Last week the online search world experienced an earthquake. The earth didn’t actually move, but our search results experienced a significant “shake” when Google released what has been dubbed the “Pigeon” update. For local businesses, this update has been extremely positive, displaying business listings in a huge percentage of its queries. We have discovered that small businesses, locally searched, may actually see a big gain as a result of the Pigeon update. Let me explain some of our findings. Initially, many who reviewed results after the update concluded that local Map Packs were significantly reduced in Google search results. The initial data that MOZ released suggested a grim picture with a huge reduction in Map Packs. However, upon further inspection, the queries performed lacked user location. For years Google has detected user’s physical location and used that information to deliver unique search results. Now it appears that setting location is necessary to return the most relevant local results. Continue reading
At the Google I/O keynote a new Google Maps interface was rolled out in beta form. This new user interface is the first major overhaul of the Maps product in almost 10 years. Besides the UI overhaul, it fundamentally alters the way that users interface with Google Maps. What does that mean?
No more Peg Man!
The list is dead! Long live the list!
In all seriousness, probably the most important change as far as local discover and local SEO is that searches for businesses or locations are no longer displayed in a list. Instead, they are displayed in a more organic fashion on the map itself:
Not only does this have the potential to impact the discovery of local businesses, but for those of us in the local search marketing space, it will most likely break your rank tracking tools. Especially since Places was removed as an option from Google Search. Fear not! There still is a way to get to a hierarchical list of places. Simply click the “Go to list of top results” after you perform a search in the new Google Maps interface:
Once you click on this you are taken to the same list of Places results that Mike Blumenthal recently showed on his blog. There is lots of speculation on whether or not this will replace Places in Google after the previous version was eliminated, however, only time will tell. At least right now, you will have to get your rankings report and conduct deeper dives into local rankings data through the new Maps interface. It’s not perfect, but it is doable.
Integrating with Google Plus and other Google products
Before the Google I/O keynote there was lots of speculation that the new Maps UI was going to more fully integrate with Google Plus/Plus Local and that is definitely the case. It is possible to sort Maps results through both your Google Plus circles, as well as the top reviews.
To access the Maps beta I have to be signed into my Google account, so I assume that filtering through your Google Plus circles goes away if you aren’t signed in, but cannot verify. Regardless, it adds a new social layer and level of personalization to Google Maps that some will appreciate and some won’t. This new integration also further fuels speculation that Google is not so much redesigning their local search products as much as they are integrating them into Google Maps and Google Plus. Given some of the other changes to Maps, that likely seems their strategy. Speaking of which…
Another change in the new Google Maps interface is a deeper integration with other Google products like AdWords and Offers. Specifically, AdWords campaigns with local extensions now show up on the map with a purple pin and are clearly labeled as ads.
In addition to the new ad display, when you click on a business location that has a Google Offer, it shows the offer in the UI; if you click on it you are taken directly to that company’s offer page.
Hopefully this will provide more value for local businesses that attempt to fully integrate with the Google idon’tknowwhattheyarecallinglocal experience.
A look at the new business listings
The classic business listing also got a much needed visual and information overhaul:
The new business listing has several components, and are much more robust then they used to be. The features include:
- The business name and address
- Today’s hours (which when clicked on brings up an overlay of the complete business hours)
- Directions (because it wouldn’t be Google Maps without directions)
- The ability to save a location
- The website associated with the listing (and if there isn’t one it references the Google Plus Local Page)
- Phone Number
- Street View
- Photos associated with the business listing
- A 360 degree panoramic view of the inside of the business (if the specific business has one)
- A star rating and average if the business has more than 5 reviews
- A menu, that as far as I can tell comes from menupages.com or viewmenu.com
- Pricing displayed as dollar signs
- Google categories, which if clicked produces a new search with the category as the query
- A description taken from the associated Google Plus Local page, if there is one
Like I said previously, I really like the new interface, although it is harder to manage. Unfortunately, what that means is another complication for local business owners to navigate when dealing with Google’s convoluted and oft changing local ecosystem. Did anybody notice anything else? If so, I would love to hear about it.
For about a month now, I have been getting an odd message when I try to access the “Edit Details” Mapmaker page directly from the Google Places listing of a SAB. A sad face tells me that the page won’t load and that they’ve tried everything.
It appears that Google has removed all SAB’s from Mapmaker. Any listing that hides its address cannot be found via the Mapmaker interface in Places or in Mapmaker itself. This may be a new effort by Google to separate the process of searching for SABs and storefront businesses, and it may provide a solution to the slew of problems we’ve recently faced with SABs. First we had the problem of SAB addresses showing in Mapmaker despite being hidden in the dashboard, and after that we experienced many businesses showing their addresses on Maps even though they had checked “Hide My Address” in the dashboard.
This possible ‘solution,’ however, may create just as many problems. With the community edit page transformed into Mapmaker earlier this year, there is now no way to edit your business details other than using the Places dashboard, which is unreliable and slow at best. A recommended practice for now would be to submit a Google troubleshooting form to deal with any problems you may have. You can complete this form, writing out any problems you have in detail, and you even have the option of calling Google phone support. Phone support may be a much faster method of getting your listing information fixed if you are the business owner. If you are managing someone else’s listing though, Google will need to contact the business owner to confirm the changes that you want to make.
The important thing is to remain adaptable to whatever Google rolls out in the near future. Legacy Places accounts have not yet been transferred to the new Dashboard, and this may be just the first of many changes that will screw with our workflow. My advice is to stay on top of what Google is doing and do your work the way that Google would want it to be done, or risk being left behind.