Anatomy of the Implied Local SERP
While 40% of searches contain explicit local intent, geographic intent can be inferred for countless more queries. For many of these queries, Google includes its Google Maps listings for the locality of the searcher automatically.
I was curious about the structure of Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) for queries that imply local intent, so I spent part of yesterday studying them.
To build a profile of implied local SERPs, I looked at over one hundred such queries and recorded pertinent information such as where the map was listed, what sort of map was listed (10-page versus 3-pack), and whether any other vertical search results were ranked above the map.
Only two of the queries were three words long. The rest were almost evenly split between one word and two words queries.
All queries were performed on August 18, 2009 and were made on a Time Warner Cable internet connection in Cedar Park, Texas. Geolocation services consistently resolve this connection as being in Austin, Texas. Screenshots of the SERP were recorded for each query. They were also taken for the query plus “austin”, so that comparisons could be made.
For an example of an implied local SERP, see this screenshot taken for [grocery store].
The natural location of the Google Maps listing on an implied local SERP is the fourth spot, but this can be pushed down by an additive vertical listing above it. In one case, the third organic listing had an indented listing after it, which pushed the Google Maps listing down to fifth. Otherwise, if there were no vertical listings above the Google Maps listing, it was always fourth.
There were four types of vertical listings that could be ranked above the Google Maps listing.
Type Rate of Occurrence News 42.86% Video 11.43% Image 3.81% Scholar 0.95%
The distribution by rank of the Google Maps listing was as follows:
Placement Percentage 4th 50.48% 5th 40.95% 6th 7.62% 7th 0.95%
Placement in the 6th or 7th spot happened when two or three vertical search listing types out-ranked the Google Maps listing for a particular query.
The 10-pack was shown 92.38% of the time, while the 3-pack was shown 7.62%. Ie did not see the 1-pack on an implied local SERP.
For 12.38% of the time, Google placed the designation “Customized for Austin metro area, US” at the bottom of the SERP. This indicates that Google is blending pages that score for Austin within the organic listings. This is equivalent to adding “Austin” to the query for those organic listings. It did not change the ranking for the Google Maps listing.
In nearly all cases, the Google Maps listing on the implied local SERP was identical to the Google Maps listing on its companion explicitly local SERP. The only exceptions were the occasional authoritative 1-pack on the explicitly local SERP, which occurred when the company name matched the query exactly.
If a particular query returns an implied local SERP, that increases the importance of optimizing for its local variant within Google Maps. Google has not released and data on the ratio of traffic from queries with implied locality versus those with explicit locality, but it’s reasonable to assume it is non-trivial.
Implied locality greatly complicates things for national brands. Many of these companies are used to dominating the SERPs for their queries, and the addition of local listings across all localities (assumably) results in their having to fight hundreds of little battles. Most large companies are not structured to compete in this manner.
Concordantly, it’s a great opportunity for the local business!
One unanswered question is how implied local SERPs differ by the location of the searcher. I’m especially interested in comparing whether a 10-pack or a 3-pack is returned. Is the selection driven by the nature of the query itself, or the nature of the local listings for a particular geography?
If anyone is interested in helping me by performing some queries (and taking screen shots) in other cites, please let me know.
ionadas local at SXSW Interactive
SXSW Interactive 2010 may be seven months away, but part of it is heating up already: the “Panel Picker” has just launched. This is a website that allows you to have a voice on the topics for SXSW Interactive, by voting them up or down, and commenting on them.
Brian Combs of ionadas local is in the running this year, with this topic:
(Simple + Searchable) x (WordPress Websites) = Results
This session will explore how to use the blogging application WordPress as a platform for a company website. This approach is idea for a small business, as it allows a company to have a professional web presence without spending thousands of dollars. It takes advantage of the thousands of available WordPress themes, most of which are free. Even the expensive themes are generally under $100.
Best of all, if you want to have a custom look and feel designed for you later, it can be built around the WordPress platform, so that all your content is already loaded.
If this session is going to happen, however, we need your help. Please vote for Brian’s session at the SXSW Interactive Panel Picker.
Vote early. Vote often!
