Google has made another update to its search engine results pages and this time its a big one. In fact, this could be the biggest update in several years that will have a direct impact on the SEO industry as well as businesses trying to rank well across the globe.
Several months ago Google rolled out what they call Personal Search. This meant that if you were logged into your Google Account you would begin seeing natural search results based on your recent activity on Google. For example if you recently searched for ‘red sox’ and then clicked on a clothing website instead of the baseball team, Google would recognize that and the next time you searched they would begin excluding baseball teams from your search results. In addition Google has been tracking your cookies and providing local search results based on your location and search activity. (If you want to turn this feature off you can read this quick tutorial)
But this update is bigger- much bigger. We’ve discovered today (yes I said today because apparently nobody on the Internet is blogging or talking about this yet) that if you are logged out of your Google Account and you have also cleared your Internet cache and cookies, you will STILL see local results toward the bottom half of page one even if you’ve typed in a generic, national level keyword phrase!
Let me give you an example. Let’s try an extremely difficult and competitive keyword such as ‘used cars’. This keyword phrase has aprox 233 million websites competing for it! I am searching from a computer in Houston, TX so I would not imagine most of the results on page one to show listings from Houston. But low and behold what do we find? 4 out of the 10 listings are from Houston!
I began wondering if this was a fluke so I called several people who live out of state and they are all finding the same thing and same pattern. For almost any phrase you can think of (seo, sporting goods, travel agent, etc) they were all seeing local results in the bottom 5-6 listings on page one of Google.
If this is permanent then this will definitely change the entire SEO game. For example what if you own a company that sells clock radios throughout the entire United States? Your page one rankings will now be determined based on the address of your business- meaning that if your address is in Houston, TX then more than likely that will be your only true target becuase if someone in Tennessee searches for Clock Radios they will see 4-5 national companies and then 4-5 local companies (and this is not including local maps and paid ads). So it is now extremely difficult to compete on a global scale for keyword phrases since you are only shooting for the top 4-5 spots!
And what does this mean for Google? Well of course this means more PPC income because in order to compete on a national level now it will be almost mandatory to run PPC ads to get any exposure.
On the flip side it will now be easier for local companies to show up on page one for generic phrases instead of geo-targeted phrases. For example if a person in Houston is searching for ‘flower shop’ they might actually find "Lauras Flower Shop" based in Houston rather than 10 flower shops that are out of state. So for local business this Google update might actually be a good thing. But for national and international companies this may end up being a real nightmare and hit to their bottom line.
This is a new rollout so its possible that this could change quickly but as of today this is what many of us are seeing happen across all industries.
Roger Janik – Fair Marketing, Inc.
*UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE (Sept 9, 2010)
It now appears that Google is only making the above update in the larger cities and has stopped in the surrounding metro areas. For example if you type in "Used Cars" in Google and you reside in the city of Houston you will still see a combination of national and local listings. But if you reside in an outer city such as Humble, Kingwood, Sugarland, Pearland, etc. you will NOT see the local results mixed in!