Last month, I moderated a fantastic session at Searchfest ’09 subtitled “Little Is the New Big.” But had our conference taken place on April 10 rather than March 10, even that ambitious tagline wouldn’t have done the panel justice.
Whoa. Talk about a game-changer. This change has impacted (or will soon impact, for those that haven’t figured out local search yet) businesses of all sizes.
Just in law search results alone, Mike Blumenthal speculates that these new local results are going to give about 61 times more exposure for local lawyers that appear for generic searches in their geographic areas-something a solo outfit never had a chance to do for “national” or “generic” terms before.
Aaron Wall suggested in a timely post last week that few SEO strategies, especially for small businesses, are directed at hitting the “home run,” i.e. ranking for the kind of generic, short-tail phrases that Mike highlights in his quick analysis.
Up until two weeks ago, I certainly followed Aaron’s line of thinking for my clients and can attest to the success of essentially ignoring the short-tail basket and putting my clients’ eggs (i.e. title tags and internal link juice) into the long tail instead.
That thinking may begin to change, however. Ranking in Google Maps for phrases like “Chicago lawyers” or “Omaha dentists” (presumably the phrases from which 10-packs are pulling for “lawyers” and “dentists”) is not going to be nearly as difficult as ranking organically for “lawyers” and “dentists.” The opportunity for traffic from high-volume phrases just became a lot more realistic.
But what’s the trade-off? The 10-pack typically shows up in position #4, and there are nine other businesses within the 10-pack list, even if Google does decide to show it for your short-tail keywords. It’s going to make efforts to track 10-pack clickthroughs in your analytics a very important component of local keyword research going forward as you decide where to focus your SEM energies.
The new Generic 10-pack is a bit of a double-edged sword, too, as small businesses who had successfully figured how to drive fantastic revenues via long-tail organic traffic may now find their rankings subsumed by the incredible visual barrier that the 10-pack represents. It’s hard to imagine too many people scrolling past the top three results anymore, once a map is shown.
Obviously, Google is going to continue to experiment with and refine its SERPs. But this most recent iteration seems to signal the kind of shift Danny Sullivan mentioned in his keynote at the SEOmoz Seminar last year. Danny feels (or at least felt—I don’t want to put words in his mouth) that Google may eventually move towards a page of entirely local results for keywords that demonstrate local intent—a kind of change that Dr. Pete Meyers has postulated might be imminent as well.
To the Google Maps team’s credit, concurrent with this massive increase in the visibility for local results, they’ve fleshed out their local business help center with a new user guide and an official review policy just within the last month.
One thing is certain: Local search is going to continue to become more important for businesses of all sizes to understand and consider as part of their overall SEM strategy.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.