On Friday, Imprezzio Marketing reported that they are seeing “shrunk” Google+ Local search results in the organic local search results pages. At first I thought that might have been just a design change Google implements in an attempt to diminish even further the prominence of the +Local listings. However, when I looked into a number of search results, I realized this might not be the case, and what actually happened seems more like an across-the-board reversal to the old “7-pack” or “pure” local SERPs. For the ones that do not remember (or have never heard of) what these are, here is some history:
- Until September/October 2010, there was only one type of search results - “pure”. The rankings within the business listings search results in the organic SERPs were heavily influenced by factors such as completeness of the Google Local listing, number of citations, number of reviews, and (almost) not influenced by website-related factors.
- In October 2010, Google made significant change to their local search algorithm (or rolled out a brand-new, separate algorithm) and thus, two types of local SERPs started appearing - “blended” and “pure”. The blended SERP, in contrast with the pure one, was mainly influenced by factors such as website on-site optimization, and general authority of the corresponding company website.
- In January/February 2012, Google rolled out yet another major change to their algorithm(s) and the pure local SERPs disappeared almost completely. Thus, only blended SERPs were visible. That is, apparently, until last Friday (25 October 2013).
Here is a great visual overview of the differences between the two types of local SERP.
What makes me think this shift means returning back to “pure” SERPs, i.e. what is the evidence? Here are some:
1. I found many cases in which Google listings with no website associated with them rank high. Here are a couple of examples:
plumber Rancho Cucamonga
Note: if the website associated with the listing is shown as “plus.google.com”, it means there is NO website associated with the listing.
If the SERPs were blended, this was almost impossible to happen, unless the competition was extremely low (i.e. there were no Google listings that have a website associated with them).
2. There are instances in which both the Google+ Local listing, and the corresponding landing page rank on first page in the organic search results. Here is an example:
personal injury attorney Seattle - notice the two results for deanstandishperkins.com
This can only happen if the SERP is NOT blended.
3. The “shrunk” size of the results themselves - I remember of only one instance when the Google+ Local listings search results have been displayed in smaller font, and this was when they were “pure”.
4. And I believe this is the strongest proof of all - ALL local search results I checked feature the business name from the Google+ Local listing. In the “blended” search results, the title of some search result changes to the title tag (or part of the title tag) of the corresponding website landing page.
Overall, if this change is kept this way, I would strongly suggest you look at citation building as an option, if you haven’t yet.