In August of this year, Google published a revolutionary update in the way it presents local search results. Just like with most of Google’s previous major updates to its search algorithm, the changes have been felt by businesses large and small almost overnight. And these new changes, known simply as the “Snack Pack”, have had an especially potent impact on the way local SEO is done. If your homecare business relies on local SEO, below you can find out everything you need to know about the recent change and what it means to your organization.
Fewer Local Listings
Prior to the release of Snack Pack, Google would provide a package of seven local business listings for anyone who did a desktop search. For example, if you performed a search for “homecare facilities in Portland”, Google would kick out the top seven listing at the top of the page. With the release of Snack Pack, local listings have been reduced to three.
The obvious implication here is that local SEO is becoming more difficult. If you drop out of the top three listings, you’ll be far less visible in a search result. For anyone homecare provider operating in a major city with several competitors, it may be important to refocus your marketing to ensure that you can make it into the top three. For those doing business in smaller areas, this change won’t make much of a difference.
A New Address
Furthermore, the detailed street address that was previously included under every local business has been replaced. The new address line only provides a street name as opposed to the full address that was previously available. Since the goal of local searches is generally to get people to visit your business, this may actually be a good thing because users are now required to click further in order to get the details about your business. This could be beneficial because it could get more people clicking through to your website, since your link is directly adjacent to the directions link.
Critical Business Ratings
There’s also a new filter available, allowing users to search by ratings. That means even if your SEO isn’t as strong as your larger competitors, you may still be visible to anyone who uses that filter. You may also be rendered invisible to the users who rely on that filter if you don’t focus on building your ratings. If you’re not encouraging your clientele to review your business both on review websites and on Google reviews, you’ll want to begin immediately.
New Paid Ads
Finally, Google has introduced a new set of ad space called “home service ads.” These ads are composed of three paid listings that appear above organic listings. The fact these ads look almost indistinguishable from organic listings means they’re going to be incredible valuable for reaching new customers, but home care groups with a smaller ad budget will likely struggle to compete due to the extremely finite number of available ad space. With only three slots to purchase, the cost per click will likely skyrocket, and this will favor businesses with larger budgets. Smaller homecare providers will likely need to reevaluate their advertising strategy, and ensure their budget isn’t being consumed by overpriced keywords.
The Big Picture
In summary, local SEO has only become far more competitive. There are fewer spaces for your business to be seen, which means more competition, especially for any home care provider with several competitors. Google’s end game is creating more revenue for themselves, which almost inevitably means increasing the marketing costs of any organization that wants to be seen. If you want to beat the odds, focus on building your customer reviews, improving your local profile, and consider taking advantage of the new paid ad space if it’s within your budget.