Even by the most conservative SEO company’s estimates, Google updates its search algorithms hundreds of times every year. In fact, the search giant changes the rules so quickly it’s near impossible for small and large businesses alike to keep up.
This November, there’s been a small but significant change to Google’s local search tools that illustrate this dynamic, and it’s important for any brick and mortar small business to take note.
Local Search Engine Optimization Tools: Wait, Where Did My Google+ Local Page Go Now?
Although Google’s social networking site Google+ never quite caught on with the general public, it served a very important purpose in local SEO tools. But over the course of 2015, Google has been quietly but consistently removing Google+ from its various products.
Until now, companies with physical storefronts would need to register for a Google+ Local page, which would allow businesses verified listings to appear in Google local search results. In order to do this, you would have to “claim and verify” your business with a Google+ Local Page.
When consumers made a local search, like “Wichita pediatric dentist,” Google would delivers three-part search results. At the top you would have a handful of Google+ Local listings, followed by the organic search results. On the right of the screen you would see a Google Maps display with relevant listings. But now that first Google places panel is gone, probably for good.
What Does This Mean For Local SEO Tools? Do I Still Need a Google+ Local Page?
It’s looking like the local pages are gone for good, but that’s not a disaster for local businesses that relied on these search tools. It’s still as important as every to claim and verify your business with Google, which helps ensure you’re visible on Google Maps and other local searches.
As we head into 2016, instead of registering for that Google+ page, businesses must use the Google My Business Dashboard to claim and verify their listings. In fact, this might makes things easier for small businesses by simplifying the process.
Still, it’s just the latest in a long, long, long list of changes Google has made this year to keep SEO consultants on their toes.