If being found by searchers close to your business location is important to your bottom line, then this may be your last warning to very pay close attention to Local Search.
For the past few years, Google has really been struggling to get local businesses to participate in its Local Business Listings in Google Maps, aka Google Places. It offered a spliff to anyone who would visit local enterprises and get them to sign up. It continually dangles seductive new features in front of entrepreneurs, such as the ability to add coupons, videos and events. Most recently, it began allowing businesses to respond online to poor reviews. It offers local-specific analytics dashboards, emails monthly reports and repeatedly communicates directly with business owners to entice them to try out new ways of advertising.
Last week, Google was spotted testing search results that barely included any organic results and those that were included could not easily be identified as such. With this interface, Local Search results go beyond prominence and absolutely dominate the Search Engine Results Pages for Universal web searches.
Google wants to find a way for Local Search to pump up their coffers with advertising money. The stakes here are enormous. Will Google Places results be forced upon searchers? Will Google cease to show any organic results whatsoever? Only Google knows. But I’m betting that businesses who are not yet paying much attention to Local Search are about to get a rude wake up call.