Google’s power over the economy is unrivaled by just about everything shy of the cost of energy, and Google has been changing a lot lately. Love it or hate it, when Google changes the way it does things it’s going to impact your firm. One recent change is altering the online profile of every practice in the country, including the ones that make little or even no use of accounting websites in their marketing strategies. Google Places is being merged with Google’s new social networking service, Google+.
What does this mean to you?
It means the way Google local search works is changing.
Google Places provided the database that drives the local business listings associated with Google Maps. For a look at what I’m talking about do a quick Google search for accountants in your area using the following search term, “my town, state accounting”.
The map that appears is Google Maps, while the pinpoints on the map and the Local Listings that appear in the middle of the page, once driven by Google Places, are now going to be driven by Google Plus. This means that your firm’s position on this page is going to be increasingly driven by Google’s social network.
Google places was already, to some degree, “socially driven”. A big factor in your firm’s position in these listings are member reviews of your firm.
Don’t panic. Google+ is still in its infancy and they haven’t discarded the old database. It’s still underneath the new one, so for now you’re not likely to see any significant volatility in these listings. If you have a good position you’ll likely keep it for the time being, and if you don’t you won’t miraculously float to the top. Over time, however, expect some changes.
Google is very deliberately merging its services (Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, etc.), and Google+ is part of that plan. For the time being not many people are using it, but as Google’s functions merge more and more people will find themselves signed up for it (even if they don’t know it).
Another trend that Google has been working hard on for years is “personalized search”. When you are signed into google, which you very likely are most of the time if you have a Gmail or Google Apps account, Google keeps track not only of every search you do, but also which websites you click on and how long you stay there. This allows them to “personalize” your future searches for similar key phrases by delivering results that are the same as or similar to pages you’ve expressed a preference for already.
Google+ is a natural driver for personalized search, and because Google Places is already socially driven it’s a logical first step to incorporating it into the results. Using Google+, however, Google will be able to deliver results based not just on user reviews, but on reviews submitted by people in your social network.
Amongst Google Haters, and there a LOT of Google Haters, this is further proof of Google’s heavy handed marketing strategy. There is a hue and cry up on the internet that Google is trying to leverage its importance as a search engine to force users to use Google+. This is something of an oversimplification of what’s really going on. While Google is unabashedly trying take on Facebook as a social influencer, they are also sincerely trying to improve their search results. With spammers like Reputation.com out there using automated commenting systems to influence the way reviews are presented in Google Places the old system has been rendered pretty much useless. By using social networks to weigh your reviews in favor of preferences recorded by your contacts this comment spam can be mitigated.
Next Week: What’s a Panguin?
Next week we’ll take a look at some even more significant changes to Google. Two recent updates, Panda and more recently Penguin (often referred to collectively as “Panguin”) are shaking up the way websites are ranked in Google’s organic search results. We’ll tell you all about what these changes are (and perhaps more importantly, what they aren’t) and how they might affect the way CPA websites are placed.
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