We noticed a change today in the way Google results are being displayed for local searches. Instead of the typical format of the map being shown above natural results and pushing the organic listings down, Google seems to have changed it in favour of moving the map to the right hand side and pushing the paid listings down instead.
The format choice is interesting as it seems to be implying that Google is putting the natural results in a more important position than the listings which advertisers are paying for. This is quite unusual for Google, who never usually lower the prominence of ads which make them revenue (only kidding – we love you Google)!
The change in design also seems to draw the eye to the natural results which have a Places page, with those listings being highlighted with the map symbol and user review stars. The contact details for that business is also pulled in from their Places page, meaning the user doesn’t even have to click through, they have your user rating, description and contact details right there on the results page.
So what does this mean for companies looking to appear for local searches? Well there are a few implications of this change in design:
1. Relying on paid search is no longer enough – you’ve been pushed down the page, so now the first Adwords listing is below the fold. Big impact, even in the top position.
2. You need a website – before this change, the map featured alongside it a list of Google Place pages, which meant even if you didn’t have a website you could still feature on the local listings by optimising your Google Place page and getting in the “7 pack”. Now, you might still be in the map, but you’re not in that crucial ‘top of page 1’ position in the general search listings.
3. You need a Google Places Page – if you have a website and are not on Google Places, despite being highly optimised and in a great position on page 1, you may be ignored in favour of a result further down that Google is highlighting.
I’m pretty sure paid advertisers will be kicking up quite a fuss as a result.
It does make you wonder whether Google has some more big plans for Places. The latest change is even more reason for advertisers to use Place pages, so maybe it’s paving the way for some kind of revenue generation on there as well?
Watch this space.