In Pigeon’s wake, relying on Google to carry your company’s online presence at the local level is insane. Map Packs that have featured local businesses shift and shrink on a daily basis, going from seven slots on the first page to as little as three spots. In some cases, local results have vanished entirely, leaving local businesses to fight for space in organic search results with some of the largest brands in the world. What can the little guys do? Re-prioritize digital marketing efforts – fast.

Big Brands Dominate Local Map Pack Results

The Map Pack was supposed to be a means for local businesses and consumers to find one another in relation to location and distance. In a new city? Typing in search as simple as ‘breakfast’ into your smartphone could pull up breakfast locations in your general vicinity. Post Pigeon, genuinely local (non-enterprise) companies struggle to show up in the search results Google supposedly designed for them. Check this one out:

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Here we get a full seven-result local pack, but with four of those eaten up by Rite Aid. The search query ‘drug stores near me’ returns results that look more like “Rite Aids in Philadelphia.” In fact, there’s only one actual local business – Philadelphia Pharmacy – in the entire Map Pack. Big brands occupy every other slot.

Reduced Local Results

Some areas, particularly markets with smaller populations, saw a corresponding drop in local Map Pack slots – usually three. Apparently, Google believes an area the size of Linwood, New Jersey (population of 7,090) needs only three local criminal defense lawyers. Competition for those slots is no doubt fierce for a search term (Linwood criminal lawyer) that returns more than 100,000 results. The first organic slots for the query are the massive legal brands Cornell University and Justia.

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Underneath the local are other big brands like Avvo and Yellowpages. Those three local results feel tacked on, an afterthought, where once they dominated the page.

Map Pack Vanishes Entirely

If your business is unlucky enough to be in an area where Google removed Map Pack results (see below), your website’s first page visibility vanished overnight. A search of ‘Philadelphia internet marketing companies’ produces zero local results – just the organic listings and the typical Adwords placements surrounding them. All those efforts to build a robust Google Local profile seemingly erased with the flip of an algorithmic switch. What’s a business owner to do as the data and rankings continue to settle over the weeks and months?

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Pause Google Local Optimization

Many industry experts believe Google is rotating as many as three versions of their local algorithm, testing them in various markets on a daily basis. The process is creating continual SERP volatility, meaning any efforts your company is making to optimize its local presence could vanish one day only to reappear the next. For the next few weeks, slow down or halt your local citation building until the algorithm shakes out. If you have incorrect local citations (NAP-Name, Address, and Location) across the web, mount a campaign to fix them. Here’s a quick rundown of the steps:

  1. Do a Google search for your business phone number.
  2. Visit every website where your phone number appears, checking your business name, address and phone number against how it appears on your company’s Google Business page.
  3. Fix any citation that differs from your Google Business Page.

Divert Your Local Attention to Other Areas

Take the time you put into local optimization and throw it into your offline marketing efforts. Call your clients and reconnect with them – talk about their successes and ways your services can help grow their business. Focus on value add to increase revenue from the customers you have where the acquisition cost is absent. You might not find success with every customer, but even a couple increased engagements can provide financial relief.

If Google has taken local results away entirely for your key terms, shift your focus to strengthening your organic rankings. It’s not a fast solution to fix your search rankings, but done right the process can sustain long-term success. Create content that’s relevant to your industry and client base. Blog about trends in your niche regularly. Make your company and you as a content creator part of the larger conversation surrounding your vertical. Push that content to social channels and encourage discussion.

Leverage Social Proof and Online Reviews

Build up your referral channels through existing and past clients via social channels – Facebook, Twitter, etc. Positive word of mouth is one of the best tools to drive conversion, and while social isn’t going to help you rank in a measurable way, it will help promote your brand. Every friend, like, or follower of someone connected to your business through a social network is an opportunity to attract new attention and generate sales.

When you reach out, ask your past satisfied customers or clients to write a Google review on your company’s local listing. An influx of four and five-star reviews can help erode barriers to purchase for those who haven’t tried your products or services. Higher positive reviews may also help your local listing in areas where Google shrunk the number of available placements.

The past summer, in terms of Google SERP rankings, has been all over the map crazy. As a firm’s managing partner or any business owner, you have the tools to succeed just as you always have. Continue to do good professional work and avoid the urge to jump off the digital ledge. As the algorithm continues to settle, your law firm SEO company should be able to divine a clear path to move forward — if they know what they’re doing.

Featured Image Credit: Flickr via Kevin Dooley

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