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The Reduced Google Places Local Search Results – Why?

6

A few days ago, Mike Blumenthal first noted that the Google Places results when performing local search have been reduced for a number of markets. Now, one could find 3-packs and 4-packs (I’ve never seen such before) even for major, very highly competitive search terms such as “Hotel San Francisco“, or “Restaurant New York“.

Google Places 3-Pack

What is the reason and the purpose?

It is interesting that this SERP update roughly coincides with Google “trying” to show Google Places reviews on normal AdWords ads. A few weeks before that, Google changed the color of the almost branded red pins to grey. And in June 2011, Google removed the photos from the SERPs.

Are these gradual steps towards increasing the click through rate for the AdWords ads? Did Google realize Places are a click magnet and “steal” a lot of traffic from the paid results?

Judging from the tendency, the next thing that might happen is that the Google Places organic search results might start showing up lower in the SERPs. Currently, for almost every query, the Places results are the ones appearing right after the paid results, and in 90%+ of the times this is above the fold. If the business listings have 5 or more reviews on them, it is a sure CTR boomer.

Your thoughts?

  1. Martin
    Martin02-03-2012

    Hi Nyagoslav,

    i see this also in germany, and i believe to see an other effect, if have a local search in a city that’s near to my “location” i see a 6-pack., if i do same search query in a city that’s more away from me, i see a 2-pack – somewhere it looks like the nearer you are, the more google shows local, the farther away, google shows less local… i see this happening for one week. on the other side it isn’t possibel to get your reviews in google adwords in germany… so this is very strange for me…

    Martin

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov02-09-2012

      Hi Martin,

      Yes, this updated SERP has been rolled out in all the countries where Google Places is present now.

      Google seems to still be tweaking the things around reviews from Places on AdWords ads, but I hope they will get it right soon.

  2. Jim Jaggers
    Jim Jaggers02-03-2012

    Nyagoslav,
    Maybe I’m just being an idealist, but I still believe that they develop search algorithms only concerned with the the quality of the result as perceived by the searcher. This is how they maintain the value of their product so that they can sell advertising.

    As soon as they start making compromises in the search results to improve ad results they are risking their product.

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov02-09-2012

      Jim,

      I also believe there are two sides to every story. There are three main probable reasons (imho) why Google would reduce the Places results:

      1) They realized these results are not relevant enough in many cases, or at least not as relevant as the normal organic website results, so they decided to reduce them.

      2) They are scared by the antitrust claims and decided to reduce their own organic results on first page.

      3) They try to increase the visibility and CTR to their ads. Note: they do not decrease the quality of the ads and generally do not decrease the quality of the organic search results by this move.

  3. Jo Shaer
    Jo Shaer02-05-2012

    Jon in Birmingham has been seeing lots of 3s and 4s for martial arts terms here in the UK, Nyagoslav.

    Like Jim, I would like to think that Google would not risk the perception of lack of bias in the organics for a fast buck.

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov02-09-2012

      Thanks for the comment, Jo.

      Yes, I see them in the UK, too.

      However, I still believe Google does not really risk anything with this move, it only gains further visibility for their paid ads.

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