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Descriptive Terms appear in Local Search Results

As Google continues in its quest to deliver the most useful results as quick as possible, it today rolled out ‘Descriptive Terms’ in local search results (in Google Maps) across the US & UK.

Descriptive Terms are designed to give users a more interactive way of reviewing local search results as Google identify and display the most common terms found across a selection of citations & reviews for each business.  This attempt to include a degree of ‘Social Proof’ in the results is useful to a point, however an algorithmic or crowd sourced type proof is unlikely be as useful as a personal recommendation from Facebook that is starting to be seem in Bing results.

Where it works, it provides an insight into the detail of the places page before you click through, however a quick check searching for ‘great coffee’ near me showed the variety in the results at the moment.  Around 3/4 of the results, most of which were cafes, included Descriptive Terms, however the range of terms included was broad and in some cases seemingly unrelated.  Others didn’t seem to reflect the sentiment of the reviews (e.g ‘dirty’ in the 3 result below).

Search: ‘great coffee’

  • scrambled eggs · sourdough toast · brunch · poached eggs · brownies
  • bread and jam · take away · queue · flat white · organic
  • ice cream · winners · beat · dirty
  • cocktails · gourmet burgers · smoothies · ended up · chilled
  • cheese on toast · veggie bacon · vegetarian sausages · cocktails · lovely garden

Quite a selection & I’m sure not necessarily terms the business owners would have selected.  To highlight the mismatch in sentiment, the 3rd result in the list including the most unusual words has 4.5 stars from 303 reviews.  By far the best on the page.

SEO’s may be used to dealing with keyword phrases within organic search, but using a similar technique for local search results changes the rules.  If Google ranking terms based on frequency (which would make sense), then business need a way of encouraging specific terms in reviews and citations.  Unfortunately these are often outside of the direct control.

So what can business owners do today?  In some ways the advice remains the same.  Concentrate on great customer experience and ask for reviews.  What may have changed is the focus we now need to put on specific favourable terms.  It would now seem beneficial to decide on a set of key terms you value and want your business to be associated with and work to have them included in every review and citation opportunity.  This may be in the text of a directory listing you control, in the words you suggest to customers when asking for a review, or in the response you give to those reviews where you have the opportunity (and we should all respond to as many reviews as possible).

But what about the negative phrases popping up? We need further investigation before we can say how individual descriptive terms are selected. If the selection is dynamic as Google beds in the algorithm, then the impact will be less as different terms cycle through.  However if these terms are being picked based on a low statistical deviation within the available sources (i.e there aren’t many repeating terms, so let’s pick this one), then as these results start to appear in blended results of the ‘regular’ search results page it will become a high priority for business owners to encourage the algorithm to identify a positive term by ensuring more examples of that phrase appears in the sources used.

 

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