Are we gearing up for another format war (does anybody still remember Betamax vs. VHS?) or is Apple just telling Google that they can’t play in their sandbox anymore? When iOS was unveiled earlier this week, probably the biggest hubbub came from Google Maps and YouTube getting the boot. With Google out and Apple in, it makes you wonder what the future of local search will be and how that will impact your business.
What Changes To Expect For Local Search
The familiar iOS maps app that has been powered by Google since inception has met its demise. In order to keep tighter control over the user experience and, more importantly, to further remove any involvement Google has with their products, Apple has decided to forgo Google-powered maps—instead opting for a proprietary application.
With more and more local searches coming from mobile devices, you can’t afford to miss out on these valuable searches with a high conversion rate. Here are some of the most important changes to local search caused by this switch to Apple Maps.
Goodbye Google+ Local Results
You’ve claimed your Google+ Local listing, so you’re all set—right? While claiming your Google listing alone has never been enough to properly optimize you for local search, it was a good start and perhaps the most important thing you could do.
Apple Maps delivers local results based on Yelp’s local directory information (along with some address and map information from TomTom). Both the traditional maps app as well as Siri are using Yelp to provide local information such as locations, reviews and addresses.
While most local optimization packages include some form of Yelp listing, it is important to remain engaged and active on Yelp. Honestly, this is not a bad thing because Google still relies on Yelp for some of its local data and it’s one of the most powerful directory citations you can build.
Yelp Reviews Matter
When Google rolled out their updated and rebranded local search listings a few months back, the change in the reviewing process actually simplified things. Previously, Google aggregated reviews from around the web from places such as SuperPages, Yelp and Insider Pages.
Now, Google is taking a page out of Apple’s book and is trying to tightly control the user’s experience. Now only Google reviews are showing on the actual business page. With the acquisition of Zagat, Google has integrated a Zagat-style scoring system to rank reviews by relevance and show the most helpful ones first. This is a good thing that helps to cut down on spam reviews and burying bad reviews with good ones.
Because Apple Maps is not using any data from Google, those formerly unimportant reviews on Yelp will start to matter more and more. At this time, it is unclear if Apple and Yelp’s algorithm will favor a business with positive reviews over one with negative reviews, but this will likely be the case. We do know that review and star ratings will be displayed alongside your businesses result.
What Can You Do?
Local search optimization has always been a sort of mysterious process that is part art, part science, and part public relations. While Android is still the largest mobile operating system, iOS users are not to be ignored. Apple, much like Google, will be making refinements and tweaks to this new system for months to come.
No matter what changes eventually get made, Apple and Google will surely remain divorced with Apple getting custody of Yelp. While it sounds like common sense, fully optimizing both your Google and Yelp profile and ensuring that your information is correct will really be the best way to keep your business at the top of the local results—no matter what device your customers are using.