Google Maps – Changes To The Listings
Being listed in the Google Maps section of search results is highly important. The maps have ‘pride of place’ at the top of local search results and so being listed in the maps means your business is listed at the top of the search results. Google has changed the listings from 7 local businesses to 3. This article explains why we believe Google has made the changes and more importantly how to get yourself included in the new Google map listings.
Google maps, until August 2015, had 7 local businesses listed at the top of the search results. In the world of SEO, this was commonly called “the 7 pack”. It was a highly prized position as it meant that when potential customers, local to a business, were looking for products or services a company was listed at the top of page 1 of the search results, regardless of the optimisation on their website.
The listing included the companies full address and telephone number and many of our customers found they received telephone enquiries simply by being listed in the 7-pack.
Google Maps – Why Has It Changed?
This is only my opinion (please note the Google Legal team – an opinion), but the obvious reason would be to monetise the Google maps.
As mentioned before, being included in the 7-pack and therefore at the top of the local search results for relevant searches by potential customers, was highly lucrative for local businesses. Placing a listing on the maps is “free”, so it is a very cheap and effective way of gaining customers.
I say “free”, as many businesses employ the services of a Google expert or SEO company to get their business listed, and those services are not free, but still make the map listing a very cost-effective place to be listed.
The issue, I believe, is that the listings were too popular with users of the Google search engine. It was easy to find a fairly large choice of potential local suppliers. With the address listed, it was easy to ascertain who was local, and easy to choose a business if you wanted to visit a showroom or store. With the telephone number listed, it was easy to make contact with a company. All of which was great for the internet user and the listed business, but not making Google any money. In fact, it was taking customers away from the paid advertising on the page.
In only showing 3 businesses you have more chance of a Google user using the paid adverts to find a business.
The “new” version of Google maps has significant changes that will affect local businesses.
Firstly, there are only 3 listings. In the world of SEO and Digital Marketing it is being nicknamed the “snack pack”. As there are limited places, being included in the top 3 will likely benefit those businesses more so than it did before. We are listed in position number 1 for searches related to SEO in Bristol, yet we still were a choice of 7 companies. Now we are listed as the number one choice of a menu of only three businesses.
Secondly, the full address has been removed. Whereby it was easy for the visitor to see where a company was based or perhaps get an address to visit the business this is no longer shown in plain sight.
Google Maps – How To Get Listed
If you have been removed from the Google map listings all is not lost. You can get yourself back in to them. If you are listed in the “snack pack” but concerned that your telephone number is not showing, don’t worry.
Firstly, for those in the new map listings – congratulations you are likely to be getting more website visits and enquiries to your business. You are now 1 of only 3 listings at the top of the search results. Potential customers, especially those used to using the map listings, are much more likely to visit either your website or your Google Plus page to find your contact details. With the information on these pages, you have more opportunity to convert the customer, before they even make contact. Also, they have moved away from the search results to a page dedicated to you and your products or services.
If your business is not included in the new Google maps you have a number of options.
Option 1 – Do nothing. If a visitor does not select one of the 3 listed businesses they can select “More Companies” at the bottom of the 3 listings – and the first 12 map listings are shown. You are of course less likely to get enquiries, but this option has no cost attached to it.
Option 2 – Get your business in the 3 listings. You can do this yourself. Firstly, ensure that your Google Plus business page profile is 100% complete. Ensure that the address listed is accurate and (very importantly) how your address is written on the page is IDENTICAL to the way it is listed in other places on the internet i.e. your website, local directories etc. By identical I mean that if your address is in “Baldwin Street Bristol” – ensure that it is written that way everywhere and not “Baldwin Street, Bristol” (note the comma) or “Baldwin St. Bristol” (note the abbreviation). Secondly, be consistent with the classification you use in Google Plus for your business. Whatever you have listed in your Google Plus page as your “category” must be used consistently throughout your own website and directory listings as well. For example, a taxi company will be listed in Google Plus under the category “taxis” (note plural). Your website should consistently use that exact word, not”taxi”, “taxi company” or “minicabs” – even if you are a minicab or private hire company.
For a better chance of success in being listed, you may want to consider hiring an SEO company. Not only have they a better chance of getting you into the new map listings, but their services will also improve your website rankings, broaden your visibility with customers and get you more enquiries. The best SEO companies should deliver a return on investment that far outweighs their fees.