My, my. After I just told my Local Search class they need a well-optimized website to get better results in Google Places, look what I find – and in 7th place to boot.
Now before you get all excited thinking you don’t need a website to show up well in local searches, perform the search yourself on “tampa nutrition store.” If you see what I see, you’ll only see one Place result, and it ain’t Max Muscle. But click on “more” on the left, then “Places” and you’ll find Max Muscle there in position G or somewhere thereabouts, depending on your personalized search.
In the screenshot above, you’ll see Discount Nutrition Center above them, but 10 minutes later, they moved below Max. So at least at this moment, Max’s Facebook page is beating out an actual website. How did they do that?
How does a Facebook page beat out a website?
I did a little research. Take a look at what came up for a query on their address and their business name. These are the all important citations that local listings need and that Google loves.
And look at their backlinks.
(Little sidenote here. Did you notice where those backlinks are coming from? Facebook itself! If you thought Facebook only had nofollow links, think again.)
Now compare their citation and backlink results to that of Discount Nutrition, and while the later too has a good amount, they fall short of Max Muscle with about half as many. Nevertheless, Discount Nutrition does have a real website. You’d think that would matter more, but evidently not enough to cover whatever else they are lacking.
Was that query a fluke? Let’s try again.
Now let’s change the query a bit to “vitamin store Tampa.” Max falls to position 9. What’s really interesting in this query is that there are a lot of other vitamin store results in Tampa below them – pages of them – and most have websites. So Max Muscle’s Facebook page beat out pages of websites.
I find that interesting.
Could it be that it just doesn’t matter that much to Google if you don’t have a website as long as there is a lot of other compelling evidence to prove to them that your listing is really relevant and popular – evidence such as citations, backlinks and social signals?
Don’t get too excited. They’re still invisible.
One thing I do know is that while it’s interesting and impressive that a Facebook page places so well in Google Places above websites, it’s still not good enough. Few people click on the Places link to see more, so if you’re not showing up on the first page, you’re not showing at all. Because you have so much more control over your website than you do your Facebook page, I think Max would have a better chance of getting to that #1 spot with a website.
But who knows what the future will bring. Businesses are getting very creative with Facebook’s iframe tabs, and it’s not difficult now to include an entire website within Facebook. Typically Google has ignored files called by iframes, which means the content within those iframes would not help boost the rank of your Facebook page, but maybe that will all change. Maybe in time you really won’t need a website.
What do you think? Please let me know in the comments below.
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