Google Raises Local Search Stakes With New Places SERP
Yesterday Google formally announced some changes in the presentation of local results on Google.com SERPs. The right rail has been turned into a rich display of Places information, including links to interior business photography in some cases. It brings a great deal more of the Place Page into the SERP and will become a new focus for local SEOs. It also will virtually eliminate any right column ads “above the fold,” when the new SERPs appear.
Immediately below is a “before” image of the results for a query on the San Francisco restaurant “Gary Danko.” The Places content appears below the restaurant’s own sitelinks. There’s address information, some images and links to reviews. However much of the information is visually buried.
Now the “after” SERP, with the Places content moved to the right and organized more clearly. It’s a much more user-friendly display of Places content: hours, location, menu links and links to reviews. There’s also a quick link to directions at the top of the map.
Here’s a closer look at the right panel:
The first “pegman” image on the left immediately below the map sends users into Google Maps and offers Street View-like interior photography. Users can pan around the room and get a sense, in this case, of the ambiance and physical layout of the restaurant. This imagery is the by-product of Google’s local business photos program.
Bing also offers this capability (“Step Inside”) through a partnership with Everyscape. The Page below is Bing’s local result. However Bing.com’s SERP for the restaurant is less compelling. I suspect Bing will need to respond to what Google has done in pushing more and richer local information to the SERP.
Google only shows these new SERPs in the context of a search for an individual business location. If the business has multiple locations it won’t show the richer SERP. However if you search on a single location it typically does (e.g., “cheesecake factory” vs. “cheesecake factory ventura blvd”).
Yelp has been left out of the list of review sites that appear in the right panel. I conducted a range of searches in different business categories and Yelp was typically in the “above the fold” organic results in the center but not among the “more reviews” site list on the right. This is no doubt a conscious decision on Google’s part to avoid any further disputes with Yelp, which has become one of Google’s most vocal critics.
My guess is that the sites on the “more reviews” list on the right panel will see a jump in traffic vs those in the middle of the page. I’ll leave it to others to fully explore all the local SEO implications of the new pages but they should cause more business owners to claim their Place pages and to beef them up with more content and images. It should also boost Google’s “local business photos” program.
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