Google Place Search – What is it & How Do I Survive?

Google has just launched a bombshell on the SEO community called “Place Search”. Google Place Search will now replace the local 7-pack results with a larger, and more detailed 7-pack of results that takes up ¾ of the page. (If you cannot see it, simply add &esrch=LocalMergeImpl::Experiment to your search URL; it is still an experiment but will be rolled out the next several days.)

Old 7 pack:

Google Local 7 Pack

New Google Place Search:

The biggest impact of the new Google Place Search is the disappearance of the organic result from the search engine results page. Now the organic results are forced way below the page fold and even then they are only showing 3-4 organic results. So, if your website ranked number 6 organically yesterday, today you are most likely on page 2! Yes, page 2, and as we all know the majority of people rarely ever continue past page one.

Why the Change?

Google said “We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. … One of the great things about our approach is that it makes it easier to find a comprehensive view of each place.”

Personally, I think it is about money. Google is forcing small business owners to use a Google product instead of their website to gain exposure in their search engine. Now, claiming your Google local account is free, but for a small business owner to really stand out they will have to start using Google paid services like: Google Tag, Adwords, or even Google Boost.

Do you think it is coincidence that within one week Google Boost was announced, Google Tag no longer allowed you to promote your website, and now there is a new Places format? I think not. Google wants money!

So What Can You Do To Survive Google Place Search?

  • A good place to start is to read my blog called 5 Quick Marketing Tips for Local Business Owners, as I mention some of the same tactics below.
  • Claim your Google Local Place Account.
  • Fill out all the fields in your Google Local Place Account with as much information as possible.
  • Add your local address and phone number on every page of your website.
  • Use a local telephone number instead of an 800 number.
  • Gain reviews to your Google Place listing, but be wary of paying for them.
  • Find out where your competitors are gaining local references by looking at their Local Place Account and examining all websites listed under, “More About This Place.”
  • Generate user map content where your business is mentioned. Hard data isn’t available to support this, but it has been said that this could help your local rankings.
  • Still optimize for normal Google Results. (I have seen instances where clients that were not being listed in the old 7-pack results, but were number 1 organically, got a major boost to number one with the new layout.)
  • Pay for a Google Tag
  • Use Google Boost

Hopefully these simple tips can help combat any loss of ranking you may see. If you have been one of the lucky websites that have seen a ranking improvement from this rollout, don’t sit back, because your competitors will be fighting for your spot! I am sure that over the next several weeks, and even months, we will see more tips made public and more details on the impact of this rollout on small business owners.

I encourage you to share your own tips or experience below in the comment section or even write a blog post.  

11 Comments

  1. Michael Bowen

    No doubt this will change the landscape. But I can’t see the top 7 always being the end all for the search results as people do searches. We may see more people going from page 1 to page 2 to try and find a suitable result for the search. Of course that’s just speculation.

    Only time will tell once it’s rolled out.

  2. Tyler

    Very interesting post, thanks for the heads up on this. It does clearly seem to be all about increased earnings for Google.

  3. Lizi Obolensky

    Between wikipedia pretty much taking the #1 spot in most searches, google/DOUBLECLICK wanting to bail out of big Adsense payouts, grabbing "rich snippets" of content and implementing all of the above to wrestle away ad revenue to match – then maybe BING is looking cleaner and direct nav domains become even more of a premium.

  4. Jeremy Post

    FYI, as this feature rolls out to all Google users, SEOs may want to try to compare the new SERPs to the old version. Just found a URL hack to disable Google Place Search. Add &esrch=LocalMergeImpl to your search URL.

  5. James Firminger

    Hi Steve, I am in total agreement.

    I have always held Google in very high regard, but this latest change has really, really annoyed me and I no longer even work in the field of SEO.

    I know that not all local business results are paid for via Google Boost but this latest change stinks of greed.  No matter how much Google had changed its policies in the past regarding paid results, it always kept the organic listings at the forefront of its service. I love innovation and change, especially if it makes searching online easier.

    I thought Google instant was annoying, but at least it was easy to turn off!  Google is shooting itself in the foot and like Tyler mentions above, Bing’s cleaner results are looking all that more attractive.

    James

  6. Steve Peron
    Steve Peron

    Thanks for the tip!

  7. Nick Stamoulis

    What can you do? Boost your local SEO efforts, and you’ll notice improvements over time, however, I might agree with the last poster that you might start seeing people going to page2 to find more results as the landscape is taken up by the new Top 7 redesign.

  8. Mike Glover

    Like it or not…Google is here to stay ladies and gents. Unless they have some MASSIVE scandal that actually affects customer (businesses), they will probably remain on top for the foreseeable future. They are changing because they have to IMHO. If revenue is down from Adwords, they have to develope revenue from other sources. This is a natural cycle for any healthy business….INNOVATE OR DIE!

    What we do with those changes for our SEO clients and our own SEO programs will determine our fate. What the small business owners need to do is adpat and overcome, or they will die out eventually.

    Steve – You gave some really great tips for small business owners who actaully watch this industry and are proactive with their marketing programs. Thank you !

  9. David

    It was only a matter of time (i.e. when revenue growth is sliding) that this or any public company is forced to grow the top and bottom lines. It matters not what the internal philosophy ("do no evil") is. Perhaps some of those purist will forsake the prestige of working at Google and jump ship. Perhaps this is an opportunity for others like Bing to excel at organic search results. It will be interesting to follow.

    I am presently building a website and I am building backlinks and seeking SEO services to get better placed in search results. It is a horrendous task that will likely take time, even with professional SEO assistance. This Place Search pushes the challenge even higher and in some ways is a discouraging factor for seeking high placement in search results. It gives even more credence to spending time, effort and money on utilizing social networking sites as a traffic source.

  10. Stephan

    Hi Steve, I wanted to let you know that it’s no longer possible to disable Google Place Search by adding &esrch=LocalMergeImpl::Experiment to your search URL. Google appears to have now retired this experiment. Cheers, Stephan

  11. stephaniederry@search and social optimization

    hello, As I have read the above article, I have learned a lot from it. Through this article I can now differentiate the techniques and strategies. I wanna thank you guys for posting this one.

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