In the last 2 months after Google stopped showing photos next to the Google Places listing in the organic search results, there was a lot of talk around the changes Google are doing on the so-called branded one-box. The box is the equivalent of the 1-pack result that was showing up before for keywords with very low competition and very few relevant results. Usually these results were triggered by searches in small towns and rural areas (in the US). However, Google decided that some changes have to be done and totally redesigned this one-box to turn it into a shiny complete call-to-action-button-like listing appearing right on the first page on, as it seems, more searches then ever.
Now with good title tag, meta description and/or a little luck the Google Places 1-box would appear even for some very competitive searches, which would previously either not return any Google Places results, or a 3/7-pack. In the case of “affordable lawn maintenance Los Angeles” or “beautiful flowers New York” this is not such a threat for the organic website results, because the listings are not optimized and have only the basic attributes (business name, address, phone number). Still the one-box result occupies area equal to two normal website results. These examples are completely based on luck, because it just so happened that the business names were similar (or the same) as the search query.
At the same time there are other search queries, which return very well optimized, full of pictures, reviews and information listings. “New York cheap movers” is a relatively competitive keyword, which I am sure, many moving companies in NYC and the area would be happy to rank for.
The Place page completely devastates the competition of the organic website results and, I am sure, would get almost the whole traffic for this keyword. You can see two more similar results for “professional mover Houston” (about 184 million results) and “affordable criminal attorney Washington DC“. These all seem to be based on good meta description and titles.
The conclusion – it seems that local SEO can currently help more than ever the businesses targeting local clients.