WARNING: Google's Latest Ranking Change is HUGE for local businesses!

BIG news in the SEO world broke out recently: Google is changing rankings again! This time instead of adding Mobile Friendly ranking factors, Google is changing how local businesses appear on search engine results pages.... as well as if they appear at all. If you don't rank in the top 3 spots for your local keyword search phrase, this might be devastating for your business!

Google Local 3-Pack in Search Results

As of August 6, 2015, Google has changed the way businesses will display in search results. Previously, there were up to 7 local businesses displayed at the top of a page, called the "local 7-pack." Google has trimmed that to a "local 3-pack" view so it's much more difficult to appear at the top of a page without detailed organic SEO efforts or paid advertising. 

Google's August 2015 changes to local listings include:

  • Removal of businesses addresses and phone numbers
  • Only three businesses featured at the top of a page
  • Flyout business cards and "Google my business" links have been removed.
  • See detailed screenshots and more information from our valuable partner SEO PowerSuite

Why Did Google Change Local Business Rankings?

Unless we can get Matt Cutts himself to find and comment on our post, we'll never know for sure, but it's being speculated that we can pin this one on Mobile usage, just like other recent algorithm changes. The 7-pack of local search results looks great from a desktop computer, but 3-packs fit perfect on mobile device screens.

How will Google's Local Business Ranking Change Affect Your Website?

This change to Google is so new that no one is exactly sure how it will fully affect businesses yet. But it's designed to make local searches more accurate based on the searcher's physical location. This means that people searching from an IP address even a few miles away from each other are getting different results based on their precise location.

And obviously, showing up in the top 3 instead of the top 7 makes ranking much more difficult. 

A Ray of Hope for Local Business Rankings...

According to SEO Powersuite: "With many of the older navigation options disabled – including Google My Business links and flyout business card – now, instead of instantly picking the right business on the SERP, the searchers need to switch to the new 20-business map view to dig out the contact information and addresses of the businesses they got interested in. Thus, even if you weren't listed on the SERP, you still get a high chance of being noticed."

In other words, if you rank in the top 20 for your local search keywords, you will still have the opportunity to be seen by all visitors using the business map view for results.

What Can Be Done to Improve Local Business Rankings on Google?

  1. Encourage customers more than ever to leave a Google rating for your business. Researchers can now choose to see only businesses with a specific rating, currently choosing from 2, 3, or 4 stars and higher.
  2. Setup your Google+ page for your business and populate it with your blog posts if you aren't already doing so. The Google might start changing the role of Google+ but it's still important for now.
  3. Review (or have an expert review) your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions so they work well with Google and are equally compelling to humans too. Meta Descriptions or "snippets" should be engaging and short to grab people's attention.
  4. Sign up for Google Web Master Tools, verify your website with Google (not from a telemarketing scammer), and make sure your Google My Business page is complete with a unique description, business categories, images, open hours and contact information.
  5. Include your name, address and phone number on every page of your website. If you are near a much larger city, mention you are "near" that city.

If you are overwhelmed with the tasks needed for improving your Google local search results, please contact us at Alternative Advertising for a quote. We'd love to help!

New Insights into Website Best Practices

When focusing on website effectiveness and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there are many factors to consider - many of which we've blogged about in the past regarding mobile friendliness and blogging for improved SEO. So let's explore some new insights on website best practices and some SEO factors most people don't think of immediately.

Clean URLs

Have you ever noticed that some URL's look extremely messy, filled with numbers and letters that make no sense? This is not an ideal situation, because a string of random numbers and letters will not tell your prospects or Google a lot about your page. The popular website builder, Wix, is currently known for this. They use programming that requires messy urls. For example, here is a common url for a live site built in Wix:!grid/c1pwt  - Normally a url for a page like this would look more like:

We recommend staying away from website builders that use messy urls so Google recognizes your pages and especially your blog. 

Touch Screen Readiness

With the advent of mobile, your website needs to be optimized for smartphones. We've thoroughly covered the importance of mobile websites in blog posts from May, late April and early April. But aside from building a site in a responsive theme, one of the most crucial aspects of making your website mobile-friendly, is making sure the vital buttons on your website are large, so they can easily be pushed by people who are using smartphones. For instance, the button that returns visitors to your homepage should be large and easy to push, even on a smartphone that is less than 5 inches.

Also, drop down menus from top navigation links are not ideal for mobile-friendliness and should be avoided or rebuilt in a responsive web design. And phone numbers should be touch-to-call on mobile devices to create a positive user experience.

Page Loading Time

In today's age of instant gratification and busyness, your website pages need to load lightning fast. If they don't, you will lose visitors and they are unlikely to come back. In fact, studies show 25% of visitors will abandon your page if it doesn't load in at least 4 seconds. We recommend testing your pages using free resources like Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom.

For more insights on how to best optimize your website for SEO, please contact us for a free website evaluation at Alternative Advertising. We specialize in helping clients with organic SEO, website development and overall marketing strategies.