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Website traffic down? Google change could be the cause

Uh oh. Did your community just drop in Google’s search results?

If there’s one constant with Google, it’s that it’s constantly changing. As senior living marketing experts, part of our job is to keep up with and guide you through these changes. So, here we are again with another update!

Google is in the business of serving quality, relevant and helpful results to users who search for things online. It does this, basically, in three ways. The first is through the paid ads, which appear at the top and along the right side of the search engine results. The second is through the local business listings, which appear (for certain searches) about halfway down the search engine results page. The third is through the natural or “organic” search results, which make up the rest of the search engine results page.

This most recent change has to do with the local business listings. Now, up until recently, if a user searched for something like “senior living in Los Gatos, CA,” Google would have shown a “pack” of around five to seven local business listings. Here’s what it used to look like – note the seven listings, each associated with a “pin” (which correlated with the map in the upper right corner), an address and a phone number:

Google1

This month, Google rolled out a major change to its local results – one that could have detrimental effects on your community’s visibility if your community had previously placed in positions 4-7 of the “local pack.” The new “local pack” shows only three business listings. Here’s what it looks like now:

Google2

As you can see, several things have changed:

  • The map has moved from the upper right corner and now appears just above the local results. This causes the ads on the right side of the page to show higher (providing more visibility to the paid ads and, consequently, perhaps, generating more revenue for Google).
  • There are only three local business listings in the “local pack.”
  • The URL for each listing is no longer visible and the phone number has been hidden altogether.

While it would be ideal for your community to show in the top three local results, there’s still some hope if it doesn’t. Let’s look at this from a “glass half full” perspective! Since there are only three results in the “local pack,” it’s very possible that a user will click on the fairly obvious “More senior living” link to view additional results. Once a user clicks there, he or she is taken to the “Local Finder,” which then displays 20 results. There, the user is encouraged to interact with the map and each listing; each click reveals additional information. Here’s what that looks like:

Google3

The more detailed view for each listing reveals the full business address, phone number, business hours, a photo (which, when clicked, opens up a photo gallery), user reviews, and additional organic Web results specific to that particular business.

What does this mean for your community?

  • Competition to rank in the “local pack” is stiffer than ever. It’s time to up your local listing game! If you haven’t already, claim and optimize your business listing with all the pertinent details.
  • Since you may lose visibility in the local listings, and paid search ads just moved up on the page, it might be time to take a second look at AdWords (paid search ads). If you’re already running a campaign, is it being optimized on a regular basis? (*Disclaimer: AdWords should be left to Google-certified professionals who know the ins and outs of the business, who keep current on all the tips and tricks, and who can make the most out of your marketing dollars.)
  • This change places additional emphasis on the importance of online reviews and your online reputation. Having several reviews on your local business listing can increase the likelihood that your listing will show higher in the “local pack” search results. Additionally, in the “Local Finder” view, Google is now highlighting mentions of your brand across the Web – including results from directories like Yelp and Caring.com, which are two of the most popular review sites for senior living. (If you missed it, check out our recent webinar on reputation management.)

It’s very possible that your website had been receiving a good amount of traffic from your Google listing. Take a minute today to search for your community on Google and take inventory of your community’s visibility. As Google continues to evolve, it’s so important to do all that you can to ensure that your community appears front and center in the search results.

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