Is Google Showing the Authoritative OneBox More Often?

One of the less than ideal aspects of Google showing Local Universal results is the display of an Authoritative OneBox for a broad local search like “Las Vegas Computer Repair“.

However,since mid August, there have been a number of reports (here, here, here, here) in both the forums and in communications from Local Search Marketers Dev Basu and Mike Ramsey that Google has been increasingly presenting the Authoritative OneBox on more general searches that until recently showed the 10 Pack.

Google Onebox on General Search

While is it every Local SEO’s desire to achieve this result, it is very frustrating for businesses and searchers alike when a general service + geo search returns a singular result. Businesses that were previously shown in the 10-Pack disappear leaving the business owner wondering why and experiencing a significant drop in exposure and income. The user is left wondering how to get broader results as they are not even given an option to see additional businesses. Inexplicably from a usability point of view, this is a feature that is available with the 10 Pack.

Here is a typical angry, small business response to the phenomena that you see in the forums. Clearly he thinks that Google is on the take or experiencing technical flaws:

I really wish someone could assist, I have placed a 4 post and no one has answered or tried to assist. If this is not how you contact google staff, please tell me how I go about it. My business is not taking a major hit in phone traffic because you see it fit to place on one business in the local for for “Las Vegas Computer Repair” two weeks ago there were 10 business to chose from and now you only list my compitition. How can one business take out the map? I have tired a bunch of different companies in las vegas and they all come up with the 10 to pick from. Did they hi-jack your service or is your service one that we now have to pay for?

Fred

In the past, the Authoritative OneBox has presented itself when a user is looking for a specific business and when there is enough ambiguity in the search that Google thinks it might be a specific business. However, with some exceptions and in the case of business title spam, it was only shown rarely on broad general search terms.

It is not clear exactly what attributes of the business listing besides a similarity of the business name to the specific search leads to the OneBox showing or what exactly Google changed so that they present more frequently. It is conceivable that significant listing strength differences or user behaviors (ie searchers repeatedly selecting one listing from the 10 Pack) has caused this shift.

When I was confronted with the situation of a single restaurant showing for a City + Restaurants search I was able to regain a 10-Pack by building out the reviews and the general listing strength of another listing. I am curious if many of you have seen this phenomena and what, if anything has proven successful in reverting these broad geo searches to the more equitable 10 Pack display.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Is Google Showing the Authoritative OneBox More Often? by

34 thoughts on “Is Google Showing the Authoritative OneBox More Often?”

  1. I see the 3-pack box in much the same way, when there are clearly many more businesses in that city and category to populate a full 10-pack. As much as I would love to have a clients listing become the authoritative 1 box, the full 10 pack is always, or damn near always, better for users.

  2. I have to second the notion that the 10 pack offers a better experience for the user. The One Box may have seemed like a good idea as a solution for people doing an obvious business name search (Toys R Us, San Diego) but the vast number of businesses named things like ‘San Diego Plumbing’ has really muddied the waters with this.

    Mike, I’d love it if you could expand on this:

    “I was able to regain a 10-Pack by building out the reviews and the general listing strength of another listing.”

    Another listing? Meaning a listing other than your client’s? A listing elsewhere than in Maps? Can you share a bit more about that?

  3. I see the authoritative onebox most often for web designers under the search phrase “location + web design”. Which is a very competitive area. The onebox was very common in mid-size cities. The funny thing is…most of the companies achieving this don’t have many citations. Sometimes, a lot less than others on the list. So, I am gathering as much information on this as possible and plan to report what I find.

    I don’t think it is very beneficial for a onebox to dominate the listings for many reasons, but Ed Reese at 6th man marketing gave the best point on this in a conversation we had. He said that having an authoritative onebox on a popular keyword can drive your competition to do what it takes to knock you out of the top position. He felt in a lot of cases you can be in the top spot and still fly under the radar, and not drive to much unwanted competition. Look at the past situation with Denver Flowers as an example. They are not in the top spot any more.

    I think the onebox is a good option for long tail keywords, but is a major mis-representation of the market for general competitive keywords. If it becomes to common, I could see the maps getting less credibility and losing a certain % of CTR.

  4. @Stever

    I agree with you but it is interesting to me that Google, who always professes that the user is the guide, shows the one and three packs as often as they do….

