You’ve almost certainly noticed over the past week or so that Google’s search results have changed – again. This time the change is to include local results from Google Places whenever a search for local information is carried out, or appears to be carried out. Previously if you were looking for a clockmaker in Truro you might have to search through either the organic search results, or head over to Google Places in the hope that all of the clockmakers in Truro had listings there.

example of google local search results
Example: Google Local Search Results

Now Google has got smarter, and has merged Google Places with the natural (SEO) search results. This doesn’t affect all searches, only those which Google perceives as requiring local business information. So a search for clockmakers in Truro would be likely to include up to seven local businesses which Google considers relevant to your search.

The new local listing information includes business contact information and a link, users can then click through to the main website or visit the Places page for further information. For local businesses this may be good news, unless of course you’re not in the top seven businesses listed. But there has been a great deal of concern raised by a number of people regarding how this new look Google localisation will affect businesses, including those with a local presence, those with a national presence, and those with no physical, geographical location at all.

So what are the concerns people have raised in response to this new move by Google, and what’s the best way for businesses and SEO companies to respond in order to take advantage of the new opportunities, and get found?

Has Google Places made SEO irrelevant?

The first concern which has been raised by some business owners is that the amount of investment they have made in order to get a page one organic listing has been wasted. This is not true, because the localisation results appear above the normalĀ  listings found on page one. So if you were high up on page one before then, other SEO issues aside, you should still be on page one – just a lot lower down.

As previously mentioned, SEO is also a ranking factor in Google Places so the existence of a strong localised, geo-targeted optimisation campaign is as important as ever.

Of course, in some cases you may find that your business is one of those listed in the top seven localised results, meaning that you could very well find your business listed twice on page one if you haven’t yet got round to associating your URL with your Google Places listing. Getting listed on page one is still critical, and in most cases those seven localised results will include businesses previously found high up on the SERPs anyway.

So your previous SEO Investment was certainly not a waste of time, and there are many examples where a business’s SEO commitment has now paid off spectacularly in ways no one could have previously imagined. But there’s also no doubt that a great many businesses will now have to re-evaluate their SEO strategy, and think more carefully about how localised their SEO approach is, and how relevant to Google’s new localised results it is.

What about multiple geographical locations?

Another concern people have raised is that if their business has multiple geographical locations, they will need to multiply their SEO budget by the number of different locations in order to get found. This isn’t strictly true. It’s not a case of increasing the amount of SEO required – just adapting it to work better with Google’s new approach. Anyone who thinks that SEO is a static business which works in one single way, never changing, has clearly never worked in SEO.

Of almost any business, SEO is the one industry which is constantly having to change and respond – often without any advance notice, and with no one advising how best to respond to changes. Google’s new local places results has meant that SEO companies have had to re-think approaches used for business with geographical locations, and so any business with multiple geographical locations will need to work with their SEO company in order to devise a new strategy which will work in their favour.

Need help dominating the local listings? Contact us to find out more about our dedicated Local Search Optimisation service.