If there’s any truism about Google Local marketing, it’s this: sooner or later, Google’s going to decide to change something. Staying on top of those changes and figuring out what to do about them is one of the biggest hurdles for small business owners who are trying to stay visible online.
The latest development is a feature called Google Local Carousel, which rolled out on June 21st. This feature presents users with a visual list of local options that appears right at the very top of the search engine results page.
What does this mean for local search marketing, and how should you, as a business owner, respond to this change? Here are a few thoughts.
Photos are More Important Than Ever
If you don’t have a photo of your business an unimpressive picture of a Google map shows up instead. That’s not a position you want to be in.
Instead, you want something that’s welcoming and visually appealing, because in my opinion the photo is what’s going to get you the click. The horizontal view means that there is nothing “on top,” which means being in the “A” position at the left doesn’t give you the same psychological advantage (on top = best) that you would have gotten in the old view.
Try to choose a photo that gives potential customers some idea of what they’ll experience when they use your business. Don’t go for a shot of your business from the street or a shot of your sign.
Restaurants should go for plates of food that look tasty. Hotels should go for an interior shot of their comfortable bedroom, where customers will spend most of their time.
In the service business? Choose a photo of your best work if your work is visually appealing. If you’re something like a doctor or a dentist, choose your own smiling face, or a picture of your entire smiling staff, since that is who your customers will be dealing with.
Keep Working to Stay Optimized
The leftmost positions are the most prominent. Mike Blumenthal did an audit of those positions which pointed out that the most visible results still adhere to the old A-G rankings.
So while you can get seen if you’re not still in the top 7, you’re still in a bad position because you can expect fewer users to scroll all the way to the end of the results on the right, even though it’s theoretically easier and more fun for them to do so.
Bottom line? It’s best to keep right on optimizing your Google+ Local listings.
There have been a lot of great reactions to Carousel across the blogosphere since it rolled out on Friday. I wanted to share a two of the best so that you could benefit from them as well.
First, there’s Mike Ramsey’s Post over at Nifty Marketing: 10 Random People’s Response to Google Local Carousel.
Then, Mike Blumenthal offered another post about Carousel that I really liked: “How Many Results Are Required for the New Local Carousel to Display? At Least 5.”
Right now the Carousel is only working for restaurants, colleges, and hotels. But that doesn’t mean that other businesses shouldn’t plan ahead.