If you are not involved in online marketing or if you don’t rely on Google to generate business for your company, you may have missed a massive rollout over the past few weeks. Google has changed the face of the SERPs (search engine results pages), and this will have a significant and immediate impact on local businesses and those spending money on Google Adwords.
This change will have a significant impact on local businesses, and could mean the end to organic traffic for many. In my opinion, this is exactly what Google is looking to accomplish, and is simply the next step in Google’s process to have advertisers pay for local maps listings. First, I want to be sure you understand the change.
Removal Of Google Ads On The Right Side Of The Page
Adwords is Google’s advertising platform that requires businesses to pay for placement on the search engine results page. At the most fundamental level, companies choose keywords that they want their ad to appear for, and then the advertiser pays for a click. This is why Adwords is also referred to as Pay-Per-Click. The more the advertiser is willing to pay for the click, the higher the advertiser will show in the results. (There are many other factors that go into placement, but I want to make this simple to understand).
In the past, Google would display three ads at the top of the search results, followed by eight ads on the right-hand side of the page. Here is an example of what the search results looked like before February 19th.
As you can see, the three listings at the top are paid ads, and the listings on the right were paid as well. The organic listings appeared in the #4 spot below the ads. This listing was not for a local search, so there were no Google My Business listings displayed on the page.
Here is a listing of the current algorithm for a geographical search of Maryland SEO services. As you can see, the top 4 placements are ads purchased by advertisers.
The next section being displayed is for the local results, which are referred to as Google My Business. Finally, in the 7th position is the first organic result. More organic listings will now appear on the page, followed by the remaining 3 ads on the bottom of the page. This means the total paid ads on a search page will decrease from 11 to 8, which will likely create more competition and an increase in price.
What This Means To Local Businesses
Why there are some different takeaways from this shift in the SERPS, the biggest opportunity for local businesses falls into Google My Business listings, often referred to as Maps or Google Places. Many online marketing experts would argue that most people realize that the top listings are ads, and are glossed over by many searchers. In this day, people do not want to see advertisements, but would prefer to see the organic results. There are instances when searchers are more inclined to click on the PPC ads such as when buying a product, but from my years of experience managing both SEO and Pay Per Click, the “better traffic” comes from the organic listings, including Google My Business.
This shift opens the door for many local businesses to capture the vast majority of local searches by appearing in one of the top three places listings. Google’s goal is to provide the searcher with the best possible result for every search, and providing a searcher with a local business is the way the algorithm is set up. If you do a search for a plumber, and you live in Maryland, you do not want to see results for plumbers in Sacramento, California. Google is the best search engine in the world, and they have achieved this status by refining their algorithm and looking to consistently provide the best possible results.
Getting Your Business Listed In The Snack Pack
Last year, local listings offered seven maps listings when a local search was performed. This presented many businesses with the opportunity to appear at the top of a Google search engine results page. However, a change was made to now only list three Maps. This created another opportunity for Google to attract advertisers to their Pay-Per-Click platform, which is ultimately how the company makes the vast majority of their money. Cost-per-click ads were down 13% in 2015 compared to 2014 which can be seen in further detail here.
The opportunity to get listed in the top maps listings is not something that is easily done. There are several factors at play, and the biggest opportunity for local business lies in these three results. Capturing the local market is going to provide the largest ROI for local businesses, and under the current Google platform is free. This is an area of focus at Hit Me SEO as we have seen businesses transformed instantly by achieving one of the three coveted spots. We have been extremely successful with our focus on attorney optimization programs as evidence of the testimonial below.
Steven Chung, a car accident attorney in Philadelphia, stated “capturing the top placement for Google Maps is such a necessity for our business. Potential clients are searching locally, and they aren’t going to go to page 2 to find your business. In the first month of working with Hit Me SEO, we received eight new clients from our listing in the maps section. The ROI for attorneys on this type of investment is through the roof”.
Google My Business Is Free, But For How Long?
Google currently has a paid service for Google Maps APIs, but this is different than the Google My Business listings. With the latest shift in the algorithm and the movement of paid ads to the bottom of the page, speculation is that these premium listings will not be free for long. The traffic generated by a free Google My business listings is something Google will be monitoring, and future adjustments will likely be made. For now, expect the prices of Adwords to increase for the coveted top three positions as competition increases in each industry, and the cost for the ads on the bottom of the page to decrease slightly. You can also be sure that forward-thinking companies are going to be ramping up the attention paid to the Google snack pack, and hiring top-level SEO agencies that focus on Google Maps to deliver those results.