Google Improves Search for Local Businesses

By April 1, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Despite talk recently of the Vince Update helping big brands, and Google publishers trying to get their original content (from big brands) given a boost in the rankings, it is nice to see some changes being made in Google which are aimed towards helping searchers which don’t necessarily skew the results towards big business.

For the last week or so there has been discussion on the web regarding changes to the search results, which more often now show local business locations. What seems to be happening, is that more and more often, Google Maps results are showing within the search listings for many more queries – not just when they include local terms.

I first noticed this on Monday when I Googled MooMu Media, and quite near the top was the Google Maps results showing our office in North Sydney. Unfortunately, the results seem to have since been tweaked, and I cannot replicate this now -I didn’t get a screen shot back then (must remember to get screen shots when things are looking odd!).

However you can still see these with branded and non-branded topics. Here is Domino’s…

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And here is a non-branded, hairdressers.

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Only a week or two ago my colleague Tracy was complaining that she couldn’t get good results for hairdresser in Google, and now she has a list of 10 in her area to choose from.A quick quote from her on these results “Thats good if they have websites I can check out, and I guess a good lesson that you should be using Google Maps more often when looking for a local service”.

Not that you will need to go separately to Google Maps now that Google is serving this up for you on their home page.

The algorithm is hopefully still undergoing improvements, because if I use the term National Parks, the top result is Google Maps, with only one suggestion – National Parks in Tasmania…and I am in Sydney. So that is strange, considering the multiple national parks close to me here, particularly one at the end of my street.

Also, other online marketers are wondering if there will be further refinements to the algorithm to better identify local searches. Search Engine Land used the example of the word burger. They say that this isn’t necessarily a local search. However, with 9 other options to choose from on the results page, even if it isn’t a local search, searchers are still getting other options.

What does this mean for search marketers? Well, your local business listing is now going to be much more important. You should make sure your business is in there, because suddenly your small business could be getting exposure for a lot of the more generic terms which you may have thought were out of your reach.

Also, your ISP, and that of your customer, is now of great importance. It might not be a big deal when you are searching using an ISP that is quite close to you, but what about people whose ISPs aren’t? For example, in China, many people use ISPs in Hong Kong.  Their search queries are maybe going to have to improve, to include the word Beijing, or Shanghai, to make sure they don’t get given Hong Kong map results.

It will be interesting to see the Google search volumes for these terms in a couple of months  – must keep our eye on Google Trends, or record some volumes now in the keyword tool and see how they change later.

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