More threads by Linda Buquet

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Google results have morphed and changed over the years. The blended local results are now so stripped down and barren of details, it's no wonder click-through and call rates are declining. The following screen shots and stats below tell the story. I'd almost rather have an organic listing now. (OR better yet how about best of both worlds - a DOUBLE page one ranking with both organic AND a blended listings - ya that's the ticket! How do you do that?) :)

A LQQK at the Incredible Shrinking & Diminishing Local SERPs

1st Google took away our beautiful little images that used to show up in the SERPS.
Remember when we had the images? Those were the days!

Then she removed the description from the SERPS in local blended results.

Next we lost our keyword rich title tags. I reported back in May <a href="">Google was overwriting local title tags</a> and changing them to just the business name.

Another big change that's negatively impacted click and calls rates is the loss of our precious gold stars and the switch to the new Zagat review rating system.

<strong>Local Listings are just being DE-emphasized in the SERPs!</strong>

SERPS Before and After - 2011 vs Today

<center><img style="border:1px solid #6699cc;" src="" alt="" title="irvinedentistSERPScompare" width="500" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-6567" /></center>

So back in 2011 wouldn't you rather be in the A spot? Getting the A spot in "blended" was ADDITIVE! You had all the benefits of an organic listing + stars, + reviews, + map marker, + location, + phone.
Local listings USED to make you stand out from the organic listings.

What about today? In that September 2012 example I bet poor Dr Rice who is STILL in the A spot has seen a drop in clicks and calls! In the 2012 SERP example, if I were a consumer I'd be much more likely to click or call the Dentist in the richer, more informative ORGANIC listing. There is no longer anything that makes that A listing stand out! :-(

Obviously I've noticed the shrinking and diminished Local SERPS, but a recent post I worked on in the Google Forum really drilled this home for me.

A business owner was COMPLAINING about being in the A spot. (Something I informed him others strive for). He wanted to LOSE his G+ Local listing and get his pure organic listing back because his traffic had dropped off so significantly.

<strong><a href="!msg/business/Tq4DsCCth7s/2Z-MyLEc2mMJ">Google Forum Thread</a></strong>

"A little over 3 weeks ago when anyone did a Google search for the term "Computer Repair Clear Lake Texas" - My website was #3 (on the 1st page) in the regular search. I was nowhere to be found under Google Places. Now doing the same search my website shows up in the Maps (that is Google Places right?) .. but now my website is no longer ranked anywhere on the first page (or second, third, or fourth) using regular search.

<strong>All I know is this, last month I averaged 250 unique visitors. This month I'm sitting at 16. For the past year my average unique have been in the 240 range.</strong>"

<strong>That's a BIG drop in actions!</strong>

So let's view the problem from his viewpoint. Better yet, pretend you are a consumer searching for his KW "Computer Repair Clear Lake Texas".

Which listing are you going to click or call? My guess is it would not be Russell Bakers's "A" listing - <strong>diminished, devoid of detail and bare!</strong>

<center><img style="border:1px solid #6699cc;" src="" class="alignnone" width="500" /></center>

<strong>OK so now compare that bare A spot listing with his ORGANIC listing below.</strong>

<center><img style="border:1px solid #6699cc;" src="" class="alignnone" width="500" /></center>

<strong>Which would you be more likely to click or call? His A spot or the organic?</strong>

Matthew Hunt recently did a video about the negative impact that the loss of stars and change to the Zagat ratings is making: <a href="">Proof That the Google Places’ Zagat Reviews Lowers Actions!</a>

But I submit to you that actions are down due to a combination of factors that can only be summed up as DIMINISHED Local display.

<strong>Local Listings are just being DE-emphasized in the SERPs!</strong>

Who knows why. Maybe to drive more businesses to Adwords and Adwords Express? I do know some businesses that started using Adwords Express specifically to get their review stars back because their click/call rate had dropped severely.

