Google My Business updated their help file page: “Improve your local ranking on Google” Page. And surprisingly, after a slow start, actually added some real ranking information (this does not appear to be a April 1 Joke):
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.
Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.
I am archiving the page as a PDF for future reference.
On mobile, Google has been slowly moving towards “immersive search” as the local search experience. Google’s goal is to allow the user to get all of the information that they need via Google, never having to leave for another site. We saw this very dramatically last week with the introduction of Google Destinations. We see another example of this immersion in the current Local results on mobile.
To do this Google is providing their own and other’s content (but hosted on Google for speed of course), multiple paths and numerous related carousels so that once a searcher has moved down the proverbial rabbit hole by entering the Local Finder, every piece of information about the local search is immediately available to the user until such time as they have made a choice and either executed a transaction, called or visited the website of one of the search results.
The logic appears to be that if they can’t monetize via adwords on the first screen in the mobile search results, they will keep the user engaged ever deeper and longer in the local results and thus gather viewer and conversion data. If they can’t get you on the click they will get you on the clock.
Watch this video to see how a user, once they select entrée to the Local Finder on mobile is first presented with an infinite scroll, and then as they dig into the results numerous alternative paths to explore including the new expanded “People also search for” functionality as well as StreetView, interior Streetview Trusted, reviews, leave a review etc.
In the restaurant industry there are assorted calls to action for transaction completion available to the user as well including booking a table and ordering food to go. Most significantly note how Google has totally sucked up Menu content and is now presenting that content completely within the context of the local Knowledge Panel not on a 3rd party site and the content is hosted on Google.
While not as “immersive” even standard local searches offer much of the same experience although with obviously less detail. I recorded this video as I was looking to see where Independent Motors, a car repair facility in Boulder, showed in the search results on behalf of another client.
Several weeks ago Mary and I had a discussion at the Deep Dive at Local U about whether Google was using review sentiment in ranking. While I noted that the new patents for entity rank seemed to indicate that professional reviews might influence rank, that I had not seen any indication that sentiment as expressed within a review influenced ranking or that ranking for a good review corpus comparatively had a strong influence.
That all being said within Google restaurant search, Google is now autofiltering results based on phrases like good, best, cheapest etc. (As a note, while I just started noticing this recently it may have been present for quite some time).
The searches for things like “Best Restaurant NYC” works on both the desktop and mobile but the results are more obviously labeled in the mobile result. “Best” as a modifier returns only 4 star listings or better and “cheap” returns one $ sign listings. You can combine these modifier words and see results for Best Cheap Restaurant NYC:
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Last week I noted that Google updated its mobile branded search results with the addition of the “People Also Search For” option showing in the search results as opposed to being buried in a Knowledge Panel. It appears that the update has also expanded the concept by adding additional nuance and detail to those suggested alternative results.
Now, on a local brand search, if a given listing is strong in multiple search categories and if there is adequate listing inventory for these categories, Google is expanding beyond the “People also Search For” with multiple local carousels.
In this mobile result example we see that Google provides 3 carousels instead of “People also search for” by showing results for additional Plastic surgeons (the original search) as well as Medical spas and similar Nearby places.
Google Home Services Ads were firsttested in July, 2015. In August of that year they went public as part and parcel of Google Adwords Express. We have also seen it tested both without and with the 3 pack. And as of yesterday we saw that Google was promoting the product’s use strictly by phone.
When Google Home Services was first introduced it was only available in very few verticals; plumbers and locksmiths and shortly after house cleaners and handymen.
The Google AdWords inquiry form does have a field for “other” and Peter Troast of Energy Circle sent me a screen shot of its recent use for the HVAC industry:
While we have seen slow and steady testing in different verticals we have seen no real significant expansion of the area where the ad is available. It was and is currently only available in the San Francisco Bay area and south to Los Gatos. Here is a map I created showing the cities currently accepting ads for the programs (list of cities was provided to me by AdWords support):
Given the very slow rollout, limited geography and Google’s many cancelled attempts at lead gen products like insurance quotes and car leads one has to wonder why this has not rolled out any faster. Is the product going to roll out and they are just working through the details? Or is it like the two mentioned above, just another test that will be axed sooner rather than later?
So questions for you all:
What do you think? Are Home Services Ads a keeper for Google?
Are you seeing verticals for Home Services ads besides the ones mentioned?
Are you seeing them outside of the cities that the Adwords support rep sent me?