Google Local Business Center Misbehaving
The local listing service from Google is a buggy system. It’s not unusual for a change (or new listing) to be submitted, to show that it was accepted, and then to have disappeared when you check a few days later. It’s the nature of the beast, and rechecking your work is part of the process.
Things have gotten much worse in the last week or so. A number of changes I’ve submitted via the Local Business Center are not being reflected within Google Maps. They do seem to be saved within the LBC, but are not being transferred over to the public listing itself.
This is reflected by a number of comments at the Google Maps Help site. So far, no official comment from Google about the problem.
ionadas local will continue to monitor the listings of its clients very closely while all this is going on.
Hat Tip to SEO Roundtable for the link.
Part-time Social Media Specialist Needed
Note: This position has been filled, although the blog post will remain here for historical purposes.
A Client of ionadas local is looking for a Social Media Specialist. This is a part-time position expected to require approximately ten hours per week, although additional hours are likely needed the first few weeks. This position is ideal for a current student looking for real-world experience in using social media commercially. It also might be of interest to a college graduate looking to break into the social media industry.
The Client is a producer and marketer of premium tequilas that is in the midst of a rollout to the U.S. market. The job is located in Austin, Texas. The Client is not interested in telecommuters at this time.
Initial screenings for the position will be provided by ionadas local staff. Final interviews and the hiring decision will be made by the Client. Training in the proper use of social media for commercial purposes will be provided to the one hired.
To apply for this position, please send your resume via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Line “Social Media Specialist, August 2009”. No calls please.
The job description is as follows:
Social Media Specialist
Do you tweet and use Facebook all day, everyday? Is building social community so influential to your life that you just can’t stop? Do you understand why blogging and feeds are important? This job seeks a highly a motivated individual with experience and fanatical passion for blogging, micro-blogging and community participation as well as leadership.
The Social Media Specialist is focused on implementing, managing and expanding the Client’s Social Media Strategy and advocating Client’s Products to external communities. He or she will identify influential opportunities and engage regularly with the Client’s audiences online. This person will work with the Client’s Marketing Assistant to ensure that all Web 2.0 communications match the Client’s established tone, philosophy and strategy. He or she will monitor discussions across a number of blogs, forums and Web 2.0 sites, engaging as the Client’s public representative when appropriate.
Roles and Responsibilities
- Coordinate social media outreach and viral campaigns to promote Client messages that increase awareness and/or drive traffic to the Client’s site.
- Establish and cultivate positive relationships with key/targeted bloggers.
- Develop and manage pages on popular consumer social networking sites as specified in the social media strategy; such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Engage in regular participation within the Client’s customer community, including the review of blogs, forums, wikis and other communities.
- Track and monitor the success of online initiatives (i.e. impressions, reach, influence and other metrics) and provide regular reports to the Client’s marketing team.
- Educate staff on the implementation and use of new technologies.
- Promote and evangelize social media activities internally.
- Serve as the eyes and ears of the Client’s brand as if his or her own reputation depended upon it.
Skills and Qualifications
- Strong familiarity and efficiency with Twitter, Facebook, and other such social media outlets.
- Upper classman or graduate. Business, communications, or liberal arts majors/degrees preferred.
- At least twenty-one years of age.
- Knowledge of/experience in the distilled spirits industry is desired.
- Fluency in both English and Spanish is a plus.
- Flexible communication skills. Strong editorial writer.
- Able to present needs and plans internally and has a distinct, personable voice for external engagement.
- Eagerness to exceed objectives and take on more responsibility than may be issued.
- Outstanding organizational skills and the ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously while meeting tight deadlines.
- Proven ability to manage negative situations toward positive outcomes.
- Willingness to experiment and ability to deal with uncertainty.
- Professional attitude and demeanor.
Yahoo to Sell Small Business Unit
Reuters reports that Yahoo is trying to sell its HotJobs and Small Business units. This is part of an effort by Yahoo to focus on its core businesses.
Yahoo Small Business primarily engages in hosting services including web hosting, domains, and merchant solutions. Frankly, Yahoo has never been a particular strong competitor in the hosting space, so this makes sense.
The division also includes sponsored search and display advertising. I would assume these offerings will be moved to a different division (at least from a sales perspective).
This division does not include Yahoo’s local business listing service.