hardwarestoresLast year Google made a huge change to the way they display listings in their search engine. What is different from before, is that today, when you search for say, hardware stores, you should see a map listing of all the hardware stores in your local area with location designators. You can then click the store’s link to obtain more information.

Why does Google do this? Because their main goal is to keep their searchers happy and they know from the data they collect that local searches have increased dramatically over the last few years. The shrinking yellow pages directories tell the story too. Only about 30% of the population still uses them to find local business. The rest of us use online search engines.

So, today, when you search for something and you want to see local searches, you no longer need to put the city and state that you are geographically located in to find local listings. However, if you live in a very large metropolitan area like I do, you may still want to include that information to further refine the local search that’s returned.

How do they know where you are? Google looks at your IP address. You know, it’s that funny address you sometimes see that looks like this: Your IP address gives away your location and Google can then serve up the most relevant results for your search and your location at the same time! Pretty nifty stuff!

Because of this dramatic change in the way Google serves up local business listings, it’s important for local businesses to claim, update and optimize their Google map listings. Being in that “Golden 7” at the top is important.

As more and more people become aware of the Google map listings, it will become more difficult over time to get into the top 7. Better to get a head start now before your competition does.

Starting this Spring, I will be holding local workshops on exactly what to do to optimize your Google map listings and become a Golden 7 listing. Additionally, I plan on releasing this workshop in video format so anyone can watch and learn from me. Check back here in April and I should have a link to the workshop available.