In the past, if Google determined a search had local intent, they displayed a breakout of listings from their local business database on Google Maps. These local business listings followed a separate algorithm than the main, or organic, search results. This past month, Google unveiled some major changes that alter the way these local search results are displayed, as well as how their order is calculated.
What are these changes?
- Local search results are now blended into the organic search results. These new results include information from both the organic listing and the local listing (Google Maps). In addition to displaying an image from the local listing, patient reviews are now displayed more prominently.
- The map is displayed above the PPC listings in the right column. As you scroll up or down, the map now moves with you. This may or may not have an effect on the performance of pay-per-click listings.
- The rankings are ordered using a combination of local listing factors as well as typical organic factors. This may cause changes in your website’s rankings. A practice that had a very strong local listing with many patient reviews may see an increase in visibility, while a practice with strong organic placement but a weak local listing may see a decrease in visibility.
What does this mean?
- Harder to rank for a location-based search in which you don’t have a physical office. Previously, location-based searches would display results for services located within that area itself as well as within neighboring towns. Now, those same location-based searches may only display results for services physically located within a given area.
- Make sure that the addresses of your office locations are listed consistently across the web. This is necessary to prevent any incorrect local listings from appearing and potentially impacting your website’s search rankings.
- More important than ever to have a fully-developed local listing complete with images and patient reviews. In addition to maintaining your reputation, local listings now serve as a major ranking factor. It is especially important at this point to encourage patients to post positive reviews on your listing.
At this time, Google is still testing different layouts, so we do not know exactly what the final results will look like. Regardless, it is clear that a major change has taken place. As always, we will continue to follow Google’s actions closely and adjust our SEO techniques where necessary.