Google phasing out the organic search results for local queries

  • 0
  • October 28, 2010

Google has announced a major change to the way that the search results are displayed for local based search queries. Rather than having a map at the top of the results Google is just going to integrate the local results into the main organic results.

The impact of this change is that in the long term any site that doesn’t have a physical address in the location that people are searching for will probably no longer be able to rank for local based queries. There are still some sites that are ranking, especially for hotel related keywords, but I’m sure that as this launches Google will be showing a lot more local results and a lot fewer results from the traditional local directory style sites.

Quite how the algorithm works is unclear however we understand that the Google Local algorithm and the natural search algorithm have now been consolidated into one main algorithm. For the sites we work with one of the interesting things is that Google is sending people directly to the homepage rather than the more relevant internal pages we have registered with Google Local.

As you can see from the screenshot below (taken from here) there are still some organic results but the chance of anybody clicking on them is almost zero.

I really hope Google is going to give us some more details about this.

Google Local results

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Dennis Sievers

    And how about that ‘fixed’ position of the map which make the ads disappear behind it when you scroll down the page…

  • Carly

    This could drastically affect regional SEO campaigns. Companies would have to ensure their google places account is spot on. Possibly even optimise the page on their site where google maps is?

  • aprillins

    Google enhances its quality, but it does take small business out with this

    As you can see from the screenshot below (taken from here) there are still some organic results but the chance of anybody clicking on them is almost zero.

    Too afraid about losing visitors..

  • Tobi dean

    Hope this isnt link bait!

  • irsmartie

    this actually looks like could benefit the end user as surely the ads also has to be local and not just from anywhere. as they also show up on the map as well. this could encourage people to do more local searches as they will get better results than what they are currently getting.

  • Vonny Nuijten

    Seems to me that the number/quality of reviews might be getting more important too.

  • rishil

    Do not like :(

  • Mohan Arun L.

    Wrongly worded title – ‘organic’ results are not being ‘phased out’. G never had ‘separate’ algorithms for organic search and local search and they are not being ‘consolidated’ now. Nowhere has it been said in the G blog post that ‘local’ search results were not ‘organic’ before and they are now becoming ‘organic’.

  • TechChunks

    First, Matt Cuts showed concern if the advent of Instant Search would nullify the need of any SEO within next 5 years, and now this?

    Any sites whose main business is local-specific should be alarmed by this news.

    However, I wonder if this change is going to affect the way normal blogs used to rank? Are they going to be impacted too? I’d hope not, though!

  • martaay

    Wow, google is really going to take a slice out of the yellow pages industry with this one, most of which have google advertising on them!

  • irsmartie

    @techchunks i disagree if you are local based then you should have a google account registered with your details so this would help you if you are wanting to show up for local searches.

  • Jaixx

    This makes me upset….Google finding new ways to earn money, and making it harder for us SEO’s and website owners.
    Like they need more cash….and like we need it harder.

  • irsmartie

    @jaixx it is only making it harder if you are not from that region other than that should be better as can see more results on the page with out having to scroll down

  • Harry Bailey

    There are actually several ways in which business listings now appear.

    I have seen 2 and 3 organic results at the top and then local listings followed by more organic results.

    Looks like it’s still possible to get an organic result at the top if you optimise for the phrase and location.

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  • Harry Bailey

    An example of mixed results:

    Bar in Fallowfield

    Note that is is BAR and not BARS

  • AcrylicWeb

    I wonder if they will tighten up their verification process first.

    The local results are flooded with spam for some industries due to the fact you can still verify your business using a mobile phone.

    A lot of SERPS will be flooded with non-related highly manipulated results if the verification process isn’t improved before this new algo goes live.

    • Patrick Altoft

      I think they will be stopping the verification process and just working on domain authority perhaps?

  • Marketing Recruitment Agency

    We’ve spent all morning trying to work out why certain sites are ranked higher on the local search – it’s not as if the sites which are closer to the town centre are necessarily near the top. It’s certainly going to give those involved in search a number of new problems to fathom out. From the feedback I’ve seen so far, this isn’t proving to be popular.

    Is it a case that eventually comapanies will be asked to pay for their placings in Google places?

