deserves to be brought up again. The carousel provides local search results that grab attention. It sits above the fold and its visual appearance steals clicks from the regular search results.
These local results show map locations and images from Google Local and can provide a much better view of your location compared to the rest of the competition. Yet very few businesses optimize their Google Local profiles for the improved exposure. Those that take the initiative to claim and optimize their Google Local pages are already way ahead of those who just ignore them.
The Importance of Reviews
Although there are different factors that go into the Search Carousel's algorithmic ranking, one factor that definitely stands out among the rest are reviews, making them more and more important for local businesses.
This is an area where most businesses (even those that have claimed their Google Local page) fall very short. Even though it would be nice to just be able to claim your Local page, set it, and forget it, if you really want to stand out, you will need to try and gather reviews for your listing.
Google also factors in third-party reviews of businesses into their Search Carousel, further highlighting the importance Google is placing on reviews.
A larger number of reviews (even if they are not five-star rating) helps increase your Search Carousel score, thus providing you a better chance at having a higher rank within the Carousel.
The main takeaway from all of these changes is that you must claim your Google Local page. You need to update the page accordingly (don’t just let it sit) and work on getting good quality reviews.
Those who claim and optimize their Local pages will have a great head start on those that pay no attention to the changes and have to play catch-up down the road.