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Google Tests Local Search with NO Organic Results

 8:08 pm on Aug 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yesterday, for the first time, we saw a standard Google web search results page, without any standard web search results. That is, a search for “car rental nyc” returned a Universal Results page showing a map alongside results from paid, local, and books categories (see screen shot below). Not one standard organic result appeared on the first page of results. [blog.converseon.com...]



 8:22 pm on Aug 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Um, maybe I'm missing something, probably not, but...

Those SERPS just happen to be mapped as well and are spot on with your query. So what am I missing, the fact that they we're giving you local results instead of regular SERPs?

TBH, with that query the results were spot on.


 8:33 pm on Aug 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

There's not going to be any direct traffic sent to your website by any link on the results page, and I think that's the point. Yes, there still is relevance and also a business benefit -- to those business who are listed in Google properties. But that sort of shifts the idea of what a search engine actually IS. You've got to submit to rank.

This is apparently still a local, low level test. But if it becomes commonplace, to quote Janis Joplin, "have another little piece of my heart, now, baby".


 1:19 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm going out on a limb and saying that is faked.

Reason why: Descriptions don't match actual local listings, and that picture looks 90% the same as an organic search. Literally the ONLY difference is the 10th spot is a different website on my end, everything else is in exactly the same order as an organic search.


 2:54 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Someone was playing around with the search beforehand - how did they get "Past 2 Months" I don't even see that as an option (Past 2 Weeks, but not Months).

I also supect this is faked - link bait perhaps?


 3:54 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Off what you're saying BillyS, how would "Past 2 Months" be relevant in anyway for a Local Search? This is definitely faked


 4:00 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

If I didn't know the two people who authored that blog post, I might agree with you - those are definite oddities you've spotted. But I do know them and I have no reason to suspect that they would fake the screen shot - it's not how either of them operates. So I will check further and get back to this thread with more information, probably next week.


 5:47 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I agree with Tedster, authenticity isn't the issue here, it's how soon before we all see these SERPs which is the issue.


 5:56 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

when i do the "car rental nyc" organic search i get the "Past 2 Months" option...

i'm speculating here but perhaps what is being tested are searches where most or all of the top-n page 1 organic results involve sites that are also reasonably optimized for G local.
in the organic results all but #10 (car rental express) are also in the top local results.
all including #10 in the "experimental" search results (gotham) are also in the top local results.

Robert Charlton

 6:22 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

when i do the "car rental nyc" organic search i get the "Past 2 Months" option...

Same here. I can't tell from the screen shot what those serp titles link to, but they are the same page titles as are displayed in the organic results I'm getting, and those do link to the websites of the companies returned.

It looks to me as if Google has combined the regular serps with the 7-pack/10-pack results, adding extra info to give you more choices of where to navigate to, but not removing the option of going to the sites of those businesses. This doesn't jibe with the blog post title, so I'm confused by what they're observing.


 6:48 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

So now Google has 2 chances to earn a click. One on the SERP. One on the Google Places pages. Bye bye small local aggregator.


 6:50 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Phranque and Bob, I think you've zeroed in on what this is. From the screenshot we can't see where the links actually point. But there may have been a confusion because each of the top ten results in the screenshot has an orange Google Places marker - even though the link of the title may point to the actual website.


 9:07 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yesterday I tried this same search for both Detroit and Ann Arbor, which are local to me. I could duplicate the LOOK of it - with all the orange markers - except I got three and five "normal" results at the very bottom, respectively. But *only* for car rental. I tried apartment rental, and various other searches, but only car rental returned that style result. Today it's all back to normal. Looks like a test to me.


 11:49 am on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

@netmeg, did the links lead to actual websites or Google Place pages?


 12:38 pm on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Once they roll this out and expand the concept to other areas Goggle will not be a 'Search Engine' anymore but, well, Google?


 12:39 pm on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

They might as well rebrand as 42


 8:09 pm on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

@netmeg, did the links lead to actual websites or Google Place pages?

I don't think I clicked on any of them.


 10:07 pm on Aug 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

damned smartphones..evil, evil, evil


 1:17 am on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Someone was playing around with the search beforehand - how did they get "Past 2 Months" I don't even see that as an option (Past 2 Weeks, but not Months).

When I did this search yesterday, I could not get it to say Past 2 Months, I just tried again and I did get that option. I'm not sure why that option is coming and going, but this does lend more credibility to the finding.

I didn't get the same results (yet), and NYC would be local to me.


 1:47 am on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've probably done more local searches than most webmasters, and Google local searches had been being gamed to death.

To pick a specific example: search for, say, businesses in a particular large-rural-village/small-farm-town in the Lutheran belt--distinguished only by a tiny Lutheran seminary--and get thousands of hits for "free-for-all" (i.e. visitor-built") "directories." Looking for gay pet manicurists in Malechthonburg? No problem, there's a page where YOU can insert YOUR very own pet-pedicure businesses for people who care what their pedicurists do off-shift. And literally thousands of equally-relevant directories with equally-empty pages (while, so far as I can tell, the number of actual businesses with websites in that town can be counted on the fingers of one hand. ONE. MAYBE, two. Certainly not three, absent a MAJOR chainsaw accident.)

A change like this would have made a world of difference for real users, like me, in real searches, like that.

Death to click arbitragers? Yes, perhaps. In that case, it's no longer a win/win scenario. It's a win BIG/win BIGGER scenario.

Sadly, if that's implemented, the spammers will probably find a way around it fairly soon. And the real businesses will once again be needles in the online haystack.


 3:56 am on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hold up a second, lets put the pieces together here.

a) organic free search results based on brick and mortar shops.
b) recent serp changes in which brick and mortar companies were able to rank their mega-mashup sites ahead of many less trashy competitors who are online only.

