Friday, January 7, 2011

Are Google’s local results costing your site traffic?

Google now integrates local results (Google Places) into ‘standard’ organic results and it’s going to push your site down and off the page. That means less traffic and response unless you do something about it. Mark Nunney investigates and shows you how to fight back.
In the following image you’ll see a Google search engine result page (SERP) for the keyword quality shoes. Only the top two ‘standard’ organic results (highlighted with a yellow border) will be seen without a scroll down the page.

After that top two, the results are ‘integrated local’ results (see these ’Place’ pages inside the red border below).

Google has decided that I (as the searcher) am based in Paddington, UK (part of central London). Google thinks I might want ‘local’ results – real world shops I can leave my house and go buy quality shoes in.

(By the way, I live in Cornwall, 260 miles away from London, but we’ll put that bit of lame geolocating to the side whilst acknowledging that Google will let me ‘Change Location’.)

There’s a ‘Places’ (local) map in the top right too.

Google has decided that my Keyword Deserves Local (KDL) results (or Query Deserves Local - QDL).

I’m not going to argue about whether or not my keyword does deserve local results. Nor shall we spend any time looking at the sometimes seemingly random choices of keywords that G decides do. Not here, anyway ;-)

I’m interested in what’s happening, how it will affect your sites’ traffic and response and what you might do about it.

Below is another Google SERP for which keyword deserves local (KDL). This time for debt advice and the local (Places) results are presented with a subheading (‘Places for debt advice near ...’).

But there are just three standard organic results showing above the fold. (Notice how hard it’s getting to distinguish the ads from the organic too?)

Keyword Deserves Local could cost you visits and response
. So Google is delivering more and more local results.
If your target keywords are deemed to ‘deserve local’ results then if:

• your site can’t appear in local (Google Places) results for every location in your target market (and whose can?); or

• you aren’t ranking top two or three

... then you’re going to be losing visitors in 2011.

Even the standard organic results (including those top two or three positions that might remain your last shot at getting any decent traffic from some searches) are influenced by the searchers’ location.

Searches made on mobile phones (increasingly important, of course) are even more likely to see local results.
You get the idea – your hard-worked-for organic results are getting squeezed of the first page of Google’s results pages. That means less traffic and response.

So what can you do about?
How to fight back against Keyword Deserves Local results

Unless you have an office or a shop in every town in every country you’re selling to, this is not going to be easy. Here is a list of actions you can take ...

• Get a Google Places listing for every office and shop you have.

• Find affected keywords. Monitor Google SERPs results to find out which of your prioritized target keywords Google deems deserve local. For those affected keywords ...

• Make the top two. Work like never before to get into those precious top two or three positions.

• Target other integrated results. Is Google also integrating results for Images, Videos, News, Products, Real Time or any other non-standard organic results? If so, target those results.

• Consider PPC.

• Hit the long tail. A major target keyword might get local results, eg debt advice and quality shoes in our examples. But their long tails might not eg, the many thousands of other keywords that contain debt advice and quality shoes.

An ironic example of this is that a search for local debt advice does not show integrated local results. Work that one out.

by Mark Nunney, 7 January 2011