During the first three months of 2016, Google has been testing two new features that search engine optimisers are referring to as Google Posts and local business cards. Google Posts originally powered what SEOs called “candidate cards” for the U.S. presidential candidates. The podium is now offering local business cards for select local businesses.
Local business cards are still in the testing stage, but later this year could be widespread, which means you as a business owner should be prepared for this possibility. Continue reading to learn more about local business cards and the affect they will have on search engine optimisation.
No Official Name Yet
Just like Google Posts, local business cards don’t have an official name yet, but it’s what they’re being called in the SEO community. Local business cards are a carousel of custom content that show up in Google when you type the name of a participating business. As it’s in the early testing stages, you probably won’t see it often during searches.
If Google continues testing and decides to keep the function, however, you’ll be seeing more of it. To see an example of what a local business card looks like in action, search “a healthy choice spa”. You’ll see a carousel with animated gifs and text.
Local Business Cards Contain Custom Content
Rather than having the information drawn from feeds like Google My Business and social media, local business cards are created with custom content by the business owner. This is interesting because most of Google’s search engine features aggregate content from other sources.
The Format is Similar to Google’s Candidate Cards
Local business cards are similar to Google’s candidate cards, which you’ve probably seen if you searched any of the U.S. presidential candidates. Candidate cards are modules only available to the U.S. presidential candidates during the 2016 election period. They are a Google experiment, so it’s unclear if they will be used again for the next presidential election in four years or if they will be available for candidates in other countries during their elections.
Candidate cards were not ads, but relevant content based on what people want to know about them. Each candidate was allowed up to 14,400 characters of space and up to 10 images or videos. Candidate cards were a powerful tool for candidates to correctly represent their stances to Internet users.
News articles and other commentary that shows up in the search engines on the candidates can be misleading. Candidate cards enabled presidential candidates to directly speak to Americans and gave them more control over the content showing up in search about them. These two benefits would be great for businesses as well, so that they can make a better first impression.
However, the candidate cards were not always guaranteed to show up for a searcher or even in the same spot on the SERP. Where and when the candidate cards showed up depended on search signals. Although third-party candidates were allowed to participate, they needed to contact Google first.
Google Posts Powers Local Business Cards
Google Posts, another term that’s not official but given by search engine optimisers, powers local business cards. It is an experimental function in Google that permits people and businesses to rank specific content on the first page for search queries related to their names. Google Posts was launched in January 2016 for U.S. presidential candidates.
By March 2016, Google decided to extend the service to local businesses, but it remains an invite-only service. If you’re interested in creating local business cards on Google, you can join the waitlist and hope you are quickly approved.
How Local Business Cards Differ from Other Google Formats
Google has several different display formats that can show up on the search engine results page, including the knowledge graph, the local 3-pack, Google carousel, and Google AMP. Don’t confuse local business cards with these formats as they are all distinct.
- The knowledge graph aggregates information from common sources, such as Wikipedia and IMDb, and displays it at the top of the page for searchers. It doesn’t show up for all search terms but for many of the popular ones and those in which users are seeking quick information on a topic. In contrast, local business cards are sourced directly from the public figure or brand.
- The local 3-pack is a feature that showcases the most popular local businesses in relation to the search query. Content displayed in the local-3-pack consists of excerpts taken from the business’s website.
- Google carousel sounds similar to local business cards because both are a carousel. However, Google carousel displays images of popular items as determined by Google’s algorithm.
- Google AMP is also similar to local business cards because it delivers scrollable cards on the search engine results page. But these are links to content that have already been published on a website.
Will Local Business Cards Hurt Your Business?
If local business cards stick around and become widespread, they will hurt business for some. In particular, non-local businesses, businesses without a brick-and-mortar store, and e-commerce sites will get the short end of the stick. Knowing now that local business cards may become permanent will at least allow those who wouldn’t benefit to strategize and prepare for this likely change.
Search engine optimisation strategies will change if Google decides to make local business cards a permanent feature. Local businesses who are approved will have a powerful SEO technique that they can use to promote themselves. Businesses who don’t benefit from local business cards will have to update their SEO plan to take into consideration any competitors who have local business cards.