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.
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.
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