Google Maps (Local) creeps further into main SERPs

Filed in Google, Local Search by Matt McGee on July 18, 2006 0 Comments

One of the things I’ll be talking about at SES San Jose next month is local search, and specifically how small businesses should be taking advantage of local search now — not because local search is a big traffic generator in its own right, but because local search should become a more important part of the general search experience in the future.

It’s certainly become a bit more prominent to the general search experience at Google, thanks to a new SERP display that incorporate Google Maps and business information. Have a look at this SERP for the query [hampton inn richland wa]

Google SERPS example

On certain queries, Google is tapping its Maps/Local information to present a map to the business location, along with the business name and full contact info., not to mention things like directions and reviews (when available).

How Does It Happen?

1. For now, this display seems to only appear on specific searches for company name, location. So [hampton inn richland wa] gives the new display, but [hotels richland wa] does not. On the latter, you only get the regular “Local results for…” display.

So, at this point, if searchers have to be searching for your company name, you can’t expect a lot of extra traffic from this new, expanded SERP display — your site should’ve already been ranked #1 on a search involving your company name. But, if Google should decide to expand this so that searches such as [hotels richland wa] does bring up a map with some Google Local businesses included, that could be a real helper for small businesses.

2. The new display only seems to come up when Google can attach certainty to the location. Using the same example as above, [hampton inn richland wa] calls the new display, but [hampton inn richland] doesn’t. Why? Because there are several cities named Richland in the U.S.

3. The new display only shows when Google can attach certainty to the business itself. So, a search query like [mcdonalds kennewick wa] doesn’t bring up the new display, because there are too many McDonald’s in Kennewick. But do a search for [outback kennewick wa] and you get the new display, because there’s only one Outback Steakhouse in Kennewick. Google can attach certainty to that search query — it has an exact match in Google Maps/Local, so you get the new display.

How to Take Advantage

Everything mentioned in my Guide to Google Local Search applies here — it’s always a good idea to make sure your business can be found via any/all local search engines.

But at this point, there’s no evidence to suggest that you have to actively submit your site via Google’s Local Business Center in order to have your business show up with this new SERP display. As long as you’re included in Google Local — whether you actively submitted, or Google learned about your business from its other business data sources — your web site has a chance to appear this way.

Ultimately, I think this is a sign of things to come. Some of the search queries I shared above that don’t work to generate the new display might work at some point in the future. Google’s goal is to give searchers the information they want in the most accessible way possible, so it makes sense that a search for [hotels richland wa] might one day show this same display that currently only works on specific business name/location searches.

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