• Guy Hadas

    Well, That is quite a problem for what you call address-less businesses.
    I understand the urge of Google to push forward Google + but I think most people and businesess don’t understand how important it is and theredore missing it.
    The one that will take it seriously now, will have huge benefit in the future, at least until Google will be gone… :)

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Chris I share many of your concerns.

    You mentioned one of the biggest changes – the missing left column results. There are 2 other big changes that will affect local search. I’m working on a post with examples for tomorrow.

    1) Link to G+ L page is missing now. Need to click reviews to get to the page. There are pros and cons to the new info card display.

    2) Maps are personalized and change and grow with you. So the map I see, the map my client sees and the map Joe surfer (potential customer for client) sees could all be radically different. This will cause problems with rank tracking software and will make even discussing rankings with clients difficult.

    One of our members is doing a public Google hangout this AM demoing the new Maps and how it will impact Local Search. I’ve asked for some specific examples to be shown that should help folks see more clearly what’s I’m referring to above. I’ve also asked Ryan to show ranking correlation to see how the 7 pack results show and compare as far as ranking order/prominence. So I’m going to wait to get feedback from that event and if it’s recorded want to add it to tomorrow’s post.

    He posted a video walk-through of the new Maps and local search implications on Friday for us too. Sure wish my maps invite would come through so I could work with the new Maps directly instead of having to live vicariously through others. ;-)

  • http://www.andykuiper.com/ Andy Kuiper – SEO Analyst

    Excellent summation of what’s happening in Local – thanks for the update Chris :-)

  • http://twitter.com/si1very Chris Silver Smith

    Update: Joel Headley from Google Local just reported to me via Google+ that the issues I saw around addressless and hidden-address business listings are unintentional bugs.

  • Beth Kahlich

    Chris – on the subject of address-less businesses, I have one client whose home address does rank well for their service-based business. It’s a pretty tight niche and a company that has been around for a long time and ranks well locally.

    Do you think Google will start to de-value that listing as time goes on?

    Great discussion of the new maps interface :)

  • http://twitter.com/echwa Damien Anderson

    Thanks for your views on this Chris. Where you discuss the challenges certain trades have where they need to target particular geographic areas, usually those which are not the same as their registered business addresses, are they not already competing on a similar basis in local search to others within their trade?

    As you documented at the start of 2011 there were launch problems in how these ‘mobile’ trades were advised on how to legitimately register their business and to target geographic areas, but over time and with improvements Google has made those issues have dissipated.

    After watching Google i/o this year, I am of the view Google+ is the new Google search, so as opposed to being that service, it is the service to focus on for the future of search.

    Finally, your view of brands trying out Google+ pages for a limited period and then leaving them to idle or stagnate, do you have data on this?

  • Scott Davis

    Something else to consider in this area is home based business that actually have a physical address but operate out of a service area (non-location based service companies). The way Google has their Google+ and Google Business pages set up, if you have a residential address, you cannot create a Google+ page for your business, because it won’t accept a residential address for a company. In addition, for things like “Appliance Repair Service”, there is no business category type in the drop-down box to sufficiently cover this field. You can choose “plumber” or “electrician”, but neither of these suffice for “appliance repair”. You could also select “appliance store”, but once again, this doesn’t actually work for the business type mentioned above.

    For those of us dealing with this issue, we’re fighting an uphill battle against everyone trying to game Google’s system with multiple “business address” listings in various cities with the same company name but no true physical address in that city (this used to work, apparently) as well as fighting with Google in trying to get our map listing to even show up in the first place.

    Don’t get me wrong… In 90 days, I’ve managed to take the #1 spot for the city we’re actually targeting, but that’s without the aid of a Google+ page or the Google Map listing, because Google won’t let me set up the + page, and won’t acknowledge my verified map listing (it just will not show up in search). Imagine what we could have done with the Google+ and map listings showing up after result #1 in the SERP…

  • http://twitter.com/si1very Chris Silver Smith

    Linda makes a great point about how this will further impact the visibility of businesses in search results, making them increasingly relative to personalization factors.