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  • irsmartie

    would that work? big companies have more than one office but most likly just one website and several pages with other office details but the new google local searches only shows the home page

  • Nicholas

    It doesn’t appear to have changed for all local queries “florists in leeds” for example

  • irsmartie

    @nicholas the changes are not live yet

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  • David Quaid

    It’s an epic fail IMO. Google Places is easy to spam and spoof. All you need is a couple of hours and you can claim your business is a hotel, shop, anything you like and position it anywhere. The Google verification system takes seconds to verify via SMS and any idiot can put themselves into a map faster than above organics.

    Why build a world-class indexing system only to have it replaced with a system whereby the owner of the site cna put it anywhere they like?

    • Patrick Altoft

      David if you look at the new system it’s not actually using the traditional Google Local algorithm. There are sites appearing that are not verified, it’s being done by authority like the normal algorithm. So Google would see an authority site with an address on and rank that.

  • Elinor Wright

    This is awful for the small business person like me. In owning a service company my business services a 30 square mile radius but I only have an office in one place considering it is a family business this happens to be my home at the farthest point from our main service area. I have spent a lot of time on my google rankings with my website all for nothing! Thanks google for putting the little guy out of business! This does not help local business people it helps the big guy with an office in every city!!

  • Nicholas

    Getting local results now even though the search is not local.

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  • seobot

    G accumulate the Yellow page sites visits.

  • idietcola

    Dont like it either ;-(

    It felt like google had turn the clock back and spam was winning – i guess they’ve just had enough of ppl tricking their algo and now they must want more ppl to submit to locals – itll not last – that map cuts of their ppc… as if they’ll let that fly.


  • irsmartie

    it doesnt work for every search term so thats actually not that bad well not for our company. but can see what nicholas means with his image quite interesting

  • http://primaryposition,com David Quaid

    Hi Patrick,

    Do you have any examples?

    What I am seeing: Cursory searches here show that Google is using verified addresses and map-saved points from other apps using the Google maps. And not based on the organic ranking that sites would have had just previously to the change.

  • ziz

    From what I see this currently only affects the ‘[trade] + [location]’ searches with pretty much all longer tail left unaffected, it’s also not rolled out across all trades – perhaps they’ve only collected enough data for the most competative verticals where businesses have been forced to adopt Places to maintain first page visibility?

    Do SEOs shift our focus to the lower volume longer tail? Surely traffic via traditional SEO will drop and in turn, so will the perceived benefits of SEO. From an in house point of view this isn’t good.

    Should we go for the high volume, high competition generic phrases (but Google could start serving Places results based on your IP…)?

    Are the non-location specific verticals becoming the last bastions of SEO as we know it?
    Is the future of SEO Social/E-commerce or is this all a storm in a tea cup?

    I sincerely hope it’s the latter..

  • Dischromatics

    What will this do for any company operating in a remote area who rely on business nationwide?

  • Bojan Djordjevic

    This is great post with insight on the major changes of local search. I believe that when people get used to local search, it will drop out any website without physical location. Making it harder for lower players on the web and leaving it only to people who know what they are doing.

  • jfmonfette

    This will kill all the yellow pages types of directories listing, many of which are polluting the organic results anyway.

  • dan dees

    Oh really? if that’s the case more hard work should put into. I’m pretty sure this going to affect everyone and nowadays I seem don’t understand some numbers of result whenever I tried to check how many are already indexed. Hope Google can give us more information regarding this so we all can understand every detail.

  • Tony Arko

    We build niche sites for real estate agents, the ultimate local business. It will be interesting to see how this affects real estate searches.

  • Elinor Wright

    I am not a professional SEO but I am a business person and I have worked hard to have my site rank in the maps section along with organically. Today I can safely say I was forced to go back to Adwords since all of my rankings are essentially gone. While setting up a new AdWords account I realized this new system makes those top 3 spots a gold mine I have to bid $15 to get my keywords to rank their and even then they aren’t all showing. I think I now know exactly why google has done this! They brag about giving the ability to everyone to advertise and be successful but truth is if you are a small business without a huge amount of cash flow you are now screwed!!

  • Trinity

    Has this taken effect yet, I do optimize for local search engine. I think this is going to be beneficial for end-users but for businesses maybe for some, adjustments needs to be made if this will really be the case. Thanks for the info.

  • Kees

    I think this a step back from what I used to get. Whenever I want to find local businesses locations I just use google maps. When I google for something I want relevant and good websites. I do not like this at all. Maybe I’ll just use bing or even yahoo now. :(

  • Richard Hearne

    I’m getting local SERPs where the first 2 results are organic, then a long list of local sites with pins, and then finally 2 more organic. I think this is still playing out.

