If you go to Google.com and type “hamburgers,” “shoes,” “candy,” “grills,” “beer,” and hundreds of other terms of ambiguous local intent, Google will almost always show you local results on a map that’s tied to your IP address.
But type in “seo,” “seo company,” “web design company” and several terms related to these two types of businesses — heck, go ahead and specifically add in a city name like “seattle” or “houston” or wherever, and even include the state abbreviation like “wa” or “tx” — and Google will almost never show you local results on a map.
Why does Google have it out for web designers and SEOs? That question has been going around for nearly two months, particularly in this thread in the Google Maps Help Forum. And, as Barry Schwartz reported on Search Engine Roundtable, Google employee “Joel H” (likely Joel Headley) posted an update today saying that it’s not a bug (as originally said to be), but a specific, conscious decision on Google’s part not to show these types of businesses on a map.
“Today, we’re intentionally showing less local results for web design / SEO queries. For example, [web design sacramento] doesn’t display local listings today. We believe this is an accurate representation of user intent. In some cases, we do show local listings, however (as NSNA/php-er noted) [web design in bellingham]. I’m sure some of you feel we should be displaying local results for queries like [Web Design Vancouver]. I understand that concern, but based on our understanding of our users, we feel this is the right decision for now.
“I’ll give the usual disclaimer that we’re constantly working on improving the user experience and results will vary over time. So, this could change in the future, but I wanted to be explicit about what we’re doing today.”
What Joel H. is saying is that certain industries won’t get local business listings even with a city name included in the query, but they might get a 7-pack if the query includes a word like “in.” So, for example, queries like “seo seattle wa” (even with the state abbreviation!) and “web design seattle” don’t show local listings with a map:
But if you search for “seo in seattle” or “web design in seattle,” you’ll get local business listings.
This doesn’t just affect SEO and web design companies; the results are similar for queries such as “ad agency seattle,” “advertising agency seattle,” “graphic design company seattle,” and “logo design company seattle.” These aren’t local searches to Google. (But “candy” is very local, even without a city name included. Riiiight.)
Joel H.’s statement only says, “We believe this is an accurate representation of user intent” and “based on our understanding of our users,” but offers no details beyond that. There doesn’t seem to be any logic behind why this group of companies isn’t considered to be local without the word “in” as part of the query. And vague statements about “user intent” don’t seem to fit the openness ideal, either.