Google’s Recent Local Listings Transformation… In Point Form

By now you may have heard about the significant changes to Google’s results pages for local search queries, and the mixed reviews from the SEO community. There are some great explanations and analyses put forward from prominent SEO writers from which I’ve drawn up a point form summary for the “tl;dr” type. Links to their articles will be at the bottom of the post, but for now, here’s the rundown for those in a hurry.

General Info

  • A New method of search called Google Places, clickable at the left of the SERP (near image search, blog search, book search, etc.) You should claim your listing ASAP.
  • Title tags and meta description are often being used in SERPs, organic-style. Time to make those meta descriptions as clickable as possible with local searchers using these new listings in mind.
  • This will engage businesses more directly, and allow more revenue to be driven to Google from the organic space.

The 7 Pack

  • The “7-pack” (list of local results above organic results) has been largely replaced withlocal (Google Places) results now blended with organic results.
  • Local listings no longer just shove down organic results like the 7-pack did.
  • There is much more information in local listings than before, including quotes from actual reviews and thumbnailsSo make sure your business’ Google Places listing has a picture associated with it.
  • 7-pack showed how many total reviews a listing had. Now you not only have a review quote included in the listing, but links to the pages on third party sites that show the reviews, with the number of reviews for that business on that site. If you own or work with a site that has the potential to get reviews in these SERP listings, it’s time to promote that feature.

Directories

  • SERPs are now juicy enough that clicks to directories are largely discouraged unless the user wants reviews, and page 2 is that much less likely to be reached.
  • Speculation is that this is a strong step in cutting out search engine middlemen (directories), keeping users from having to, essentially, search twice. So far directories are still ranking organically, but this may change. Even if they don’t, clickthroughs to directories will probably go down with full listings now in the SERPs.

Local vs Organic Results

  • A local listing is now as valuable as an organic listing, giving a chance for businesses to squeeze in some otherwise saturated spaces.
  • Supposedly the total of organic listings and local listings hasn’t changed.
  • There are some variations in listings and layout combinations, sometimes depending on how many local results are included. Sometimes local first, sometimes organic first.
  • It might be hard for businesses without websites to do as well in the new listings.
  • For some search queries without a specified location (eg. “restaurants” on its own), Google is starting to assume local search intent and putting local results anyway.

Local Maps

  • Map has been moved to the right sidebar, above PPC ads. This could be beneficial in attracting eyes to that part of the page. More likely, however, it will damage click-through rates and hike CPC. It also follows you in fixed position when you scroll down, blocking PPC ads.
  • Supposedly map spam has been more addressed, which title tags and meta description in the results should help. At this point it’s still a point of worry for SEOs who are used to local/map results being far more spammy than organic results.

To be updated, corrected, and refined as the situation evolves and more details emerge!

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