This week Google imported its mobile display functionality into desktop; a search (on a desktop computer) that last week looked like this:
Now looks like this:
to appear 'above the fold' in a Google local search like this your business must either appear in the 3-pack or pay for CPC. Currently Google include businesses in the 3-pack based on SEO criteria. This will change to 'popularity' (the business's review score - just like TripAdvisor) as soon as Google have enough raw data (reviews).
With the full results - including reviews - just a click away:
What would encourage a click-through to the business's website - a great review score maybe?
So let's go back-to-basics and ask ourselves what we (as consumers) would like Google to do for us in an ideal world:
- Return accurate and relevant results: not just any old plumber, but a plumber who is close-by and great at their job
- Tailor those results to our personal tastes, needs and wants: love fish, hate meat
- Tell us which of the businesses returned is best-suited to our requirements: a vegetarian plumber? No, but seriously: the best plumber and the best seafood restaurant
Returning accurate and relevant results
Google monitors all our activity on the web - mostly in a good way! Especially if we allow them access to a) our location and b) our search history. They will give us a list of plumbers nearby and will serve the opinions of other G+ members, as an overall score and with individual reviews (but only if the business has them):
Google know that most of us will choose the plumber with the star rating
Tailoring them to our personal tastes and needs
It can then serve relevant results (the most obvious being 'local'). Google is trying hard to learn about all our various online habits (shopping/viewing and so on) so it can personalise our search results. An obvious example: if we consistently use the search term 'vegetarian' Google may assume that it's safe to give vegetarian restaurants preference in our search. But most of the time we just want to see THE BEST!
At the moment Google is showing us the businesses with the best SEO, soon it will be showing those with the best scores
Recommending the best
The next step is so obvious as to have been overlooked by most businesses: ask anyone 'Do you want to see...'
- Ads first?
- A random list?
- The best at the top?
So what are Google bound to do?
It must now be a matter of months before Google begin to rank businesses (they have all the tools already). Whether that is one month or eighteen months we don't know (and maybe Google don't either - yet) but that is besides the point. The point is this:
- Businesses with no reviews will be ranked at the bottom*
- Businesses with bad reviews will be ranked low*
- Businesses with great reviews will be ranked at the top
So - let's ask the question we started with again: 'Do you want your business to be ranked at No 7?'
* Important update: in January 2016 Google introduced their review filter, initially in mobile and for hotels and restaurants, other businesses are sure to follow. For full details read this.