As Google continues to play with their top secret algorithm, you can’t ignore the running theme: Local search is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of search engines and Google in particular! So, what does this mean for SEO strategy in the multifamily industry? Well, for one thing, it means that local apartment websites will now have an easier time competing with the larger Internet Listing Services that have been beating them out of the search engine results pages (SERPs) for years now, which is wonderful news for anyone who has grown tired of being outranked by ILS power-players.
What does *Local* mean for SERPs?
Your listing will soon be able to show up in several new areas on the results page. The knowledge graph, for example, pulls up known information about a company, person, or entity and displays it on the upper right side of the page. One of my favorite features of this display is the fact that it stays on the screen, even when you scroll down to the bottom of the page, increasing your exposure to potential customers. While this information is often only displayed when a specific company is searched for it will be taking on a more prominent role when the carousel we discussed a few weeks ago replaces the local map pack. When a listing in the carousel is clicked you are taken to the SERPs for that company’s name and the knowledge graph appears.
The information displayed in the knowledge graph comes from a variety of sources including Google+ pages and the new Google Data Highlighter which allows webmasters to select key information with the click of a mouse. This information is then displayed quite beautifully in the SERPs. The fact that local businesses are 1 of only 8 categories of data currently supported by this new tool is another clue as to how much Google is emphasizing the importance of local data.
Another way Google has begun to emphasize local search is the expansion of local maps. Local listings have long been a part of SERPs for certain types of queries but they are becoming more and more prevalent for a wider range of searches. This information is in line with a recent heat mapping study that found people are more likely to click local map listings – even when they are positioned below organic results! Many industries are beginning to see these local listings in a slightly different way as the carousel is being rolled out. The fact that it has already been implemented for hotel searches leads many, including myself, to believe that apartments and multifamily housing in general will be soon to follow. Google has been taking their time, though, so you won’t likely see it right away.
So, what does this mean for Google+?
These changes but confirm what many in the industry have been saying for months – You can’t afford NOT to be actively engaged in Google+! Because Google+ is so closely tied to local search results, address verification and account activity should be of utmost importance to any local business. Interact with local businesses on Google+ and try to get your customers to leave a review on your page. Do you have a property in a college town? Go ‘+1’ the local pizza place and bowling alley frequented by students in the area. The more activity, the merrier! If you show Google that you are actively engaged in your local community you can reasonably expect to be rewarded with a boost in local traffic – qualified traffic – the kind of traffic that is most likely to come in and sign a lease. And, in the end, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
So there you have it. Google is beginning to understand the power and importance of local search to individual users. By including information in the knowledge graph, local map, and even the carousel for certain searches, Google is making an extra effort to provide results that are relevant to each user wherever they are. There are many queries that do not need to be seen through a local lens, but there are an equal if not greater number that DO! Apartment websites and the multifamily housing industry as a whole will undoubtedly benefit from this focus on local. So go! Verify that G+ page (if you haven’t already) and use it to engage the local community! It’s like Mr. Rodgers always said, ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?’