How to Use Google’s New Local Business Cards to Improve Your Business’s Reach
Over the past few months, Google has been tinkering with a new feature currently being called “Google Local Business Cards.” Originally rolled out to provide quick information on the 2016 presidential candidates, the cards are now being broadened in scope. Although still in the preliminary phase, understanding how these cards work can still help improve your business’s local search results.
What Are Google’s Local Business Cards?
You can see an example of these business cards here, but in a nutshell, the business cards display an image in a carousel-like bar that appears below the primary search results. They display a quick snippet of information about the business and a link to its web site that customers can skim without much effort. The main difference between how local business cards are displayed is that, much like the Wikipedia pullouts that appear for broad search terms, they run primarily off popularity. For now, local rankings and reviews seem to dominate the types of local SEO elements that go into the card displays.
Impact of Google’s Business Cards on Local Search Results
The cards, for now, seem to run on an application system. Businesses apply to be included and, if Google approves (based on above-mentioned criteria), they get to be part of whatever formula dictates which businesses appear for what searches. It’s still early days, and the way local business cards work is likely to change at some point, but for now they also seem to be for brick-and-mortar locations alone. If your business is based on the traditional storefront model, this means the business cards can be a boon to your local SEO efforts and help raise your profile and reach. If you operate primarily on an e-commerce model, the results could be more mixed. If you have brick-and-mortar competition, you may find yourself losing some clicks as people are drawn in by the business cards. If your business isn’t one that has a good local analogue, then you may not be affected at all. It will take time for more concrete trends to emerge.
Obligatory “The Future Is in the Cards” Comment
The addition of Google’s local business cards is just the latest in a series of streamlining, mobile-friendly moves the company has undertaken. Over the past several years, Google has been making various changes—such as removing right-hand ads and shifting the knowledge graph into the main results—that bring its search engine results pages (SERPs) into a single-column format. The goal behind these changes, it seems, is to create a more consistent search results display across desktop and mobile platforms while making useful information still available at a glance. The local business cards set-up is just an extension of this approach and hopefully one that will help rather than hinder businesses overall. As some changes made previously in this year have shown, Google developments do not always mean this will be the case.
Ads in Local 3-Pack and New Local Ratings Challenges
Back in June, it was revealed that Google would be allowing paid inclusion in the local 3-pack results. While this is likely good news to anyone willing or able to leverage their money, it creates a problem for businesses that now have to compete for the two remaining unpaid slots. The use of this feature will be part of Google’s AdWords extension, so it will at least be accessible for anyone who is interested. The potential ramifications of the inclusion of paid 3-pack entry for those whose businesses already make appearances may be more varied. As things stand now, a few possible trends could develop:
- Searchers don’t notice the inclusion of a paid member and use 3-pack results as always (good for the ad’s business)
- Searchers lose confidence in the local 3-pack or mistakenly think that all of the results are paid for (bad for everyone)
- Searchers avoid the local 3-pack result that is paid and focus more on the other two (good for non-ad businesses)
Since the local business card feature is still new, how it interacts with the local 3-pack now and in the future is still unclear. It is possible the two might merge, for instance, and the 3-pack will become part of the business card entries. Or the two might coexist or only appear separately depending on what searches are made. In the meantime, Google-watchers will be crunching away to figure out the best ways to take advantage of the feature and pass the benefits on to you.
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