    @Miriam

    The search “Restaurant Bradford Pa” and the search “Restaurants Bradford PA” were both showing a OneBox for a client that I had done optimization work for in the past.

    I secured a design & initial search marketing job for a another Bradford Pa restaurant (who was actually referred by the first restaurant above). Ultimately with some directory listings, links, reviews, The Option House Restaurant gained strength and within a month or so the OneBox switched to a 10 Pack.

    @Mike
    Often you see a name (either legit or not) that closely resembles the search phrase. In that case, there is a certain ambiguity and Google falls back on the brand instead of the general search…see your example Tulsa Pest Control. In those cases where the name has been changed to match the search the user looses out.

    And as you point out, it is very motivational for those left out to get into gear….hopefully without them trashing the quality of the index. :)

  5. @Mike

    For pest control and web design that makes since because a lot of companies in that industry have keywords in their name…legitimately.

    Emtec Pest Control
    Kade Smith Web Design (has been knocked out)

    An interesting thing to point out is that the the categories for both of these industries are not “pest control” or “web design” exactly. My feeling is that building “location prominence” (keyword coined by Mike B.) and in these two cases…. using the custom categories “pest control” and “web design” are the fastest way to knock a onebox out. Even adding the custom categories might be enough. My listings are for towns close so I cant test this on them yet.

  6. I have smb’s that have one boxes, are in 3 and 10 pacs, are shut out of logical maps for technical reasons established by google, and face competitors with one boxes that are not warrented.

    He/she who has a one box is an enormous winner. He/she who is shut out of maps by a competitor with a one box is an enormous loser. I have seen both results and the mixed results of being in a 10 and 3 pac. (being at the top of a 3 or 10 pac is tremendously beneficial. )

    It is a better result for the searcher to see a 3 pac or 10 pac.

    I would think that from an algorithmic perspective, ambiguity about a city name/business service be best handled by a 3/10 pac and below that a smaller “branded map” . That covers all possibilities.

    Meanwhile by expanding visibility of the one box Google is playing “God ” with the economic lives of businesses. The fact that they ignore commentary is a function of arrogance. The fact that businesses who suffer from things like the one box being shown for a competitor or from problems with the algorithem is a function of the Monopoly that Google has on Search.

    Google has an awesome power over businesses. Its criminal that they aren’t responsive imho.

  7. Dave –
    “she who is shut out of maps by a competitor with a one box is an enormous loser.”

    I think I’ll get that printed on a t-shirt!

    Mike,
    Thank you for explaining that.

  8. Hi Mike!
    I’ve encountered this 1 box, even 3 box is appearing more often. Uaually it becomes a 10 pack once you insert the state to the search- if we take your example above & add ‘NV’- we have a nice 10 pack (which by the way, the PC911 result in 1 pack doesn’t show there anymore…)

    Abby.

  9. Yes, you’ve nailed the variable being the inclusion or exclusion of the state…without it in the search the Onebox is more likely to show….

    Although I am seeing the One Box still on the search for Las Vegas

  10. It’s all very frustrating, but no more than any other Gmaps changes. If it’s any help, you can always add the name of the state to the search term. When I added NV I was able to the the 10-Pac.

  11. Thanks for the coverage on this Mike. So here’s what I did to get my client listings out of oblivion and back to either replacing a competitor’s one box, going from 1pack to 3 pack, or 1 pack all the way to a 10 pack:

    a) Looked at the authoritative one boxe’s web page citations and tried to match those for my client.

    b) Got reviews from the client’s customers. Generally speaking I found the ‘tipping point’ was 3-4 reviews over a period of a week.

    c) Readjusted old listings to exclude one custom category and added one suggested category

    d) Getting local directory links (even if they were old and outdated sites with low PR) seemed to help as well, as these showed up under web page citations a week or two later.

    Thankfully, all my clients are out of 1-box oblivion now.

  12. I understand the frustration but the problem is that most small businesses just don’t know enough about their local business listings and how to claim them and complete them.

    This gives an unfair advantage to the listings that are claimed and completed.

    Most of my client’s have a 1 box authority listing. I believe unique keyword categories is the way I got them.

