Google “Search Plus” Impact on Local: Limited So Far

Amid all the controversy that has erupted over Google’s new search personalization (Search Plus Your World), I’ve been doing local searches to see what if any impact it’s having on that arena. So far, in my unscientific query survey, the impact seems to be minor.

Below are some examples where I toggle between personalized and general Google results. In a few cases I’ve noticed AdWords differences but the organic results appear to be almost identical. However the “personal results” (top of the page) are radically different. In some cases they’re very useful, in others completely irrelevant.

Let’s look at a few queries, shall we?

Query: “Toyota Dealer”

(The red square in the screenshot indicates whether the results are personalized or “Google classic.”)

The screen below shows the “old” Google results for the same query.

If you look closely above you’ll see that the order of some of the ads is different (and in one case an advertiser). The copy on the top ad is also slightly different, although it’s from the same advertiser. The organic results above the fold are identical, however.

Query: “Best Pizza, Chicago”

Again the results are essentially identical. However the personal results contained a few gems, like the top reference to a local Chicago magazine’s list of the “25 Best Pizzas in Chicago.” But other entries further down the page became less relevant.

Query: “Window Replacement, Walnut Creek”

Here again there are some slight AdWords differences while the organic results remained the same (above the fold on page 1). Beyond this, in many local query scenarios, there won’t be any “personal results.” That was the case for me with most of the local queries I performed.

A wild card here is the impact of Google+ and selected other social media sites on personalized results. Some social-network comments/links will show up in those results, as mentioned. And as also already discussed in several of the articles below, Google+ Pages are being presented in the right column for some queries.

As more local and locally oriented businesses (e.g., retailers) adopt Google+, Google will likely present their pages in the same way as these brands (Ferrari, BMW) are showcased for the query “cars.”

That right column could equally show Macy’s Google+ Page for product or brand queries, or that of a local realtor for real estate + city queries.

And while it’s way too early to speculate about what may come out of a potential FTC investigation, one can say for now that Google+ participation becomes effectively mandatory as an SEO tactic (as Danny previously asserted).

I’d welcome SEO practitioners’ views and perspectives on how “Search Plus” is likely to affect local marketers. But, aside from the “Google+ imperative,” so far it appears to be marginal.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Google: Google+ | Google: Search Plus Your World


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • mwilton13

    Nice post Greg, I like the visuals. Curious to know how many G+ friends you have in your local area. I am speculating that a person with a lot of influence from local friends might be far more greatly impacted.

    I think ultimately it’s going to come down to the kind of content people are engaging with on G+ or with the +1 button. I don’t imagine a lot of people getting too hyped and sharing about many of the services you’re searching.

    I think if/when we see the integration of G+ and Places we will see the impact. Imagine if the reviews your friends left for a pizza place, Toyota dealer or the like showed up as part of your search experience? I think until we start seeing things like that, we won’t see any major impact on local search in the new format.

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