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Google has been mixing up the local landscape a lot recently with some quite, in places, ridiculous changes. As ever we have to adapt to make sure that your rankings continue to grow and that we match Google change for change.
Proximity to Search
The biggest change now is that in major cities proximity is the one of the most important factors in local map results. We have seen businesses that used to have great local rankings experience a sudden drop in inquiries thanks to this “proximity to search”. The thinking behind this change is that people are looking for businesses local to them.
Whilst it might be the case that if I’m searching for a takeaway I want somewhere close to my home the same is not true if I’m searching for a lawyer or a dentist. I want the best dentist or lawyer in my area not the closest.
Hopefully these changes will be rolled back soon as they don’t benefit users. However, they have reinforced the need for strong organic rankings rather than just focusing on map results – even though these appear first.
At the same time (and maybe because of how the proximity to search will negatively impact local businesses) Google have introduced map ads. This means that now the top spot on map results is a paid result (and on actual map pages it’s two or more).
Map ads mean that the organic space has shrunk again – it shrank last year when side bar ads were removed. This hasn’t made it a pay to play sphere but it is pushing that way. The reality is that now local organic search should be supplemented with paid advertising. We want to maximise visibility for clients and usually recommend paid advertising alongside organic SEO.
Google reviews are now one of the most important factors to how you perform in local pack results. The more reviews a company has the more business they receive.
This has been borne out in a plethora of studies including the industry leading local search survey you can find here which ranks reviews as the 3rd most important ranking factor after Google my business itself and links. Also, according to SEO Reseller 68% of customers are likely to trust a business if they read a postive review about it.
Google reviews are an important way for you to build trust to your business and have a positive impact on sales. However getting reviews can be a struggle. What all local businesses need to do is put processes in place to increase the number of reviews generated.
The first step is, of course, to provide a reviewable service. This means that your customers leave with such a great experience of your business that they will want to review you.
The second step, is to put systems in place to send people to review your business. This can be a personal phone call, an email follow up or something much more creative like a thank you gift that also happens to ask for a review. As an example many restaurants in London offer free wine for a review.
The trick is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to review you. You should send them a link that will click directly to your reviews pages with simple instructions on how to review you. Use this contact as an opportunity to receive feedback about your business.
Google also aggregates reviews from third parties. Facebook and Yell are the primary sources but also bear in mind that industry specific reviews are used – for example NHS Choices provides a review platform for dentists and other health professionals. Whilst these won’t contribute to your Google star rating they are important to also monitor and build.
For any help with your local search marketing feel free to contact us today. We are always happy to help.
Written by Laura Ginn