Former Speaker of the U.S. House, Tip O’Neill famously observed that “All politics is local.” Now, with the announcement of Place Search on October 27, Google has given Search Engine Optimization a big kick in that direction.
I’ve been involved with Search Engine Optimization and SEOs since 2005 when I cofounded the online forum SEOrefugee (I also managed the forum until its sale in 2008). While I haven’t offered stand-alone SEO services, I’ve incorporated SEO best practices into my web design and development services and have partnered with top SEOs on many projects.
Interest and awareness of SEO is growing
Lately a number of developments have rekindled my interest in SEO.
- Clients have begun to express interest in SEO due to:
- A desire to expand their markets during difficult times.
- The proliferation of spam emails offering to “make your site number 1 on Google.”
- A former client who (without consulting me) invested in a totally new “search engine optimized” website only to have his traffic drop by 40% overall and search traffic by 56%!
- I attended the 2010 WebCAM conference in Bend, Oregon where I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the top professionals in the field. (BTW, videos of all WebCAM sessions are available for viewing at minimal cost at streamit.tv)
Local SEO and Google Place Search
I was particularly intrigued by David Mihm’s Your Town SEO presentation, which featured tips for optimizing a web site for local search. I was so intrigued that I began experimenting with Local Optimization almost immediately.
My timing was fortuitous because, in the past week, Google has rolled out Place Search, which one long-time SEO has called, “Without question, the biggest game changer in all my time in this biz.”
Though you wouldn’t think it was such a big deal from Google’s official announcement.
“Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go.”
What makes it a game changer is that Google is now automatically recognizing your location and using that information to customize your search results. While that’s been going on for a while in a limited way (the inclusion of a local map for some searches such as “dentist” or “doctor”), it has been greatly expanded in a couple ways.
- A much wider array of search terms is getting the local treatment including terms like “dog”, “cat” and “design.”
- Local results are appearing in the regular (or “organic”) search results rather than only in ads, maps and other Google “enhancements.”
What will Place Search Mean?
I don’t pretend to know all the implications of this change but some seem obvious.
- The search results you see might not be the same as the results someone in the next state (or even the next town) sees.
- Some local businesses stand to be big winners: The website of a friend of mine is now on the first page of Google for “design.” Prior to the change, that would have been impossible. Of course that’s only for people Google identifies as searching from Bend, OR but that’s who his potential clients are.
- The suburbs are screwed (at least for now): Google’s Places algorithm rewards proximity to the searcher (or the searcher’s Internet Service Provider). While that may be great for restaurant searches, it doesn’t work as well for other services (say designers) where people are traditionally willing to work with companies that may be more distant from them.
- Life for SEOs just got more interesting (and more difficult): The intrusion of local results into the organic results for even some generic search terms is going to push some companies with previously successful “global” SEO strategies off the front page of Google for their top keywords.
So, does this mean the death of SEO as we know it? Probably not, but it certainly means the birth of a new SEO that will be defined in the months ahead. And, undoubtedly, Local SEO will be become the sole focus of Search Engine Optimization for many businesses and a major focus even for companies with a regional or national strategy.
Local SEO Resources
In the meantime here’s a list of blog posts from some top SEOs with their take on how Google Places is changing the SEO game.
David Mihm: A New Kind of Local Search Result: The “O-Pack”?
Mike Blumenthal: What are the implications of the new integrated Local Search results? and be sure to read the comment from EarlPearl:
Miriam Ellis: New Integrated Google Local A Game Changer
Search Engine Land: New Place Search Shows Google’s Commitment To Local
SEO Book: Localization, Unique Data Sets & the Future of Search