In early July, I reported (via Linda Buqeut of Catalyst eMarketing ) that Google was testing New, More Integrated Local Search SERPs. These tests are apparently on-going, having shown up in Philadelphia and recently in NYC. Starting this past Thursday, the new results showed up for me in a number of upstate NY markets for hotel and bed & breakfast searches. The new results are showing only on Safari for the Mac but not on Firefox, IE or Chrome. I have performed a number of hotel searches in a range of markets and am making before and after (pdf) screen captures available at the end of the post.
I have done a detailed comparison of the before and after listings on one search result (Hotels Rochester NY). Here is the test ranking display with the local and organic rank of the current display noted to the left of the new rank (click to view larger):
Contrary to some reports, Google is not replacing organic results with local results. Rather they are merging the Local and Organic results and showing the exact same number of total listings on the page. Some local listings though that previously had 2 listings, one local and one organic, now get only 1 consolidated and enhanced listing and only one link to their site.
If the listing currently has a higher local result than its organic listing, the listing typically moved up in the overall ranking of the new display. If the listing had no local presence in the current display, then it moved down the page. If the Local listing was strong but the website had very low organic visibility then the listing would move down in rankings slightly. Thus the local listings that performed best were those with both good local ranking AND good organic rankings.
The directory sites, while remaining visible, moved down the page. The Expedia, TripAdvisor and HotelGuides main listings all dropped. It needs to be noted though that TripAdvisor gained 7 additional review links and Priceline received 4 additional links in the highly visible combo results as a review source. So while pure directory sites will be hurt, those providing significant review content to Google could gain immeasurable exposure and a number of prominent links.
Interestingly, the page of the new results itself is physically longer. While the exact same businesses/websites appear on both the before and after page, only 5 of the consolidated listings showed above the fold in the new display. In the current display there are seven local + usually two organic listings showing. Obviously the local listings with both an organic and local presence were consolidated into a single listing.
Here are several “before” and “after” pdf files of the results for you to analyze and draw your own conclusions. I have attempted to capture a range of the new result display layouts: