As the pace of the Web gets even faster and more users start to access the Internet while they're on-the-go, it's important that they have as much necessary information readily available as possible. Some recent improvements to Google search aim to aid those busy users conducting searches for local businesses.
The basis of these changes is a desire to "make it a lot easier and faster to answer" questions about local restaurants, hotels, businesses, landmarks, museums and more.
Google understands how people search and has clearly noted that most users will either search for a specific location in order to find out more about it or take the more general approach in order to compare potential establishments in a loosely-defined location. In an effort to make these common searches more meaningful for consumers and businesses alike, Google has enhanced the look of its SERPs for local businesses and/or industries.
Now, a search for a local business will bring up more than just the old standby results page that sends users to the business' website, because now there is a new panel to the right of the results. The familiar map showing the location of the business still exists, but now there is addtional information to supplement the search. The most immediately noticable difference is a series of pictures below the map.
These pictures will virtually transport searchers right to the restaurant using Google Maps' "street view" feature. And not only do users get the opportunity to view the exterior of the building to see the area, but they will also be able to get an inside view of the establishment, which is especially helpful for users looking for a certain atmosphere in a bar or restaurant.
In addition, there is a link to the business' Google Places page, but users practically don't even need to go there (unless they're highly interested in reading reviews) because below the map and pictures is a new "Details" section, which doles out helpful information like price range, hours of operation, nearest transit and more. It even offers links to "more reviews" from other websites.
When users search for a type of business in an area, as opposed to a specific business, Google has made it considerably easier to compare their options with a simple scan of the SERP. Simply hovering over the ">>" symbol to the right of each option listed will bring up the same level of detail found when conducting business-specific searches.
While these changes are very useful for customers, they could be even better for businesses. Before, there had to be a heavy focus on SEO in order to stand out among the competition on Google's SERPs, but as the search giant becomes increasingly local business-friendly, it will become easier to appeal to potential customers with a strong Places profile.
Of course, this doesn't count out the need for strong SEO practices (after all, you still have to earn your way onto Google's SERPs to begin with), but it does give businesses an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their local competition in a manner more suited to the way that consumers search. Obviously, the information readily available to searchers will depend on how much the businesses put online, so it is crucial that you optimize your Places profile and provide as much important information as you can to help you stand out and promote your unique message to potential customers.