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Now to add insult to injury, Google have slapped a huge map image at the top of the page, thus pushing the natural results off of the page.
I feel that this is one step too far.
The local search market just took a hit. Google is returning 1-4 local listings before regular organic serps for [cityname widget] searches.
It's been in and out, but it looks like that's what is coming full time, soon.
[edited by: tedster at 6:11 pm (utc) on Jan. 30, 2007]
From now on, you'll see this every time you search for a place, business, or other local information. In addition to providing the basic contact information and map locations for several choices at the top of the page, we also show ratings and provide one-click access to reviews on the search results page so that you can make more informed decisions about where you want to go.
The results I'm seeing for a couple different cities just aren't very good.
When you're taking up so much of the screen like that, I expect the links to be EXACTLY what I'm looking for. Instead of EXACTLY what I'm looking for, I'm getting three HUGE Yahoo-esque ads for places that only might be what I'm looking for.
For example, if I'm looking for a "xanadu restaurant" that's a pretty basic search; I want a list of results to look through, not 3 commandment-sized choices.
Also, I notice in several test searches that [cityname widgets] will produce the map, whereas [widgets cityname] won't.
I'm not surprised by this at all. It's clear that the engines are moving towards verticals as fast as they can produce satisfactory results... and it's very likely that the serps page is going to continue to evolve.
Concurrently, this should create more space for more precisely targeted ads.
3 Sponsored Blue Bar links
1 "Local Results for [widgets] Near [location]" link
3 Local Results links
3 "[number] Reviews" links
3 "Get Directions" links
3 "More Information" links
1 "More Local Businese Results" link
1 Clickable Map link
...that means that even if you're #1 in the organic results, you are effectively the #18 link on the page, UNLESS your city has a "Refine Results for..." section, which adds another 6 links (total of 24 links) for the user to get passed in order to click on your cheesy little #1 organic link.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this looks like a complete wipe-out for travel and local search to me.
That said, the data provided in the OneBox needs some work.
1) The Yellow Pages data they use is fraught with errors (Buy a local exchange phone number and forward it to your call center, anyone?). There's no way to easily alert G to phonies.
2) They use Y Local's reviews (see above).
3) You guys that want to complain about the slowness of PR or backlink updates will really understand 'waiting' if you follow review updates from sources like Yelp, CitySearch & InsiderPages.
It's not perfect, but it's a giant step towards helping surfers find real, local facilities and merchants.
My local business has position A on a search term for one of the largest cities in the US. Must by 300 (minimum) other related businesses in my city.
My natural position is #3 and it's just barely above the fold. I count 10 opportunities to click before getting to natural position #1.
Time to do some homework!
This is a massive kick in the teeth for many businesses who did well in the natural results yet are not based in the city center. Now they are pushed below the fold.
Well done Google - we hope you are proud of your precious results. Do not forget why your users always loved you - it was because you did not fill the first quarter of your page with crap. Whilst the competition were greedy early on, you knew it was the fast natural results that would win the war. You should not forget that.
Unfortunately, users will use the other features such as well located ads to expedia and other big names.
To be honest, I never could figure out why Google *didn't* take over the hotel search/res function in the first place. Not only would it vastly increase their revenue, but most importantly, it would solve their travel-spam problem overnight.
The only downside is that a move like that would crush the economic base of thousands of travel sites that provide all the info for Google to index in the first place...unless, of course, Google plans on those info sites gradually shifting to Adsense over the long term.
Hmm...I need a drink.
Google has now taken the first step in solving many of these issues. You can now add your business to the local search and maps through google.com/local/add/login if you have a Google account. Spamming is diminished due to the fact they mail a confirmation letter to the business address before the listing goes live. This is a great step in the right direction to give this type of service the boost it needs to go mainstream.
Local search is a trend which will only grow and I hope it to become more widely used. I believe Google is placing these results now in an effort to encourage people and businesses to add their listings and transform this service into what it can become, a true and accurate way of finding what your looking for as physically close to you as possible.
Not every site will benefit from this. Some will take a hit while others can greatly benefit if they properly list their business. The main thing though is to give the searcher the best results.So lets get with the program and add our businesses to this service and not fight it. The protocols available to publishing a website do not really allow for local information to be added which can be accurately found and relied upon by a search engine. Now Google has given us this ability. So lets not waist our time focusing on how bad it hurts, but rather how great it will become. Lets get our listings, spread the word, and help it grow.
--edited for spelling
[edited by: Drag_Racer at 6:15 pm (utc) on Jan. 31, 2007]
As a user, I have come to expect google to provide me with objectivly ranked search results of all internet content. Unfortunately, the above-the-fold results for a local search are now mostly google's own content and paid listings. This doesn't appear to meet my historical objective expectations of a SERP.
The the "do no evil", "do a little evil = $", "do less evil than the other guys = $$", "do what we want = $$$$$" slippery slope will, IMHO, will start to drive users away. I recently have come to find myself using MSN and Yahoo more. They are both evil in their own ways, but they never set my expectations as high as google did. They are all in it to make money, and they have the right to do so. And they should. But as a consumer, I/we have rights as well.
I will continue to use google, but as a percentage, less than in the past. I just uninstalled the google toolbar and I feel like I took a good hot shower.
I just can't help thinking that Google are taking things too far here. The true beauty of Google search has always been its simplicity. I guess they have grown to such a size that they have to make use of the staff :)
Not wanting to sound as though Google owes me a living here but if they are looking for things to fix, perhaps it is time that they found all the missing homepages from .com or .net domains for UK pages etc. Now that really is broken!
But, I'd recommend not overreacting -- conventional wisdom might be off-base on this one. Other studies show that online users mentally dismiss SERP content that appears to be advertising, and they've been conditioned to figure that rectangular content at the tops of pages is typically advertisements that they're less interested in. If the OneBox content unconsciously seems less relevant to them, it will only irritate them and they'll continue clicking through to the organic/natural results below.
Vimes, you may not be aware, but Google *already* has been selling some mapvertising on particular verticals and in particular local markets. Go to the "Find Businesses" interface at Google Maps, and search for "Hotels" in "New York". You'll see a Sponsored listing icon showing up on the map as a tiny logo icon for Best Western.
Currently doesn't appear in the Web Search results for the same search, but how long before it might?
Total Paranoia, you're right -- they favor businesses in the city center. I actually blogged about how to take advantage of that in my article on Extreme Local Search Optimization Tactics recently.
They aren't using pure city-center proximity, though -- the algorithm is also using keyword relevancy and which of their business listings have the most favorable user reviews. So, getting good user ratings on various sites can help propel one into the top local listings, I'd guess. I mentioned that in my blog as well.
I think the interface is good for their users' experience, though the area it takes up is a bit largish, IMHO. We'll just have to see how most users accept the new interfacing. Probably will accept it pretty well, since Google is good about user-acceptance testing of features before they deploy.