Excuse Me, But Where Did Google's Organic Search Results Go?

Nov 6th

In the past many SEOs have called organic search results the results on the left side of the page and the pay-per-click / AdWords results as the results on the right side of the page. As Google has grown more aggressive with promoting vertical/universal search I think a better way of defining the portions of the search result page are ABOVE THE FOLD and BELOW THE FOLD.

As recently as yesterday Google stripped the phone numbers off of non-sponsored map listings, even if you were doing a navigational search! And that shows that the primary goal of the maps is as filler content (rather than utility).

Update: it looks like Google claimed the phone number removal was a bug, but weird timing that the bug appeared at the same time they started selling premium local ads that appear on the regular search results.

So lets redefine these search result pieces as they are...

  • AdWords Ads: the ads at the top of the search results and those which run down the right rail of the search results.
  • Universal Search Results: filler stuff to put in the search results to a.) drive the organic search results lower down the page, while b.) driving additional incremental click volume to other Google properties which display ads.
  • Organic Search Results: the results on the search result page that are determined algorithmically and appear below the fold. On some larger monitors a listing or 2 from this category may appear above the fold, at least for the time being.

In the future A LOT of verticals (movies, music, books, news, ecommerce, travel, etc.) are going to look more and more like local, where Google in some cases has at least 15 ads above the fold AND filler pushing down the organic search results...quietly building a backdoor portal that sends Google the second click if they were not able to monetize the first one.

To me this screams the importance of working the tail of search, because the more obscure a search query is the greater the risk to Google if they pollute it with junk from vertical search databases.

As Google gets stingier with their traffic that will increase the importance of relationship development and lead capture, as well as developing distribution channels outside of Google.

This new search result layout also highlights the importance of being #1 for your most important keywords...if only 1 result is going to show above the fold then there is little point being #2. So that will really help/force you to decide which words are practical to target and which words are not. If you have some valuable #3 or #4 listings you better start marketing them today before they end up below the fold tomorrow.

The last important thing this search result signals is the importance of increasing conversion rates and lifetime customer value...if/when search becomes pay-to-play in your market, will you still be able to compete? If not, what can be done to help bridge that gap?

Published: November 6, 2009

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Comments

November 6, 2009 - 8:13am

That first image made me laugh.... They sure don't want anyone finding the organic listings anymore do they.

November 6, 2009 - 12:48pm

Nice post, Aaron, this is exactly what I am feeling these days.

I don't mind Google ads in Yellow Box, instead, I feel it's more trustworthy.

But the map in local search is really annoying, especially when you search some services that you don't have to know where they are located. For example, web design.

The map just took a huge place on my screen, I simply hate it.

November 6, 2009 - 2:11pm

I think these will be limited only to search terms having name of the place.

@JR_seo - search for "web design" and you wont find the Google map.

November 6, 2009 - 4:00pm

Yes, the maps may be limited only to geographic type searches...but on broad searches, they have the "News Results for (keyword)" that are just as annoying, yet successful at pushing the organic listings down the list.

Lucky for SEO's still the majority of searchers are able to spot the spam on Google and will probably scroll down to the organic listings anyway.

This also begs the question since google is obviously trying to steer searchers to places they can monetize through ad clicks, do you think the algo will eventually rank sites higher which are showing adsense ads on the most competitive keywords? Just a thought.

November 6, 2009 - 5:45pm

Hi WebMarketingArt

Thanks for reminding, It meant to be "web design + city".

I searched "web design + " again in google.co.uk, seems all the maps are gone~! I am really happy lol.

November 7, 2009 - 12:20pm

If I search Google for *pizza* they localize those search results for that 1 word query and put a huge map right inthe organic search results, just below the 3 ~ billion dollar brands (Pizza Hut, Dominoes, + Papa Johns) in the pizza delivery market.

November 8, 2009 - 9:19pm

all 3 of which are top PPC advertisers.... I'm just saying

November 6, 2009 - 2:44pm

"As Google gets stingier with their traffic that will increase the importance of relationship development and lead capture, as well as developing distribution channels outside of Google."

I understand the developing distribution channels outside of Google one obviously.