I'd say Google is lending credibility to sites that have an established actual business address. Perhaps Google thinks they can reduce the number of spam sites by favoring sites with public addresses behind them? If you're looking for secret sauce an actual business address may very well be a ranking factor, a strong one by the looks of it since "Mayday".

At the very least "local" is being given back to "local shops" instead of the best site for that location.


 4:11 am on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I like your observations, Sarge. And did anyone else notice that Adwords were pushed DOWN the page by the local map?


 10:30 am on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'd say Google is lending credibility to sites

i'm guessing they're lending credibility to businesses that have signed with with google's place thing, rather than lending credibility to websites.
will it be possible for the best local site to be listed on that page if they haven't signed up? if that's a no then google are making a mistake, i reckon. because they'd no longer be in the business of ranking the best sites in an unbiased manner.

whenever i do a search for a business at the moment, a fair amount of the businesses that appear next to the map dont even have a website -- the links go straight to google's place page. and yet they've got a plum place in the top half of page number 1 -- beating out businesses that do have a site.

how do google ranks businesses if they don't have a site? where do they get their data from?

is google supposed to be a search engine, or just a glorified yellow pages? the yellow pages doesnt list every business -- just the ones that have signed up. if you're looking for the best one, then good luck guessing which one it is. all you can do is tell which ones have the deepest pockets, because they've got the biggest and prettiest ads. that's the way that google is heading.


 1:18 pm on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

is google supposed to be a search engine, or just a glorified yellow pages? the yellow pages doesnt list every business -- just the ones that have signed up.

I admit I haven't picked up a Yellow Pages book in months if not years - because I for one look up everything in Google now, even phone numbers for businesses around the corner from me. But the last time I checked, the Yellow Pages *does* list every business that has a phone number - but they sell display ad space in addition to that.

As a business owner who still does run Yellow Pages ads, you'd think I would know how they work


 3:29 pm on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is something from a month ago.


 4:43 pm on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'd say Google is lending credibility to sites that have an established actual business address

For this particular search, yes, and it makes sense because of the topic. The difference I see is one search type is for immediate locals needs and "car rental" is very specific, showing real sites and locations makes the most sense. Other local searches are more research oriented, not contingent on physical locations of the local vendor, and it makes sense to promote other sites that assist that type of research.

Case in point "nyc plumbers" where the vendor comes to you, you don't go to the vendor, and the #1 SERP, seen from here, is superpages followed by one directory after another.


 5:46 pm on Aug 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

What I am seeing is companies making up local addresses to rank on Google's local business "Map" section.

All they need is a phone number to verify with Google. Google has no way of knowing if the number is physically ringing at "123 Main Street, Smallville", or "6699 Corporate Way, BigCity". I am seeing more and more of this -- companies get a number and then pick the address of a large office building in the target town, (a building where many businesses are located so nobody will notice).

They submit a Google business listing with that address and phone -- then verify. Viola' -- they have a local business that ranks in the map!


 6:25 am on Aug 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

My apologies if it is not relevant to the post.

While searching for some local keyword found that Google is giving "Show map of abc.com near location" link with the Adwords results (coming on top of 7 pack followed by '10' organic links.) Interestingly most of these sites then rank in 7-pack and then in top 5 of organic search results.

Note that maps link came for all the 3 adwords links in one case while only for 3rd adwords link for other query term.


 4:19 pm on Aug 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Today I'm in Manhattan and have had a chance to see this SERP up close and personal. I also compared it to the SERP I saved over the weekend. Some observations:

1. The "Last 2 months" is not some accidentally triggered filter - it's the default when you do the [car rental nyc] search and it triggers this 'hyperlocal' results page. In fact a search on [cinema nyc] triggers a similar SERP and says "Last 3 weeks" by default, and some other local terms show this variation, too.

2. On the [car rental nyc] search, the order of results appear to be organic, and the clickable title and snippet are as they would be in organic, but the actual URLs for several of the car companies (Avis, Enterprise, Alamo) include their local tracking query string.

3. I still can't say what conditions are triggering this hyperlocal SERP. Yes, the user needs to do the search from within the same geographic area, but that alone is not enough. Two computers in the same office, same ISP, same browser (FF) but only one sees this test SERP page. And we can't get it to display on IE for any computer.


 6:19 pm on Aug 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Nope it's not fake at all. Google even confirmed it!

I broke a story on Mike Blumenthal's blog last month showing a BUNCH of different screenshots of different search terms in various cities all showing that exact same new layout they are testing. Google sent a PR person over to confirm it was a test. I have screenshots on my Dental blog too.

For a long time it seemed I was the only one that was sitting on a certain test datacenter and no one else could see the results. But then several other people started seeing them and reporting on them.

Thing is if you want to try to see them for yourself you have to keep trying and the new SERPS only show with FF not IE.


I tested and saw a TON of different results.
I never saw any searches that pulled LOCAL ONLY results.

The ones I did screenshots of either had 7 local on top and 3-4 organic (pushed WAY down to the bottom of 2nd page because the new local listings are so much bigger!)

Or some had 3 Organic on top, then 7 local, then 2 or 3 organic.


The map obviously moved to the right and pushes down Adwords. But what's cool is as you scroll down the page the map moves with you. (Since I specialize in local I think it's cool anyway.

The other thing that's interesting is Google is pulling meta title and description from organic. So the local listings are 2 - 3 times bigger and sort of like an organic PLUS a local listing combined.

I think we posted about all this in the Google local forum awhile back. I'll go find the post and cross link for whoever is interested in more info.

Linda Buquet

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