Google Places: February Update Dubbed “Venice” Radically Improves Search and Local Results
March 15, 2012
(Long Island, N.Y.) Google works hard to retain its own #1 position, forever trying to return more relevant links. Historically, the Internet was built as a source of information, and content is still king across the board. However, e-Business has made the Internet more marketing-oriented, and this can be seen in Google’s latest innovations, which can offer a great opportunity or huge peril to online marketers.
“This month we have many improvements to celebrate. With 40 changes reported, that marks a new record for our monthly series on search quality. Most of the updates rolled out earlier this month, and a handful are actually rolling out today and tomorrow. We continue to improve many of our systems, including related searches, sitelinks, autocomplete, UI elements, indexing, synonyms, SafeSearch and more. Each individual change is subtle and important, and over time they add up to a radically improved search engine. Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”
Google Places / Google Local
Google Local offers businesses the opportunity to register their location to permit localized search. Many brick-and-mortar businesses have found that signing up with Google Local has increased their customer base. But what about online merchants–should online only merchants sign up with Google Local? A lot depends on your location as well as your niche. You could be missing the boat if your “about” or “contact” information consists solely of an anonymous email link. By optimizing one page of your site as “local” you could significantly boost your site’s search ranking in your geographic area with Google Local.
On the other hand, if your a national company you may not want a single address on your site, but all addresses with seperate Places listings. Do you have physical structures in all of those locations? Places provides for multiple locations. If not, Places is getting increasingly tougher for companies to maintain separate pages unless they have different physical addresses. A physical location will not only help with Google Places, but other directories and customer review sites as well. Submitting to Google Places can do wonders for lead generation from local hits to your web site, but the customer support is still evolving and there have been many instances of listing with errors being difficult to fix, so take your time submitting and validating your listing. You’ll also want to follow the rules to keep that listing.
Another fast-changing innovation is Google’s personalized search, which garnered mixed reviews in testing. Do searchers want Google to “supplement” their keyword searches with marketing-oriented data culled from spying on email content and surfing habits? Most of the testers found the service somewhat cute, but appreciated having the option to turn it off. The success of this development from Google’s standpoint may rest on searcher behavior–perhaps they would be better off developing an option for searchers to select from “social”, “product/service”, “information” or “any” link categories. It may be helpful for you to learn more about your customer demographics–if they are “social” searchers who will most likely use Personalized Search, finding a way to boost your social media strategy could offer you significant benefits.
As Google tweaks its algorithms to improve search results, it may impose penalties on sites for techniques it considers “manipulative“. What can you do if your site is penalized? The first thing you need to do is analyze the situation. While innocent webmasters sometimes incur penalties, the majority of penalized sites are in the situation for one of two reasons:
they tried to deliberately manipulate the system (black hat techniques) or
The one thing the Googlebot can’t do is click the “buy” button for you but it can sure send you the traffic you need to get it clicked. While SEO is important, (and SEO for Google may be a top priority) the bottom line is determined by the human visitor. Develop unique, quality content for human visitors and make it easy for Google to send them your way.