But why will relationship development become more important? Of course, that one is already important in SEO, but why will this make it even more important?

My guess would be that developing real relationships will make it easier to get links that send "real" traffic (and dont just push google rankings)...but I assume that wasn't really your point?

thanks!

November 7, 2009 - 12:17pm

Lots of SEO based business models (like those largely based on affiliate marketing and contextual ads) can be somewhat sloppy...monetizing x% of the traffic and getting absolutely 0 value from the other 95% or so of the visitors - while still remaining wildly profitable.

BUT all good things come to an end. And so it makes a lot of sense to try to come up with ideas for ways to get some lasting value out of that other 95% of your visitors...because if Google's flood of traffic eventually slows to a trickle you are going to need to be far more efficient with the traffic you do get to still have a comparable business yield.

Change can be slow and gradual...but the seeds of rot, mismanagement, neglect, greed, and laziness can become deeply ingrained in a business before they start effecting yield. And then one day - seemingly overnight - everything falls apart.

November 7, 2009 - 10:34pm

thanks for your reply Aaron - I do appreciate it, esp. knowing you're focussed on your membership forum these days.

So you basically meant to say that other than developing other distribution channels outside of search (PPC, link traffic, WOM) - one should also work on improving monetization - in order to make your site google-proof?

So by relationship development you meant relationships with your visitors or "permission marketing" (etc.) as seth godin would call it?

thanks

November 8, 2009 - 3:44am

If your monetization is stronger than competing businesses then you can always afford to buy traffic through other channels (like affiliate marketing, AdWords, display ads, contextual ads, sponsorships, promotions).

By relationship I mean that seobook.com with ~ 1,000 monthly paying subscribers is a much better model than seobook.com monetized via a one-off sold product and/or ad revenues.

November 9, 2009 - 12:51am

thanks for the clarification - I think the only thing that confused me is that I didn't understand what kind of relationships you meant (I was thinking "relationships with other webmasters in your niche? relationships with companies to get better affiliate deals?"..and only understood in the end that you meant relationships with customers).

But I think I perfectly agree with all of that :-)..Ive been thinkign that in order to make your site as google-proof as possible you have to

- diversify your traffic profile (more referral traffic, PPC, etc.) instead of your traffic coming close to a 100% from search

- improving monetization (as an investment you make into improving the money you make per customer is not an investment you risk losing, if google tries to screw you)

and of course..if your monetization is great, then you can afford to buy a bunch more PPC keywords, that become profitable all of a sudden, simply because you make more money / customer.

Anyway, thanks for the clarification!

November 9, 2009 - 12:58am

Investing in branding and relationship development are important as well. Without doing those many of the other improvements can be cloned by other advertisers. I sorta wrote on this here.

November 9, 2009 - 1:15am

Cool, I'll check it out - thanks.

November 6, 2009 - 2:46pm

You're spot on with this Aaron. Google's current position in large part comes from the original simplicity of their results. While they claim their changes are still driven by a desire to give people the best possible result, clearly there's another dynamic at work at Google, the logic of capitalism, ie we need ever increasing profits to be considered a success. So they are just pushing and pushing other avenues to make profit and, it seems, losing sight of their SERP quality.

There's a whole inevitable discussion this leads to of how much longer before Google creates a 'problem' which people want a fix for in the way they search, which opens a door for a new, simpler, more innovative search engine to step in. The horrible geolocation problems since Vince has built on this too.

But I think the best point you make here is the reinforced need to look at long tail SERPs as the best target. Maybe we're working towards a time where Uncle Google deals with the big queries all by himself, and the 'search the web' part of things only comes in for the long tail...

November 6, 2009 - 4:06pm

Local is pregnant with "Google Places". Good-bye Yelp and many/most local content sites, local directory sites, etc.

Google Places is pregnant will Google Affiliate Network, more likely Google Affiliate Direct. Good-bye external affiliate networks. Hello Hotels-By-Google. Google's pitch? "You can pay by the click or only pay by the conversion! The choice is yours!"

