As a local Small Business, what is more important: to have a Search Engine Optimized website or to be listed in the Search Engine’s Local Directories?
Answer: In order to be Search Engined Optimized locally, you need to be listed in the Local business Directories!
Google has been evolving their Maps listings (also known as Google Business, Google Local and most recently Google Places), so that being in the directory has a real benefit for a small business.
Back in 2007, Google first announced their Universal Search program, and until recently it has been a series of blending web-page search results with video, books, and other search results.
Google’s vision for universal search is to ultimately search across all its content sources, compare and rank all the information in real time, and deliver a single, integrated set of search results that offers users precisely what they are looking for. Beginning today, the company will incorporate information from a variety of previously separate sources – including videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites – into a single set of results. At first, universal search results may be subtle. Over time users will recognize additional types of content integrated into their search results as the company advances toward delivering a truly comprehensive search experience.
For example, a user searching for information on the Star Wars character Darth Vader is likely interested in all the information related to the character and the actor – not just web pages that mention the movie. Google will now deliver a single set of blended search results that include a humorous parody of the movie, images of the Darth Vader character, news reports on the latest Lucas film, as well as websites focused on the actor James Earl Jones – all ranked in order of relevance to the query. Users no longer have to visit several different Google search properties to find such a wide array of information on the topic.
~ Google.com, May 16, 2007
The first major impact that I saw was when Google Maps results started to appear in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) for a keyword phrase that included a location, such as Dental Schools, New York, NY. Clicking on the Blue hyperlink of an A through G result would take the searcher to the Google Places page.
That was significant only because it pushed web results further down the page but the results were easy to categorize and after checking a couple of the “Map” results, a searcher knew that the A-G results were only Google’s map listings – basically a directory of business that fit into the category most closely related to the search phrase. From an Internet marketer’s view-point, the focus was still to optimize a website because, most of the searchers would be looking for more information than an address and phone number, so would scan past the Map results and click on the website results below. If a business did not have an optimized website, even if they were listed in the A through G listing, there was little chance that this listing would steal traffic from a well organized website that appeared in the organic results.
Recently though, I have been seeing the A through G pin tags appearing in organic search results and not separated from the rest of the organic results. They have broken the result listing up so that the title of the result will take the searcher to the web-page, but clicking on the pin or the “Place Page” link will take the visitor to the Maps page. Suddenly we are not just competing with websites that are well optimized, but also with sites that are listed in the Maps.
“As a local business, the chance to be on the front page of Google has just been cut in half if you are not also in Google Places”
When I did a recent search for “Car Repair Danbury”, I suddenly had local business clearly identified, with Map pins, and images showing their shop or logo:
Clearly, those businesses that have well-optimized web-pages, and are listed in the Google Places directory are going to get more traffic to their websites. Additionally, notice the sites that are reduced to the background – the other directory sites; Yellowpages.com, superpages.com, bizfinder.com, etc. Google has specifically stated that users don’t want to see search results pages in their search results*. Once could argue that directories are merely a form of a search result, and this could be the beginning of the end for these Internet Yellow Pages being found in the top listings of Google.
Even more evident was when I did a search for a dentist in Danbury. Not only did I see the logos and images of different dentists in the area, but I also could see the number of reviews and their ratings.
While the top three listings are for the “Yellow Page directory” type websites, the eyes are naturally drawn to the A through G local listings. I am sure that Dr. Landress and Dr. Burio would get much higher click-throughs under this new result page than previously, simply because of the high rankings and number of reviews that are shown for them. I especially feel bad for DrTag.net, he’s on the first page of Google, but probably will be overlooked because he is not listed in Google Places.
If you would like help getting listed in the local business directories of Google, Bing and Yahoo, please give us a call to schedule an appointment.