So it appears that the new Google Local SERPs are imminent.  As you may recall, my initial take on this pending event was that it spelled doom for the Yellow Pages and local directories biz.  So I thought I’d take you for a spin through these new SERPs and see what we can see:

  1. You’d Better Be In the Top 3 The first image is the current “old” Local SERP.  The next one is of the new Local SERPs.  The top 3 organic listings have been moved up from below the 7 pack to the first three listings.  This should be a net positive for those sites that rank in the top 3.  For those that don’t, they are now pushed even further down the page.
  2. Local Businesses With Strong SEO Get an “A+ Listing” In the old SERP, Empire Dental Group ranked in position E in the 7 pack and in position #2 in the Web results under the 7 pack.  In the new SERP, Empire Dental Group is now position A in the Place Page listings.  I believe that the #3 Web listing and the position A listing have been merged because the business ranked strongly in both (aka the “A+ Listing”).  I am not sure yet, but it seems like in the case where there is more than one local business in the top Web results, then the SERP shows a full list of Place Pages listings before it shows any Web results.  See the below “Plumber San Francisco” SERP for an example.

  3. Deep Thought: SMBs that rank at the bottom of the 7 pack but are close to page one in the Web results could do some serious linkbuilding, and pull themselves up to the top of the SERP while booting out the directories at the same time.

  4. Local Directories Better Start Generating Reviews While I most definitely think the new SERP is going to screw with traffic to local directories in a big way, it appears that GOOG made some efforts to throw them a bone or two.  As you can see, there are numerous links to various local directories throughout the Place Page listings highlighting the number of reviews from each publisher.  I haven’t been able to spot any of these links that weren’t from reviews sites so all of you yellow pages publishers that have been reluctant and/or haven’t figured out a good way to get into reviews, it appears that reviews are going to be the main way now for directories to get organic traffic from local SERPs.  Another way to interpret this: Google wants your content and they want it now.
More thoughts on the way…

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25 Response Comments

  • Michael D  October 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Gonna wake some people up. This is exactly why I think businesses should hire SEOs to handle their local work. Not as simple as it use to be and being on top is more important then ever.

  • Alan Bleiweiss  October 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Wow. big change. Thanks for writing this up Andrew. It looks like Google’s pulling out all the stops to drive more businesses into getting and optimizing Places pages.

    Personally I think it’s a terrible change as far as local businesses that previously spent all their savings on “regular old” SEO. They’re now either going to have to hire a skilled local optimization expert, take the time to figure out Places page, or more likely, both.

    On the other hand, Google sure does know how to build in job security for our industry.

  • Andrew Shotland  October 26, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Actually Alan I think this is a huge win for local businesses that do SEO. They and their Place Page are getting a lot more prominence.

  • Dana Lookadoo  October 26, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    I agree with Alan. I appreciate you writing this up.

    My concern about Place Pages getting so much prominence is attribution and analytics. Often, users are sidestepping the website for the information. HOWEVER, it sounds like you are observing that strong SEO combined with Place Pages = a win.

    OK, it’s study time. I do not have the new results, err…not yet.

    Nice reporting, Andrew!

  • Jim Rudnick  October 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks Andrew….

    Up here in canuckland, I’ve never seen your #2 example…looks interesting but not in as yet — at least here in the Toronto area….

    Will watch for same tho…



  • Dana Lookadoo  October 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    ah, curious, if this change is on a user-by-user basis or geo-targeted. I’m in Northern California.

  • Robert Enriquez  October 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I saw his first example probably a month ago but
    1. i was signed in
    2. had ‘history’ of searches

    when i signed out and deleted all cache/history/cookies….it disappeared. I use two browsers and one is always signed in. I see it on the browser (FF) that is always is signed into Google.
    Also…..i notice that G will show my google places listing like in your example. (I’m guessing one of the listings is your client)

    Also, i dont believe SEO has any factor in the lbl listings.
    I see a lot of listings with NO website rank in the A, B or C position.
    I also see a lot of sites who are NOT in the top 2-3 pages for keywords.
    Citations is the #1 factor for LBL listings, and they’re basically the same ‘idea’ of how backlinks work. The more citations aka ‘votes’ you have ..the higher you rank.

    just my .02 cents 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland  October 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm


    Re the attribution/sidestepping thing, what we are seeing here is GOOG saying that 90% of searchers don’t need to see your website. They may be wrong, but my bet is these Place Pages get a lot more functionality and analytics over the next year as GOOG tries to prove that these pages can convert to business.

  • Alan Bleiweiss  October 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    And with each step they take, local SEO is going to become more and more mission-critical, for sure.

