Last week, reports surfaced suggesting the possibility that Google has made changes to local map results.
As detailed by Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz, in the past week numerous individuals in the SEO community reported seeing compression in the local map pack results. One SEO who was monitoring results for clients observed “massive compression”:
In many tested areas (legal, dog boarding, photographers) we were seeing 4+ pages of map search results — now seeing one page (two at most).
Seems like centroids have increased as well – and its different for different business types. For example, “family photographers austin” results stop at the city line (results last week included suburbs and surrounding towns. But “wedding photographers austin” takes in the whole Austin DMA.
Others reported observing similar behavior, which, if put into practice more widely, could help some businesses and hurt others.
For example, one SEO commented, “I am seeing it here as well and while for my clients that have multiple locations across the city, its great, but for clients who have one location and get business from all over the city, its hurting them in a big big way!” He added, “Just because a business has more locations doesn’t mean they should be the ones showing up in the majority of searches.”
Obviously, Google might beg to differ. After all, Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant results to its users, a growing number of whom are accessing Google from mobile devices.
To the extent that it can reliably deliver highly-relevant, hyperlocal results personalized to specific users based on their current locations, there’s arguably no reason for Google not to. This is especially true given that, as of last year, Google’s local map pack only displays three results instead of seven.
That change made optimization even more important for local marketers.
Hyperlocal’s impact on strategy
While it remains to be seen whether or not the results observed in recent days are a result of experimentation or permanent, larger changes, they are a reminder of the fact that local businesses compete in a dynamic online marketplace that constantly requires them to reevaluate their strategies and tactics.
Optimization is no doubt and important part of that process, but an even greater hyperlocal push by Google highlights why alternative and emerging channels will probably grow in importance to local marketers in coming years.
Al Roberts is a staff writer for ClickZ and SEW
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