If your business is the business of routing traffic, and not the business of being the end destination for commerce, (i.e., hotel reviews versus hotel bookings, etc.) - AND the "direct consumer of that traffic-as-leads" (i.e., book the room, don't just aggregate bookings) - say good-bye to "free traffic to your site by Google". The goal is to absorb the commercial value of traffic so far as the law will allow.

What makes anyone think Google's endgame is anything else? Oh, they're a "search company"? They're about search? Oh, they take your money for ads so they'd never usurp the actual profit potential of the traffic?

Hello?

Google is a for profit company, stupid! Is there a law that says Google can't profit from its traffic generating capacity? Really? Show me. Show us all. Really, because that's the direction Google is heading and I don't think there's a law that says Google can't exploit and compete with others within the streams of traffic it generates. (Has National Geographic formed a travel booking arm that competes with other travel advertisers in its magazines?)

Traffic - eyeballs - that have commercial value are fair game in the Google-as-media world. Google ain't just search anymore.

Besides, will the hotels complain when the best aggregator of traffic in the world . . offers them a deal to stop paying for ads . . and only pay for converted leads?

Ditto everyone else who pays for leads.

Every entity that has been paying "by the click", to extract the commercial value of Google traffic, has been paying for their own demise. They have been funding the development of the technology that will extract and devour the commercial value of their industry-directed traffic. PPC data has been feeding Google the type of competitive data that NO COMPANY IN ITS RIGHT MIND would ever feed "a competitor". Ditto Google analytics.

Do you or your company have a contract with Google that says "Google will never ever compete" with you? Really? Show me. Show the world the contract that says Google will never compete, to extract the commercial value of traffic that it aggregates.

Does Google really need to use your company's data, directly, to compete OR can they simply say that they are using "aggregate data"? Read the contract.

In the lead-gen world who can gather more leads, more quickly and for less money, that you-know-who?

Want to stand a chance in the clearly emerging reality, where Google isn't driving traffic but converting as much traffic, itself, as is possible?

Learn to stand on your own. SOON. Diversify traffic. All sources. Defensible traffic, as Aaron would say. And go back to the days when link love wasn't something to be dolled out like miser. Geesh, don't you get it? By being so wrapped up in who your link to and how you link and when and where and . . . YOU have only made your situation worse . . IN SERVICE OF a beast that is now BETTER POSITIONED TO EAT YOU by virtue of your self-inflicted servitude and self-inflicted traffic dependency. "Noooo . . I can't link to THEM . . I can't exchange links with THEM . . I can ONLY link to websites/pages with HIGHER PageRank . .

Frickin SEOIdiots. Serve the beast long enough and it all makes sense . . until you find yourself/site being eaten as the evening snack . .

You get that? Am I being too subtle? Diversify your traffic, aggressively, NOW or bend over and kiss your dear ass..ets good-bye.

P.S. This post isn't about Google being evil. Sure, the metaphors - beast, whatever - are menacing. But really, you ARE at RISK OF EXTINCTION and Google, Inc. is just doing what any red blooded, meat eating, capitalistic profit making lion would and is allowed to do - which is to compete and seek a dominant role, over whatever lands or territories it CHOOSES TO ROAM. (Ain't no one fencing in this lion.)

To think this day wouldn't come is just naive, delusional, and . . yes . . stupid. We all are sometimes, at least up to the point where some of us are kicked in the head. :-/

November 6, 2009 - 4:14pm

haha...I was wondering where all the liberals are...screaming about the evil capitalistic pig, Google! I wonder where Google's profit margins stand in comparison to those very evil big oil companies or even the horrendous money sucking health insurance companies! Where is Obama saying he wants to spread Google's wealth around? Where was Hillary Clinton saying "I want to take Google's profit and use it to pay for green energy research!"

I say, screw it...jump on the profit train and start buying Google Options! I've made $50k on Google Options in the last 5 months. (look at their stock chart and you'll see why).

To me this only spells opportunity for great seo's. Businesses will need you that much more in the near future!

November 7, 2009 - 12:11pm

I am not convinced that it is great for all that many SEOs. With fewer winners the gaps between winner and loser will grow. And many campaigns that would have been sorta profitable can have a far lower chance of success...and that would mean lots of potential business projects will simply be removed from the market.

