So for the past 2 months or so Google has been inserting their map based local listings (affectionately referred to as the 10 Pack) into broad search results. Thus, when a non-geographically targeted search was used or even when a user was not logged in, Google would show local results regardless (irregardless for you Steph). While this was certainly helpful for the user, it has become a bit of a headache for the SEO, the business owner and the online marketing director. Today, a top 5 listing does not hold the weight it once did, because for the average user positions 4-10 are now below the fold. While this is a great opportunity for local businesses to thrive, (and in today’s horrendous economic climate, I’m actually a fan of this) it makes it that much harder for the nationwide business to succeed.
Unfortunately, it would appear that Google may have gone one step further.
This morning I checked in on my allergy doctor’s website. He’d recently asked me for a few tips to increase his search rank. I was pleased to see his site in the #2 position on Google for the very broad term: allergy clinic. I was so pleased that I asked the good Hack to perform the search and bask in my pride and glory. His response?
i see some sketchy looking allergy doc at number 5
What the hell?
Undaunted, I ask my old friend Luke to give me a third set of eyes on the situation. He too saw the listing in the 5th position. So, what was going on?
Luke lives in Bend, Hack lives in the nether regions of my mind, neither of them live in Portland. Where does Google draw the “local dividing line?” Is it DMA restricted? If I lived 10 miles away, would it be the same? Was Google honestly giving an organic boost to a local listing based on my location? Yes. In fact, Luke’s company had been noticing this of late as well and even had a rather serious sounding meeting to discuss it. He’d pointed out that because of this, “running reports geographic locations in the U.S. is no longer accurate” and that it even applies “when using google.kr, google.fr, etc.”
Google has just pushed down organic rankings for even more nationwide companies. It’s one thing to have the 10 Pack show up in the 4th position, but giving local companies organic precedence means that many nationwide companies will fall even further below the fold…perhaps even to the dreaded second page of results.
While this isn’t bad for the local business that wants local customers, it does pose an interesting problem for the semi-local business – the local business that wants outside customers. At the web development agency where I work, one of our clients is Legend Homes, they’re a Portland home builder that focuses on green-built homes. So, naturally we try to target Portland and Oregon keywords, but also “green” keywords. In addition, they are looking at selling homes to people who are moving to the area, not necessarily living in the area. With the vast amount of competition in the housing market (real estate, home builders, private sellers, etc), it’s already a challenge to establish solid footing with a lot of these keywords. Now, throw in the fact that listings will appear differently outside of any given location, and you’ll see the problem with Google’s new approach to local search.