Everything changes. Author Isaac Asimov said it best. “The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change…”
Google is no stranger to change. Those who watch the search engines closely will have noticed that changes to the Google Local listings took effect at the end of October. Gone now is the “Seven Box” which placed 7-to-10 local listings at the head of the Google organic listings at the top of the page. And although it looks a bit different, it’s all still there. Google has simply modified the search results in the display and given local listings a better venue.
Years ago, the advent of the Seven Box caused some in the search marketing industry – not to mention almost every business that worked to gain top placement in Google’s search results – to cry foul at the idea of having their organic listings knocked down the page a bit. Adding insult to injury was finding that the ranking factors for the new local listing section stemmed from an algorithm that was different from that of the organic listings. Local businesses – and the search engine marketers that served their interests – enjoyed a prolonged period of trial and error, trying to overcome the Seven Box SEO puzzle. Frustrating as all that may have been – it’s over now.
The new Google Local search result listing format drops the local search results (formerly the Seven Box section) down into the main search results listings (or merged within, to be exact). Also, the listings map is now placed at the right side of the search result page. Star ratings, business address, phone numbers, business images, and some recent business reviews (where available) are also be included in the merged listing (but in smaller form).
Note: The new “merged” local listings and accompanying map will only populate the first page of results. All subsequent pages display only the organic results.
Clicking on the Places icon at the left-side menu will take you to the new Google Places page with all of the currently-showing listings (in expanded form), along with a full complement of similar search listings for that place type (page-by-page, a good number more than the usual ten listings).
One noticeable issue with the current layout is that the map that accompanies the place listings does follow you as you scroll down through the page listings to the bottom. And although the moving map is handy to help you keep your bearings, it will “roll over” and obscure the Google Ad listings at the right side of the page.
In closing, the changes to the new Google Local listings provide better representation for local businesses in the organic search results “above the fold.” A strong Google Places listing and a solid back linking profile will help with rankings going forward. Ask the Paid Search Account Managers at Rank Fuse Interactive about how your business may continue to benefit from the current Google Local listings.