As you may have noticed in your searches, Google recently made some major changes to its Places (local maps) user interface. This is typically the section below the sponsored Ads where a map shows up for when you search with local intent. From a user’s standpoint, you may immediately notice the new position of the map, as well as the layout of the map listings returned for your searches. For marketers, it’s a different story. The effects of these changes have swept the local search marketing industry, as several publishers, and (definitely) “black hat” providers have seen major shifts in the positions of their listings – some of them disappearing completely.
As these screenshots show, major changes to the layout and search algorithm have caused several listings to be removed from the top section of the search. Poorly optimized listings are now several spaces lower on the page, or even on other pages. Outright spammy listings have been completely removed.
Case In Point
A few months ago, I spoke with a “water damage” business owner in Marietta, who had been the victim of “black hat” SEO providers. They had created several bogus listings for him (which is against Google’s rules) in order to have him ranked at the top of local searches for his niche. Now, there is nothing wrong with being #1 all the time, but you have to make sure you (and your provider) abide by the rules of the game. They had taken the easy route. I explained the danger in the techniques used, but the deed had been done. I checked his rankings shortly after I learned about the recent overhaul, and needless to say, they have all completely disappeared from local map results.
The bottomline is… Google is getting better at telling which business listings are legitimate, and which ones are simply “map spam”. Having your business listed in local searches is an absolutely great way to boost business, but make sure your providers are doing things the right way.
For more information on how to get your business listed and optimized for local search, contact us!