When people go to Google to look for something, a significant proportion of their searches include a location, e.g. “plumber York” and the results returned will include some businesses shown on a map. Google will also return location based results for many other common searches. These are known as Local Searches and it’s now a very important part of SEO.
Here’s the map results I get if I type in florist while logged into my Google account (so they know where I am):
Are you appearing in Google’s local search results? Or have you recently disappeared?
Local Search used to be managed through Google Places, but since May 2012, Google have been phasing out Places and replacing it with Google+ Local. While you can still log in and manage a Google Places listing, these are no longer appearing in search results – instead Google will be using a very basic Google+ page it has created from your data.
However, Google haven’t transferred your ownership. Instead you have to go through a complicated process of creating a Google+ page and merging it with the one created by Google. Or something like that. There now seem to be so many flavours of business pages in Google that I’m not sure Google even knows what they all are.
The whole process is littered with pitfalls – choose the wrong category for your Google+ page and it won’t be eligible for Local search. Spell your address differently on your website and it may affect your rankings. And Google announced more changes last week which are currently being phased in for USA businesses.
It does sound like there will be some big improvements over Google Local – eventually. But it’s a painful journey for any business which relies on Google local searches to bring business.
Once the dust settles, then there will be a great opportunity for those businesses who transfer early to get ahead of the competition. But, if you haven’t already switched, I would recommend waiting a few weeks until the situation clears.