Once again, Google has changed the way they show local results and revamped Google+!
For those who utilize local search for their business this change is just another in a long line of functionality changes, display updates, and rebranding that Google Local has been making in recent years.
The last change was on November 17th, 2015. With little warning or explanation, as usual, business owners found Google+ Page is simplified and more mobile friendly. Or, as Google puts it, it now focuses on ‘simple navigation and improved search’.
A downside to this change for businesses is that there is almost no information about the business unless you happen to stumble upon a very discreet ‘info’ icon. Once clicked, the icon opens up an “About’ page, which loads a pop-up containing very basic contact info for the business.
Also new in this update are Communities and Collections. These new Google+ feature are geared towards enabling users who share similar interests to share content.
Communities – according to Google, there are 1.2 million new people joining communities to share and discuss like-minded content with other like-minded individuals.
Collections – Launched more than five months ago, Collections focus on more creative or niche groups.
Why Did Google Change Google+?
While Google+ never took off as a social network, it’s not trying to rebuild itself to keep only the pieces that did work, like photos, collections and communities.
What Google has also done was to break the odd association of Google+ the social network and Google+ Local business data. These two components never really worked together. Users and some marketers never completely bought into what was Google+ and Google+ Local supposed to be doing from them — other than if you didn’t engage, you were missing some SEO (search engine optimization) opportunities. After all, Google holds the key to make or break you in search. So if they build it, you better use it.
What Does This All Mean for Local Businesses?
These changes don’t necessarily have a huge impact on local businesses. Not a lot of visitors got their information from Google+, but from search results.
Google+ did help business owners check and manage their business information. So, from this perspective it can be annoying; however, you can still update business data with Google My Business (GMB) using your dashboard.
Local business data is still prominently displayed in search results and in map results. Actually, now local/map results are being shown more frequently than before. So, this is an upside of the change.
Is Google Local Search Helpful?
In a word? Yes. Consumers, customers, and clients are regularly searching Google for local businesses and results. In fact, here are some interesting stats on local search Search Engine Journal compiled in a recent email:
- 97% of consumers use the internet when researching local products/services (Source: BIA/Kelsey)
- 43% of consumers search every month for a local business (Source: BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey, 2015)
- The number one reason for an online search is to find the location of a ‘known’ business (Source: comScore, Neustar Localeze, 15 Miles – Local Search Study, 2014)
- 78% of mobile searches for local businesses result in a purchase (Source: Local Search Association Conference, 2014)
- Local Search delivers better ROI than all other online channels (Source: BrightLocal Clicks & Calls Survey, 2015)
- 34% of SEOs/SMBs (search engine optimizers / small- and medium-sized businesses) would choose Local search above any other marketing channel (Source: BrightLocal Clicks & Calls Survey, 2015)