For years now, Local Search has lived on the periphery of the minds of many, but Google's latest move brings Local to the forefront of the search experience, for searchers and marketers alike. Apparently based upon IP targeting, searches without geo-modifiers (city names, zipcodes, etc) are now bringing up Local 10 Pack results and the Local Search community is on fire about this game-changing news.

What's the big deal?

Historically, the 10-pack (the set of 10 local results that click into Google Maps) has been shown mainly for searches worded like this: chiropractor san rafael ca. Now, all you have to do is type in chiropractor to get local results like this:

What does it mean to you?

So far, we have confirmation that this is happening in the US, Canada, India, England, and The Netherlands, and so far, the majority of these new non-geo 10-packs are appearing in mid-page rather than at the very top of the SERPs. As you can see in my screenshot, the vertical height of the 10-pack is pushing results 4-10 waaaay down the page, though we still appear to be getting 10 'regular' results in addition to the local data.

Local Search smart guy Mike Blumenthal jumped into the fray with some quick math, estimating that a search for lawyer could expand the 10 pack from being presented the previously 291,000 times to 17,814,500 . Greg Sterling and Matt McGee have been quick to weigh in with their own experiences, and there are some very good predictions as to how this change in the Universal SERPs may affect you and everyone.

1. Increased incidence of the 10 Pack's appearance will ramp up public awareness of the existence of local data. Many searchers still do not understand the concept of adding geo-modifiers to a search to get local results, but it hardly matters any more. All they have to do is type in their main keywords now to be exposed to the existence of Google's Local index.

2. Organic traffic will start pouring into Google Maps, now that 10-pack results are appearing for such a huge number of searches.

3. Mapquest may be in trouble, as novice searchers come to realize that maps are available right in Google's SERPs...no need to go to Mapquest to get that kind of data.

4. Businesses ranking well in the 10-pack can reasonably expect a potentially tremendous increase in traffic because broad searches now lead to them.

5. If mapspam was bad before, it's about to become epidemic. Unsavory spammers who make a living from exploiting the weaknesses in Google's system have now been given countless new opportunities to do so, reaching an almost unimaginably larger audience.

For the average user, local data has now become increasingly accessible. For local business owners, the necessity and benefits of winning top local rankings have just become gigantic. For SEOs and SEMs, the option to ignore learning about Local Search Optimization and Marketing has just become obsolete. It's big news with far-reaching consequences for us all and it's no April Fool.
April 1, 2009





Miriam Ellis is the co-owner of Solas Web Design and CopyLocal, providing SEO-based website design, Local SEO and professional copywriting for small-to-medium North American businesses. She is the Local SEO Associate in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz, a moderator at Cre8asite Forums and an annual participant in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report. When she and her husband are not working on the web, they're farming organically and working on increased sustainability or roaming about in nature having the time of their lives.






Comments(19)

This is happening in Australia as well.

Yes I have noticed this in Australian searches too! Great post ... I have been getting right into Local Search Optimisation of late ... I will have to learn a lot faster now!

Not only is this going to up th e game for SEO's and SEM's it is going todrive some of them out of business. My local guy is going to have major problem.

This is very interesting, indeed. I'm glad that claiming and configuring a business's Local Listing is one of the very first things I do for all my clients. Focusing on local search results is going to pay off for savvy small business owners. Now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity. Thanks for the update. :-)

This isn't new information but maybe to most. I been doing this with Local Ad Link for 5 months now. This is the only way these local business can be found and survive. This is a great message though to reconfirm our thinking at Local Ad Link

Miriam,

Thanks for the post. I've been urging local clients to claim their listings on Google and Yahoo, and this development makes that even more important.

I wonder what this will do to the local results presented in the US by sites like Merchant Circle, Yellowpages.com, Kudzu.com, Insiderpages, and Yelp. Since these sites won't be working with the same IP address location information that's now available to Google Maps, perhaps they won't even appear in these search results. That could have a big impact on their business.
Thanks again!

If this is happening in Australia, it does not seem to be working properly.
Searches for a service in Brisbane ( capital city of Queensland ) typically bring up a map of California.
Having said that, we have noticed a strong upsurge in website directed business lately, which indicates that something is going on in local search, at least in some categories.

Thanks, Ian & John, for confirming that this is happening in Australia.

John - When you get the California results, do you see a link for changing your location? This was being discussed at Mike Blumenthal's blog I believe, and when people were able to change the location, then the correct results appeared. Something to look into, maybe.

