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Search Engine Land published an interview this week with Google about Local Search. One answer struck me as particularly important for local brick and mortar businesses whose offline traffic is often driven by people looking for their services or address online.
The interviewer asked Google if they had plans to either allow keywords into titles in Local Search results or to stop bolding keywords in business names as bolded keywords have a huge effect on click through rates. You can see why:
Searching for a local takeaway the eye is drawn to the bolded results. Google's response to this question is somewhat confusing:
"On Google Maps, our mission is to show users the proper names and addresses of physical businesses. The Business Title is not the title of a website - it is the title of the actual business. Adding keywords to this field moves away from giving users the proper representation of the businesses they see on the map.
We have no plan to stop bolding keyword matches in titles. Bolding matches in titles and categories for example helps the user understand why we’re showing the result."
Google Maps and local results deliberately want to show business names, but those businesses who have a keyword-rich name will see the benefit of bolded keywords.
So, as more people turn to search engines to find local businesses in place of yellow pages, will brick and mortar businesses see their offline traffic decrease because they don't have keyword rich business names? Does this mean that in future, people setting up high street businesses will have to have search engines in mind from day 0 or suffer the consequences?
If you ask me, I think this would be a real shame. Imagine how much less interesting our towns and cities would look if instead of seeing unique and entertaining shop names such as "Battersea Cods Home" and "Junk and Disorderly" signs read "Battersea Fish and Chip Shop UK" and "London House Clearance and Removals". Imagine how hard it would become to build a brand in a world where everything revolved around keywords not just on your pages, but also in your name?