Now if you have one of the few leading businesses in the SEO space and lots of people trust you then sure these various options may help (because they increase the complexity of SEO and make consultation and/or investment in learning more of a necessity)...but for the vast majority of SEOs I would say that Google monetizing more of the search result page is a net negative.

Everything comes down to margins...a business that was profitable on AdWords 2 years ago might be priced out of the market with increased competition and the Google Checkout cross-promotion.

What all these additional levels of monetization by Google do is make the gap between winner and loser bigger. Lots of the incrementally innovative websites that survived on thin margins and rapidly reinvesting into growth will find that the wait time for success is going to increase. As Google monetizes more lots of marginal (but rapidly learning) players will end up losing hope and quitting before they get to success.

November 7, 2009 - 12:12pm

Bad ass post Webwork. I just hope a good number of people read it and internalize it before its too late :D

November 6, 2009 - 3:19pm

Aaron a great read and right on the money. Generally I don't buy into the "tinfoil hat theories", even though I regularly wear one, but, this one I agree. I also will not be surprised when the Product OneBox in Universal is replaced with peeps who bought the $50,000 Commerce Search license which was actaully just further monetization of GBase beyond sponsored ads. I'd drop a link to a real review of the product but not sure if that's cool... Google also cancelled all feed aggregators support about a month ago. Slow economy and greedy bastards for stock holders will force them to take steps they really don't want to but... comes with the territory ask all the old engines no longer with us... public offering is the start down a slippery slope.

November 7, 2009 - 12:05pm

Eventually you could look for Google to go even 1 step further to smooth out ecommerce (while applying the Google tax). If they can get away with it eventually they will offer free inventory management services and push to insert themselves somehow into the product fulfillment end of the game as well.

November 6, 2009 - 3:57pm

As far as the map effect, the presence of phone numbers in address data was giving some spammers quick rides to #1.
This seems to have been corrected on google.com as of this morning, but google.ca still at this hour has examples of the exploit: check out this SERP (I have no time to take screen shot) - the #1 result isnt even a reachable page!

http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&rlz=1R2ADFA_enCA344&q=taylor+swift+tic...

Moreover, the main difference I can see in the #1 result is the presence of the *phone number* in the geo info. That is, results lower down in the page have MORE geodata (lat/lon coordinates, microformats, etc) but do not get a google map.

November 6, 2009 - 4:37pm

I cringed when I saw how Bing's local business listings were apparently designed to drive traffic to paid ads (mostly yellowpages.com). Guess it worked.

Most people I know stopped drinking the "don't be evil" koolaid a while ago. It's inevitable that when a corporation grows to dominate and monopolize its market, it becomes unresponsive to anything but profit, including quality of product.

So, yeah, time to hit the long tail, but Google is messing with that too by sometimes omitting keywords from a search string and forcing the user to more popular searches.

November 6, 2009 - 5:57pm

As Universal Search, Web 2.0 & 3.0? continue to become more "mainstream" and local search is becoming more relevant to the user, the organic results that we have seen for so long will become scarcer until they are relegated to the 3rd or 'gasp!' the fourth page and beyond.

As competition heats up for the best SERP real estate position, sites and marketers are going to be driving the most relevant results to searchers. That will be local, I think, forcing companies to focus locally.

It will be something to keep an eye on.

November 6, 2009 - 7:07pm

This should serve as a wake up call for everybody. The loud and clear message: Get your local search marketing hat on and dig in.

> Some forecast this market to grow to between $3B - $10B over the next few years.

November 6, 2009 - 6:28pm

This stokes the fear that the "loss leader" of organic results by Google (already started by Yahoo! and Microsoft) is heading in the direction of the bargain bin.

The value of a great website will still be there, but spending on PPC will be even more important to compete in the market for inbound traffic.

For those who have spent years investing in and creating great sites with high organic search results this trend is definitely NOT positive.

