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No. 708
October 28th, 2010

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A New Kind of Local Search Result: The “O-Pack”?

As you may have seen reported in *a few* outlets around the blogosphere over the last 36 hours, Google decided to roll out its new user interface (first reported by Mike Blumenthal on July 5th) for local search results yesterday.  It is a tectonic shift, both algorithmically and visually, that has left a number of publishers, and certainly spammy lead generators, catatonic today.

After a lively rapid-fire discussion with these folks via email yesterday about what to call this new kind of blended result, where suggestions ranged from “locorganic” all the way to “orgasmic” we weren’t really able to come to a consensus on anything.  Given how hard most of the hybrid words were to say (let alone type) I thought I’d propose something shorter and cleaner…

Like the “O-Pack.”

Whatever it eventually ends up getting named, a lot of very smart people have already written a lot of very insightful posts about some of the implications of this new interface; allow me to extract some of my favorite quotes below:

Impact on Business Owners and SEOs

Greg Sterling: “Previously the local and general search algorithms were distinct. I asked whether they had now been consolidated or merged in this new release and was told ‘yes.'”…Note, this was first reported by Mike Blumenthal two months ago…”I asked about this and Google said that there should be no more local results and no fewer web results after these changes. However…some of the general web results in the ‘before’ version appear to be ‘missing’ or replaced by local listings. I clicked through to pages 2 and 3 and didn’t find them.”

Commenter Plamen: @Mike do you notice the disappearance of the User Content section?

Dave Naylor: “Google Maps will be all paid (it has already started…)”

My Take: By and large, small business owners who have pursued long-term, best-practice SEO strategies across ALL fronts (organic, local, social, etc.) rather than chased Google’s algorithm, should be relatively unaffected by the change.  Those who have put their faith (and $$$) in set-it-and-forget-it, fly-by-night PO-Box-near-the-centroid type strategies are probably regretting it.  It’s clear that traditional organic factors (especially Title Tags and inbound links) are going to again be as important as they were back in 2006, before any Local results came out…but now business owners also have to be concerned with purely Local factors in addition.

The fact that Google removed the display of UGC from Place Pages signals to me that they might actually start to rely on it more than they have in the past.  Just as the “link:” command has returned ever more opaque results as that part of the organic algorithm has become more important, Google is going to continue to try to obfsucate the more important parts of its Local algorithm.  But by no means does that mean they are irrelevant.

I have to say, I think Dave’s comment totally misses the mark…as I was not actually in attendance at the SEOmoz Pro Seminar where it was recorded, however, it may be taken completely out of context.  But I actually think that the O-Pack should placate some of the gripes of traditional SEOs like Dave, Greg Boser, and others who have bemoaned the increasing prominence of the 7-pack over the last 18 months.  Sites that do extremely well organically should now be rewarded with positions further up the page, rather than getting “OneBoxed out” by the huge map.

Impact on MapSpam

Greg Sterling: “Google said that the algorithm has been improved and refined for Place Search. We also shouldn’t see any more of the ‘mapspam’ that has plagued the 7-Pack in the past.”

Miriam Ellis: “As a Local SEO, my chief feelings of concern arise from Google’s historic and current failure to combat the spam and errata in their index.”

My Take: Did data quality/MapSpam problems necessitate this shift? Necessitate is probably too strong a word.  I don’t think anyone would argue, though, that Google’s organic spam fighting team, for whatever reason (more available signals, more institutional/accumulated knowledge, and more internal resources) has been far more successful at keeping truly nefarious results out of the index than its Maps team has been able to.  A greater reliance on organic signals for rankings means that it’s much, much harder for spammers without legitimate locations to game the system.  And because O-Pack results show Title Tags rather than Business Titles, there’s less incentive to spam this field in Google Places, which is great.  (Incidentally, Mike and I both suggested that LBL’s be treated as Title Tags several years before Google’s Local Listing Guidelines came out…I, at least, am feeling somewhat vindicated this evening :D)

Impact on Adwords

Matt McGee: “Those are now pushed down the page by a couple hundred pixels. I expect this means Google will compensate by showing more paid ads in the middle column above the local listings.”

My Take: It seems to be that by far the biggest losers (other than spammers) in this new interface areAdwords advertisers from position four on down who are bidding on generic keywords with Local intent (
“dentists,” “plumbers,” “electricians,” etc.).  The fixed-position map not only moves positions 4-10 hundreds of pixels down the page, but it hides their ads and continues to draw attention from users as they scroll their way down the page.  I think this will dramatically increase the required CPC for the top three slots in the Adwords auction (and thus Google’s bottom line) for these types of keywords.

