Google maps listings showing up on the first page of search results has been around for some time now, but as with all technologies, it has extended it’s reach to now include non-local search phrases that Google assumes are local in purpose. Example: Now, if Google has placed me in Nashville, TN by my IP address and I search for the generic terms “restaurants”, I see the Google Maps 10-pack near the top of my results. Did I specify that I wanted to see local results? No. Could it be assumed that 90% of the population would find this information to be useful? More than likely.
Who Does It Help?
This update helps out the little man. If you are a one location, brick and mortar store, then (more than likely, there are exceptions) the only way that a visitor would ever see your company on the front page of a highly competitive keyword would be through PPC. Now, as long as you have properly optimized your Google Local listing, you have a shot of getting free traffic from the first page of results.
The people who are going to feel the most pain from this change are the portals and ad revenue dependent sites that have spent years developing enough great content (not to mention the massive amounts of SEO work) necessary to be in the top five SERP’s for these keywords. If these players ranked #4 like Zappo’s is showing on my results for “shoe store”, congratulations to the awesome world of below the fold and significantly less revenue from that phrase.
As bad as I do feel for companies who have spent years developing businesses off of generic keywords, the fact is that most of the time, the searchers were probably looking for a local company when they found your site. Until fairly recently, most search engine users didn’t understand how the engines worked and didn’t have enough experience to know how to get more relevant results on their own. You guys gamed the system and at the end of the day, the local businesses whose business has suffered at the hands of the internet employ more people as a whole, making this pretty good for the economy. I guess it is time to re-optimize a whole lot of Google Local listings!