Paul -
Good point! Yes, at the very least this will push 3rd party aggregate data way down the SERPs, and I am sure people are trying to figure out right now exactly how this will affect these entities. You've made a very smart observation, there.

David -
Do you mean the non-geo 10 packs aren't new information, or that the need for getting good 10 pack rankings isn't new. I'm not quite sure which of these you meant. If the first, there has been discussion of the fact that people may have been seeing this type of result as early as November, but that the full roll out of it has just happened now. If the second, it's good that you're well aware of the importance of local!

St Louis -
Sounds like you're doing what needs doing. Good job!

Thanks for the comments, everybody!
Miriam

@Christian - Yes, you can have Google send you a postcard - but that's the slow way. Much better is the phone call method. Google calls the business's main phone number as soon as you click on a button. Then you just have the person answering the phone enter a 4-digit pin number that Google provides (and Google immediately hangs up on you without even a simple "Thank you"...). A short while later all your changes will be visible in the local listing results. Quick and painless, just the way I like it. :-)

I just tested it out and perhaps the term I used was to broad. Ill try again later, but for now great post and good catch

Just read a report from Shoemoney the other day talking about the big opportunity in the local market. Question.. its great we can claim our own local market but how do we go about getting in other local markets. I know the spammers will be doing this but what is the white hat way, if there is such one.

Van

Hi Van,
I'm not quite sure what you mean by other local markets. Do you mean other industries or other locations?

If other locations, so far, it's only possible, ethically, to get ranked by Google Maps/10pack in your city. You can augment this with organic traffic for neighboring cities/regions with on-page efforts on your website, creating content for the various cities for which you need to rank.

If you mean other industries, I'm not sure what the value would be of ranking for anything but what you actually provide. Maybe you can expand on your question?

Miriam

I think I know what Van is talking about. A friend of mine is a distributor for manufactured barns in Eastern Texas from Houston as far west as Austin and also to Galveston and Beaumont. His main office is in a suburb of Houston and I assume that he'd appear in the 10 pack for Houston. It appears that Google would exclude him from the 10 pack for Austin and the other cities unless he has local offices in each one. In other words, I don't think there's a way to specify a service area when you claim your Google Maps business listing, even when you serve several neighboring cities from one local office.
Hope this helps,
Paul

Hi Paul,
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. If that is what Van means, then my comment, above, would serve as my advice. You are correct in that Google Maps is not currently set up to let you claim more than one city as your location, unless you have multiple locations (as you state). So, this is where you need to rely on organic traffic through SEO/content creation for your wider service area. This can work quite well!

I appreciate your thoughts.
Miriam

It might get too confusing or at least too complex to display a list of the many places that a company serves. I'd bet that mapspammers would fill in those spots very quickly.

From Brisbane Australia again.
I just tried a couple of common searches in Google "carpet drying companies" and the first on organic search was from Dallas, the second was local. There was no map, neither was there a map for "carpet cleaning companies" and it was not possible for me to work out where the first company on the serps was based, I had to comb the site to find out that the company originated in Ohio. So much for local search.
After a bit of googling about, I found one search query which bought up a local search box "car rental", and after that, one other search automatically bought up a local map but it does not work often.

I think the way Google change the local search results will benefit the end user but not the webmaster. Seems like Google is changing the search algorithm and I just found out that Google has includes extra links for global search results if the website has more than 1 pages. Didn't realized whether this is new or not but I just discovered it.

Google is changing the way to benefit end user and frustrating webmaster? I would say its still very subjective.

Harry

John May -
Your SERPs sound very unsatisfactory! I am definitely hearing lots of reports of these kinds of inaccuracies. *Sigh*....it's the Google Beta Syndrome, wherein few (if any) features released by them are truly error free.

One thought regarding your Carpet Cleaners searches...sometimes come-to-you businesses like these are not well-represented in Google Local because they don't have a physical location. I'm not sure if that's the case with your searches or in your country, but here, businesses that go to the client rather than having the client come to them are often not included in the Local results.

John Brakke & Harry,
I'm not actually seeing this as frustrating for webmasters; I see it as increased exposure for webmasters and their clients, provided the business in question has a local focus. Now, obviously, if your website isn't local-focused, then it could be very frustrating to see your results pushed down the page by the new mid-page 10-pack, but if your business is local, this is actually good news!

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