Google initiated local search with the 7-10 pack. This consisted of a list of 7-10 local businesses with their exact locations on a local map of the area next to the listing. This list occupied about 1/3 of the first page, as an effort from Google to help users find local businesses much faster and easier.
Below is an example of Google’s 7 pack local search results page when looking for a local dentist in Burbank.
This is another example of Google’s 10 pack results page when using a search for a divorce lawyer in Chicago.
Google Starts to Compete with IYPs
Over time, Google realized the competition in local search from big directories like yellowpages.com and MojoPages.com. With local directories, users not only find the location of local businesses but can also read and write reviews about them. In an effort to compete with these local directories, Google introduced the new Opack which replaced the 7-10 packs. This new method enabled Google to show local businesses with reviews and stars provided by users,making it much easier for users when performing a local search, and thus choosing the Google 0 pack over MojoPages and other local directories.
Below is an example of the different experimentations Google has utilized for their O pack, starting with the 3 pack.
Google also tried moving the map to the right to give more focus on their 3 pack, in an attempt to eliminate the competition of the local business directories. Below is an example of the newer 3 pack layout, as of August 2010.
Having worked for a local directory at this time, I found that we were not affected much by Google’s new attempt to gain more of the market share that originally belonged to the local business directories. Most of the directories were getting almost the same amount of traffic as they did prior to the new O pack. I am sure that Google realized this as well, so they began removing all their competition from the first page of results, as shown in the example below. When you search for car rental in NY, you will find that the whole first page is the new Google local only, followed by Google paid search and no one else on the first page. Google also tried to buy Yelp in order to eliminate their biggest competition in local search but when Yelp refused, Google started to show local business directory reviews on their own local search results. By doing that, they were informing Yelp that if they do not like it they would block their reviews completely from the search engine.
When Google was asked, “Why the change?”
Google said “We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. … One of the great things about our approach is that it makes it easier to find a comprehensive view of each place.”
Negative Sentiment Online Against Google Local
Google’s odd behavior to eliminate IYPs from the local search results has created a lot of negative sentiment online. Google was viewed as the new Microsoft that wants to take over the world and destroy all their competition.
Steve Peron “I think it is about money. Google is forcing small business owners to use a Google product instead of their website to gain exposure in their search engine. Now, claiming your Google local account is free, but for a small business owner to really stand out they will have to start using Google paid services like: Google Tag, Adwords, or even Google Boost.
Do you think it is coincidence that within one week Google Boost was announced, Google Tag no longer allowed you to promote your website, and now there is a new Places format? I think not. Google wants money!”
Silver “Google Maps Hates Small Businesses By Launching Local Folksonomy Descriptive Terms”
Yelp ” Google told us ” Our way or the highway”
Read this post on how small businesses are frustrated with Google’s new local update.
And here is another example of how small businesses think of the new Google Local. It shows how much of frustration small businesses have with the new Google service.
“Having tried to upload my lovely business on Google places, I was tearing my hair out in frustration as the seismic idiocy of Google in producing such a complex, complicated, completely impossible system which would drive anyone including Mr. ultimately-Zen-calm round the I-twist. I received my postcard, logged on to the totally unintuitive “local/add” Google places website and received a message from the planet zog which said, bluntly “There is no data for your request”on my errr “dashboard” (apple speak). Having no idea what this meant, and watching in dismay as my competitors have happily logged their businesses on places, I tried to contact Google for help. Woooow ho ho, back up tonto and don’t go there. Clearly Google are so customer-loving and hugging that they have no facility in England or in Holland to receive a telephone call, or an email.
Earth to Google… Come in Google. Who are these people? Really, I’d like to know, who are they?
Luckily, I have a snuffle around the web (wasting valuable earning time) and found your wonderful google translation which told me that “there is no data…zogg…dubble….woogla…request” means that they haven’t uploaded the details I put in yet. Ohhh. (though quite why this takes 6 weeks - six!! and relies on pigeon postcards to send me cyber pin numbers, baffles me , if possible, even further).
Anyway, on my e-wanderings I met many other perfectly sensible people who have considerably less hair (and nerves) than they once did as a result of crossing paths with Google Places -How this bunch of prepubescent techno-nerds ended up with a reputation for leading edge business practice is, well, its beyond me. But thanks to you. At least I know now to wait a few days, pity the poor so and sos who have bigger problems, Google represents hells on waiting room for common sense folk of the planet”
Google’s final layout shows local businesses on the first ¾ of the page and left the bottom ¼ of the page for organic search results, as demonstrated below.
Google did not stop competing with IYPs on Google Local only, but also started to block them from organic search with the newly released Panda/Farmer update.
Google also penalized most of the business directories where they have dramatically dropped in ranking.
According to Sistrix report:
Business directories that lost most of their organic traffic
Sites such as merchantcircle have dropped 75%.
Below is a quick example of their traffic drop
Another example of the number of keywords drop
Drop in search traffic
Drop in the number of keywords
Is Google Succeeding In Gaining Market Share From IYPs?
Below is the results of a survey taken to find out where internet users are going to look for businesses.
As it seems, Google is the number one destination for internet users to find their business online.
What can small business do to survive Google Place search?
- Claim a Google Local Place Account for your business.
- Provide as much information as possible about your business on your Google Local Place Account.
- Make sure to include your local address and phone number on each and every page of your website.
- Use a local telephone number instead of an 800 number.
- Acquire a bunch of reviews to your Google Place listing.
- Find out where your competitors are gaining local references by looking at their Local Place Account and examining all websites listed under, “More About This Place.”
- Generate user map content where your business is mentioned. Hard data isn’t available to support this, but it has been said that this could help your local rankings.
- Still optimize for normal Google Results. (I have seen instances where clients that were not being listed in the old 7 pack results, but were number 1 organically, got a major boost to number one with the new layout.)
- Use Google Boost
- Make sure your address and phone number is consistent across the Internet. If you submit your business to local directories, make sure you have the same phone number and address on all local directories.
What can IYPs do to survive Google Place Search?
- Have a niche that no one else has, such as unique information about the business or a great review.
- Excellent user experience including photos and videos.
- Focus on small neighborhoods within each city.
- Reach out to local businesses and provide them with widgets that feed them reviews on their own site.
- Be the link between the businesses and the users, where businesses can communicate with their angry customers and accommodate them.
With all these changes, I am not sure if you can completely win the competition with Google but I think it will help IYPs gain more traffic.
All of the above has led the FTC to file an antitrust investigation on Google’s business practice.
As a first reaction to Google, I see that Google Local has changed some of the searches in order to show more organic results today, as shown below.
I look forward to more and more changes from Google in order to help local businesses and IYPs to gain back their previous market share in the local search space.