Google will prioritise local phone numbers in PPC ads from 19th January – so if a local phone number is available in Google My Business it should be shown instead of a national phone number. The full email is below.
What this means now:
- Call tracking will become difficult. If you’re using call tracking (i.e. you can’t track calls/conversions at a local level and you’re relying on call tracking software) and you need more than 2 weeks to decide what to do about this, you can use this form to opt out of the change. Google has warned that this may have a negative impact on ad impressions, which obviously means fewer calls/conversions to track. I assume you’ll be able to opt back in – let your account manager know. You should also look at tracking calls from your landing pages as well as directly from the SERPs – the volumes are higher anyway.
- Businesses should be make their local data a priority: make sure you’ve claimed all of your Google My Business listings and make sure that phone numbers (as an absolute minimum) are correct. I’d suggest a thorough audit. If you’re time-poor Yext – or another location management platform (LMP) – is a good idea. If you’re on a tight budget it’s easy enough to use the Google My Business platform – it’s just a little tedious and doesn’t give you the same control over other web directories, but everything can be done manually.
- It’s entirely possible that advertisers who have no genuine local presence but advertise with location-specific ads will lose the phone numbers in their call extensions altogether. It’s basically impossible to optimise for local SEO without a Google My Business listing – it looks like PPC is going the same way.
What this means in future:
- Google is gearing up for voice search. Personal assistants such as Google Now, Siri and Alexa don’t return 10 blue links for a search – it’s a question and answer format. To maintain search quality Google has to be confident that the answer is correct. Fortunately this means that one thing businesses can do to prepare to voice search is the one thing they need to do to avoid losing ad impressions from the change on the 19th Jan: ensure key information in their local listings (such as NAP – name, address, phone number) is correct.
- This is the latest signal showing how important integration between organic and paid search is going to be in future. Up to now PPC agencies probably haven’t cared too much about Google My Business, whereas SEO agencies have. Both agencies/teams/channel specialists need to be talking to each other and sharing data – this is starting to mean more than just keywords.
At LocationWorld 2016 Google’s Dave Byrne stressed how important local signals are to the search engine right now. 1 in 10 YouTube searches shows local intent, which has tripled in the last year. In my recap of the conference I said: “The biggest takeaway from Dave’s talk was that just appearing shouldn’t be enough for businesses: they have to like what they see (and what they show to their customers).” We’ve talked for a while about how country-specific TLDs (e.g. .co.uk top level domains in the United Kingdom) improve click through rate because people trust their local results. There’s absolutely no reason this should be different for a phone number when a searcher wants to reach their local bank/restaurant/store etc.
Byrne also announced that searchers would be able to filter businesses by their star ratings (e.g. remove results with less than 4 stars) – this change is now live.