It still amazes me how many major brands are not owning their Google Places listings.
Bunnings, Mitre10 and a ton of other big brands should really be getting on top of this. Some already have, so ‘hats off’ to the agency that looks after Harvey Norman. All the Google Places listings for their stores (that I’ve had time to check) have been claimed.
The reason why I raise this issue (again) is that there’s been yet another push by Google to promote Google Places listings in the search results.
I caught up with search engine optimisation legend, Bruce Clay, at SMX Sydney this week and he’s been noticing some interesting developments in the search results in the United States, and I’m seeing the same thing here in Australia.
Bruce has a bit of theory on Google Places and the latest round(s) of Panda algorithm updates and more recently, the Penguin update. I’ll work my way towards Bruce’s theory, but as many regular readers know, I’m quite prone to wandering off on a tangent. Hang in there with me!
The Panda and Penguin changes have really hurt many websites that have been using questionable SEO tactics to improve their rankings. In a nut shell, the Panda updates penalised websites which were full of junk content to clean up the Google Index.
My take on the Penguin update is it has been implemented to penalise websites who have a back link profile that is too heavily anchor text optimised and/or has a ‘paid link’ profile.
I never thought this would happen, simply because you have to ask yourself the question, “How can you control who links to you?”
In theory it would be reasonably easy to buy a bunch of links, point them at a competitor and ‘Bam’ their ranking positions would be demoted or their website taken out of the index altogether by Google.
I think Google made the decision that hardly anyone would have pockets deep enough to do this, but on the flip-side, lots of people are buying links. It’s been introduced for the greater good. If you’ve been buying links or over engineering your backlink anchor text profile, you’d better check your Google Webmaster Tools account and your rankings to see if you’ve been caught out.
There were a couple of SEO agencies at SMX who were sweating on the Penguin update, I can tell you! Ours wasn’t one of them.
Anyway, back to Bruce’s theory.
So we’ve established that Google is cleaning up the index and removing overly optimised or heavily SEO’d websites.
If you now type in single product key phrases in to Google such as ‘shoes’, ‘coats’, ‘sunglasses’, etc, you’ll typically see Google Places listings quite high in the results for shops nearby where you are searching from.
Bruce has also seen Google experimenting with Google Product feeds or listing in retailer’s Google Places listings.
He thinks this clean up and promotion of Google Places has to do with Google trying to get into the ‘daily deals’ market.
If you remember, not so long ago Google had a tilt at buying Groupon. Ironically Google was left at the altar on that ‘deal’ and is now looking for ways to get into the (still) highly lucrative deals market.
Facebook has moved pretty quickly with the launch of Facebook Offers and Google could enable retailers with Google Places listings to promote their daily deals or offers in the search results.
If you’re a retailer with a store and haven’t claimed your (free) Google Places listing, you should, just because it’s a ‘best practice’ thing to do. But it may also allow you to get ahead of the pack if Bruce’s theory proves correct. He’s been pretty spot-on in with the last one.
By the way, he’s called the next update, which will, in theory, promote Google Places for lots of product related searches, ‘Orca’. Like a Panda or a Penguin, it’s black and white, but this one has teeth.
Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.