Notice something different about Google? The Google Place Search experiment is now here. Google’s announcement of Place Search will have an impact on your law firm’s positions in Google. The question of whether it will be positive or negative depends, to a large extent, on your attention to your website’s local authority. As announced on the Official Google Blog, Place Search is
. . . a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go.
By now, the changes should be appearing in your area. If they aren’t you can use this link to preview the differences. Here are some ways that this major change is likely to alter user experience for legal services searches on the local level.
Not surprisingly, the sponsored listings retain primacy on the results page (Google’s moneymaker). However, as you can see from the preview link, there are several significant changes that are likely to have an impact on the way users interact with the results pages.
First, the actual map has been moved to the right pushing down the lower ranking sponsored listings. I suspect that this will impact the number of sponsored link click-throughs, particularly for 4th position sponsored listings.
Next, we have noticed 4 variations of universal/organic listings. There are traditional organic listings, traditional local business listings, new local listing within organic results, and a new hybridized organic listing. The hybridized listings incorporate organic listings with their corresponding places listings. This change is likely to have some significant consequences for local businesses like law firms. Here’s an example of a hybridized listing results page:
Here you can see how the Google Places listings have been merged with organic listings to make the new hybrid listing. These listings provide location information including business address and phone number. Additionally, they provide citation and review information from other local data providers. For example, you can see the superpages.com link on the above example. There is also a link to the Google Places page to the right. I anticipate that places tags will play a larger role in user experience under this new layout. Notice how the “free consultation” link stands out more prominently.
It’s impossible to know the full impact that these changes will have until analytics and rank data is obtained. On the other hand, it seems obvious that this update will have a large impact on your law firm’s visibility within Google results. Those that have completely ignored their presence in local online areas are likely to suffer some negative positioning, at least in the short term. Law firm websites that once had top positions for local search phrases may see their positions change greatly in the coming months.
At this point one thing is absolutely clear, if you haven’t already, you need to make local search engine optimization a priority.
If you’re looking for more information on the impact of this update, and what you can do about it, check out David Mihm’s Google O-Pack and the recent posts (and comments) on Andrew Shotland’s Local SEO Guide.
So how have your firm’s rankings been impacted? Did you win the Google Places Search lottery or has your search visibility taken a considerable hit?