Google Places – Will the Changes Affect You?

Over the past couple of years, users of Google will have noticed some significant changes to the way Google Places listings are showed in local searches. A local search used to display a map situated above the organic listings, with up to seven businesses listed beside the map.

The way it was previously structured, even businesses without websites could achieve a high Google Places ranking. However, Google’s latest update has moved the map to the right hand side of the screen, above the Adwords ads, and those businesses that were once listed beside the map, are now shown at the top of the organic results.

A lot of business owners are understandably worried that the recent changes to Google Places will have an affect on their rankings, especially if they’ve seen their previously high listed Google Places ranking disappear. And what about those businesses who had sites ranking at the top of the organic listings, but had no Google Places listing?

One thing this update shows is that for any local business, it’s crucial to have both a well SEO’d website, as well as a well optimized Google Places listing. With both in place, there’s no reason why a business needs to be left behind after Google’s recent update. But what if your business has been affected? How can you use the changes to your benefit?

Well let’s look at the upside. In the past I had noticed that in some markets, the organic listings under the Google Places map weren’t actually business sites at all, some were actually directories that listed local businesses, and for some reason ranked higher than many local business sites, and quite honestly, not really helpful for people looking for a business. With the new changes, such sites will find it much harder to rank, especially as they don’t represent an actual business, and thus won’t show up with a Google Places listing.

But what about those businesses which are now getting less custom because they never had a website to start off with, just a high ranked Google Places listing? Well, certainly it may be tougher for those businesses to reach the heights they once comfortably sat at, but it’s never impossible. In fact, they may be in a better position to benefit from the new Google Places. The same goes for businesses that once held a high organic listing, but are now sitting below those successful Google Places listings.

The first thing any business needs is a well optimized website. That’s pretty much crucial in today’s tough marketplace. And, whether starting from scratch or not, it’s important to get your site looked at by an SEO company that specializes in helping local businesses get ranked.

They’ll let you know exactly what your site needs in order to be competitive, and will be able to analyze not just your site, but those of your competitors, so they can determine exactly how tough it will be to get to that crucial number one position.

The other crucial thing, of course, is a well optimized Google Places listing, which requires putting in every detail necessary when filling out the Google Places information, including adding pictures and videos, and getting client reviews. The more effort that’s put into filling out that listing, the higher it will inevitably rank, and this, plus a well optimized site, is what will make the difference between getting noticed and sinking into obscurity.