    Do you think Microsoft is going to respond with their own push? Or maybe Yahoo? I’d guess that’s inevitable

  • Andrew Shotland  October 26, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I would expect both Bing and Yahoo to keep focusing on Local and wouldn’t be surprised if sometime over the next year they move closer to this model.

  • Becky  October 27, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Cheers for the heads up, this hasn’t happened in the UK yet but I have just got my site into local listings and it looks like I have done this in the nick of time.

  • Gavelect  October 27, 2010 at 4:37 am

    It looks like it will play havoc with some of my clients. I optimise for large hotel chains in the UK and some properties in there portfolio will suffer. Hotels that previously ranked 4th or th in natural results will lose out big time, especially the ones that are not directly located in city centre locations – they will stand no chance of getting into the local results.

  • LinkMünki  October 27, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Hate to tell you becky, but I ahave seenit on, then it dissappeared, the google people seem to be doing a lot of testing, and making a lot of changes! Heads Up.

  • Trevor McPhee  October 27, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I’ve got to say – from a pure user standpoint – probably the worst SERP change I’ve seen big G make in I can’t recall how long.

    Something about their new search page makes me feel like it needs a “this may cause seizures” warning – way too busy, way too many things jumping around the page.

    I’m no longer digesting content, or what each page may be about, my eyes are going directly to an advertising logo, which frankly tells me nothing.


    Can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve seen Bing’s results truly look and feel 10 times better than Google’s.

  • john  October 27, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Yes, I somehow agree with Trevor.

    We all know that a lot of people are hiring SEO to optimize their maps to the Top 7 Pack. And now, it seems that the page 1 results are bombarded with results that are result of hard work of a SEO Team and not the relevant results that we are looking for

  • daily divvy  October 27, 2010 at 10:52 am


    for me:

    -works in firefox
    -doesn’t work in chrome
    -doesn’t work in chrome incognito
    -doesn’t work in firefox when google instant is turned off

    As far as UI, I’m spoiled with Google’s blue link, minimalism that I’m not digging the new design.

  • Steve Logan  October 28, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Not getting this yet, but looking forward to it getting rolled out in the UK. Local results are important and most SEOs have been pushing this on clients (and anyone else who will listen for quite a while), now the subsequent efforts may be rewarded.

    I wonder if this will also effect generic terms like ‘bakery’ without the addition of a place name in time. Google have been pushing forward location and personalised search for a while, so there could be a crossover – particularly on mobile devices and logged in users.

    This is a great summary and will no doubt be referenced by a lot of people in the coming weeks and months.

  • Alan Bleiweiss  October 28, 2010 at 3:55 am


    It started showing up for me late yesterday. And yes, it applies for single word searches for me for bakery, insurance, pizza… and while its doing it for “church”, it’s not doing it for “temple”. Go figure.

  • Jami Broom  October 28, 2010 at 5:53 am

    I agree with Trevor — it doesn’t seem to add much to the user experience.

    When I search for something local, I like seeing the top ten, right up front, so that I can call them easily, i don’t have to scroll.

    And, to Alan’s point, from a small business perspective, this just places for emphasis on being in the top 3 — makes my job harder and squeezes my clients’ (mostly small businesses) budgets.

    To sum up: I’m not impressed.


    It also pushes down the PPC ads, which is surprising since you’d think Google would rather people click on the PPC ads. What do you guys think of that aspect? I also noticed that one of the searches I did returned NO PPC at the very top —

  • Alan Bleiweiss  October 28, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Andrew, what about your take on the right sidebar issues like Jami points out? I also noticed as I scroll down, the map moves with me, OVER the AdWords listings!

  • Andrew Shotland  October 28, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Alan, my initial reaction is that local ad units like Boost/Tags are going to become much more important to GOOG

  • ragz  October 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Google is changing everyday.This is very big change.And the new display format is looking nice.Thanks for sharing the news.

  • Abby Gilmore  October 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Now it is going to be pretty difficult for companies to do their own local search optimization…

    I agree with Alan here.. “They’re now either going to have to hire a skilled local optimization expert, take the time to figure out Places page, or more likely, both.”

  • Chris Horner  November 3, 2010 at 7:42 am

    3 days after the launch, the UK SERPs are all over the place with no real consistent format. There are some big searches displaying real small players in the top slots. As mentioned it seem to be weighted towards reviews, which in them selfs are open to spamming.
    The first place spot for Google organic used to warrant 34% of the traffic, if only two organic results are listed above above the magic ‘7 pack’ local listings this will get larger. The travel industry seems to be Google’s main focus, especially the ‘Hotel’ phrase.