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What does Google Places mean to me?

Dec 14 2010


What does Google Places mean to me?

You probably already know, or have witnessed first-hand that Google have changed the way that searching for local business and accommodations. Local listings now integrate below the sponsored listings, but above the organic search results.

Google claimed some time ago that 1 in 5 searches across Google's search engine empire were location specific.  Due to this reason they have integrated more local listings within your search results. So this is seen as an attempt to provide results to that 20% of searchers.

There has been much chatter across webmaster and SEO forums such as  specifically about this subject. The reasoning behind this trend is due mainly to the fact this is a huge change for us as users, many of us as webmasters and our businesses as a whole are affected in one way or another.

One main concern I have is that Google have reduced the visibility of their own 'sponsored listings' now named 'ads' if you hadn't noticed already.  It seems unusual that they would evolve and omit a large portion of the content which forms the basis of their income source.

From other sources I have read, they believe that Google Places may well in the future become paid local listings, this would make sense when we consider they have lost a lot of advertising exposure due to their implementation of Places. However, such a large portion of the results dedicated to this style of listing is bound to be manipulated, whereby a listing can be shown at a different location to where it actually is.

So what does this mean for your local business?

At the moment, if you're a local business and fall under the categories Google has opted into the Places algorithm, you look to benefit from additional exposure. Note: not all businesses are listed yet. As an example search of Google local search I type: 'hotel Falmouth', assuming you have a hotel in Falmouth, Google will consider your business for local listings as well as Organic when displaying the results. So you have a greater chance of being visible to a potential customer.

Obviously you need to look at optimizing your places listing, as well as gaining some reviews to be able to compete with the larger businesses, which probably have more resources than you at their disposal.

The flip side

If you operate a portal, affiliate or business directory and have benefited in the past from optimizing your key phrase terms such as 'hotels in Falmouth', you may find your ranking the same in organic search, but Google Places is on top of your results, for some this may mean your result being relegated to page two or beyond. Places will be an obvious kick in the stomach for those who have followed the rules and optimized their sites accordingly but have national or international assets without a local address and telephone number.

Another factor is that it is more important now than ever to aim for that top spot, in order to get any visibility at all. Just remember Google write the rules, then change them several times. We just follow the rules and hope not to get penalized or relegated in the search engine results. In SEO nothing stays the same, what is good today, might not be the same tomorrow.

This Guest Post is by Isaac Bullen who writes for The Caring Host who provide their customers with a Green Web Host and a fair hosting guarantee for every customer.

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