The Top 5 Ways Changes to Google Can Influence EVERYONE

Last month was Google Instant, this month is Google… Places?

If you haven’t noticed by now, Google is spying on you (and always was). If you do a generic search for something like “podiatrist” or “DVD rental”, not only will you get the normal organic/nationwide search results, but you’ll also likely get a local business website along with its Google Places profile.

Here’s an example:

(and, no, I’m not looking into getting bunions removed. I just did a webinar for a group of podiatrists last night).

So between Google Instant and Google Places recently being launched, who will be affected, and how?

Here are my top 10 ways that Google Instant and Google Places can affect users, advertisers, and SEO’ers.

5. SEO’ers and Webmasters: Did You Ignore Google Local? Oops, Your bad.

From the research that has been done, the way that search results are displayed in Google’s new Places results are a combination of organic ranking factors and Google Places ranking factors. So if you had a website that ranked well organically for certain local searches, but you swept the Google Local idea under the rug hoping that it never saw the light of day again, that day has come.

A few tips: claim your profile, provide as much information as you can, include keywords where possible (and NOT in the Local profile title, because your listing will be suspended), and get an account at Localeze. There’s your Google Places 101 lesson for the day, and if you want some advanced information on how to increase your Google Places rankings then find me on Facebook or Twitter and hit me up.

Also, be sure to stay on top of Google Boost news to make sure you do everything you can to stay a step ahead of your competitors. Yes, it may be just another way for Google to make more money, but what isn’t these days?

4. Adwords Advertisers: Don’t Be Surprised if Keywords Bids Go Up

Now that Google Instant is attempting to get more and more users to search for certain keywords and try to eliminate long-tail keyword searches, don’t be surprised if the amount that you’re paying for certain keywords increases.

SearchEngineLand published a study this morning showing that searches for shorter-length keywords have increased, and long-tail searches have decreased. As the search volume and number of competitors for these shorter keywords continue to increase as a result of Google Instant, so will the CPC for each keyword. Did you think Google launched Instant to improve the user experience? Not a chance. Be prepared to bid higher over the next few weeks and months on keywords that are in high demand (based on Google Instant’s recommendations) and becoming more and more competitive.

3. Webmasters and SEO’ers: Quality Content versus Quantity of Content

As Google Instant continues to suggest vanity keywords, it’s possible that long-tail searches will continue to decrease over time.

That means that organic SEO for certain keywords will be more and more competitive (if the SEO’ers are actually doing their jobs and researching what suggestions Google Instant is making for specific keyword searches) and that the “just keep adding content” approach may not be the best way to utilize your time and money.

Adding pages and pages and pages of content used to be a good way to rank well for a variety of different search terms and phrases, but now that Google Instant is recommending shorter and more specific keywords, more users will be searching for these specific keywords based on their suggestions. This means that you might want to stop adding any old piece of content on your website hoping that it gets found for a long-tail search and spend more time improving the quality of the content on pages that show up for your main keyword searches.

Take a step back and make sure your meta descriptions are not written specifically for the search engines, because this is a big part of what will convince the user to choose your website over your competitors in search engine results. And also make sure that the content on your main pages is well-written for conversion and not just mentioning the same keywords over and over again in an attempt to obtain better rankings. And, of course, you need to have good strong calls-to-action.

With certain search terms becoming more competitive, obtaining top search engine rankings is still important, but copy that converts on the search engines (ie gets the searcher to click on your website in the results) and on your website will be key to you maximizing those high organic rankings and turning visits into leads or sales.

2. Will Users Actually Trust Google Instant?

A company called Conductor published a study earlier this week that showed a number of different search results four weeks after Google Instant launched and compared them to 2 weeks prior.

What stands out to me are the drops in conversions that one and two-word searches saw after Google Instant launched, and the increase in conversions that the longer keyword searches produced.

There still aren’t a lot of changes that would result in a conclusion that Google Instant is affecting user behavior, but it’s very possible that users will not be impressed with the results that Google Instant displays based on their recommendations, and that the users will continue to search for what they’re specifically looking for versus letting Google Instant interrupt them and clicking on premature suggestions. Again, it’s probably too early to tell, but this theory would suggest that long-tail keyword searches might not be completely screwed.

1. Will Users Change the Way They Search for Local Businesses?

The best part about Adwords and PPC advertising is the ability to target a specific user based on his or her geographic location. So if someone within a 45 mile radius of Baltimore were to do a search for anything involving the word “Podiatrist”, I can tell Adwords that I want to target that user because he or she is part of my target audience based on their location and my ad will likely appear depending on how much I bid.

But most search engine users have evolved over time and know that they can’t just type in “Pizza” and expect to get 10 local pizza shops close to where they work or live that easily.

Now, with Google Places coming up for these types of non-geo-based-keyword searches, will more and more users get lazy (and…devolve?) and just start typing in one and two-word keyword searches knowing that now they will get local results? Possibly.

I know I will.

This makes the other four ways even more important. The number one mistake you can make when it comes to search engine marketing is to stereotype all users and assume that everyone searches the same way and for the same keywords.

As a local business owner, webmaster, or SEO’er, If you think that search engine users are not going to figure out these shortcuts and are going to keep typing in city and state-based searches forever, think again. It’s important to stay on top of changes like these for a reason: so you can be prepared.

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