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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Local After Antitrust – Careful What You Wish For

In the EU and the US, Yelp has been actively seeking to get regulators to look at Google’s behaviors in local and to change the search results to stop favoring Google’s own local results.

Yelp’s Luther Lowe noted:

When a mother does a search for a pediatrician in Berlin, instead of being matched with rich review content from a service like German startup, Google siphons her to a degraded local experience with fewer reviews and less content. In addition to being anticompetitive, this type of conduct directly harms consumers who still assume Google is relying on its meritocratic algorithms to govern which information appears at the top of the page.

Yelp’s argument has long been that their results are better than Google’s and that those Yelp results should not be benched and effectively supplanted with Google’s own Knowledge Panel.

There are problems with that argument. Ben Thompson of Stratechery noted that if you follow that argument Yelp might actually, in getting their wish, end up reinforcing Google’s lead by effectively improving Google’s local product and thus cement their position as an aggregator.

This Google Local test surfaced on my phone yesterday and clearly demonstrates the point. This test, first noted on SearchEngineRoundtable where it surfaced in the context of a featured snippet for the search “top online marketers”, shows how there are a number of ways to skin the cat of local search results on Google.

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When you click through to the results for one of the restaurants you see a similar carousel with organic results and review totals for the selected restaurant. Only after a second click the “More about Chez TJ” call to action does a searcher finally get to the local Knowledge Panel.

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Yelp has always contended that their results were better than Google’s. And while that may be the case, it is arguable that they are no longer better than OpenTable or TripAdvisor. Where would that leave Yelp? Probably worse off than they are now, buried in the hinterlands of organic search, fewer reviews than OpenTable, with no reason for a consumer to click on their result. And nothing left to complain about.