>>> Google has also been evaluating, on searches with no place name in the query, how much geo-specificity to apply. Additionally, Google results without place name can often be characterized (to quote Greg Boser) as "hyper-local". <<<<
I see this but google presents incorrect data in my area as I assume they go by postcodes(zipcode)? Example I live in a the centre of an English town but our postcode for whatever reason starts with the postcode of a town 30 minutes away by car (not as big or old as our town). So when I type in example windo* cle**er without adding a town I am presented with a result set of the town 30 mins away by car rather than my town. So google is missing variables?
I also note on google maps, when I type in several counties in the UK the BORDER around them is WAY off, badly in some cases! Example [img560.imageshack.us ] Not sure why they have removed the single biggest city in that county from the county map itself? Maybe the city paid someone to build some dodgy backlinks once? :P
>>>Early on, in the mixture of Local 7-pack and organic, Google returned the Local 7-pack results, with a reduced number of purely organic results... say, 3-directories up top of the 7-pack and maybe 2 or 3 below. Depends, of course, on the place. In results your image shows, there are 9 organic results in addition to the Local 7-pack, plus the major local directory search links.<<<
Mainly I have only ever see the SERPS go down to 7 organic slots (not including places), typically its 9-10. I have seen only 3 organics ones or twice but when I refresh the page it returns 9-10 again.
>>>That's an interesting contrast I'm seeing to some local service searches. While 118.com must be big in the UK, it hasn't penetrated in the US to my knowledge at all. And I don't see Yell all that often in my local searches. <<<
I have never seen yelp or 118 on any local serps I watch, I THOUGHT yelp was America’s version of YELL and the same company but now im assuming not. 118 is I think a new player to being an online directory (could be wrong) but I have never seen them, they are a direct enquires line that you ring if you want the phone number of a pizza place as example. But again I could be wrong I just don’t see them on google myself!
>>>Ever since the introduction of Universal, Google's been constantly resolving issues of how much exposure to give different types of results. Google's obviously now looking at ways to cluster the results of these popular directories, and this may be either a test or a long-term attempt to do that. <<<
Someone mentioned google are doing this because of ant trust issues? But how can this be in YELL’s case as they are without fail number 1,2 and sometimes 3 and 4 in EVERY local search I make, since they already have these positions above all others why give them another feature unless google will be phasing them out from organic positions?
IMO directories dominating the entire first page in some instances is a poor user experience and from years of working with local tradesmen I have found they cannot compete with the “middle men” companies who use add words to flog the contacts the PPC generate to then sell to the local tradesmen at £45 per contact/lead, which they then have to bid for with 3 other companies that are also charged £45 for the same lead.
When clients have tried to use add words the bids are so high because of these "middle men" sites that their profit margin is less than the costs of the labour and time required to complete the job. My hope is that one day google will give back at least the organics on page one to local tradesmen rather than national directories, but I know realistically small local sites don’t have the brand biased google is currently favouring. If you run the same searches on DDG and bing you receive a fairer mix of local sites and directories.