I highlighted a survey yesterday that demonstrated the gains search engines are making versus other sources of local information. Today Google capped a week of announcements and changes that highlight its commitment to becoming the #1 source for information on local businesses.
If Google’s success continues, it will be even more important to your business. Here’s a look at what the company’s been up to in local.
Local Places Directories & Hiring
City Directories Found
First up, Google has been creating city directories, which appear aimed straight at Yelp and similar sites. The pages look very nice, and highlight popular local businesses: There has not been much of an announcement about these pages, which were spotted by Linda Buquet, with some more sightings and info posted by David Mihm. They look pretty well fleshed out, and I would guess we’ll hear more from Google soon.
Google Hiring For Local
As I said, the city directory pages look Yelp-like – which makes sense, given that Google is hiring Yelp-style community managers in various cities. In addition to community managers, Google is also hiring sales staff for selling to small businesses. The community managers and city directory pages will help bring the (already prodigious) traffic, and the sales staff can sell Google Boost, Google Offers, and other advertising options to complete the monetization end. They may need all the help they can get, judging from the mediocre take-up of early Google Offers. You can see local directories for Austin, Portland, Madison, and San Diego.
Places Adds Descriptive Terms
Google Places recently announced the addition of descriptive terms. This will help to automatically flesh out Google’s information about a business, using terms commonly seen in your reviews. If, however, bad reviews are a problem for your company, there could be some issues.
Google Inside Search Announcements
Today Google held a special “Inside Search” event. They started off talking about the amazing growth in mobile search (of which many are local) before discussing some improvements to local searches.
Local On Google’s Mobile Home Page
When using Google on a mobile phone, there will now be a few local links automatically displayed at the bottom of the page.
When a user clicks one of the icons, Google will automatically search for that type of business, displaying the closest businesses to their location.
Once a request is made, local searches have a new interface, with a map at the top of the screen. As you scroll down the list of results, the map stays in position, and the markers on the map change in line with the results you’re viewing. You can see it in action on Google’s promotional video.
Easier Mobile Searching
In addition to the new local icons and interface, Google is trying to searching easier on a phone. They are highlighted improvements to voice search, which will now be available on desktop(already a mobile feature), and a new search builder for mobile.
Google is clearly putting a lot of resources into local. They are highlighting it in mobile search, creating local directory pages, and experimenting with different monetization techniques. Possibly the biggest indicator of their intent in this area is the hiring of staff, as Google has always erred on the side of less sales/support contact with the public and its customers.
If Google keeps moving this way, they’ll continue to take traffic from other local information sources, making it even more important to make sure your business is taking best advantage of the services they offer. (Get started with a Places Page).