Google Testing New Local SERP
Reading a case study by Sydney-based design company, Creative Order, and their Local SEO successes for a NSW coffee supplier, I decided to check-up on their fine work and see if the results are still true.
What I found wasn’t that their client had dropped off from the Google search engine results page (SERP), but that the SERP had changed all together from what they reported on April 15.
It isn’t rare for Google to test new types of SERPs, in fact it’s very common for the search giant to trial new SERP layouts, designs and integrate internal Google products with standard paid and organic rankings.
The first mention of this type of SERP I was able to find was by Rank Ranger in March, and it’s strange that, almost a month on, this update hasn’t been reported on as frantically or widely as previous updates have.
Searching in Australia, the UK, America, South Africa and New Zealand shows the new layout, however it doesn’t look as though the update has reached South America, or the majority of Asian countries yet.
However I’m fairly confident that the update has only hit Australia over the past 24-48 hours of writing this.
Personal searches for “sushi” restaurants in Surry Hills on Tuesday April 14 returned the local style results we’re all used to, however a search on Friday April 17 for the same term returns the new style.
It seems that Google are limiting this new style to specific verticals – hotels and food & drink – in SERPS around the world.
Even a very broad, generic term such as “wine” returns a diversified SERP including the new local results and the Knowledge Graph – which shows Google is trying to accommodate for different types of user intent.
Along with the new first-page SERP, there are new products/pages Google have released which can be accessed by interacting with the new elements on the SERP.
Below is a walkthrough of how this new style can be interacted with, using the original keyword term used to notice this in the first place, “coffee supplier”.
How The SERP Has Changed
After one Ad and one organic result, the new-look local 3-pack is displayed, detailing a range of info for different results, including reviews, a snippet of description, business category and address.
Perhaps the range in information is for Google to determine which style gets the best CTR, helping them to mould further local SERPs, giving the user the information they want.
From this position, a user has two methods of interacting with this element.
Firstly, a user can select one of the three local businesses served up by Google, and this will take the user through to a brand new SERP using an extremely long-tail keyword of [brand name] + [suburb] + [state].
The page looks like this:
This type of branded SERP is different to the normal branded SERP we’re used to seeing – which has the business information in the same box style, but instead of it being above the organic results it is set to the right-hand side of the SERP.
The second option Google gives a user is to select “coffee supplier” or “More coffee supplier”, which appears above and below the business listings. Both of these options take the user through to the same page.
This is a new iteration of Google Maps + Local result.
The biggest change from the Maps perspective is the removal of the ever-present big red balloon tags we’re used to seeing.
Instead the default view is the small red and white dots, which turn into red balloon tags either when they are hovered over or the business listing on the left is hovered over.
This type of SERP gives the user far more choice when deciding which business they’d like to select, as they can scroll down a number of businesses on the left-hand side.
Selecting one of these options on the left takes the user back to the “option 1” style of SERP explained above.
There doesn’t seem to be any obvious method of ranking the results either in the initial SERP of the Google Map + Local result SERP, which isn’t surprising as there also didn’t seem to be any logical local rankings from the 7-pack local result either. There is no correlation between local ranking and organic ranking, Google+ activity, reviews or distance.
However, one result that was interesting – and I was unable to replicate on a number of other searches – was that a “permanently closed” business ranked, and ranked at the very bottom, so maybe Google realises that this business will be the least relevant, appropriate and useful.
Local Search on Mobile
There seems to be a similar update occurring on SERPS for local terms on mobile devices too.
A search for “coffee supplier” doesn’t return a SERP that is similar to the desktop version, however the term “pizza Sydney” does return an appropriate SERP, as shown below.
Users can swipe left to view more results or use the blue arrow button to be shown all the businesses in list form:
Once a business is selected, a company profile similar to the Knowledge Graph on desktop is returned:
These updates once again show how Google is trying to improve the usability and user experience for searchers in their SERP by providing as much option and detail as possible.
Perhaps this could also pave the way for a return to the Local Paid Search Results, where businesses can use Google Adwords to bid on Google Map + Local Search results so their business appears top of the pile.
We can expect to see many more fluctuations in rankings for local terms as Google continues to test new layouts and options across different industries before settling on what they feel offers their customers the best experience.