The Real Estate Local OneBox is Missing in Action!
Real estate is one of the largest areas in local search. Specifically the search, ‘city, st+ real estate’ consistently shows as having one of the highest frequencies for the ‘service/product + locations’ type searches.
Until very recently this type of search (‘real estate + city, st‘) on Google, returned a Local OneBox of real estate offices. It no longer does. The Local OneBox had reliably appeared on this search from last October until late last week.
Whether this is a permanent change or not, it raises some interesting questions about the logic of Google’s change. There are several possibilities why it has been removed:
1)This a test, testing 1,2,3….
2)There was not enough perceived relevance provided by the OneBox to stay in place
3)Revenue from real estate ppc ads dropped significantly and/or complaints from these advertisers went up.
4)Google has other plans for this incredibly valuable real estate
Do I think it is number 1, 2, 3 or 4?…..
The answer is yes….
I believe that it is all of those things.
1)Firstly, Google is always testing, everything. If you thought you had some stability for a while “fogedaboutit”. This is particularly true in the local space.
2)Several months back I wrote a piece about what I perceived to be Google’s long term plans to provide detail down to the item on the shelf level and I do think that Google perceives the specific house inventory more relevant than the seller of the house on “product” searches.
3)I have often thought that the OneBox, in situations like this, created a conflict between some of Google’s most frequent advertisers and the free listings of the Local OneBox. It has to have an impact on income as well.
4)Does Google have plans?
Google wants and needs to increase relevance AND increase income. They need to provide search results that accomplishes both things.
In that vein, the more ambiguous search ‘city + real estate’ phrase now consistently returns the GoogleBase OneBox search for specific local property listings. This seems to be true across every ‘city + real estate’ search that I tried.
Allowing the searcher to drill down to the item level in this situation takes up much less room on the main search results page, allows for more relevant ads to be shown and clicked and provides greater relevance to the searcher.
I think that going forward on the “widget + location” searches Google will be presenting more GoogleBase OneBox results rather than local results as Google accumulates enough inventory in its database. While on the “service + location” type searches, I believe that you will continue to see the Local Onebox business results.