November 7, 2009 - 12:28pm

I think this is a good way of looking at it...even when Google has a loss leader it is only made that way to do 1 (or more) of the following:

  • harm competing business interests (by commoditizing the service and lowering the perceived value of paid services where an equivalent free Google product exists)
  • gain personal user data to more precisely target ads against user needs, desires, and mental flaws
  • collect data from business interests in the vertical (without them realizing Google intends to eventually compete directly against them)
  • build a monopoly-styled market-share where economies of scale create pricing power and network effects
November 7, 2009 - 8:59am

Well to run against all the commentary above, aren't the map listings part of the organic results? I mean when I click on one of these local listings, I'm taken directly to their website, not Google Maps and they're not paid listings are they? Or am I missing something obvious here? I mean, they're not paying to be listed in the map listings are they? (forgive my ignorance).

Sure, the map itself is often a huge waste of space, and really should be far smaller with an "enlarge" link - and that lends weight to your argument Aaron (why have such a large map as a default?). Certainly the map clutters up the layout pushing down more detailed listings which often are more useful than simply a brief title + phone number (snippets are often very useful!).

I'm conflicted here as to whether it's just Google being clumsy in promoting Google Maps (which gives a nod to your theory) or they actually have data that these maps are useful and provide users with a better local search.

November 7, 2009 - 12:02pm

The maps are sorta-organic, but as the above shows, now that Google is testing monetizing local ads you can expect some of those to become featured / sponsored. (And if Google gets enough buy in you can expect those to primarily be featured / sponsored, while the other businesses languish on page 2 or page 30).

I think they are more filler/junk (and for cross marketing Google Maps) than there for end user utility.

And while Google claimed the phone number error was only for a couple hours Thursday morning, that statement was factually incorrect as I ordered Indian food Wednesday night and there was no phone number then either. ;)

November 7, 2009 - 11:02pm

I guess the general trend is for Google to go after their own gains in the long-run.

I understand that it is their right to extract more money out of their markets by providing value, but the way organic search results are turning out to be is just disappointing.

I think most of the searches find map results to be really unrelated to what they are searching for. I personally have never made use of any map related info which turns up on Google when search results are returned.

November 8, 2009 - 12:56am

Dont worry...theyre gonna have to balance it....

If too many people find too many results too useless, at some point searchers would lose good will and switch to a competing SE..

November 8, 2009 - 1:11am

"To me this screams the importance of working the tail of search, because the more obscure a search query is the greater the risk to Google if they pollute it with junk from vertical search databases."

Excellent point that I hadn't thought of at all. Just reinforces the need to be a mega authority so you can rank for all sorts of secondary stuff, rather than building a network of small sites...

November 8, 2009 - 3:12am

I'm still puzzled where all the idi*ts who follow Google webmaster tools and such come from? Do they think by following the Google 'recommendations' they will be the winners? It's like listening to a car dealer and actually BELIEVING all his words.

The problem is with education, the generations are getting more and more stupid, they lack simple reasoning and cause-effect skills (and that's what Google and gov likes and promotes).

November 8, 2009 - 3:38am

Hehehe. Nice comment Tom.

If people only look for the crumb of useful advice here or there maybe sometimes Google offers that. But few people really look at and analyze the longterm trends. (If more people did then this blow would likely have far stiffer competition day in and day out)...but a lot of the public facing SEO industry is more about self-promotion than teaching or learning.

As more people participate in media the additional competition for attention encourages attention whoring. This Paul Watson quote sums it up nicely:

"The nature of the mass media today is such that the truth is irrelevant. What is true and what is right to the general public is what is defined as true and right by the mass media. Ronald Reagan understood that the facts are not relevant. The media reported what he said as fact. Follow-up investigation was 'old news.' A headline comment on Monday’s newspaper far outweighs the revelation of inaccuracy revealed in a small box inside the paper on Tuesday or Wednesday."

November 8, 2009 - 6:08am

Word.

November 8, 2009 - 7:17pm

I wouldn't have done this if I were Google. The hard work and diligent competition has made Google larger than what its founders could imagine at the first place.

Now that search engine optimization has established its position among online marketing methods and more sites are trying to get placed at the top of the SERP, life is getting harder for the SEO experts and site owners. This is not a persuasive measure for any of them.

