An Addendum to the Local Search Ranking Factors, Volume 4 | Published June 3, 2011

Blended vs. "Pure" Local Search

The Difference Between the Two Types of Search Results

In October 2010 Google launched what it called "Place Search," which shows a hybrid of Place-related and website-related snippets on the search engine result page. One of the most frequent questions those of us in the Local Search industry have received since this new search result was introduced, in addition to "How do I rank in it?" is "Why does Google show it in the first place?"

What follows here is the wisdom (or folly) of what are generally considered to be the sharpest minds in Local Search. Most of us seem to feel that it is part of a large-scale experiment by Google to see what satisfies searchers better, with a significant percentage of us hypothesizing that there's some interaction between category of search & the number (or lack) of "pure" Local results that would satisfy that category.

We're all speculating, but there are some potential nuggets in here for frustrated business owners.

--David Mihm

A Pure Local ResultA Pure Local Result
Above: A "Pure" Local Result


A Blended Local ResultA Blended Local Result
Above: A "Blended" Local Result


THE "WHO KNOWS (INCLUDING GOOGLE)?" CAMP

Still seems to be somewhat random with result sets switching back and forth regularly for the same keywords. This is very frustrating to most of the business owners I speak with.
--Mike Belasco

I wish it made some sense! My best guess is testing, user behavior and personalization.
--Mary Bowling

I've noticed that specific verticals tend to influence traditional 7 pack results eg (dentists, lawyers, counseling) while others do not (plumbing, carpet cleaning, garage doors) etc. The SERPs are in a constant flux where variations such as including plurals and city before category or city after category influence blended vs pure results.
--Dev Basu

No clue.
--Matt McGee

I doubt even Google knows what the main influences are as it's literally all over the map. Why are major city queries like "Chinese Restaurants San Francisco" blended while smaller ones like "Chinese Restaurants Austin" "pure"? And why is it not the same for "plumbers" or "hotel" or "auto repair"? This algo is constantly in flux so trying to peg it is pretty close to a fool's game. That said, I have noticed a dramatic decrease in blended results over the past couple of months. Of course I am sure they will back in force tomorrow though.
--Andrew Shotland

THE "LONGER-TAIL KEYWORD" CAMP

On the one hand it often seems random, and/or a result of Google testing different types of GUI interfaces, all a part of testing visitor reactions. One other influence seems to be the presentation of secondary terms for a local service/business as opposed to the primary term(s).
--Dave Oremland

Search Volume seems to be the #1 determining factor. High search volume = Blended results. Low search volume = 7 pack.
#2 would be categories. Custom Categories still bring the 7 pack quite often.
--Mike Ramsey

I've run searches for the same terms and gotten different results. I think search history, so different searchers could get a different result. Pure maps comes up more often for searches that are less competitive.
--Tim Coleman

Specificity: If you search for [city name] "restaurant", you'll generally see a pure result. If you search for [city name] "ethiopian restaurant", you'll see a blended result.
--Ian Lurie

Pure results appear to display when the keywords are exact matches in recognized business categories or other common terms found on groupings of Places Pages. Blended results are more commonly seen in 'long tail' searches where some of the keywords are related, but not exact matches.
--Cathy Hillen-Rulloda

High volume of local search queries seem to trigger packs instead of blended results. Its being determined on CTR eventually.
--Martijn Beijk

I tend to see the pure result with certain exact keyword phrase matches. For example, I can get a pure results with "chiropractor sunnyvale" but a blended result when I type "chiropractor in sunnyvale"
--Don Campbell

THE "WELL-DEVELOPED PLACE PAGE INVENTORY" CAMP

Keyword/category. Number of locations in database for specific geography.
--Gregg Stewart

The pattern I've seen for the local search results I've worked in the Spanish market, is that Google tends to show a pure result when there is a high volume of places pages related to a query related to a location or with a high local intent.
--Aleyda Solis

THE "INFLUENCED BY CATEGORY" CAMP

Type of channel/category based on unknown algo factors comes to mind...
--Jim Rudnick

This has seemed to me to be category-related...certain verticals seem to show 7-packs more frequently than blended results, but I just haven't settled on an obvious explanation for this.
--Miriam Ellis

Pure 7-pack & 3-Pack search results are often found when searchers use an industry/category type keyword such as Restaurants or Dentists. In these cases, it is clear that Google is identifying and matching the searchers IP address with the city they are located in. It makes sense for Google to only show the 3 & 7 pack listings for these queries, as they are likely local in nature, but not specifically. They also take up less space on these SERPs, which allows more room for the 10 organic listings of varying type. Blended results are typically displayed when searchers use search queries containing a geographic keyword in addition to an industry/category type keyword. This does not always hold true, but more often than not. Examples of these queries are: restaurant in Portland and Eden Prairie dentist.
--James Svoboda

An obvious local intent that includes either location + service/product or a category search that the searcher would need local information.
--Ed Reese

THE "WELL-DEVELOPED WEBSITE INVENTORY" CAMP

I've found that quality and quantity of stand alone websites contribute to this. If most of the organic results are directory sites, then a PURE is more likely to show. If the result has quality individual websites in the organic results, then BLENDED.
--Aaron Weiche