  13. Mike, might I add that the one-boxes are showing up more frequently in smaller towns or suburbs of cities rather than bigger cities. This is based on spot searches for clients in various industries in both Canada and the US.

  14. @Dev

    Thanks for the great summary. I too found a “tipping point” in reviews although it was dependent the main listing’s standing…it might be trajectory of reviews as well as quantity ie that they are increasing.

    It does seem more likely on rural and suburban searches as there is less choice of well positioned listings but just this morning I saw it on San Diego Computer Repair

  15. To me, the defaulting to fewer local results in the one-box has all the appearance of a temporary condition or malfunction.

    Indeed, when Caffeine initially rolled out, it was showing the more expected local search results of the 10-pack for these general searches as opposed to a one-box or three box. So, when you compared the same local search query in the live service with Caffeine, the live service was showing the reduced results where Caffeine continued showing the 10-pack.

    Another theory could be that it’s an intentional result being shown, and that behind the scenes Google engineers may be comparing click through data to see if users prefer the 1-box vs the 10-pack for some types of queries.

    I really think the briefer local results is a temporary condition possibly related to the upcoming rollout of Caffeine into live service (even tho Caffeine is now displaying the same, identical brief results). I’m thinking there’s possibly some Universal Search data set that is not getting refreshed or replicated over from the Maps search engine.

    I think there’s too many low-quality businesses in the Maps database, making a forced single choice or even just three choices to be an unsatisfactory user-experience. If it’s either testing or an unintentional temporary condition, I think Google will ultimately switch back to the richer experience of showing the 10-pack.

  16. I’m guessing its temporary also. I’ve seen certain sites rotate through 1 box/3 or 10 pac, back to 1 box..

    That one box definitely makes winners or losers In my experience.

    @Miriam. I think that would make a great T-shirt. Maybe we should make them and offer them to people complaining in the google forums.

  17. thanks Mike for this post!

    and yes, we’ve been monitoring this here in Canada for our own local clients and so far, the 10-pak continues to come up for searches like “Hamilton Ontario computer repairs” — I see NO One-boxes coming up for any of our clients in more than 12 channels….

    but I’ll watch for this now much more closely!

    :-)

    Jim

  18. If you search Calgary + Acupuncture, it shows only 1 listing on Onebox map while it used to have 10-pak.

    I tried a few different business categories and seemed fine in Calgary.

    Edmonton + Acupuncture also listed 10-pak without a problem.

    FYI, Calgary and Edmonton are both 1 million population city in Alberta Canada.

  19. ah…I see….but I’ve no answer to that as when I check on “Waterdown computer rental” (pop 13,000) I get the 10-pak….and Ottawa has I think like 400k population…and has the One-pak….

    hmm…this will need some more testing, I think…but I’m starting to think like others here that it may be just a temporary anomaly….

    ;-)

    Jim

  20. Well it has always happened to some extent but for the last two months it has been more obvious and came in a wave…so time will tell

  21. It’s all been said, which makes it even more ok for me to just say that in my professional technical opinion, this one-box cr*p is BS. Ten pack is the way to go.

  22. Has anyone noticed that more weight is being placed on listings that have been claimed by the business owner?

    Based on the few examples above – ‘San Diego computer repair’, ‘Calgary acupuncture’ and ‘Ottawa computer rental’ these listings have all gained one box status due to the pin verification. I have a major hotel chain that has multiple locations in each city, but now only one location is displaying where in the past all relevant location would appear. That was for a brand search as well. As you can imagine the client is concerned with limited visibility for their other location on a BRAND search!

  23. After talking to Google’s head of Universal Search at SMX, I’m convinced that the onebox showing up at obviously wrong times are all glitches. He acknowledged that Universal Search map listings need to be improved and sometimes return the onebox falsely.

    I’ve been having onebox issues with a few of my clients and I’m going to try and pump up my listings to see itf I can break the onebox strangelehold.

    Btw, this post and the comments have been very insightful. Thanks to all for sharing their knowledge.

  24. I have experienced the same issue: where a general search for “social security disability attorneys Dallas Texas used to bring up the 10-pack, now a competitor has the Authoritative One Box. In the form 10-pack I was the only attorney with reviews, all being good. What in the world is going on with Google?

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