Planning for a Post-Local-Pack Possibility

This could be bigger than the day we saw 7-packs become 3-packs. It could be bigger than any of the major updates like Possum or Vicinity. We’re talking about major potential change and new opportunity for local businesses. Just how big might it be? That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at today!

Instead of three local results grouped into a pack, this test shows a new widget we’re currently terming a “local card”, interleaved within the organic results. As Mike explains, when you click on the card, you’re taken straight to the Google Business Profile instead of to the long-established local finder. But perhaps of even more importance, the organic link to the website is now fully prominent, instead of totally absent as in some packs, or grey and easily-overlooked, as in the Google Business Profile. 

However you feel about this scenario, though, there is one thing that every local SEO knows by heart: local SERPs exist in a state of constant experimental change geared to maximize public engagement with them for Google’s benefit. They have the data and the engineers to discover exactly what works and what doesn’t. Think of this as a gift to us that we might take in return for all we’ve given, because Google’s SERPs are actually telling us what we should be doing with our websites if local packs go away, local cards take their place, and tons of clicks end up back on our websites instead of the Google Business Profile.

Check out this quick mockup I did of a GBP-inspired website homepage and see how many of the elements you can spot that correspond directly with fields you’ve come to know so well on your Google listing:

Did you notice how my mockup emphasizes location and contact data, photos, and reviews? I believe that the ongoing iterations of Google’s packs and profiles indicate that these are the three listing elements that matter most to the public when choosing a local business. If more clicks should start going to the website, companies should organize the homepage so that visitors can instantly find the NAP, hours of operation (including whether the business is open right now plus its most and least popular time slots), see tons of relevant photos, and both read and leave reviews. You’ll notice I’ve also included some basic sentiment analysis of the reviews à la Google Place Topics.

This mockup emphasizes all of the actions a visitor might be used to taking via Google Business Profiles. In addition to things like getting directions and interacting with reviews, the homepage should quickly facilitate whichever activities are most relevant to the model and customers, such as calling or texting the company, booking an appointment, asking questions, and, of course, shopping. If there is any actionable field on your GBP that you believe is connecting customers to the business, feature it or link to it on the homepage. This is basic website design of course, but think again about how Google organizes such features in their profiles to test what you should be emphasizing on sites.

Since the advent of Google Maps, Google has taken an open-source approach to local business data. Anyone, including bad actors, can suggest edits to your core business data, upload photos, leave reviews, and write questions and answers on your GBP. With your own website, the choice is yours on how much space you want to give to user generated content.

Summing up, should the American Innovation Online Choice Act become law, sending more traffic directly to websites, owners and marketers should have a plan in place to revamp website homepages so that they are as informative and actionable as Google Business Profiles. In the case of multi-location brands, you may need to bring a GBP mindset to landing pages rather than homepages. Why not spend some time this week making a more beautiful and useful mockup than mine for some of the businesses you market? Maybe yours will feature bulleted list attributes, or key product and service menus, or direct message/live chat capabilities.

To be honest, you’ll have to come up with your own answer to this question based on your philosophy and hands-on experience, should Google become the subject of increased regulation. For my part as a big supporter of localism, I observe that monopolies have an unsustainable negative effect on human happiness and the planet, on innovation and diversification, on commerce and culture. I am personally in favor of very strong antitrust measures and believe they will deliver amazing benefits to independently-owned businesses, the communities they serve, and the environment on which we depend for life.

For owners, customers will still find you, and the great thing would be that more of them would likely be spending more of their time at your house instead of at Google’s. The role of host, then, will be more on your shoulders. It will be your patio, your deck chairs, your BBQ pit, and ramada that welcome and shelter people. And, after all, that’s what you went into business to do: to take care of your own customers. You’ve spent years learning to do that, so don’t worry – with some fine tuning of your website to make it as good as and better than a Google Business Profile, you’ve got some good times ahead!

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