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October 27th seems to be the day the search engine world stood still this year when Google surprised us all and rolled out the new local search structure. While the new format is still in the tweaking stage, I wanted to be proactive and keep you informed.
What We Know
The new local search results are a blend of organic and local SEO, and UGC is gone.
Sentiments Analysis, (i.e. – the reviews), are much more prominent now, which further confirms our suspicions that Google is including a new popularity section to their search algorithms. Part of this new popularity section involves CTR, which I believe is being deducted by the calculation of not only how often visitors click on a link,, but also the retention of the user to that site after clicking.
We are also observing that it is now extremely difficult to stack the shelves of the listings in order to maintain duplicate lines linking back to your company. In order to keep your levels of visibility over the next few weeks, I recommend managing your local places closely to ensure that all fields are completed for your different locations. You need to stay in the top three of the pack to be noticed, which is a good tactic for reviewing your stats listings.
Because the map is not the important element of the page, we assume Google moved it to the real estate on the right side of the results pages. I have no issues with the placement currently, but I do find the visual cue annoying when it moves up and down the page with me. Silly map stalker–leave me alone!
What is Still Unclear?
How much does site age matter? (I vote that it is growing smaller.)
Is user-generated content more or less important? (I vote yes.)
Is this an improved interface? (I vote that it is too early to tell.)
Why did Google change the name yet again to Google Places?
Questions Still Debated?
Is this a reaction to map spam?
Are you limited by physical location?
Is there less real estate for PPC?
Are unclaimed listings showing less?
Is Google picking its Yellow Pages winners and losers?