Is This The Future of Local Directory SEO?

UPDATE: Some of my better-read compatriots have pointed me towards Greg Sterling’s article from April about how Google is using the layout below to appease anti-competition complaints in Europe.  So take my theories below as pure entertainment, as it should be.

Nick Rink of Smart Local , a UK Local SEO firm, posted a screenshot of this new Google Local SERP this morning on Google+:

new Google local search results


I can’t find another example of this, or a full SERP screenshot, but I think there is one of two things going on here: 1) Google is doing this to address anti-competition complaints in Europe and/or – ACTUALLY THAT’S PRETTY MUCH WHAT IT IS – THE REST OF THIS IS JUST FOR FUN: 2) this kind of layout could be suggestive of Google’s desire to deemphasize local directories in the SERPs while still providing access to those users who want them.  This is pure speculation, but over the past year, I have noticed that more and more truly local sites are showing up in the organic results for local queries.

This may be symptomatic of Google wanting to favor these sites over the national directories like Yelp and Yell, or it may simply be the fact that more local businesses are doing SEO.  I have always felt that a well-SEO’d local business site should always be able to outrank most directories for any query in the non-local section of the SERP.

Perhaps this is Google signaling that your local directory better not be a generic set of business listings which adds little value to the SERP.  If this, or some version like this, becomes the default SERP display, the implication is that you better have a brand that is going to make people click (and your brand name better be pretty short).

Some further reading on the matter:

  1. It’s interesting to see the composition of the SERP. Am I looking for Tax accountants or a CPA firm, or accounting temps. Is my user experience really that good with results like this? Without the meta description these results in my opinion are useless.

  2. I’ve seen this a couple times today and now nothing! It looks like they’re testing it. I got the same results as the image above Yell, Yelp and

    I can understand why these directories could be the chosen few.

    Yell and 118 are both well known brands in the UK, mainly off-line. And Yelp is up and coming.

    As you can see from my post below Yelp are currently killing it in the SERPs. gets a faction of traffic that Yelp and Yell receive, but they’re still one of the UK’s top 10.

  3. Interesting what you said about local directories having to step up in quality in order to maintain prominent visibility. I have launched a number of local business websites for clients and have had the idea to create an online directory comprising primarily of these clients’ website lisitngs – as I have real authentic business insight into each company, the directory should be nothing like the generic offerings and I’m hoping with regular blog posts, and well optimized, hyper localised categories I could really reap benefits for my clients. Any thoughts?