Have you seen the latest incarnation of Google+ Local search results? If you search for a business in industries like hotels, dining, and nightlife then you’ll see a new horizontal “carousel” of local businesses. See the image below for an example of Indian restaurants near my apartment.
Just when you got the hang of the new Google+ Local, Google threw another curve ball at you! Kick and scream all you want, but I don’t think this new layout is going away anytime soon. As I’ll explain in a minute, this update should drive more ad dollars into Google’s piggy bank. But what does this mean for local businesses? Is there anything you need to do because of this change?
How the Carousel Impacts Local Businesses
Because of the new layout and functionality of the carousel, businesses will be impacted in 3 important ways:
- Brand SEO
- Brand Advertising
- Local SEO Tracking
The first and probably the most important area local businesses will be impacted is with “brand SEO.” In other words, how your business ranks for brand keywords.
Here’s why this is important… when a user clicks on one of the businesses in the carousel, then Google automatically does a search on the business name + location. So in my example above, Google will automatically search for “Tamarind New York, NY” when I click on the Tamarind carousel listing. Kind of weird right? That’s not what I first expected.
So the user then has to scroll down the page to review the search results for the new brand search. Luckily, Tamarind’s website ranks #1 followed by Yelp, OpenTable, and some other news articles. So most users will find their way to Tamarind’s business info.
However, not every business is going to be that lucky. It’s now very important to make sure you focus on your brand keywords for local SEO.
In addition to the organic listings for brand keywords, you’ll sometimes find advertisers competing for YOUR brand. For example, when I search for hotels and click on the New York Skyline Hotel, then I see 3 ads at the top of the results, as well as ads all along the right column.
Uh oh! You probably worked hard to get your Google+ Local page to rank and now you’re at risk of losing that traffic to competitors poaching your prospects! If this is happening in your market, then brand advertising is going to be another area to focus on.
Local SEO Tracking
Finally, the 3rd area you’ll be impacted is with your tracking. This is a very unfortunate result of the carousel functionality. Since the local search will lead to a branded search, then your traffic will appear to be from brand search phrases.
Again, if we use my example above, I first searched for “indian restaurant.” Then I clicked on the Tamarind Google+ Local business listing, which automatically searched for “Tamarind New York, NY.” Then if I clicked through to the Tamarind website, then your analytics program will tell you the search phrase was “Tamarind New York, NY.”
So your referring Google keyword traffic is going to be artificially inflated for brand search phrases. Not the end of the world, but you need to keep this in mind when you’re reviewing your keyword data. Remember, you may be missing the full picture of how your prospects are really finding you in Google.com.