Google Implies Local Demand Based on User Location
It appears that Google has just dialed up search result localization in a big way.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so...
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there and there and there and there and there.
The Struggle Real Businesses Face
The big problem with this IMHO is all but the spammer (who is now busy working on "local" signals) loses. Legit online-only pure plays are simply wiped off the result set. The searcher gains nothing by seeing State Farm agents 5 times in the search results. Even the local business which has a new windfall of business is simply overwhelmed with leads, meaning they likely have (at least relatively) poor customer service until they hire up.
To a small business, a sharp rise in demand can be every bit as damaging as a sharp fall in demand.
But should small local businesses hire aggressively, they could be only 1 algorithmic update away from needing to prune staff. Maybe some day Google decides to limit the results to show 1 agent per parent company, and then the agents end up fighting out each other (much like affiliates had to fight each other on bids in AdWords to be the 1 that shows up).
Given that some of the agents ranking page 1 have less than a dozen inbound links & links from only a few unique domains, it won't take long for some new "local" players to come online.
What Makes a Search Result Good?
A lot can be said for getting users where they need to be quickly. When it works it has great value. But when it doesn't work, it makes the market less efficient. Value chains exist for a reason. Sometimes a brand (or an individual agent of brand x) is not in the best position to act as an unbiased advisor.
As a consumer buying car insurance, I don't care that my agent is local. In fact, if I live in an expensive area I may want my insurance provided from someone who lives in an area with a lower cost of living so they can provide the services (while making a comfortable living) for less. For the last decade I have been insured from a company in another state (USAA in Texas). Location had precisely 0 impact on my decision making.
What mattered to me was that they had great rates. Which is precisely what almost all insurance commercials promote.
Geico spends nearly a billion Dollars a year pounding that message into the minds of consumers.
The problem is that almost all the big brands promote the exact same message. They are the cheapest. Save with them. Etc. Online pure plays that provide quote comparisons provide a valuable & value-add function in this marketplace, but they have simply disappeared from Google. They aren't local enough to hit the local signal, they aren't brand enough to hit the brand signal, and since they are not the end brands they can't justify buying $30 AdWords clicks thinking that what they don't get back in direct ROI can be written off to "brand."
Ultimately the end user loses (or at least until Google creates their insurance flavor of "comparison ads.")
This Stuff is Everywhere
This stuff is even happening on search queries where there is absolutely no implied local intent & no need for a local provider. General discovery & topical queries like "web designer" or even informational background searches like "SEO" now bring up service based sites with a local presence.
Leaving Off On a Positive Note
1 day doesn't make a trend, but if this stuff sticks ranking local sites for big keywords just got really easy.
- If you know SEO and live near a big city, a second office location might soon be a profitable decision.
- If you are a local business who thought SEO was too complex or expensive, that excuse may have just been removed from the marketplace.
- If you run a bespoke consulting styled business & ran into a windfall of demand don't forget to increase your rates & be more selective with who you work with. Working all the time leads to burn out. Trust me I know that all too well. ;)
- This is another example why it can be a great idea to mix and match your businesses...such that if one jumps out of nowhere or another one tanks you are still fine. Having multiple projects is one of the few ways you can really protect yourself from the likes of Panda & updates like this one. Running multiple businesses allows you to lean into your side gigs when your main one drops off, and push harder on your main gig when it is really humming along.
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