The plan is to rival Facebook business pages, and of course drive more people to more proactively use Google . Many expected the eventual shift, but did not expect it to happen so quickly and with such a big jump from one to the other. The question for SMBs of course is “how will this affect me?”
The initial reaction for many SMBs is: “what a pain - a whole lot more stuff for me to learn and do now!” Just when you and your SEO provider have invested time and effort into optimising your Google Places listing and you have got the hang of using it, Google come along and change things again. In many cases you may be using some Google tools but not even have an active Google profile.
As with many Google updates, the shift to Google Local will affect SMB’s in two ways:
The short term pain will come in having to learn about how to use it and maximise it. If you aren’t familiar with Google then you are going to have to spend time getting used to it. A good start is Google’s own Google Youtube channel. No doubt in the coming days and weeks there will be mountains more content online to help users make the transition as the Google changes rollout around the globe. In New Zealand for example, two days after the launch we have not seen changes to local search.
A couple of key factors that industry watchers will be discussing in the coming weeks are:
The long-term gain is two-fold, for users and businesses. Users will benefit by having a better online experience because they are able to gain more information about businesses before making a decision. They will be able to filter and share that information better through their Circles as well.
For businesses, the benefit will be better representation to target audiences. More information about you will be available and shared. Some of this will be provided from your customers and community, which if positive will reinforce trust, build rapport, and assist you to make conversions. The integration of Zagat reviews, which offer more detail than the basic Google five-star rating, is likely just the start and more review tools and websites across sectors and countries are likely to be added.
You will also be able to provide more information yourself. Google Places allowed some video and photo content along with limited space for a description, categories and basic business information. The new Google Local pages are more dynamic and visual with opportunities for businesses to present more of themselves.
A key aspect of the social integration with Google is to allow businesses to develop communities of followers and interact with them in the way they already can on Twitter and Facebook. In the coming months there are sure to be more enhancements encouraging more interaction and transaction. If you are an SMB already strapped for time this may be a challenge as it will require more effort. The flipside is greater engagement with your customers and potential customers via Google which is still so dominant in most parts of the world.
As with all aspects of your online marketing strategy, it comes down to cost versus benefits. Will the cost in time and effort, or monetary cost paying a search engine marketing company, bring a good return on investment? This will depend partly on your industry and audiences. There is no doubt the food and hospitality sectors, and many others will need to jump right in. Other SMBs, particularly those with a B2B focus may take time to understand how they can leverage Google Local. It will also be interesting to learn how much weight Google gives to ongoing social interaction versus a straight business rating and review.
As with many Google updates it will be a case of watch, read and learn, as this new chapter of Google local search begins. A good start is the Google Business Blog, and monitor blogs such as SearchEngineLand as well. Let me know how you get on by adding a comment below or tweet me at @OnlineAdvantNZ.
Roy started his first role as a Marketing Manager in 1995 and in 2001 moved into the field of online marketing. He is a Google Adwords Professional and specializes in helping clients maximize their online potential by matching tasks and techniques to their individual goals, resources and competencies.