Google’s Spring Cleaning: Local Business Cards

In a lot of ways Google SERPs are going through a “spring cleaning.” Out with the old features and in with the new. Last month we bid a fond farewell to right-column ads, this month we got introduced to Google Local business cards (still in beta).  Local business cards (given this name but the SEO blog world not officially by Google) are a fantastic blend of the immediacy of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, with the authority of those top spots in Google. A snapshot of what these look like is in my screenshot below. 

local business cards

The barrier I see at least currently is how effectively the average small business will be able to leverage this?  I can definitely see these local business cards being updated once and never changed again. I would assume this isn’t what the intention is at all. I’m interested to see exactly  who will use these and if cards from only one business be allowed or multiple ones. 

It’s worth noting that these cards are similar to candidate cards which Google rolled out in January of 2016. If the system works like candidate cards work then each candidate ,or in this case local business, can push information to the cards but over time based on Google’s algorithm Google will decide which ones display first. 

All of this has me and probably a few others wondering are the SERPS too crowded? Let’s not forget AMPs, accelerated mobile pages, rolled out recently as well. If we imagine a SERP world filled with AMPs, local business cards, knowledge graph results and ads just think about how crowded the space will get. All of this considered, I guess getting rid of those right-column ads is making even more sense in light of these new features. 

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Leveraging The Disappearing Right Column Ads

Google’s recent move to take right column ads took a lot of advertisers by surprise. A lot of us saw the negative in this announcement – less ad inventory on SERPS, higher CPCs, and more competition. So let’s address these concerns one by one.

Less Ad Inventory 

True, there is less ad inventory on the first page. However, only about 85% of all clicks were going to the top ads anyway. So while the ads won’t show on the side your ads probably weren’t getting clicks the majority of the time anyway. By giving your ads better visibility and a better chance of getting clicks you’ll have a better shot on a high quality score and ultimately driving traffic to your site.

Higher CPCs 

Not true, yet. Google has shifted the spots on the page to be at the very top but also the very bottom of the page. This makes those coveted spots at the top, above-the-fold so much more valuable. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll have much higher cost per clicks. It’s too early to tell if this will truly happen.

More Competition 

Somewhat true. Inevitably there is going to be more competition since there are fewer ads above the fold. To combat this Google is adding a “fourth” ad spot at the top for “highly commercial” queries.

This presents a unique opportunity for small to medium size businesses who may not be going after “highly commercial” queries. With just 2 or 3 ads at the top this draws even more attention to that first organic spot on the page or the local pack.

So how will you take advantage of this opportunity?