Google recently announced a new change to its search engine results pages. A new feature that Google is calling "Google Places Search” will automatically detect when you are searching for a local business or point of interest and provide you with listings relevant to your area. Effectively, this basically brings together geographically based search results that you’d get from Google Local or Google Maps searches and mixes them with organic results, which you’d get regardless of your location.
What does this mean? For users, this represents only a subtle change, for now. If anything, it should save them a step by putting locally relevant results right in front of their face immediately. But for search marketers, this could be a game changer. Now, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your web page gets indexed for the right location. That’s because Google will now include 30 to 40 local listings in addition to organic results. This will largely have the same effect that Universal Search had. There will be less slots for plain vanilla listings (i.e. those without video or image content or geographic relevance) and more space devoted to results that Google thinks are geographically relevant to the user.
Very high ranking websites will likely make it near the top of the page, either by preceding Google Places search results or by being interspersed between Google Places search results, but for the most part, websites that have a good geographic fix will have an advantage. The first step to taking advantage of Google Places search is to make sure that your Google Places listing is up to date and compliant with Google’s standards. Google Places search listings include all the information that might be relevant to users, such as business hours, address and pictures, so the more of these you have, the better.
Of course, avoid spam tactics at all costs—it won’t help you to keyword stuff your Google Places profile, especially if you’re shooting for locations that aren’t anywhere near you. Instead, focus on the areas that your business directly serves.
You should also include plenty of location-based keywords in your website copy, especially where relevant, such as your address and service areas. This has long been good SEO practice, and for those businesses who have already done their due diligence, your hard work will certainly pay off.