Google Makes Bold Experiments With Local SERPs

Many search bloggers have had a lot to talk about the past few days after local search expert Mike Blumenthal (or more accurately, one of his loyal readers) shared screenshots showing Google making some bold experiments with its local search results. I haven’t been able to duplicate the search results displayed on Mike’s blog, so I’d encourage you to head over there to get the full scoop on what Google’s been up to. However, here’s one of the screenshots Mike provides, as well as some of my own thoughts as to what’s going on and what it means.

As you can see, there are a lot of interesting things to note. For example:

  • The Map has been pushed over above the ads on the right hand side. Worth noting is that the Map will follow users down the page as they scroll.
  • Local listings are now appearing ahead of, and larger, than the organic listings on the SERP.
  • Google Place Pages have been integrated and labeled within individual listings.
  • Reviews are being more prominently displayed.
  • The meta description for local listings is being pulled from the site while ALSO incorporating review snippets.

According to a Google spokesperson (via Search Engine Land), the experiment is only being shown to a small number of users. Its aim is to make it faster and easier for people to find businesses and places of interest near them.

Upon reading Mike’s post, I was really surprised to see Google making some bold changes to its results and integrating local results right in with traditional organic ones. The changes may give small business owners a glimpse into what Google is thinking about and what they view as important in ranking.

Some things to take from this:

  • Fill out your Google Place Page: Many SMB owners have mixed feelings about the Google Place Pages, however, make sure you claim and fill yours out as completely as you can. It’s clear Google is looking to increase the prominence of Place Pages. You want to make sure you’re giving them the correct information to pull from and that you have a complete listing.  Who knows is Google will attempt to use this page as a sign of trust.
  • Manage Reviews: The test shows Google pulling in review snippets to use them in the Meta description. That means that if you’re leaving negative reviews on the table and not addressing them, that may be what a potential customer sees when they do a search for [florida dentists]. Make sure you’re taking the time to respond and manage reviews.
  • Claim Your Business On Major Review Sites: With reviews being pulled into the local results, more users may be driven to click on your Yelp business profile than your actual Web site. Claim your listing on Yelp and take advantage of all the features available through Yelp for Business Owners. Do the same on any other popular review sites in your niche.  Google is driving people toward information about your business and that doesn’t necessarily mean to your Web site.
  • Don’t Ignore Your Meta Description: I know a lot of SMB owners who simply ignore Meta tags like the Meta Description because they think it’s “that SEO stuff” or that it won’t hurt them to leave it out. Don’t ignore the magic of the Meta Description tag. It’s important and can be the difference in someone clicking on your listing or skimming right past it.

If it sounds like I’m emphasizing the same things we’ve been emphasizing a lot it’s because with this change, Google’s really looking to combine everything that’s been gaining importance over the past year. Reviews, claiming your listings, Google Place Pages, etc. While the search engine may not keep the exact format being shown, it goes give you a glimpse into where Google may be looking to go. That means while the above information may have been good best practices to follow before, now they’re even more important now.

Have you spotted any of Google’s new experimentation in the wild?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

6 Reactions
  1. Corrie Davidson

    Ooh! Good article! We’ve been following Google’s algorithm changes and the new local search alterations are of particular interest to our clients. I like some of the changes I see here! I like that the map follows you, but wish it got more real estate and wasnt pushed aside to make room for and draw more attention to paid results…

  2. I thought this was a useful article and put a link to it in our franchisee newsletter.

  3. As a PPC guy I’m not too excited to see it pushing paid ads down, but from a user perspective I think it makes a lot of sense. With 3 paid ads and a local 7-pack, very few organic results were above the fold on local searches. This will give more love to the top organic results and keep the maps result in a prominent position. It will also make the top 3 AdWords positions that more valuable.

  4. smokeless cigarettes

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  5. I was at this conference and your article pulls out the most critical points for sure. I didn’t think that industrial or individual consultants had to focus that much on local — BOY WAS I WRONG.

    Your article shows us all why local search isn’t just for retailers

  6. Martin Lindeskog


    What is SERP standing for?