Google is testing a new feature that will show a carousel of virtual business cards as the content displayed in local search results. Currently, this feature is only available to a few hand-selected local businesses. However, it could revolutionize how potential customers learn about restaurants, retailers and other businesses in their neighborhood.
How does the feature work?
Google Posts — the experimental feature designed to allow searchers to hear directly from individuals, businesses and organizations — debuted in January. Initially, this feature was only available to candidates in the U.S. presidential race, giving each one the opportunity to create content to be displayed near the top of the search results page.
In early March, Google expanded the test to include a handful of small businesses. These businesses submitted custom text, images and/or videos for the cards, and have full control over their content.
Designed primarily for ease of use by mobile users, the carousel of local business cards shows up in both smartphone or PC searches. This feature is not designed to take the place of the Google Knowledge Panel, which displays the business address, hours, links to reviews, and other information. On a PC, the new content cards display to the left of the Knowledge Panel, below the first few organic search results. On mobile browsers, the content cards are directly below the Knowledge Panel.
Here is a screenshot for the search “Healthy Choice Massage”:
Image courtesy of SearchEngineLand
How could this affect SEO efforts and rankings?
Currently, small businesses invest a lot of time and money into local SEO. The chance to ensure local residents have accurate information at their finger tips with less searching is a significant improvement to the current system. By submitting content for the cards, business owners can control what potential customers learn about their business, and control “first impressions.”
Local SEO will still matter, though. This is especially true when it comes to customers choosing between a number of competitors in the area.
For example, if a customer searches “pizza” in their city, search results will still appear according to traditional SEO rankings. Potential customers are somewhat more likely to visit the top-ranked restaurant than one further down the list. If the same customer, however, searches for “Sal’s Pizza,” Google Posts gives Sal the opportunity to offer text descriptions, menus, pictures and even videos to showcase his pies.
What is the future of Google Posts?
Google promises that the process to create this content is quick and user-friendly, and will only be available to verified representatives of a business. Users can also share the virtual business cards on Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks. Google offers a waitlist for business owners wanting to participate in the test.
Because Google Posts is so early in the testing process, there are few details available about its future. It remains to be seen if or when a nationwide expansion is planned. How the feature will handle franchises, especially in areas where they are multiple locations in a single local area, is also an unknown. Still, the potential is there to greatly improve online reach with very little investment.
Let us know what you think about the new Google Posts feature. What are some of the things you’re looking forward to? Tweet us @joinhomebase.