I think if things go on in such a meaningless way and only paid site owners get results, I would rather pay a site at my niche to advertise rather than in Google. This will, of course, will be when organic SEO gets so improbable to achieve.

Now, it's up to Google to decide! Google without users is nothing. It must keep them happy. The paid customers aren't the most relevant results that deserve to be there. searchers will find this out quickly and make another choice.

November 9, 2009 - 12:53am

I think if things go on in such a meaningless way and only paid site owners get results, I would rather pay a site at my niche to advertise rather than in Google.

But can that be done with the relevancy and scale Google AdWords ads offer? Not likely for most businesses.

The paid customers aren't the most relevant results that deserve to be there. searchers will find this out quickly and make another choice.

I would like to agree with you here. But sadly reality shows another path. In spite of Google's huge economic succcess (and all the media coverage about it) most searchers still do NOT realize that Google sells paid listings and they can not identify the paid listings in the search results. And even Google has used this in their marketing.

November 9, 2009 - 11:55am

as soon as google introduced universal search i feared that this might become the case. it kind of makes a mockery of google saying that they just want to display the most relevant pages within organic results as the most relevant results are getting squeezed out in favour of non commercial google assets (excluding advertising streams).

November 9, 2009 - 9:12pm

Normally, I would assume that Google simply can't afford to go overboard with it and show stuff that pays better instead of the most relevant result, because customers would lose their good will for google and switch to a competitor (bing?or..).

Does this not apply here for some reason?

Is Google's omnipresence and thus searchers good-will that strong that G can go overboard with it without losing market share?

Are Google's universal results maybe just as relevant as true organic results would be?!

Or....does the google cant go overbaord with it b/c of searchers' good will actually hold true?

November 9, 2009 - 11:48pm

Google can sacrifice a bit of marketshare and quality to help build monopoly positions in new markets. But most people are probably going to be too lazy to try out other search engines unless Google ***really*** screws up the search user experience horrifically bad.

November 9, 2009 - 11:12pm

I was thinking this the other day. Between the 1st screen of a SERP being nothing but Adwords + map results, it's now starting to show Adwords site links and now local business snippets pulled from Google Local Business (new feature that just came out last week).

Google has jumped the shark.

November 10, 2009 - 1:46am

I have been saying this for a while now but your post brings it to light again, by pushing the natural search results farther down the page Google is leaving the door open for the next big thing in search.

Some college student somewhere already has designs on being famous or maybe is just sick of the crap, and is working on a basic search engine that just does a good job of giving searchers the information they are looking for.

A novel idea right. But I look for it to spread on college campuses first. A search engine less worried about monetizing itself in every conceivable way and instead designed to give only natural search results. (okay maybe with a right side column of PPC, I may be over shooting)

Or maybe, and I know this is asking a lot, Bing will get a clue, make a page design shift, right now to Organic results, first, top to bottom, and PPC neatly down the right side, and steal the top spot away from Google as the most popular search engine on the planet.

I'm just sayin'

November 10, 2009 - 2:25am

I have been pointing this out for quite some time (in terms of Google occupying the top fold with their best financial interests) and nobody has really offered any advice on how to counter this when I have posed questions about it to others.

I would suggest that you learn to take advantage of sites that have high traffic volumes. Sites like eBay, Facebook, Twitter, etc are the types of sites I'm talking about. Learn how to funnel traffic from these sites to your money sites.

I feel that if Google keeps up with their current trends, SEO won't mean anything at all. Any company with a large enough budget will price you right out of the game.

Finally, in terms of using alternative search engines... don't count on it. Google is a household name worldwide. "Google It" sound familiar??? And as far as the other search engines are concerned, expect them to follow Google's lead. It's about increasing profits and not much else.

I'll say it again... learn to funnel traffic from high traffic value sites to your money sites.

November 10, 2009 - 3:05am

@COMS: Are you doing this already (funneling traffic from high traffic value sites to your money sites - to a point where you do not have to obsess about search traffic)?

or did you just suggest it's the way to go..?