<strong>The solution?</strong>

<strong>Well the BEST solution is to get a DOUBLE page one ranking! Keep you’re A, B, C listing. But ALSO get a listing for your client in the organic section ABOVE the pinned local listings so they get the bigger organic listing AND their title tag and rich description. That way they get the best of both worlds. Their reviews and map marker shows up PLUS they get the bigger, richer listing on top.</strong>

I got one of my Dentists a DOUBLE #1. #1 organic AND "A" spot in blended. AND he's so far from city center he's almost out of the state. In fact 60% of his patients come from the next state over as he's closer to the state line, than the city he's in. So he gets the big organic AND #1 one spot ABOVE the local listings PLUS his "A" listing with reviews and map marker. Best of both worlds!

It's actually fairly easy to do if you know how. But wayyy too hard to explain in a blog post and this one's getting way too long. I do teach it and show exactly how I did it for that Dentist in my On-site Local SEO Training program, which I've only opened up to a limited number of companies so far. I have some secret sauce Local SEO techniques I just don't want to be widely known, so have been trying to figure out the best way to share on a fairly exclusive basis. But I'm thinking about opening it up to more people and maybe doing a small group training session at a reduced cost soon. (Not a pitch, just something I'm considering offering)

It's pretty easy to get a double IF Google serves up the old "pack" style display, because then the organic listing and local listing are not combined into one like they are with blended. BUT the pack display does not show up often any more and typically only for less popular keywords, hardly ever for CORE KWs. I had a hard time finding one, but just did. <strong><a href="">Poway Dentist</a> still pulls a "pack".</strong> (Likely because it's a small town with lower search volume.) So you can see on that SERP a lot of double listings.<strong> In fact every Dentist in the 3 pack also has a page one organic listing.</strong> If only it was that easy to do in blended! (It def can be done, just is harder and takes some specific techniques.)

What else could Russell do to get his organic listing back? Google won't let him delete or suspend the Place/G+L page, so that's out. Any other ideas?

What do you think about the "Incredible Shrinking & Diminished Google Local SERPS?" Is it just a ploy to sell Adwords? Is it due to any of the anti-competitive legal issues that keep coming up about Google highlighting their own properties and results too prominently? Or???
Hi Linda,

Thanks for the post, you make a lot of very good points about the local SERPs echoing a lot of the complaints I hear around the web.

To add to your discussion, though - One thing I've done and the computer guy might want to do is get an additional, separate site ranking in the mix. Easier said than done, but I don't think it hurts to have as many spots as possible.

Also, one thing that wasn't mentioned was G+ authorship. If he would connect that site to his personal G+ profile via "rel=author", he would get a nice little thumbnail of his face in the map pack. Whether or not that would encourage clicks is another issue, but it sure would draw attention.

Colan one of our members PMed me a couple days ago about Google deleting and replacing his client's title tag in the SERPs which prompted me to write this related post - in case you missed it.

<a href="">Google Overwriting Title Tags in Local SERPS - Problems</a>
To add to your discussion, though - One thing I've done and the computer guy might want to do is get an additional, separate site ranking in the mix. Easier said than done, but I don't think it hurts to have as many spots as possible.

Also, one thing that wasn't mentioned was G+ authorship. If he would connect that site to his personal G+ profile via "rel=author", he would get a nice little thumbnail of his face in the map pack. Whether or not that would encourage clicks is another issue, but it sure would draw attention.

Thanks Chase, both great points. And yes getting his pic in the SERPs would help make that now stripped down listing stand out a little more. Great suggestion!

Colan one of our members PMed me a couple days ago about Google deleting and replacing his client's title tag in the SERPs which prompted me to write this related post - in case you missed it.

Google Overwriting Title Tags in Local SERPS - Problems

I haven't read that yet, but yeah, we see that all the time. It alternates depending on the query and it seems to me to be directed by some of our popular anchor text on IBL's.
I've had clients get ranked twice by having 2 domain names - their regular one and then a 2nd they purchased and had masked. I don't know if that's a bad idea, but it wasn't intentional :p

Linda - what did you do to get yours?

I miss the SERPS having pictures like they used to over a year ago. They looked amazing then!!!

GP Pictures.jpg

GP Pictures.jpg
Linda - what did you do to get yours?

