Google is Changing (again) - how does this affect local business?
Posted on 28th April 2022
Back in the mists of time (well, July 2018), we published an article about the Google Landscape and the importance of keeping an eye on what pops up when people enter key search terms for your business type. Most of this advice – especially around keyword research – still stands, but recent and forthcoming developments with Google have changed the goalposts yet again, especially for businesses that rely on local trade.
In this article, we explain the key changes that are already taking place or are coming soon, and the steps you should be taking, or considering, right now to protect your company’s local rankings on Google.
Google My Business is changing
Over the years, we’ve always pushed Google My Business as the ‘ultimate’ in business directories, especially for locally-focused companies. However, it’s shortly to be abandoned in favour of Google Maps and Search. This means that if you currently use Google My Business to interact with your customers, you’ll need to update your approach.
As part of these changes, the appearance of the Local Pack, or the results that appear alongside the map, will also alter. (This change was introduced in December 2021, but doesn’t seem to affect the UK market as yet.) The map will be moving to the right hand side of the screen, with the top three local results posted to the left, rather than underneath. On a desktop search, this puts the local results higher up the page than before, presumably with the aim of encouraging users to pay them more attention.
New versus old Map & Local Pack appearance
The ‘Find Results on…’ bar
Another change we’ve noticed creeping in is this handy bar, which at the moment appears below the first few desktop results and above the Local Pack. It will appear above the local pack.
This gives users the option to look up the search terms entered into Google on different business directories. For example, if you search for ‘Web designer Nottingham,’ you’re given the option of searching for providers on Threebestrated and Gumtree, as shown below.
Whilst it’s not entirely clear why someone would want to leave Google and zip off to a business directory, the implication here is clear: if your company isn’t registered on multiple directories, you could be missing a trick.
So, our advice is to act now and get yourself listed on all the relevant directories you can find, including trade-specific ones. Include as much information and as many keywords as you can (without keyword stuffing), plus images and other interactive content if possible.
Local Services Ads
These are paid-for ads that appear within the Local Pack. Like organic listings, they’ll only show up for searches in your local area, but unlike standard Pay Per Click (PPC) Google Ads, you only pay if a customer contacts you directly through the ad. Businesses wishing to use Local Services Ads (LSA) must undergo a screening and verification process to make sure they meet certain criteria, such as holding the right licences and insurance cover.
The launch of Local Services Ads might be great for businesses with an online advertising budget, especially those that already use PPC. However, it’s not so good for traders that regularly feature in the Local Pack by virtue of organic SEO activity alone, as they’ll soon be facing competition from paid-for ads that will appear alongside their listings.
If that sounds like your business, we recommend you start by checking out what the competition are up to. If they’re running PPC and/or Local Services Ads already, you may want to consider signing up for either or both of these if you have the budget. You can find out how to get started with Local Service Ads here and read about the qualifying requirements here.
The connection between Local Services Ads and Google Guaranteed
This is something we weren’t expecting. Google Guaranteed itself has been around for a while. It’s a service that reimburses customers in certain circumstances when they’ve bought goods or services from a qualifying business on Local Services Ads. Here in the UK, the maximum level of reimbursement is £1,500.
Businesses that have signed up to the Google Guaranteed scheme can be identified by a white tick in a green box that appears next to their listing, like this:
At the moment, Google Guaranteed only applies to a finite number of trades, as listed below.
Snow removal services
Water damage services
However, if the uptake of the scheme is successful, more industry sectors will become eligible to apply. And it’s interesting that Google Guaranteed is already being mentioned as a key benefit of applying to display Local Services Ads, despite not all trades being covered as yet. The two are now inextricably linked, as can be seen from both the Getting Started page for Local Service Ads and the information page about Google Guaranteed.
Our advice for this one? If your trade is eligible for the Google Guaranteed scheme and you’re planning to start using Local Services Ads: sign up. It’s a no-brainer. However, given the cost of potential reimbursements, it’s obviously key that you feel 100% confident in the quality and consistency of the products or services you offer.
Our advice in summary
We’d hate your business to lose out on valuable local trade as a result of these changes. So, turn them to your advantage. Here are our top 5 tips for making sure your company keeps its position in the Local Pack and continues to catch the eye of your online prospects:
Check what’s displayed when you search for your key terms on Google
Carry out regular keyword research to identify both new and redundant terms
Register with as many relevant online business directories as you can
Consider starting up Local Services Ads if you meet the qualifying criteria; if not, consider a Pay Per Click campaign (or both, if you do qualify)
Consider registering as Google Guaranteed if your trade is eligible and you’re planning on doing Local Services Ads
Need help with SEO and/or SEM?
Sometimes, your actual website might be fine, but you could use a little help with your organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and/or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) activities. Whether you need a complete website review or advice on how to tackle competition in the SEO or SEM fields, it’seeze Nottingham can help.
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