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 Engine Optimized locally, you need to be listed in the Local business Directories!
Google has been evolving their Maps listings (also known as Google Places, Google Local and most recently Google My Business), 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 C result would take the searcher to the Google Places page.
That was significant only because it pushed organic 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-C (and for a short time 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 Local Google My Business listings 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. Also the listing included reviews, hours, directions and posts. 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 businesses clearly identified, with Map pins, reviews and hours:
Clearly, those businesses that have well-optimized web-pages, and are listed in the Google My Business directory are going to get more traffic to their websites. Even a business that does not have a website, Colonial Auto Repair, is listed in the second place. Additionally, notice the sites that not seen – the other directory sites; Yellowpages.com, superpages.com, bizfinder.com, etc. that used to be at the top of the Search Engine Result Page. Google has specifically stated that users don’t want to see search results pages in their search results*. One 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.
This was also evident when I did a search for a dentist in Danbury. I also could see the business phone number, number of reviews and their ratings.
No longer do we see listings for the “Yellow Page directory” type websites, the eyes are naturally drawn to the Google My Business local listings. I am sure that Danbury Dental Group, with 314 reviews and 4.9 rating, will get much higher clicks from their local listing result than their organic listing even though their organic listing is the first website listing. I cannot state enough how important a Google My Business listing with high rankings and a good number of reviews is for a local business to be found in search
If you would like help getting listed in the local Google My Business directory, please contact us schedule an appointment.