As you may have already noticed, on August 6th Google updated the way websites appear in local search engine results. While Google’s updates vary from time to time, the latest update can affect websites in a number of different ways.
This “local snack pack” Google has created has changed a series of seven different local listing requirements to just three sets of changes. Local result listings will be shortened and the “Local Snack Pack” replaces the previously used “Carousel” by Google.
This shake up will determine how easily businesses can be found in browser searches across the world. This changes how web marketing will be completed so local websites appear higher in searches.
The goal is to ensure that a business website will fall in line with the new Google update and still maintain how easily consumers can locate the websites. There are methods and strategies to ensure that this new change will keep your website found.
Every business listing offers just a minimal amount of information that is targeted at searchers to go ahead and click through to the next interface and then to a third interface.
Right now, this update only applies to a certain type of businesses such as restaurants and most service providers. However, this change could potentially affect other industries and businesses as well. That is why it is imperative to be aware of these changes now so as to not be blindsided by them later.
The Shift that Shook Up the Sites
While seven local businesses were previously listed, Google has shortened that to three of the top local listings. Included in these listings are the business name, location, brief description of the business, and the Google star rating based on customer experiences.
The image below shows the major change:
More in depth information will not be listed even though it can be vital information. While the listing might give the location of the particular business, it may not offer anything more than a city name.
To find the business address, it would require users to click through to find the information. While users might be looking for the business’ website link or a phone number, Google will require a click through to another interface to find it.
Not only does the snack pack version shake up online marketing and SEO, it also changes how it might affect visibility and traffic to the website. Someone who has never been to a city before might find themselves not interested in what the snack pack has to offer and the user may find themselves continuing to click even more to find just what they are looking for.
It not only seems like more work for the site content webmasters but also for the users who want to simply search for a nearby Italian restaurant.
What Looks Different…
The local search engine result pages (SERPs) will look different and the new local listings will also be different to navigate. In comparison, before the snack pack was utilized, if someone was looking for a local professional in heating and cooling, there would be a listing of seven different companies that offer those services.
It would include a location which usually provided an assigned location on a map of the city. It would also show if there were reviews or star ratings. It would also provide a telephone number and an easy click through straight to the company’s website.
Now, with the three pack abbreviated version, users get three of those and it just lists the name of them. There is a link that shows that it is a heating and cooling service business but there is no phone number and no other information.
One might have star ratings provided by Google which has reviews but they are harder to get to. There are not necessarily direct links to the website either but instead, a little icon that can be clicked on to show there is a website. Now, searchers can no longer get business contact info but instead have to look it up on their own.
Previously, these businesses might have had a hard enough time to squeeze into first page search engine results to be found even in the top seven. Now with the top three only being listed, competition to make it to the snack pack listings makes it even more difficult.
While it is still early to tell, the Google update has made a significant impact but it seems to have a few bugs. However, if this is the way that Google wants to run their search engine results pages, the mogul will find a way to make it work.
The Upside of the Shake Up
Perhaps looking at it initially makes it seem more difficult for local businesses, there is another way to look at it. The snack pack provides an opportunity for more exposure for more businesses. Depending on the actual location of where the searcher is, the top three local results actually rotate.
For example, if a user is looking for an Italian restaurant in Chicago, depending on where the user is in Chicago, a user might get a variety of different results each time they check it with the top three constantly rotating.
This means that if a user is in northern Chicago is looking for an Italian restaurant, they will see different search engine results pages than someone who is conducting a search while they are located in southern Chicago when using the words “Chicago Italian restaurants” for example.
The Snack Pack interface may seem a little bit limited upon first glance. However, it actually could be more beneficial. It could appear that if Google pages are not up to date with information on a certain business, customers could receive information that is incorrect.
This could lead to a business being found in a search but the information could be incomplete or wrong which is harmful to a business. However, if a business has a Google page that is up-to-date with correct information and reviews are positive, this new platform could prove successful for a business.
However, there is more to this update that business users need to know. Since Google My Business links and fly-out business cards have been disabled, searchers will turn to a map view that lists 20 businesses.
