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Google Places changes impact SEO

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    Late in October 2010 Google announced and first released major changes in Google Places, earlier known as Google Local/Maps, that impact on search engine result pages (SERPs) and therefore Perth SEO. So far, it has caused quite a stir in the SEO community, allbeit with a little over-reaction as is typical with any changes to Google SERPS that affect organic listings.

    So far, we have seen two or three different layouts of SERPS depending on the keywords chosen and the degree of competition for results for the keywords. No doubt Google will experiment a little as a wider audience of countries interact with their new formats and settle on a pretty good solution.

    What is clear to us is that moving the image map to the right of the screen and giving extra Places listing information within the left side SERP (amongst the organic/natural website listings) is likely to stay and become a clear indication of the growing importance of local search.

    Displaying a Places image and user reviews, where available, is further indication of the importance Google sees for small local businesses and places in an increasingly mobile world. We suspect that Google is keeping a watchful eye on the growing number of mobile smart phones and other search devices to market too.

    What is also clear to us is that the increased emphasis on Google Places listings will affect different businesses to varying degrees. Some will be winners, allbeit in part, and some will be losers, again in part.

    Whether you have one or more optimised Google Places or not, do not forget that Google will not always place them, or competing Places entries, in SERPS for keyword phrases containing place names. Even if they do, Google will not always place them higher than the organic website listings. If a website page is well optimised for a local search term, then it may outrank a Google Places entry.

    The trouble is that not many websites are well optimised for local search, including being short on supporting inbound links. They may therefore fail to outrank well constructed Google Place listings and, with the latter taking more screen realestate, be pushed below the screen fold and out of click hot spots.

    The whole topic of local search is a huge and, to the inexperienced, a very complex one. If you feel that Google changes may affect your business, it may pay to seek help or reassurance from a professional.

    For example, our client italy-accom.com (soon to be worldwide-accom.com) rang us in Perth from London and expressed great concern about the impact of the new Google places format on their business as he had noted some competing places listings when doing rental test searches in Rome. He thought the local Places listings would render his Agency at a big disadvantage.

    Yes, there were some listings/keywords that would mean they would lose out, particularly in the short term as we responded via organic. But his perspective changed a little when we told him that his site(s) was found by 40,000 different search terms (most of which had place names within them – from the site’s Google Analytics) and the impact on their actual visitors overall for the week were very minimal when you factored out unrelated changes in demand. See example screens below.

    rental apartments in Rome 16 11 2010 1

    However, without the word rental it suddenly becomes a little less ‘local’.

    apartments in Rome 16 11 2010 1

    And sometimes organic prevails over places in the new or the old format.

    italy accommodation 16 11 2010 smaller 1

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