You’ve probably been dreading this day for a long time now. Your business has a substantial Facebook following; a cheerful group of Twitter fanboys. But you’ve yet to dive into Google+. After all, from what you’ve heard, there isn’t much good to say about Google+. But with the forthcoming launch of Author Rank, Google’s followup to the long standing PageRank, Google+ is about to be even more significant to most websites that rely on the search engine titan for the majority of their organic traffic.
What’s more, it appears that Google is not going to admit defeat with their new social network, and will be leveraging many normal organic search results against Google+ results. Unless Yahoo! and Bing get more of a following over the next year, it’s time to make a Google+ profile.
The Death of Local Directories in Google SERPS?
One of the most unfortunate side effects of Google’s obsession with making their new social network stick is the continual shoving match that Google+ and local directories have been engaging in with popular local SERPs. Previously, submitted a site to multiple local directories (like submitting a massage in Seattle website to, you guessed it, Seattle directories) was enough to start showing up in that regions SERPs, especially with non-competitive keyword phrases.
But the local search landscape is slowly beginning to change with Google SERPs — even with Larry Page’s promise that Google+ would simply be a layer over everything else Google does in the SERPs. It isn’t just Google+ that has been causing problems with local search results — far from it, in fact. Instead, the recent launch of Google+ Local is what has most small businesses with some form of SEO wondering how their previously dominant local rankings have recently been losing out to the “shop down the street with a WordPress template site.”
What is Google+ Local?
Google+ Local is really just a new tab within Google+ that allows users to switch to Google+ Local results when searching for restaurants, hotels, or other attractions in a geographical area. This revamp to Google+ search results is actually a combination effort between Google search and the guidebook company Zagat. Not only are these results available in Google+, but the search results are also showing up in normal browser Google searches, Google Maps, and Android apps for Maps and Google+.
Not only do searchers have to skim through the lackluster results offered by a social network still in its infancy (compare Google+ traffic to traffic on a more popular local site like Yelp), but searchers cannot access most details about local businesses without first creating a Google+ account.
Of course, these trends have brought a great deal of criticism from other companies like TripAdvisor and Expedia, which both claim that Google’s insistence on promoting their own product, Google+, has begun to impact search results negatively — forcing out competitors able to provide much more detailed and accurate results. It’s clear that people who do not have a Google+ account do in fact suffer from “bare-bones” local search results, although time will tell just how much searchers will react to this potentially harmful change.