An interesting search trend seems to have emerged over the last few weeks that is a good sign for the energy efficiency world. We’ve noticed an increased number of Google Places listings showing up in search results for energy audit-related search terms, tied to a geographic location. For examples, see the screenshots below, but the basic message is this: there are apparently enough searches for "energy audit" that Google is now regularly blending Places listings with organic listings. And that means you'd better be strong in both if you want to capture that traffic.
All across the country, we’re seeing more “two-pack” and "three-pack" results, in which two or three Places results show up together before the rest of the unpaid organic search results. (Occassionally, one or two very strong organic listings will appear before the Places results.)
What this means is that, however compelling your page your page ranks in organic search results, you’re still apt to get beat out on the conversion front by competing businesses that have a better Google Places page.
This is for a few reasons:
- Places pages, because they include independent reviews, are the increasingly trusted place to assess businesses, so they’re more likely to be clicked by searchers than organic search results.
- Places pages, quite simply, have a better user interface than organic results. They’re highlighted by a flashy pin which draws attention on the page, and they’re supplemented by a map that shows their exact location, which makes it easy for Google users to visualize the business address and, thus, feel more comfortable with the company.
- Places pages have a standardized format that makes it easy to find what users are looking for: phone number, address, photos and business reviews, without searching around or being burdened by a slow-loading or poorly designed website.
As we’ve said before, Google Places and other local business directories are an increasingly important component of an effective web marketing strategy for home performance businesses. As these directories continue to evolve -- literally, on a daily basis -- we think that this will become increasingly so.
So, how do you optimize your Google Places page to make it into the top two? First of all, set one up, making sure that you choose the right business category in your initial listing, and using high-traffic keywords like “energy audit” in your title. Second, follow the mantra of fresh and regular content--it applies to your Places page just as it does your website. Add some photos and videos if you have them. Most importantly, ask your customers to write a review for you on your Places page. Most likely, they’ll be happy to do so. And, in our observation, there's no more important factor than number of reviews in climbing up the Places rankings.
Let us know if you’ve had any good or bad experiences with Google Places or other local business directories, we’d love to hear about them.