Also, most users who are searching for a business will look for organic results that appear more credible which means users will likely go straight to a business website or even business page directories such as Yelp.
Aim for the Top 20
The major thing a business owner must focus on is whether or not contact information is up to date in all directories and on Google pages. SEO strategies can also be adjusted even if a business already has a proactive SEO team working on content.
If you, as a user, try to Google your business, you may not show up in the local pack. However, if you went a block away, you might show up immediately. These fluctuations make it really difficult to track using rank checking tools and technology.
Your ranking report might show a much different analysis when in actuality; your business is appearing in the Snack Pack for actual searchers using Google. Cynics think this might make local businesses turn instead to AdWords to pay for higher spots in Google’s searches.
One solid tip to take advantage of is to make sure that your business appears on the map view among the top 20 which Google lists. For this portion of a search, if someone is looking for an Italian restaurant in Chicago, no matter where that searcher is located, it is very likely that you will appear in the top 20 regardless of where a person is searching from.
The top 20 just might be rearranged depending on the user’s physical location at the time.
What this actually means is that there is a more even distribution of visibility for the top 20 businesses. This might mean that you change your focus on marketing through Google and focus more on being sure that you are listed in the top 20 map rather than the rank of a local pack.
A searcher can spot you if you are already listed in the top 20 but make sure that the snippet you are given about your business is a compelling one because your business name is just one among a long list of competitors. Even if you do not show up in the top three, that snippet can help steal customers from the competition.
Keep Your Info Updated & Positive Reviews are a MUST!
If you are doing good work at your business, ask customers to leave positive feedback to keep positive reviews on Google+ pages. Zagat and Yelp’s webpages should also have positive reviews since users will be focusing on organic information.
In the image below, you will see how the reviews looked like BEFORE the update:
And this is how the reviews (no longer called Google Reviews) look like AFTER the update:
You want your business info up to date and for this new search methodology to show a good representation of your business based on past customers in order to entice future clientele.
For the long-term, the focus of success not just for the three empty and coveted slots should be up-to-date information and positive customer reviews. Some may think this will change SEO strategies completely to try to get in those top three slots to eliminate the competition.
While this is true to some extent, the likelihood that users will only use three suggestions is very slim. Why focus on three options when users can look at 20? That is why the click through information is so imperative so users can be wooed by the true information that is posted online and through Google.
Regardless of where your business appears on any directory or database, ensure that all name, address, and phone numbers are current because this helps to build a page’s authority. Plus, make sure these are standardized across all citations on other websites and directories.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure your opening and closing times are accurate and up to date. If your business is open on Sunday – but only during certain months, make sure that during the months that you are open on Sundays that you show that you are open.
If that desperate person in need of heating and cooling repair on a Sunday sees you’re open and then finds your business is closed, you have lost a customer.
Main Strategy Focuses to Implement NOW
Continue to pay attention to external listings and on-site listings. Use Google+ for external listing opportunities because that is Google’s go-to since businesses are using their own products.
Focus on these things to ensure the Snack Pack update works for your business, particularly in a Google My Business listing:
- Include an in-depth and unique business description that includes links and is correctly formatted
- Choose a business category that is correct on your Google My Business listing
- Upload several compelling and high quality photos and include a high-resolution profile image and cover photo on your listing
- Include a local phone number and utilize click-to-call tags in phone number listings
- Add any other business information associated with a physical address and ensure that the listing matches what is on your website and in other local directories
- Earn positive reviews on Google+
- Make sure that your website is easily accessible for mobile users and is user friendly on mobile devices
Embrace the Change as an Opportunity
Stick to these simple strategies and recognize that the increase in competition is actually beneficial to potential customers. Local businesses that make the effort to keep their business information up-to-date are businesses that show they care about the growth of their business and acknowledge that there is a need for an improvement for an online presence.
If a business cares about how they appear to potential customers, it is more likely they care more about offering excellent customer service too. In the long run, this technique might help the cream rise to the top. So be the proverbial cream.