The lack of optimized listings in both on-site and in the Google Places triggers displaying the traditional 7-pack / 3-pack in addition to the listings with the searched location.
--John Shehata

I'd say blended results appear more when there's a strong presence of geo-local sites/pages for that query with trust value. These sites, of course, are dedicated to that product or service and are not directories, review sites, IYPs, etc.
--Jordan Kasteler

The strength of the websites in the market segments. Those that are populated with well linked and trusted sites, tend to so the blended results. Those that have relatively poorly linked sites are more likely to show the pure results.
--Brian Combs

I think website criteria is key for both but the with the blended, the place components places a key role.
--Larry Sullivan

The only factor that we have seen consistent in signaling whether blended vs pure results are returned by Google is how well optimized the business' website is organically for the search query. If enough websites are optimized (SEO) for the query you are more likely to see the blended results.
--Adam Dorfman

THE "WELL-CORRELATED" CAMP

Our Overall View of Blended vs. Pure
Typically Seeing Blended Results for:
City + Service/Product
City + State + Service/Product
Regional Phrase + State + Service/Product

Typically Seeing Pure or NO Places listings at all:
Regional Phrase + Service / Product

Though this is not consistent, and has changed a good deal in the past few months. Many phrases that used to appear as Pure are now appearing as Blended. We are also seeing when the Service / Product being a default Google category that blended appears more than when Service / Product is not in the default list. We also know that for blended results the BOTH the organic listing MUST be on page 1 or very close to page 1, and the Places listing MUST be strong for them to merge. If one or the other suffers from low authority, placement, etc. they will not come together to merge.
--Lisa Kolb

I believe blended results happen when a business is naturally ranking in the top 10 for a query, and that business also has a relevant Place Page, which Google is confident is for the same business (they get this match wrong often). If an organic result, or a Place Page, wouldnt normally rank in top 10 - but are relatively close to the top 10 - I think having an organic + Place Page match will bump them both onto the 1st page of the SERP.
--Jeff Gold

The blended results are more of an association of physical address than algorithmic continuity. We have seen Places page information overide website details and vice versa.
--Erik Whaley

Many under-estimate the importance of getting the core data right on the Place page so that existing reviews and citations can be attributed to the trust score. Second to core data, I think citations still carry the most weight, then reviews. However when it comes to the blended (or I call it merged) results, in extensive testing and ranking comparisons I've done the predominant factor is the site's organic ranking by far. Plain old on-site SEO is really important and so are what I call local hooks - otherwise sometimes Google can't match up the site and Place page to even be listed in the merged SERPS.
--Linda Buquet

THE "ALL OF THE ABOVE" CAMP

There seem to be multiple reasons and no one that is definite.
-The lack of local inventory of strong local websites seems to be one reason .
-Another seems to be that it seems to occur more on longer tail searches.
- It is not unlikely that user behaviors as tracked in the logs precipitates it showing as well.
--Mike Blumenthal

#1 I think Blended is a spam-fighting technique. You see pretty much no seven-packs anymore for locksmiths.
#2 They're probably continuing to test clickthrough rates and general user experiences.
#3 The category of the query as 'research' or 'immediate gratification.'
#4 They may be predisposed to show 7-packs based on the number of results that satisfy the query within a given radius for which they're super-confident about the accuracy of the information they're displaying.

For most super-competitive searches that I do (hotels chicago, restaurants las vegas, golf course myrtle beach), I see traditional 7-packs much more frequently than I see Blended results.
a) There are a TON of possible answers for those searches in a fairly compact radius.
b) They're all markets with a lot of third-party signals.
c) There are a lot of user reviews for all or almost all results.
d) It's actually more valuable for a searcher to get a quick-hit signal of star rating from the community.

For more research oriented-queries (art school new york, estate lawyer phoenix, mortgage broker seattle), they seem to show many more Blended results than 7-packs. There are some verticals where this doesn't seem to hold true (insurance, accounting) but hey, it's only a hypothesis :)
--David Mihm

I believe that the PURE 7-pack/3-pack style is invoked for queries for which Google believes there is a lower interest in business websites. If you think about it, as a consumer there are searches you do where you mainly want to see listing locations on a map, or you want to call a business without clicking around on a website. In other cases, you want to get a list of businesses, but you'll wish to click to view their websites before deciding which company will meet your desires. So, if you do a search for "gas stations" or "fast food", where hardly anyone wants to browse the websites, you'll get PURE results. Search for "bed and breakfasts", though, where you'd want to compare amenities and rates before choosing, and you get the more expanded, BLENDED result. I think it's possible that Google has used relative click-through data for different local queries to decide which type of results are invoked (most likely scenario), or else they applied some editorial judgement by business category.
--Chris Silver Smith

- SEO Competition (Well developed sites, abundance of links)
- Search Volume (there may be a correlation between search volume and SEO competition)
- Map SPAM (when there is more map SPAM, it tends toward a 7-pack)
This appears to still be wildly in flux
--Will Scott + Search Influence Team

1. keyword phrase - often plurals vs singular
2. low inventory of claimed place results with websites often produces a pure result
3. whether or not Google is still running tests on pure vs. blended for that industry and or location - which is an unknown
--Steve Hatcher

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