Google changed the local search landscape again today. They do this every year or two, it seems. Today’s move is a dramatically new display for local search queries. And what makes it somewhat difficult to grasp is that the display seems to change depending on things like the query, location, and so forth. I’m not seeing the new display yet unless I use this link to get started. Greg Sterling has an excellent recap on Search Engine Land. And here, at first glance, are my quick thoughts on what this means for local search.
1) AdWords becomes more important.
Google has moved the map over to the right column, where paid ads typically appear. Those are now pushed down the page by a couple hundred pixels. I expect this means Google will compensate by showing more paid ads in the middle column above the local listings, as shown in this image from Greg’s article:
Do I need to mention that these ads will be made even more prominent due to their display location in Google Instant Search?
2) AdWords gets more competitive.
Local businesses, finding that paid ads are now the most visible piece of screen real estate on local search results, will/should respond by spending even more money to show up in the pastel-colored AdWords display that’s smack-dab in the center of the page. This is exactly where the old 7-pack of local listings used to appear. AdWords visibility is, to some degree, replacing local listing visibility. Small business owners will fight for those coveted spots. (And Google will make lots of money in the process.)
3) Reviews and citations become more important/visible.
In the new display, not only is Google showing how many reviews it has in its system, but it’s also featuring a variety of third-party sites (like Yelp, Insider Pages, etc.) and calling out exactly how many reviews are on those sites.
As I’ve said before, never has the opinion of the individual been as powerful as it is today.
4) Building out your Google Place Page becomes more important.
While paid ads will replace the 7-pack for a number of local search queries (see #2 above), in cases where paid ads don’t appear or when the searcher scrolls down to see local listings … wow, the new display is like having a mini-version of your Place Page right there for the world to see. No extra click needed.
Look at all the information showing for this result from a search for “chicago museums.” You’ve got the regular title and snippet listing, then from the Place Page you get a photo, address and phone information, a review snippet, links to additional reviews on third-party sites, star ratings on the right, an overall review count, and a link to the Place Page. Moral of the story: build out those Place Pages, and fast.
5) SEO becomes more important.
In Greg’s article, Google specifically says that there are no longer two separate algorithms — one for the local 7-pack and one for traditional search. It sounds, then, like traditional SEO factors will more heavily influence who shows up for local search queries … and Google will then apply the local data to create the search results.
Other Views & Resources
In addition to Greg’s article on SEL (linked above), Google has posted the official announcement.
- Andrew Shotland: Small Towns May Be The Best SEO Hope For Directories in the New Google Local SERPs
- Andrew Shotland: Meet the New Google Local SERPs (this shows several of the different displays I mentioned at the start of this article)
- Mike Blumenthal: What are the implications of the new integrated Local Search results?
- Andrew Shotland: The New Google Local SERPs & Local Directories
I’ll add more to the above as I find them (or, more likely, as you tell me about them).
Your turn: What do you think will be the impacts of Google’s new local display? Comments are open.