    Beth, Damien & Scott – I’m mainly focusing in this article on the impacts of the Google+ UI change on local biz marketing – I’ve written in-depth on the issues around address-less businesses in earlier articles. But, the dilemma of address-less businesses hasn’t abated from my POV.

    Damien – I and many other marketers and businesses would not at all share the observation that issues around address-less business listings have “dissipated”.

    My mentions about Google+ usage are based on anecdotal evidence, coupled with feedback I’ve received from big and small brands, as well as articles about the purported usage (there’s no universal agreement around this as of yet). Google’s own evangelist on analytics, Avinash Kaushik, reported a year ago about how difficult it was to compare the numbers, and that relatively little solid data is available publicly: https://plus.google.com/+avinash/posts/Gz8i52zUunz As he alludes, the question of usage and definition make it difficult to compare. How much of the usage has been one-time visits to check it out, versus frequent monthly use? Does having an account equate with general adoption?

    The question is most vital for small businesses. Large brands with high levels of name recognition have people seeking them out, including on Google+. However, smaller brands don’t see as much uptick, and it’s currently harder to accrue followers on the service compared with Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Some recent reports mention that a preponderance of activity that is going on in Google+ is happening in private circles, and it’s likely that those would be private conversations among groups as opposed to brand interactions, IMHO. Take just one example — Whole Foods Market, which is very active in social media and has a Google+ page (https://plus.google.com/+wholefoods ) that they apparently began posting to in December of 2011. Their most recent post is in November 2012. Considering that their Twitter and Facebook accounts were updated just hours ago, I’d suggest that they have tried out Google+, didn’t see a strong enough indication of consumer adoption, and have likely temporarily abandoned the service until they do see indications of higher usage outside of tech and marketing circles. And, I don’t believe they’re alone in that sequence of trying-it-out, failing to see sufficient usage, and then mothballing/suspending. Anecdotal, but I’m seeing this sequence consistently enough that I don’t consider it an outlier.

  • Mark Maier

    Hmmm well, just because you’re hiding your business address from the public doesn’t mean you’re hiding it from Google, and all of my “address-less” clients have always ranked well in their designated service areas.

    From my perspective, this latest change is very helpful since it challenges Local SEOs to contend in the existing Local packs, or furthermore to create custom Local results in the SERPs.

    I enjoy many aspects of the new Maps layout myself, namely its display of results on the map, abandoning the list that ultimately censored results relevant to the displayed area.

  • Mark Maier

    Hi Linda, for the past year I’ve made it a best practice to always confirm the same front-page results with each of my clients, regardless of our relative search histories or locations. Then there’s no need for rank-tracking software. I’m wondering, are you toggling your search settings in any way?

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Hi Mark. “no need for rank-tracking software”. I don’t think consultants that have 50 clients each with 30 keyword combos can afford to manually do rank tracking. I don’t deal with clients any more, just support consultants who do. But when I did, I used 2 rank tracking programs that can both be set to search from the location the client is in, to get closest results.

    But my point above is that the new maps is so personalized everyone’s results will be different. And with more results gone, if someone does not rank on page 1, then the software needs to go to map search to determine ranking and that algo is totally different now from what I’m seeing.

  • Review HELPER

    For business owners who have a problem with Yelp, wait till you see what it’s like once Google gets a stranglehold on the review space. It looks like Google is going to compel the use of Google+ through a push-pull strategy. With reviews becoming so important to even showing up in searches–on both Maps and Google organic–local businesses will start sending customers to Google+ to give them reviews. (Another recent announcement is that Google intends to allow review writing inside Gmail accounts.)

    And who knows what the future will bring. Perhaps when users search Google Maps for your business name, they’ll be shown nearby competitors; from an interface perspective, they’ll be asked, “Are you sure you want to go there? Here are better places recommended by your friends and neighbors?” This ambushing of your brand is called “conquesting,” only here it will not be with ads (the way Yelp shows competitor ads on your profile page) but based on reviews and ratings, i.e., participation in Google+. And who knows, maybe someday it will be based on ads.