According to reports within the SEO community, Google is currently testing an exciting feature that, if it rolls out, could change the way we approach content for local search. Google Posts, as it has been dubbed by the team at Search Engine Land, could usher in an new era of online marketing for businesses. Chances are, this is the first you’re hearing about this, so I’m going to break down the basics and hypothesize about the impact this change might have in the future.
What Is Google Posts?
Google Posts would allow individuals, organizations, and local business owners who’ve completed a verification process to supply content, images, and video that will, according to Google, “appear instantly in search results related to the publisher.” Posts can also be shared on social media.
The feature originally rolled out for candidates in the 2016 presidential election, but it has since been extended to a select group of businesses. Currently, Google is testing this on an invite-only basis, but the main site does invite interested individuals or organizations to join a waiting list.
Here are a few examples of what Google Posts for businesses look like in the wild.
All images below are from Search Engine Land.
Wait, What About Google+ Local?
If you own a small business and have done any kind of local SEO or marketing, you are probably aware of Google+ local pages. What you might not have noticed, though, is that back in September, Google changed its Places API. Now, instead of returning links to Google+ pages for local searches, the API is returning Google Maps links. This means that the visibility of Google+ local pages, which allowed businesses to share content with their followers, has been greatly diminished in search results.
Additionally, Google streamlined Google+ with communities and removed much of the business information displayed on local pages, signaling a move away from the platform for local marketing.
Side note: While this Google Places API change has affected the visibility of local pages, I still encourage people to claim their businesses whenever possible. Claiming your business page means you control it and that someone else can’t get their hands on it. You should also make sure that any business information still present is up to date. Continue to keep tabs on your Google My Business dashboard and make any changes necessary there.
Could Google Posts be some kind of answer for the lost reach from which local businesses are now suffering? We’ll have to wait and see.
What Does it Mean?
According to Search Engine Land columnist Andrew Shotland, Google Posts is running for two types of queries: business name and business category. It should come as no surprise that Google Posts will continue to help a business dominate the SERPs for its own name. What is more interesting, though, is how it will affect the results for business category queries. Check out Shotland’s screen capture below for the query “engagement rings Buffalo.”
When I look at this page, my eye is automatically drawn to the Google Posts box and its images (in real life, the red box won’t be there, but the point still holds). I miss the ad at the top and the first two organic results. This could have serious implications not only for sites ranking highly in organic results but also perhaps (even worse) the sites that are paying Google for ad placement. I’m curious to see how this plays out if Google Posts become a real feature down the road.
Keep an Eye on Things
For right now, this is all just speculation, but if Google decides to implement the Posts feature, it’s going to make content even more important for small businesses. The community just learned that it’s one of the top two ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, and if Posts becomes the norm, it could have a much bigger impact on capturing organic traffic. So, if you’re not already investing in content, it’s time to get a game plan together.