By Amanda Patterson
Google changed the way it serves up Search Engine Results Page (SERP) results in lated October for searches assumed to have local intent. With Place Search, Google Places receives more emphasis, and organic results, fewer. The results on page one are now more relevant and focused than ever. From our perspective, its an exciting opportunity for self-storage companies to dominate in a competitive space with their website presence.
Right now, this appears to be a moving target. But, heres a quick summary of the changes were seeing today.
- The Google map seven-pack is gone. A Google Map appears to the right of the screen now above paid ads four through 10. Sometimes the map scrolls over the paid adsthis feature is variable at this point. Paid ads one through three are still prominent and at the top of the page.
- The Place links that used to appear in the map pack are now in the main search results as rich listings with images. Selected third-party sites (mainly review sites) are clustered with the listings. Sometimes the Places link is mixed in with the organic result, combining the two into a single entry.
- For most queries, the number of generic organic links served on page one has been reduced and pushed down on the page.
- In cases of ambiguous queries, if Google isnt sure whether users are seeking local information, a Places Mode results page will appear. In this view, organic listings can appear above and below the Place listing results.
- Depending on the location set in the left-hand column of the SERP, your search results will be different in both local and organic listings. In fact, a variety of factors impact and change the results you see, including whether or not Instant is on, Google Places is selected, the location is typed into the search bar, and youre signed in.
- The Maps menu selection has been replaced by Places. Clicking on Places serves up only local results.
What Do These Changes Mean?
These changes reflect Googles commitment to local search. Self-storage businesses need to be equally committed if they want first-page placement. Place Pages were always important, but now theyre critical.
Google Reviews are more critical now, too. In addition to being served up on Place pages, a new review link appears next to the Place listing and key review sites are served up as clustered links.
Because of the new scrolling-map feature, competition for paid spots one through three may be more heated than before. It could also mean a reduced cost per click for the lower spot, but that placement is still valuable, and reduced cost per click would only increase the return on investment on those ads.
Local search marketing strategies need to be focused and smart. With less SERP real estate, page one has become significantly more competitive.
Greg Sterling summed it up well on Search Engine Land: By making local results (and Place Pages) more prominent than even they were before, users will likely respond with more local queries and rely on Google more heavily for local information. The overall volume and percentage of queries on Google seeking local information may in turn increase.
Google loves to surprise. For those of us with a pulse on the direction Google has been going, this isnt a huge shock. Local search continues to dominate and as search moves towards mobile, it will dominate even more. For now, we look forward to seeing how Googles SERP changes will boost traffic to self-storage websites that are optimized for local search.
With 10 years experience in marketing and advertising, Amanda Patterson manages the public relations, social and communications strategy for G5, a provider of vertical-specific local marketing solutions that help self-storage properties get found online, generate more qualified leads, convert more leads into new tenants, track marketing performance including offline, and optimize the marketing sources with the best return on investment.