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Google UK Testing Location-Based Search Results

Published on October 29, 2010
Tags: SEO

We noticed this morning that Google UK may be testing location-based search results based upon the location of the user. Presumably, Google is identifying the user’s location from their IP address and is then showing a mix of results from Google Places and the normal search results. This is good and bad for site owners as our article will go on to explain.

One such test was ‘car parking controls’. This is a non-geographic based search (for example, we’re not searching for ‘car parking controls in London’) so should return results from throughout the UK - and indeed this is exactly what it used to do. This morning, though, we noticed that Google UK has mixed in the map results from Google Maps (now called Google Places) as well as showing a map on the right hand side. Additionally, a new shortcut to Places is shown on the left hand side, which when clicked will only show the Places results. Each of the embedded Places results are highlighted with a marker, showing they are the results local to the user (our search was conducted from Kent). The image below demonstrates this:

Example of Google Search with Google Places

What this means for site owners.

  1. First off, Google may only be testing this feature so it could be removed quite quickly, or it could be rolled out to more keywords and eventually all of search in due course. At the time of writing it appears to be limited to a few of Google’s search servers and a few selected keywords.

  2. If you haven’t already claimed your Google Places (formerly Google Maps) listing, do so now. If you’re not sure on how to do this, contact us for assistance.

  3. Make sure you build up inbound links to your site that are relevant to your local area, and get listed on local directories. This will help to boost your local presence.

  4. If you trade nationally and have relied on non-geographic keywords for your listings, there are going to less spots available in the top-10 for natural search as some will be taken up by Google Places listings. This means that you need to work harder and aim to get into the top-5 to ensure your listing isn’t bumped to page 2 of Google’s rankings.

  5. If you trade locally then this development is extremely beneficial to you – so long as you can optimise your listing on Google Places. This is because for searches taking place locally to you, Google is going to pick Google Places listings in your area and mix them in with the natural results. If you are listing well for Google Places, then you could then start to appear well for more non-geographic searches too.

  6. If you currently pay for Google advertising, you may find your click through rate (CTR) drops if your average position is greater than 3. This is because the map now pushes the advertisements below the fold on the right hand side. This, in turn, could create a bidding war for positions 1, 2 and 3 so pushing up your advertising costs (note that Google varies the number of advertisements appearing above the natural listings).

Our advice at this time is to focus on optimising your local presence using the steps above, and in conjunction with a good optimisation team that knows how to optimise for Google Places effectively and ethically.

Right now it’s too early to say if Google will keep this format. Google likes to experiment and this could be another test to see how this format performs. The format may not stay exactly as it is, not least because Google’s paid adverts are also getting pushed below the fold on the right hand side and this could decrease advertising revenues – time will tell though, as it may be that increased revenue from positions 1-3 at the top of page actually balance the decreased revenues for the lower-placed paid advertisements.

Contact us today if you would like more information on our optimisation services, and in assisting with your Google Places listing.

By Chelsey Evans

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