My good friend Darren Shaw over at Whitespark (who has the best citation finder ever!), wrote a very interesting post yesterday. The whole post is about what triggers the the different search results for local. I highly recommend you go and read the post. I added my thoughts in Darren’s comment section, but I wanted to re-share my two cents here again on my blog.
My Comment on Darren’s Blog Post:
I agree with Mike Wilton on this one… I believe it’s “due to query volume and search intent” on which determines whether you get served up the ‘pure’ results or the ‘blended’ results.
I also believe they have kept the two different search results pages on local searches for some very important reasons.
To understand why they did this we have to think like Google.
What is Google’s primary goal…?
Google always wants serve of the best results for searchers. That is ALL they care about. Every change they make is to improve the searching experience for regular folk – not us SEO’ers 😉
Why I think they created Google Places to Begin With:
The reason I believe they created Google Places and the 7 pack to begin with was they knew a lot of searches had local intent and they knew a lot of local businesses did not have websites, nor were representing their local businesses well online.
So Google took it upon itself to create Google Places, so that they could serve up the best possible local search results for searchers.
The Challenge: (This is why I believe they changed the local search results to adding in blended search results.)
Now flash forward years later, after tons of Google Places spam and working with a Google Place’s algorithm that doesn’t really work… they decided to move back to an algorithm that is proven to work pretty good… the blended search results (which is based on good old regular organic listings – yeah!). Now I know they tag websites with a Google Places listing if they can associate the two, but I believe the blended search results ranking factors are based on normal SEO and has nothing to do with the 7-pack ranking algorithm.
Why the Blended Search Results Works for Larger Cities:
This works for most local search results for searches that are for businesses inside larger cities. (because the query volume is high enough that a lot of small businesses have begun to market their local businesses online), so when someone searches for keywords that have a strong local they get results that good for searchers.
Why Google Can’t Quite Abandon the 7-Pack:
Even though the new blended results works better for both searchers and Google, they couldn’t abandon the old 7 pack quite yet. The reason being is not all cities and towns have a high enough local search volume, thus resulting in less local businesses having a local presence online.
If local businesses don’t have a presence online that is best for searchers, what is Google going to do….? That’s right, they will create a local presence for them…. that was the whole intention behind Google Places, to create a better experience for searchers. This is why I believe you typically you see more 7-pack (or now known as the ‘pure’ local search results) on searches with local intent for smaller cities/towns.
Therefore, I believe they use “query volume and search intent” as deciding factors of which type of local search results you’ll get. Is this perfect….? No, but Google can only make algorithm changes and that is the closest way for them to serve up the best possible local results for searchers (so far).
Is Google Split Testing?
Yes, but I don’t believe that is what is causing which local results you get.
That’s my ‘theory’ and I’m sticking with it! Well… until one of the amazing local SEO’ers figures out what the hell is going on.