With all of the brouhaha going on about Google’s test of a new local SERP for category searches that will make it much harder for local directories to get traffic, I became almost willfully blind to the more subtle change that had occurred to the SERP for business name queries. Thanks to Patrick Altoft for pointing out that GOOG is now linking to a business’ Place Page for these queries instead of to the business’ website. For example:
According to Patrick this is the same whether the listing is verified or unverified.
Some thoughts as to why GOOG did this:
- For the majority of cases GOOG thinks their Place Pages are a better experience for users than the typical SMB website
- There are plenty of ad units on the Place Pages and why send traffic to a SMB website when you can make a few more bucks by getting in the user’s way?
- If they make the big change to the local SERPs nationwide, IYPs will lose a lot of traffic and be forced to buy more via Adwords. This tactic makes a lot more inventory available.
Whatever the reason, it seems pretty clear that 2010 is going to be a time of huge change in the local search biz and GOOG is looking more like a Yellow Pages co every day.
16 Response Comments
Started to notice this happening about 1.5 weeks ago and we’re already seeing a drop on client analytics. There used to be a time when the 1 pack was the most coveted listing out there…
For the record, I also pointed this out in a comment on MB’s blog 🙂 Wonder what the new Adwords code will be for IYPs…UREVENMORSCREWED?
Duly noted for the record Mr. Mihm. I actually think this is a net positive for the IYPs. The old way was to link directly to the SMB website which typically had no benefit for the IYPs. Now they at least have a chance to grab some traffic from the Places Pages where they appear as citations.
That said, the SEM companies that are building websites for IYPs and driving leads via those sites have a little complication on their hands.
What’s interesting to me is that this makes a Places tag that much more valuable. So under the new format, your landing page is two clicks deeps since Google has essentially hijacked your listing. But if you pay them $25/month, you can have a direct link and your visitors aren’t funneled through yet another Google page! Sounds like profit motive to me.
The more I think about these listings, the more I’m inclined to think this change does benefit the user (I posted some thoughts leaning the other way over at the Blumenthal’s blog).
Places provides the quickest way to get address/contact/hours information – since it’s always in the same place, it’s easier than even a well designed website, not to mention the bad SMB sites.
On the other hand, for larger purchases, I imagine most consumers will want to see the company’s website, to get a better feel for the business. The new layout seems to assume that most people just want a quick information lookup – which is probably the case, I look up a restaurant address a lot more than I purchase an expensive service. You can still easily find the actual website through the Places listing.
As seems to happen frequently, the “best” user experience is not the most detailed but the quick+familiar. (ie Wikipedia)
I think you hit the nail on the head Chris. Most SMB websites are pretty weak. This solves that problem.
The only problem I see in this approach is that as a consumer I’d only want to call the first number I see on a 7 pack if I’m either in an emergency situation (eg: emergency plumbing), or if I am already familiar with a particular business and just want to get its number or location again.
In short, the 1 pack is horrible at providing choice to the consumer, and even with the 7 pack, the only USP that the maps offer are reviews as an indicator of popularity. I still always want to wind up on an SMB site 90% of the time.
Dev, I think in the majority of cases the 1 pack is the result of a direct query for the business so providing a list of 6 other businesses while potentially helpful isn’t uber-relevant to the primary search intent. Yelp reviews and other data about the biz showing up in the results below the 1-pack still makes sense for this query, although given recent events, I wouldn’t be surprised if GOOG started just showing the Places Page when it detected a query for a specific business.
If you want to game it out even more, why couldn’t GOOG turn Places Pages into a version of a MySpace or Facebook Page for businesses? Where you could do a lot of customization and make it your de facto website.
Customization regarding the displayed content yes… Customization regarding the design, i’d rather think: no! The reason: From that moment on, when Google ist starting to monetize these Place Pages even further (now we’ve got “Tags” & “Localized AdWords”) by, let’s say “selling” them, they will be interested, that their customers will be satisfied by drawing new customers via this marketing channel. This will be impossible without a decent reporting. Letting the SMBs customize their Place Pages will in a lot of cases destroy the usability of these Landing Pages, which will lead to a smaller number of impressions, visits and actions on these pages, which in return will be reported and might eventually result in a disappointed customer leaving Googles Local Marketing channel. When potential customers see those pages, they might rather choose a different Local Marketing solution than those DIY “homepages”. I don’t think Google will risk loosing their new brand…
most times when I’m doing a local search I’m looking for a phone number, address or closest store with the product in only 1 case is it beneficial to get a link to what are mostly bad websites. As to YP in Ca. in one form or another they are there… whether as YP or one of the directories they bought.
However, agreeing with Dev, this change has really taken away from the traffic a website can get from ranking in the one box for their keywords. This is where Google is taking advantage with the introduction of tags.
What’s absorbing to me is that this makes a Places tag that abundant added valuable. So beneath the new format, your landing page is two clicks deeps back Google has about hijacked your listing let’s say selling them, they will be interested, that their barter will be annoyed by cartoon new barter via this business channel.
I will be submitting that comment to http://www.mjt.org
For most real estate keywords the Local section doesn’t show up but I still rank towards the top.
Great Post, there is so little information online regarding local SERPS..
GOOG is no different than any other website developer. Although they are a search engine they want to make money and one of the ways is to keep as much traffic as they can within their site which generates ad revenue. The more clicks that it takes people to get to where they really want to be, the more money GOOG makes.