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Google’s at it again, making more search changes.

What have they come up with now? Why are they doing it?

Let’s start with a picture – because that’s worth a thousand words:

google-local-search

This look is completely revamped for popular local searches. In the past, you used to get 7 search results.

And here’s what they’ve changed with these new search results:

  1. Google has increased competition among SMBs: Since these search results stand out, everybody wants them. With just 3 results instead of the old 7, there’s going to be much more intense SEO competition. Plus, you might see some more negative SEO attacks.
  2. Exact addresses are gone from the results, so searchers have to click to the company’s website or to Google’s map
  3. The same goes for the phone number
  4. Store hours have been added in

So here’s what Google had to say officially about the changes:

“We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.”

These changes are somewhat interesting, given that having the exact phone number and address immediately available seems more convenient for searchers.

Why Would Google Do This?

Remember, Google is a company worth $459.5 billion (Apple’s number one at around $650 billion). They’re in business to make money.

Go back to that screenshot up there, and notice the top 3 listings…they’re all paid ads! Google’s top source of revenue is the money they make from these pay-per-click ads.

When you searched for a local business listing like “Dallas doctor” in the past, you would get 7 organic listings and a local map showing the location of each. In short, Google may claim they’re improving the search experience for users.

But in reality, they may be doing what’s possible to increase their own profit margins. After all, those search listings don’t include an exact address or phone number. So you have to look closer at the page while you try to figure out what to do. And as you do that, you might just see what you need at the top of the page with a paid ad. So you’re much more likely to click that and help Google make some money!

And if you check out this report, you’ll find that most of the highest cost-per-click keywords on Google are local ones.

Searchers don’t care because this doesn’t cost them anything. But for local SMBs, this is a huge change.

In the past, search was all about content, optimization, and building a great website. But now, that might change, depending on how SEO companies react.

Stay tuned. We’ll update you as you learn more.

 

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