Will Google Places Replace SEO?

Google Places is a new-ish feature of the Google search engine that affects search engine placement of local businesses. It’s existed in various forms for a while, but within the past year it has essentially taken over front page results, adding about 10 or so listings in the middle of a search page and pushing out what otherwise would be front page websites.

Google Places has left search engine optimization companies and small businesses worried. SEO was originally the tool that new companies could use to try to compete with businesses that have a more established following. If Google Places makes SEO obsolete, then new companies can’t use it to promote their business, and SEO companies will have fewer clients.

Content Marketing – Still Crucial

Google Places ranks websites according to some combination of reviews and an optimized Google+ page. Google Places does change the value of SEO because it allows terrible websites to rank well simply because they have Google+ reviews. But it won’t replace search engine optimization at all, and content marketing – a style of SEO – will still have tremendous importance for your website.

This is probably a topic that we could discuss for days, and will probably be saved for a much longer post or podcast. But for now, the best way to understand why content marketing and SEO will still be important includes:

  • Establishing Expertise – Great reviews and a well ranking website are valuable, but they’re nothing if your website doesn’t offer value to the reader. You’re not going to get business with poor quality content writing and a sparse website. Content marketing – which uses writing to improve search engine ranks – also allows you to create informative content that has value to the reader. That content will always be important, because even if someone finds your website via Google Places, the content on your website is how they’ll decide whether or not to use your service.
  • Front Page Possibilities – While Google Places takes up much of the front page, it doesn’t take up all of it, and there are still several spots for your website to rank. If you get on the front page of Google, you are still guaranteed to get business, so the long term value of SEO and content marketing is still intact. There are fewer spots, but that simply means you need to be more competitive – not give up.
  • Other Keywords – Right now if I search for “Pest Control” I get a page filled with Google+ listings. But if I search for “pest control tips” I don’t get any. There are always alternative keywords that you can target that can help your business in ways Google Places will not be able to provide.
  • Other Search Engines and the Future of Google – It should also be noted that there are other search engines besides Google, and Google itself changes all the time. Indeed, sometimes Google Places doesn’t show up for an identical search. It’s what Google does. Relying solely on Google places is a poor strategy.

In summary, Google Places does change SEO. But not very much, and not in any way that affects content marketing. SEO becomes slightly harder, but quality writing is still crucial and “slightly harder” is common in most forms of advertising. It’s not something that would hold your company back from ranking well in Google.