The ranking criteria that matters most for the current discussion is relevance. In offering product photos to users searching for products, Google is both declaring and emphasizing that this business has offerings relevant to the searcher’s stated need.
Google appears to think of ranking in terms of zones, where the first zone features the best possible mix of proximity, relevance, and prominence, and the second zone begins to sacrifice either proximity, or relevance, or both, but is less likely to sacrifice prominence. In more human terms, this means that Google wants to show us the best options for a query, and when it runs of inventory, it brings in results that are farther away or that might offer a reasonable alternative.
Claire Carlile, in a recent post on visual search that contains useful tips for local businesses, shows us that Google is now making it possible to conduct a search that starts and ends with images. Her example search is conducted using Google Lens, where an image of a Sony headphones package is the “query” that produces a local pack result replete with its own images. This may or may not be the future of search, but it’s highly representative of the visual-first orientation that Google is embracing to a growing degree.
The push to regulate big tech is not new. In fact, a bill similar to the American Innovation and Choice Online Act was introduced by the House of Representatives last year, only to be relegated to the legislative back burner. So far, no meaningful legislation has made its way into law, but each new effort in that direction reawakens the possibility that companies like Google will eventually need to modify their practices to remove bias towards themselves.
As 2021 stretched on, with its vaccine controversies and mutating variants, we realized we were really just living through an indefinite phase in the middle of a long pandemic. Consumer habits, rather than getting back to normal, were settling in to a battle-weary pattern of compromise. It seemed unlikely that local search data would tell us much we didn’t already know. But it turns out the data tells a somewhat encouraging story.
I wanted to look in particular at search engines other than Google and their treatment of local search. I was intrigued by the recent announcements that Bing was making forays into product inventory as a component of local search as well as the launch of Bing Travel, a Google Travel competitor but with a very different approach to destination-based search and discovery. Similarly, recent news about the exponential growth of Brave and DuckDuckGo in our era of privacy impelled me to find out more about their handling of local results.
Figuring out what type of Local Guides are leaving reviews, and what kind of reviews they are leaving, matters for a few reasons. First, Local Guides are responsible for writing more reviews of local businesses than any other group on the internet. Second, Local Guides write reviews under circumstances that make them different from ordinary consumers: They are self-selected volunteers who get rewarded, albeit in a non-monetary fashion, for their contributions. Fairly or not, they are often thought of as biased and their contributions as less valuable, merely “written for points.” Third, the true characteristics of Local Guides are not well known, because they have not yet been subject to this type of study.
After conducting more than 50 “local intent” searches, I’ve found that not all of them return the new “mega map,” nor is the new layout as consistent as it at first appeared it would be. The range of searches I tried includes generic keyword searches for brick-and-mortar stores, such as the example above, as well as searches for local service providers, chain stores, products, and more. I tried covering a broad base of searches covering a range of categories. I made sure all of my searches would be interpreted as local by appending “san francisco” to each query.
Three of the most notable trends — the ever-increasing importance of native Google My Business (now Google Business Profile) factors and, in particular, of reviews, as well as the diminished impact of citation building — are reinforced this year, with Google profile optimization accounting for 36% of local ranking, up from 33% last year, and reviews inching up from 16% to 17%, while citations continue at 7%, down significantly in importance compared to their prominent role in earlier years.
A robust online presence is table stakes for even “local” businesses, as the local customer journey is thoroughly integrated into online search and selling. The Uberall study also suggests local businesses should capitalize on the greater trust and emotional connection they command with customers in an era when a product from Amazon is two clicks away.
A trio of local search experts expound on the latest in the industry. Claire Carlile proposes Google My Business as a CMS and covers how businesses should approach the channel; Miriam Ellis explores the increasingly blurred lines between different categories of sites and businesses; and Damian Rollison delineates the major trends shaping the trajectory of local search, especially on Google.
This is the second in a series of four articles covering the themes behind many of Google’s recent local search feature releases and interface updates. In the first installment, I discussed Google’s increasingly personalized or customized search results, marked by content pulled from GMB profiles, the business website, and Google users, and matched to specific queries so that each SERP is unique. In this second installment, I’ll be talking too about interfaces that differ according to what you’re searching for, but in this case the differences are verticalized.
Though it’s not always easy to find the common threads in Google’s complex evolution of the local search consumer experience, some themes do stand out, such as the drive toward increasingly personalized search results, which I’ll be covering in this initial entry in the series. Fortunately for marketers, personalization, along with the other themes I’ll cover, offers numerous opportunities to outpace the competition and convert more searchers into buyers. A better understanding of these emerging trends will help marketers prioritize their efforts.
Location marketing has now had its testing moment, a moment that Google and its contemporary alternatives have been priming themselves for, whether knowingly or not, for quite some time. The era of zero-click consumer engagement has arrived; if that had been apparent to local SEOs prior to this year, it’s now clear to consumers and everyone else concerned with the business of local commerce.
Tunnel vision is an issue that’s long plagued the SEO community. Single-location rank trackers don’t tell the complete story of how well a business is really performing in local search results. But with so many avenues to go down in measuring success, it’s almost impossible not to get sidetracked from time to time. If businesses […]
For marketers who have found ways to use the latest tools and features being offered by Google and other search partners, 2021 is poised to become a period of high growth. With Google’s spate of new local marketing features launched in 2020, and predictions that additional changes are on the horizon in 2021, Adthena VP of Marketing Ashley Fletcher says the role that GMB plays in the larger local search space is expanding.
Advertisers, brands, and agencies are scrambling to deliver the highly tailored, localized search experiences that Covid-era consumers are increasingly looking for. In fact, 61% of marketers in a recent Forrester study said that improving the efficacy of their local marketing is a high priority for 2021.
So, how can advertisers and marketers navigate this evolving, more localized search landscape and get it right? Here are a few key items to keep in mind.
This has been the most active year in the history of local search when it comes to the introduction of new features. Google recently announced that it had made nearly 250 updates to Google Maps since the start of the pandemic, and just about every other local publisher, including Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, and even Apple Maps, has been busy.
As we near the end of this unusual year, I thought it would be useful to take stock of these changes and note the ones that are the most significant.
Whether to build local pages on a subdomain or within a subfolder has long been a topic of heated debate. I’ve never sought to sway anyone’s religious conviction, nor do I intend to begin doing so. If you’re a devout subfolder-er, then I’m sure you have your reasons, and I look forward to hearing them. I’ll add that I haven’t yet thought of any other instances wherein I’d argue in favor of a subdomain, but I believe local pages are an exception. So, for those of you still open to opportunity, prepare to be opportune.
Customers expect businesses to answer their questions and meet their demands in one easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate-to location. They want to know what a store carries, where the store is located, and if they can easily buy a product online instead. Increasingly, especially since the advent of Covid-19, they also want to know if they have access to services like curbside pickup or what safety provisions a business provides. This is why, now more than ever, marketers need to leverage local content strategies to our advantage.