This guy is not happy about the latest change to the Google local pack.

Creative Commons image by Barkbud (Flickr)

About a month ago, Google changed one of their algorithms. The change didn’t get too much attention or publicity outside of local SEO circles, but it has the potential to create quite a stir when it comes to search queries with local intent. In the past, when you searched for a local business, you would see the top seven Google search listings. That 7-pack has now been reduced to just three listings.

If your business has been in 4th through 7th place, this can be disconcerting news. After all, instead of having your business name and contact information come up immediately in searches, users will need to click “more” in order to see your listing. While this might seem like a big negative, the change might not impact you quite as much as you think. Here’s why:

Addresses Are Not Included

If you go to Google and run a search (try “dentists in Chicago,” or “plumbers in Miami,” for example), under the PPC ads, you’ll see a map of the city you entered, along with the top three listings. If you look closely at the listings, however, you will notice that the actual street addresses are not included. The streets are there, but the numbers are not. The phone numbers are also missing.

If you click “more dentists (or plumbers),” a bigger map will come up, along with more listings. If you are in the top dozen or so listings, you might end up in this section. There are still no numbers or full addresses listed. (If a user clicks a particular listing, they will be brought to a page where the contact information is available.)

What this means is that in order to get the information they need, users are going to need to click and click again. When they click “more,” they will have an additional opportunity to see your listing, provided it is in the top handful of listings.

It Might Not Make a Difference, Anyway

Think about this: The reason Google made this change was most likely because the listings below #3 were simply not getting a lot of clicks. If you were getting, say, 5 hits per month before the change, you are likely to get the same number after the change.

One strong possibility here is that on mobile phones, which the majority of Americans are using to access the Internet, really only show three listings comfortably. When people searched before, they would only see the top three listings anyway. They’d need to have a reason to scroll down and see the other four that used to be included.
A New, Smaller Local Pack or Snack Pack on Google
The Future and You

So, if you are not in the top 3 listings for your industry and locations, what can you do? Obviously, doing what you can to boost your ranking is going to be key. It’s also important to consider what the future may hold. Here are two possibilities:

  • Your ratings and reviews might become more important. As a general rule, you should be encouraging your clients to leave you a review or a star rating on your Google+ page. This might pay off in the future, should Google decide to show those star ratings in search results.
  • Paid advertising might take center stage. Aside from those PPC ads, you might also begin seeing more paid advertising in what looks like regular listings. Go run a search for locksmiths in San Francisco, and you’ll see what we mean. (At the moment, only plumbers and locksmiths in Frisco are affected by this, but the practice could extend to other industries and locations.)

As with other Google algorithm changes, your response to this change should largely be a matter of waiting and seeing. You can depend on Most Optimal to not only keep you posted on the latest changes when it comes to this search engine giant, but also to help you rank as high as possible to avoid being impacted by these types of changes. Please contact us to find out what we can do for you and your business.

yahoo maps gone
yahoo maps

CC image courtesy of Aaron Parecki.

Effective the end of June, Yahoo has discontinued Yahoo Maps. The company says that it will still have some mapping services available within other realms of Yahoo, but the maps won’t necessarily be powered by Yahoo.

What does this mean for you, as a small business owner? Basically, it’s a good reminder for you to make sure that your business is listed accurately with Google and Apple Maps. If your business name, address or zip code is not correct, you may end up with some very frustrated would-be customers!

Even if your address is listed correctly, sometimes a technological glitch will make it so the map displays incorrectly, which can, again, frustrate your visitors and customers. What can you do about this?

  1. Check Google Places and Google Local. If you have listings there, one might be incorrect. Updating to the right address will extend to all branches of Google, including Maps.
  2. Type your business name and incorrect address in a search engine. If another website has your information displayed inaccurately, it can trigger Google to do the same. If you find this to be the case, contact the site owner and ask them to update their information.
  3. Submit a help request to Google. Use Google’s Report a Problem page and follow the instructions. You’ll be able to let the company know what the issue is, and they will fix it. You might need to submit more than one help request, so keep an eye on whether you receive an answer in a timely manner.
  4. Report the problem to Apple. Last fall, Apple improved the process for reporting an issue with mapping with the IOS 8 update. You can follow the directions as described here to get your problem resolved.

You might have heard that location is everything when it comes to success in business, but in reality, having the best location in the world is not going to help you if people can’t find it! Now that Yahoo Maps is defunct, it’s important to double check your other map listings to make sure they’re correct, so your customers can find you easily.


Google mobilegeddon

CC image courtesy of Carlos Luna

You may have heard the hullaballoo about what was affectionately termed “Mobilegeddon” a couple of months ago. If not, here’s a quick recap:

Google’s latest algorithm change was to ensure that the sites coming up in mobile searches (i.e. on smartphones) would be mobile-friendly. This means that the sites would load quickly on mobile devices, the links would be easy to open on a tiny touch-screen, and users wouldn’t have to scroll from side to side or up and down to see the entire mobile page. Websites that were not deemed mobile-friendly would still come up with their original rankings on searches performed via laptop, PC, Mac or tablet, but would be pushed further down the list on searches performed with smartphones.

Sounds simple, right? Some businesses might not have worried about it, figuring that most of their clientele were using devices other than smartphones to search for their websites anyway. Unfortunately, it’s those very businesses who have noticed a drop in their rankings.

As Brandon Prettyman, a website strategist quoted by explained, small businesses might lack the resources and know-how involved in making a site mobile-friendly. What they might not have realized is that many customers will search and shop on their phones, then switch to a computer to make their purchase. So if your company is not coming up on mobile searches, you’re already at a disadvantage when the time comes for a customer to log onto their laptop and make a purchase.

If you are among the sizable percentage (40 to 50 percent) of small or medium-sized businesses to be affected by this change, it’s not too late to get your website up to par. The first thing you should do is run the Mobile-Friendly Test. This is a Google tool that will analyze your site and let you know what needs to be done in order to make it mobile-friendly. You can make the changes yourself if you’re technologically savvy or you can hire a web developer to go in and fix the site. If you’re doing it yourself, or even if you’re hiring someone to do it for you, take a look at these common mistakes people make when trying to upgrade their mobile-friendliness.

It is important to keep things in perspective, however. With approximately 200 factors that go into the Google algorithm that decides where your website falls in the search results, this one on its own is not going to make or break your success. This latest change is taken into consideration along with all of the other factors. If your site is the best answer to a search query, it’s likely that it will still show up on the first page of mobile search results; at the same time, if it’s not the best answer, but one of a dozen or a hundred, that’s where mobile-friendliness is going to be an issue.

If you have questions about Mobilegeddon or about anything else pertaining to SEO, digital marketing or local search results, the gurus at Most Optimal can help. Please sign up for your 14-day free trial to claim your free site audit and analysis.