Google Places – Currently the Best Online Marketing Tool for SMBs?
This week was full of intriguing news, starting with the introduction of a new support feature for Google Places (practically the closest to customer service that Google has ever offered for Places), continuing on with the Think Local event in London, and the announcement of iPhone 4S and Siri, and finishing with the somehow sudden pass away of Steve Jobs. Sadly, I did not have the time to blog about all of these, but there was something that caught my attention yesterday and as I am a fan of the empirical, I wanted to share it.
Dr. Pete conducted a research based on an eye-tracking technology from Mirametrix. A part of this study features the local Google Places results as an eye-catching element on the SERP. Both “blended” and “pure” search results are “stealing” large part of the user’s attention, but there are slight differences in terms of spreading among the 7 local search results.
In the blended SERP, the largest amount of attention was given to the first 2-3 Google Places results + the map at the right side. I argue that while the data related to the organic results themselves might be rather accurate and indicative, the large amount of concentration on the map is predicated by the search query used – “best pizza in Chicago”. People would naturally look for a visual expression of the location of the pizza restaurant, as they’d have to actually go there. The results could be different if a query related to service-based business was used.
In the pure SERP from the study, all listings have many Google reviews. All the listings get almost the same attention, but that could be a result of all the listings having the reviews stars bar. I think the results might differ if you have a SERP in which 5-6 of the listings have no stars bar (less than 5 Google reviews) and the other 1-2 have it (check a case study on the influence of the Google Places rating bar showing up in the SERP)
Nevertheless, the study shows that Google Places results might potentially lead to getting much more conversions (calls, click throughs, sales) than any other Google search result (even more than the paid ones!), practically making them the best online marketing tool for small businesses.