I've always been a fan of augmenting search traffic with "real" traffic from links, but it's not that easy to get nearly asm uch traffic that way as from search unfortunately (then again the LTV of that kind of traffic might be way higher...)

November 10, 2009 - 4:03pm

Google is not a search company they are the largest online advertising platform. I think it was stated in the annual report that they generated over 99% of their revenue from ads.

Google will become the next Microsoft, just need to find the Apple of search.

November 10, 2009 - 4:24pm

Aaron:

Damn, I hardly ever get here. Usually only by reference, even though you are tops, dude.

I didn't scrutinize all the commentary but on one specific, I'm pretty sure the short loss of phone numbers associated with the businesses in maps was a function of a current and critical change in the maps algo's, or more appropriately the maps info -> google serps algo inserted via the 1map/, 3pac, or 7pac (formerly the 10pac).

(the rankings of businesses inside google maps didn't change...but how they show when moved into google.com does change)

Google is currently making algo changes as to the volume of 1Maps that are showing for a variety of search phrases.

In terms of emphasizing how the page looks I think you are RIGHT ON. left side/right side....but more importantly...above the fold and below the fold.

I've gravitated into only being concerned with our local businesses and away from general seo knowledge....but I can assure you, that with a bunch of smb's (small-to-medium businesses) that we own operate....being in a premium position in Maps is a killer for a business.

The way maps inserted into google.com works these days, and because of their "not yet sophisticated algo" ....there are a lot of cases where a business is a "winner or loser" and its predominantly based on being "above the fold" or "below the fold".

Excellent commentary, dude.

EP

November 10, 2009 - 5:39pm

Aaron:

Here is a real life surprising example vis a vis google maps and "possibly" very large PPC accounts.

Background:

Google groups for Maps, the so called place where an actual small business can get help and correct bad information on its google maps listings has been notoriously horrible with customer service. Its been that way for a couple of years. The simple fact is they barely help a business w/bad info in maps, don't respond, and simply frustrate the hell out of smb's/webmasters, etc. They seemingly only correct things quickly when it could embarrass them. (I could give examples).

Best place to read about this is Mike Blumenthals blog on Google Maps at http://blumenthals.com/blog

It is basically the place to read about local, maps, etc. (Its currently writing about those local listing ads you are referencing in this blog post)

Anyways, about 2 weeks ago I found a blatent error in a Google OneMap. I looked up a particular holiday Inn in google.com. A 1map for the hotel showed. In it was a link to Ramada. (LOL--now that doesn't work does it?) I think I know why the bad link showed--but that is a different story)

I reported the error in Google groups for Maps; sort of a futile effort, I thought, in light of Google's notorious non-help for businesses w/ problems of this sort.)

HAH!!! I was wrong. Google personnel in Google Groups for Maps QUIETLY fixed that error in a day. That blew me away. I've worked on getting things fixed in Google Maps wherein it took 9 months for a fix. (I coulda produced a baby in that timeframe-- ;) )

Blumenthal, referenced above, and the world wide expert on what is going on inside google maps and google groups for maps informed me that "customer service" seemed to have picked up recently. I dunno. I haven't been watching.

Still, I was incredibly stunned to see a fix in one day. Of course the fix was for a helluva PPC payer. It certainly made me suspicious.

Enuff of this rant.

I liked the thesis of your blog post above. SEO's need to focus in light of changes in Google. Also I liked the concept of above the fold versus below the fold. As an seo with local businesses---that totally matters.

EP/ Dave

November 10, 2009 - 9:35pm

I am a big fan of Mike's blog, and always learn something every time I go there. Thanks for the great comments Dave!

November 12, 2009 - 8:16pm

Maybe Google will change the result page as soon as they gather enough user clicks data. I just hope that they cut down all that "extra" information that a regular user doesn't really want.

November 13, 2009 - 11:58am

I guess we do to some degree by publicly making our needs heard when Google does something. They do seem to be slipping (losing perspective) a bit lately from the "do no evil" objective. They are under incredible pressure to monetize to hold their value, yet their value is based on radical pluralistic ideals. How can pluralistic ideals survive the market place of scarcity?

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