Google has just made another of its regular major changes to the way the company displays its search results pages. This time there have been some minor changes in location of different graphic elements. For example, they moved the “upside-down teardrop markers” from the left to the middle of the page, made the map rectangular, and are sometimes displaying ads at the bottom of the page as well as the traditional locations at top & right side.
The biggest change, and the one that impacts local businesses the most, is that the local search information that was buried in Places page listings, like hours, ratings, storefront pictures, etc, are now available just under the map at right. This means that searchers no longer have to click on Places listings to decide between A, B, C through G results. Now they can just hover over each to get most of the relevant info.
While this week’s change is much more minor then previous recent changes to Google Places in August of this year, or the Panda Update in early 2011, or the big Places page change back in October 2010, this change is still significant and indicates that Google is focusing even more upon local. Assuming a large percentage of your most important keywords cause local results (i.e. Places listings) to show up, your Places page needs to be a core part of your marketing strategy. Reviews, citations and plenty of consistent listings all over the internet will help you rank. Businesses with brick-and-mortar stores should participate in Google’s “Local Business Photos” program to get the interior of their businesses photographed. “Review Funnels” should be setup to send a regular stream of positive reviews to all your major listings, and a robust system of registering the business on all relevant online properties and fixing any erroneous info already out there should be undertaken.