Google Testing New, More Integrated Local Search SERPs

Update 7/6 1:02 P.M.: Google’s Elaine Filadelfo (Global Communications & Public Affairs) noted: It is an experiment — we’re continually trying out new tweaks to a portion of our users.

Google is always testing new layouts and changes to the main SERPs but these screens shot captured on July 3rd & 4th by Linda Buquet of Catalyst eMarketing indicate Google’s willingness to experiment with bold departures from past displays for Local results. I was unable to replicate Linda’s results although she saw them over several days on different searches:

Here are Linda’s notes from her emails:

Search term: Dentist Chicago (FYI I am using FF) Double checked and it’s not some weird caching error because other dentist/city searches come up the old way.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=&q=Dentist+Chicago&sourceid=navclient-ff&rlz=1B3GGIC_en___US345&ie=UTF-8

In case I’m only seeing it on my datacenter and you are seeing something different, I’m attaching screenshots.

1)    The Places listings are BIGGER and look like the organic results except they have a map pin.
2)    As you scroll down the MAP scrolls with you. So even when you are at bottom of page in the organic listings the map moves down and shows on right.
3)    ONLY 7 (purely) organic listings show and in this instance most are directories or assn. Only 2 are Dentists.
4)    To get on the top TWO screens you need to be in local. Most of the organic are 2 screens BELOW the fold.
5)    Reviews are more prominent
6)    Link to Place Page is marked as such, instead of just “More Info” which means better branding and name recognition for Google Places
7) It’s pulling meta description from the site – just like organic.
PLUS it adds some snippets from reviews on the Place page. So best of both worlds and BIGGER!

I would add that the results also now include links to the review sites from which Google received the reviews and includes more information about some but not all of the businesses. Note that when Local shows at the top of the page, only 3 local results are shown above the fold making positions 4 through 7 much less valuable real estate than currently.

In the results above the fold, information from the website’s meta description tag are included with the listing. These seem to be absent from those below the fold perhaps due to lack of relevance to the search. The replacing of business name with the website title tag is an interesting choice. Is it possible that Google trusts a website title tag more than a business name used in Places? If so, it could be interpreted as a tacit acknowledgement of the massive amount of business title spam that Google Maps has generated.

Google appears to be attempting to provide a direct answer to the searcher without their needing to leave Google’s home page. It also seems to be an experiment in more fully integrating organic and local results into a single unified display although those listings with local content have a strong visual edge and enhanced content.

If a searcher needs more information, Google has made their own content and that of the reviewers more easily accessible to the searcher, potentially reducing website visits for the site owner but increasing them for review sites.

Google is always testing so whether this new display will see broader exposure is unknown. It is of interest that the direction that they seem to be pointing is towards tighter integration of organic and local search.

Here are several more of Linda’s screen shots. One of the information below the fold where the balance of the 7 pack and the non local organic listings are shown as well and a second of a search in which the new local/organic listings appeared mid page:

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Update: 7/6/2010 10:20

Linda has sent along an additional screen shot with the following note:

Was just checking rank on an Optometrist client of mine. The new SERPS are showing up
for me in Raleigh NC too and this is the BEST example yet. So you may want to replace
one of the other images in your blog. PLUS showing a different city will show it’s a
bigger test than just Chicago. Plus this image may be a little cleaner.

Check this one out. All 7 local listings are on top. Only 4 organic are on the bottom of the page!

Also seeing new serps for Seattle Chiropractor and Dallas Dentists.
Don’t have time to check any more or do more screenshots but looks like
this is a pretty widely spread test area.

No one else I’ve checked with can see it except for someone in Canada
was able to see the Chicago results for a little while.

BIG CHANGE IN RANKING TOO. So maybe an algo change?
The only 2 clients I can find in the new serps both show up a lot higher.

One is #4 now, but in new serps moved to #1.

The other was locked in at #19 due to a Google penalty an old SEO created.
I have not been able to move him past 19 which is where he still is stuck at.
But in the new serps he’s #2.


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Update 7/6/2010 11:17

While Linda has only seen these in the medical industry and not other high value industries like law, Barry Schwartz reports a reader seeing it for a florist search.

Linda Buquet of Catalyst Marketing specializes in Google Places Optimization. My thanks to her for all the many great screen shots and commentary on this test.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Testing New, More Integrated Local Search SERPs by

63 thoughts on “Google Testing New, More Integrated Local Search SERPs”

  1. IMHO. This looks like the way excite was going. It destroys organic search, puts webmasters out of business, etc. But if you are lucky enough to figure out the minefield of what is and is not mapspam, you may have a chance to keep your business in Google Places.

    What really bugs me is all these brand new url’s getting top slots in maps and bypassing the years and years and years of article writing and blogging that built my web based business.

  2. Just curious… how do you guys test out results in areas out side of where you are doing SEO testing from. For instance, I am unable to get accurate local or organic results for my wife’s massage business located in West Hartford, CT 06117, when I am testing from our home office in West Hartford, CT 06119. Is there any way to view accurate results for areas outside of your own? How do professional SEO companies test outside of their area with geo-targeting playing such a major role in seo these days?

    Thanks for any help.
    Brian

  3. Brian,

    You may be experiencing Web history caching, or IP tracking by the search engines. Read this post I made a while back; it’s very basic, though I’m sure it’s enough to get you started.

    http://www.thevisibledentist.com/blog/google-web-history-problem/

    Also, for more anonymity, grab a copy of this easy app that lets you search anonymously with different IP’s.

    http://www.iprivacytools.com/

    For a quick comparison of search results, use: http://hidemyass.com/

    Good luck!

    John Barremore ~ SEO
    Crime-free Houston, TX

  4. Thanks for the info… great article. My main issue however is, how can someone in the West Hartford zip code 06119 test their Google Maps results in the zip 06117 or any other surrounding town? How does a professional SEO analyst check local results in a city outside of their own?

  5. Hi John, I just realized when using HideMyAss.com (which is awesome) and searching “massage” Google asks for a zip code to target. This was just what I needed! Now I can search surrounding zip codes & get results as if I were actually in that zip.

    However, I think I do need to clear my cashe each time to get Google to ask me for another zip though. Is that the only way I would be able to test one zip code after another? I’m in West Hartford, CT & we have a lot of zip codes.

    How would you test local & organic results for a customer outside your area who wants to rank for keywords in their surrounding areas?

    Thanks for your help

  6. Nevermind, I just realized next to the local results there is an option to “change location”

    It took me 2 weeks to figure that out.

  7. it seems that Google already implemented it this Oct. 27th. A lot of people from different parts of US, UK and Canada are already seeing the new layout.

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