Google Places Rocks the Search World
A recent change in Google’s algorithm means that location-based results are being prioritised over the traditional organic directory results that we have been used to for years. Up until now, a map has appeared at the top of the page, underneath the sponsored links but above the organic results, listing the top seven local results for location based search results. This map, accompanied with the local listings it displays, now dominates the page, pushing organic results down and possibly off of page one completely.
The changes are not just limited to search terms which include locations like ‘Pizza London’, but also have a baring on generic search terms. If you live in London and search for ‘Pizza’, hoping to find results about the history of pizza-making for example, local results will again be prioritised, based on the physical location of your IP address. The results which once ranked organically for pizza will again be bumped far down the page, in favour of local results, ranking based on their distance from your physical location.
While this may seem ominous to the optimisation world at first glance, there is still every opportunity to get a site to rank well, providing it has an actual physical location or locations which can be displayed on a map. The number one priority then, in light of this change, must be to submit all local listings to Google. Currently the local results look to be blended with organic results, meaning that sites optimized meta-titles and content will still have a chance to rank above those lacking in that sprinkling of SEO magic.
Of course it is not all bad news for businesses that ranked well previously for organic listings, the changes may actually benefit some, bolstering their ranking further. A good example of this is seen in the screen below, this demonstrates that TLH now appear at the top of the local rankings, previously they ranked an already respectable 4th in the organic results. Clearly TLH have made a significant jump up the page to the top of the local listings, thus benefiting from the changes. This positional increase is likely due to a combination of optimization, and the fact that the site is geographically relevant to that term.
At present no one can be sure about the nuances of the new algorithm, local search results appear to be inconsistent with regards to how dominant they are over the first page, while some will take up the majority of the positions, others will display varying numbers of organic results both above and below local ones. It can also be accused of throwing up some highly irrelevant results. A search for ‘gold bullion’ made here in Worthing throws up numerous results for bullion dealers in London, the usefulness of this to the searcher is questionable.
How will these changes to Google affect you or your business? Will this make your searches more relevant from a user standpoint? Will its effects be amplified when Google Instant goes live?