  • Ian

    Another Google Revamp!!! I dont think this will be good for small business!!

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  • Luke

    I think Google are taking a MASSIVE risk with this role out.

    I think the map overlaying the CPC ads is a big mistake and they are really hitting everyone hard.

    The other thing is the merger between Microsoft and Yahoo (ad centers), I reckon more people will be focussing on Yahoo and Bing now and not targetting Google asmuch because all Google is now is a big directory, not a search engine.

  • SEO Liam

    I agree with jfmonfette – this will phase out the directory listings – something I have been “vocal” about for the last couple of years. I see this side as a great thing as they did “pollute” the listings and I am guessing had poor click through rates (I actually expected Google to make a “directories” tab at some point and remove them from the natural serps this was) – but this makes much more sense.

    Also – I think that it will be great to remove the companies who are “based” in one area but have SEO for other parts of the country – usually if people are looking for “local search” then they are looking for a “local” business – not one from halfway across the country??

    Finally it will make business’ actively seek more feedback from clients (and raise their own game if the feedback isn’t good) – which surely benefits the consumer??

    Great news! :)

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  • lestat

    Do not like…

  • Luke

    SEO Liam, I have to disagree.

    Google is not a directory! It is a search engine.

    The current way the the “Google Places” listings are mixed in with the organic results is confusing the map covers up the Google Adwords listings.

    Also I feel that Google have taken the very easy way out here. The listings previous where sometimes full of directories and stupid sites but this should be fixed! Directories shouldn’t be ranking as highly and normal business sites should but by using Google Places to do this is a big mistake if you ask me.

    The issue I have is that what if a company isn’t local to one town/area. What if that company covers the whole of Lancashire or London, Kent & Essex!

    Google Places limits you to selecting a small region based upon your address. This means that the system will have to be gamed in order for these larger “local” companies to benefit from Google. Having a system that people are instantly thinking how to game it isn’t a good start! In my opinion more options should be given to companies who cover large areas!

    The other side this is companies who operate door knocking, imagine having teams of people out advertising your products and services on the street. Those companies want an active SEO campaign for the surrounding areas and thus would use SEO. Now its all going to be focussing on Google Places and again this will mean many technical wizards will be gaming the system which means we are back at square one, the only difference this time is that the companies with money will succeed and the local companies will not be showing on Google Places or organically.

  • SEO Liam

    Luke – I don’t disagree with your sentiments however business directories had become a pain in the proverbial when searching locally.

    I agree that Google could have done something better (e.g. my directories tab idea – although how they would police this would be difficult) but if the directories have gone then great.

    It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months.

    Did this happen simultaneously in the US & UK or has this been running in the US for some time? Anyone any feedback on the US Google if it has been running for a longer period?

  • curly

    This is fantastic news for the small business owner. Some of the comments left here clearly show a lack of understanding of the whole situation.

    I can now easily rank my individual branches for “product” + “location” without losing any long tail searches that do not include a place name, and best of all its easy and free to do.

    I bet Yell/Thompson et al are shitting themselves!

    Go Google.

  • Search Monkey

    Dislike. The original Google places/maps results were much easier to filter. Now searches are returning integrated local results for searches that dont even include a city in some cases!

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  • John McNally

    I agree with SEO Liam and Curly, this is good for local business’s. Local people will now find real local companies, and not just National companies with massive SEO budgets.

    I will also be glad to see the back of directories when searching locally.

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  • seo training pakistan

    Great stuff on how google changing its way for local search queries gradually. Love this post to keep me inform from this.

  • Dyson Spare Parts

    Since the latter end of last year, one of our sites that is a local business has dominated the local search results. People even come in the shop and say, “I was Googling and I cant get away from you guys in the results”

    Whatever Google did with local sites has helped us out.

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  • Mike@Making Money Online

    Well, Google has place which is called Google map and Google places as well.

    However, if we are optimizing for local market then we should use the name of location in the content and in meta data as well. Using phone number and address would also help a lot in optimizing locally.

  • Affiliate Help

    I wouldn’t worry too much about any Google changes. Google always tries to ensure they deliver the best search results for their users in terms of quality and relevancy. So if you have a good quality site then you have nothing to worry about. Google will get better and better at directing relevant users to you.

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