Yesterday I outlined why Google+ matters regardless of user engagement thanks to Google Search Plus Your World. Today I want to look at how Search Plus Your World is impacting local search currently and why we probably won’t see much of an impact on localized search in the short term.
Earlier this month Greg Sterling did a post on Search Engine Land that talked about the limited impact of Google Search Plus Your World on Local. As I mentioned in my comment on Greg’s post I think in the short term we will see little impact on local results, especially when it comes to some of the more obscure searches he ran like “Toyota Dealer” or “Window Replacement, Walnut Creek”. I feel part of this is due to the fact that most of us probably don’t have a tight knit social network made up of users within close proximity to us, as Andrew Shotland pointed out yesterday in his post “Google Plus Connections Are the New Link“, but also because people simply aren’t engaging content around these topics.
The impact Google Search Plus Your World has on local search in it’s current state is fragmented and useless at best. I ran a search for “Chinese Restaurants” on Google this evening and in the results I received a share frome a friend via Yelp for a Chinese restaurant nearly 45 minutes from my house. Not exactly close enough for take out… I ran another search for “night clubs” and received personalized results for for the top ten Los Angeles night clubs, the other was for dress codes in New York night clubs. Not exactly relevant to where I am in Corona, CA nearly fifty miles away from the heart of Los Angeles and on the opposite side of the map from New York.
In order for Google Search Plus Your World to become relevant in the local search space, Google has to capitalize on what they did well with local in the beginning and focus on location, location, location.
In my predictions for local search in 2012 post, myself, Andrew Shotland, and Mike Blumenthal all agreed that 2012 will be the year that Google+ and Google Places would become integrated and I feel in order for Google Search Plus Your World to become relevant in local search, this has to happen sooner than later. By integrating Google Places into Google Plus Business Pages, Google can ensure that the right local data is associated with a Page, making it more relevant to local searchers. By having this information connected it would allow for local pages to have more clout than other pages in my circles. Additionally, the most locally relevant businesses could appear in the Search Plus Your World page recommendations.
Friends In Local Places
Google+ profiles allow Google to know where a user lives. It would only make sense for them to provide content from friends in the city I am searching from more prominent than someone out of the area unless the content directly relates to a local business or service. If I’m doing a search for Chinese food in Corona, CA chances are users from that area are going to be the experts and ultimately have more relevant input that someone in Los Angeles, CA.
“We all turn to people we know and trust for great recommendations…”
Straight from the horses mouth, Google says the focus of search plus your world is to turn to people you know for great recommendations. Google put a significant focus on Google reviews on Places pages last year, I would imagine that along with integrating Places and Pages Google will likely showcase reviews of local businesses somewhere in localized search results from people within your circles. Perhaps something similar to the share on Google+ from Todd Mintz below, but with the actual review instead of the Google+ post about it. On a side note, Beaverton is in a totally different state…way to go Google!
Just Checking In
Another prominent feature Google could utilize is the check-in feature. If individuals in a circle are checked in to a local business during the time of a related search, it could show up in the search results telling you that someone you know is currently at a location in your area. Sure, it’s extra creepy/stalker like, but it’s also extremely relevant and engaging not only for Google, but for local businesses. Knowing that someone you know is currently at a location may be enough to make you join them, or simply follow in their lead.
Ultimately nobody knows the next move but Google, but I can almost guarantee that Google is working on some strategy to strengthen Search Plus Your World in the local search space. Local is the one area that Google still has a lot of pull with small businesses. By making Search Plus Your World more useful to local businesses, they can help capitalize on the invovlement from local businesses and ultimately their customers. Will it create more Google+ users or greater Google+ engagement? Probably not, but as I outlined in yesterday’s post, perhaps it doesn’t matter.