My double ranking strategy is using the same domain. No extra site. No domain re-direct or anything. Don't remember if you got my Local SEO training. Think you only did Advanced Places training, way back when. But the on-site Local SEO training includes secret sauce tips like how to get the double#1 and I show the site and exactly how I did it. Plus techniques that normally boost rankings an average of 10 spots. Don't share high end stuff like that publicly cuz don't want every Tom, Dick and Spammer that happens to see this post learning how to do it. :p
HAHA Tom, Dick, and Spammer. I love it. Can you email me your rates for that training? I might have to schedule it in for next month ;)
Oooh, Linda! So glad you wrote this. Awesome documentation of the incredible shrinking SERPs.

Honestly, folks, signing up for Linda's training might be the smartest move you ever make!

Nice article. Easy to lose your hair (and I've lost almost ALL of mine) over Google updates.

We're overcoming this a bit by setting our clients up with Google+ (both individual profiles and business pages) and using the author attribution tag on everything that is published by, or for, him. Important to establish that authority to get ranked. G+ is obviously merging with Places/Maps, and seems to be drawing its detail from there.

Sherm Stevens
iNvision studios web + marketing

EDIT: I forgot to mention that it's imperative that you claim the Google Places listing using the Google account (for us, usually a newly-created Gmail account) that is tied to G+.
Thanks Sherm!

Hey feel free to set up a sig with your name and link to your site, then it will automatically be added to the bottom of all your posts.

Several of my clients have had horrible problems with their listing falling off for no reason so a long time I ago I decided to rank multiple listings, as you suggest in your post; however, I have usually tried to optimize their Yelp, Citysearch or other customer review profiles. This was done as a back up measure so when Places/+ Local would disappear, at least they'd still have some visibility on the first page.

Here's the interesting part... as features of Google+ Local have deteriorated, it turns our that Yelp has been the primary source of business for many of my clients. Google still shows gold stars in SERPS for Yelp (not Citysearch - have since given up on that useless platform). And boy do those stars jump off the page to consumers - especially since often it is the only listing with gold stars.

The down side to optimizing a Yelp listing: 1) The client better be good at keeping customers happy. Having 1 gold star next to your name prominently displayed in search results will do more damage than good. 2) If you don't advertise with Yelp, they'll show competitors ads on your profile page so you're effectively giving them free advertising. 3) If you've played with Yelp, you know how frustrating their review filter is - ugh.

Regardless, the bottom line is my clients have a lot of success with this strategy.
I find Yelp frustrating because there doesn't seem to be much a business owner can do to get more reviews. They just kinda have to sit around and wait. If they attempt to ask for reviews, they generally get filtered. Kinda like Google currently.
Yes, Yelp is indeed very frustrating and I have vowed to stop using them, several times, but I always come back because consumers generally trust Yelp and my clients who are active with Yelp all say that they get a good deal of business from it. In most cases they get more business from Yelp than from Google.

Now, you can certainly ask your customers to leave you a review on both Yelp and Google, but in order to keep Yelp reviews from being filtered (I'll let Linda deal with Google), they should:

1. Fill out a complete profile. Yelp wants to know that they are real so a completed profile with a picture will go a long way. You'll have to encourage your customers to do this.

2. Have more than one review. This is the biggest mistake. We ask our customers to leave a review for us and often, it's the only review they have. Yelp wants active users so encourage your customers to write reviews for other local businesses as well. And they should do it more than once. If they write a bunch of reviews one day and then never again go back into Yelp, that won't work either. Regular consistent use is the best practice. This is why it's best to seek out customers who are already active Yelpers. They're out there.

3. Reviewers should also have a few friends.

Finally, customers can do all this and still get their reviews filtered. If Yelp's algorithm detects a relation between reviewers (same IP address, same businesses reviewed, same friends, other patterns) the review will get filtered.

Yep, it's a big pain in the butt, but the bottom line is that Yelp works so if you want to use to effectively drive more consumers to your business, you'll have to play their game, regardless how frustrating it is.


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