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Google, Local Search & SMBs: How Marketers Can Tie Them Together

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Google’s annual Year in Search yielded another batch of interesting search outcomes. Not only were people more likely to make nuanced searches (‘how to make buttered slime’ as opposed to ‘how to make slime’ – Google’s example, not mine), consumers had developed an added layer of complexity when making ‘near me’ searches.

Think With Google, Google’s think tank and social research division, reported that: “people expect to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for, wherever and whenever they’re looking for it..[with many expecting] so much from search that they’re even dropping the phrase ‘near me,’ but still expecting local results.”

The implications couldn’t be clearer: Micromoments have become a central search type, and what’s more, consumers are increasingly taking local results as a given.

Micromoments & Small Businesses

Micromoments first made a serious impact on Google’s thinking in 2016, where in their Year in Search, they described micromoments as having become a significant trend. These were typically taken to be searches conducted on a mobile device, where a consumer wanted to discover a good or service in their immediate vicinity. ‘Good coffee near me’, for example, or ‘Indian takeout, London Shoreditch’.

Now, as searches rely on their mobile device’s location data, they increasingly expect searches to produce the same results, quite simply because the internet, and consumer behavior are both always looking for instant results and efficiency. This also means that businesses, wherever they’re located, have to be visible on maps, directories and listings networks. This is especially true for small businesses, who have to compete both in the real-world and online for consumer attention and spending.

Although small businesses may not have many locations to curate across listings directories, their smaller personnel base may mean that in general, it is harder, and more time-consuming (relatively speaking) than it is for large businesses, to ensure their data is correct across platforms. If only one or two details differ across listings networks, the business will have weaker citation integrity, and Google and other search engines will not trust or find store information as easily. When consumers search, for example, for ‘good Italian food’, it pays for the restaurant owner to be properly listed.

What’s more, by being correctly listed across platforms and social media creates more consumer-friendly sites, by being more complete. Not only will consumers be more likely to trust these sites and visit these store locations, they will also be more likely to leave reviews – which, hopefully, encourages more consumers to come to the store.

Listings Are the Key for All Business

The case for proper Listings has been confirmed by Google’s own research into consumer behavior, as outlined above. Listings need to be accurate, complete and consistent across platforms such as Google, Facebook and Yelp to ensure that businesses are found. In other words, they are as integral to a business as a phone line is or an email address. Without it, a business will simply risk total failure.

Small businesses may find it time consuming to list themselves across platforms, but large providers such as Telcos may actually offer a solution here. By bundling listings with other services, such as internet connections, company websites and phone lines in a service package, the business will be given a greater chance to succeed. More customers will find the business, spend their money, and the business will be able to grow and continue to profit the service provider.

After all, listings are the backbone of local search. Without them, reviews across platforms cannot be aggregated into a unified whole. Which means online, consumers won’t get the instant picture of trust, reliability and desirability they want from search results – meaning without listings, a business is less competitive. Furthermore, without listings, a business simply won’t be found as easily on mobile devices – meaning when consumers search, they will find competitors.

Service providers, telcos and others can play a key role in strengthening the SMB environment – and it begins with listings.

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