I have written about a number of testproducts by Google recently. Their chance of success is unpredictable. Certainly Google wants to to be in lead gen… and be able to take credit for that last click before the sale. But if you want to look at the future of Google “search” square in the eye then learn about and understand their newly announced Google Destinations.
It is what Google calls an immersive experience. It integrates Knowledge Graph entities with related data and has the goal of starting you at Google, keeping you at Google and through various calls to action, being sure that you complete the transaction at Google.
It is very much a rabbit hole experience that starts at the top of the funnel with awareness (where do I want to go ie France), to interest (let’s look at Paris), down the funnel to consideration (what itineraries, which sights, whats the cost & best time of the year, can I afford it), to conversion (book the hotel & airfare).
While Destinations is one future of search it is clear that Google will attempt to create different specific interactions for specific markets. The Local Finder is an example where they start you on a local result and then take you into their more complete local search experience. While monetization is certainly one of their goals, they still want to keep you at Google to see more ads.
In some markets they will monetize the last click either via AdWords or for lead gen with Home Service Ads. And if they can’t monetize the last transaction for example, they will track it and take credit for it regardless ala places actions.
Google will try many things and throw many away (like insurance quotes and car leads). Not all of these efforts will look the same. But some of these many developments will stick and all will be pointing towards increased engagement, increased immersion and increased monetization, all at Google as Google attempts to own the top of the funnel. For them it is an existential battle.
Google seems to be experimenting with a new enhancement of their Home Service Ads product which allows consumers to just call Google directly when searching for a plumber rather than searching for one and completing the transaction via the Home Services interface.
Joe Goldstein spotted this Google ad on a search for “Plumber Los Gatos” which encourages a user searching for plumbers to contact Google directly.
When you click through the link provided in the ad you are taken to this page and encouraged to call or text Google directly and discuss your project with “with a home services expert from Google”. They will have appropriate plumbers call you to quote and book an appointment.
The service appears to simply emulate the process followed in their Home Services ads introduced last July but reduces the consumer steps to simply calling and having Google complete the process rather than clicking on the few options to complete the process via Google themselves.
We do the research, you choose the right plumber
All the plumbers we work with are thoroughly pre-screened and insured. You get a full quote from each plumber before work begins, and you decide who to work with.
Interestingly the ad replaced any local pack results, any local Adword ads and even replaced the Google Home Services Ad that would normally appeared for that query.
Clearly Google is looking to enter the Home Services procurement space even if it means engaging a human to complete the query as opposed to a search result. It also implies that the current Home Services ad implementation that has been limited to California has not been that successful. Or that refinements are needed before rolling it to the rest of the country.
Even if only an experiment it shows how far and wide Google is searching to make these sorts of efforts a success. That’s quite a change for Google that has always relied on programmatic rather than human solutions.
On mobile, scrolling down the screen seems both easier and more common for most users. I have not seen the research as to scroll depth. Regardless because the screen is smaller and the opportunity to find the answer is less, many folks don’t hesitate on mobile results.
Google, more and more, seems to want users to leave less (travel planning, AMP & Google Posts) or to leave only with an actionable behavior that Google can measure (like click to call, book a hotel, make an appointment).
So this minor upgrade, adding the eye candy of visuals from the “People Also Search For” feature to the bottom of the mobile search results on a brand or One Box search result makes sense. It allows folks to scroll through other local businesses just in case and to hopefully find one that they can click on. This feature has always been available (and remains so) in the Knowledge Panel for a business on both desktop and mobile.
The bottom line for small businesses? Make sure that the profile photo that Google is using looks great!
Google wants to make search and actions from search fast, content rich and profitable. They want to become the place (not unlike Facebook) were people go, the consume, they buy. Unlike news organizations that have the chops to do AMP pages most small businesses will take years before they achieve that level of being able to hand over large content chunks specially formatted for display within Google’s presentation layer.
Well the fast and achievable alternative for Google is to have small businesses put their content directly on Google and then just wait for the call.
Over the past two weeks we saw several “experiments” in the local space. Google rolled out a click to call phone number associated with a web page result. At the time these results were only showing on page two of the search results. Google also allowed some small businesses to create a content stream directly in search via their new Google Posts product.
This search result which was showing One Pack two weeks ago and a 3 pack this past weekend is now showing no pack results but lots of local information in the form of phone numbers (both paid and free) on the first page AND content directly posted to Google via Google Posts.
Is this type of search result possibly the future of local search?