Impact on IYPs and Directory Publishers

Greg Sterling: “Now that the 7-Pack is gone how will [IYP publishers] be affected? Unfortunately for them they may be shut out almost entirely unless they’re among the clustered third party links associated with each listing.”

Mike Blumenthal: “Google is attempting to summarize ALL user sentiment about a given business in one sentence and hanging it out there for the world to see on the front page.”

Jackie Bavaro: “Instead of doing eight or 10 searches, often you’ll get to the sites you’re looking for with just one search.”

Andrew Shotland thinks that small towns represent the best remaining opportunity for directory companies to rank.

My Take: I actually don’t think this new UI is any worse for IYPs than the 7-pack was.  In a lot of categories, I’m seeing prominent sites that are in that cluster Greg talks about–like Yelp, Judy’s Book, and Citysearch–get direct clickthroughs from clustered review links right off the search result page (which they weren’t getting from the old 7-Pack).  I actually think Google is throwing directory publishers a bone here (at least for the time being).

I saw plenty of national directories ranking for explicit geographic phrases ABOVE O-Pack results for plenty of competitive queries like this one:

Back in the days of the traditional 7-pack, you’d never see well-SEO’d big players like Superpages,, or Findlaw ranking above the 7-pack for a phrase with explicit geographic intent.

AND, even when “traditional” 7-packs are returned, for phrases like the one below, the fact that the map is now over on the righthand side of the results means that Places aren’t as likely to draw as many eyeballs as they used to, if Enquiro’s famous eyetracking studies still hold true today.

Now, in no way do I think that means that the writing isn’t on the wall–the die has clearly been cast.  As I said three years ago:

[Google knows] users don’t want to sort through [its] search results only to be directed five OTHER companies’ OWN Local search results (like Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch, or sadly, Judy’s Book). It’s simply not in the engines’ own interest to take people away from their OWN PPC ads and into someone else’s set. That’s lost revenue, and a poor user experience to boot.

In fewer words, Jackie spells out that exact concept in the snippet above from the official Google blog.  People are going to spend more time on a SERP than they are on a website.  Despite the fact there are far more links on the SERP to click on, most of the links on O-Pack results point to Place Pages.

And now we know why Google sent all those photographers around to photograph SMBs.  Again, if the findings from Enquiro’s eye-tracking studies still hold true, thumbnail images on a traditional SERP get exponentially more attention than those without.  Given that those now point to the Place Page, and that Tags pointing to a website are no longer an option, on balance, we see Google devouring even more clicks for its own properties.

But I don’t know that Google deserves the kind of vitriol this SearchEngineLand commenter displayed.  Again, if anything, Google has thrown directory publishers a major bone with the renewed possibility of ranking organically for competitive local phrases, and getting direct clickthroughs from the SERP right to their own business profile pages.  Knowing the landing pages for Google referral traffic, this might even affect the kinds of ad products that IYPs offer going forward.  Rather than premium placement in their own search results (which are absolutely still trending to zero), enhanced or customized profile pages that allow favorite reviews, custom branding or layout, and more compelling contact information might be more appropriate.

And if I were an IYP?  I’d be submitting my content to Google. Some people in the audience snickered when I gave that answer last year on my panel at The Kelsey Group show in Los Angeles, but even then, it was clear what the only option was for continuing to receive traffic from Google in the long-term.

For IYPs, reviews are the only type of content that you have that Google wants to rank.  It’s either partner up with them or shut off the self-served display ad part of your revenue stream entirely.  Long-tail ad networks like CityGrid can still succeed in the aggregate, but only those that are not reliant on organic search traffic from Google for eyeballs.

And after I submitted my content, I’d spend the next 30-60 days figuring out how to influence when your directory will show up in Places as a bonafide review source to grab those additional clickthroughs. Demonstrating to business owners how important it is to have a presence on your directory so that their reviews will show up prominently on Google is going to be a major, and perhaps only, selling point going forward.

  • James Wilson

    I feel like the O-pack is an odd usability move for Google. The map is floating in the top right of the page and not really associated with the corresponding map markers in the results. The links to the websites where reviews are housed are in an odd place. I know Google does a lot of testing of their new layouts (as they did in this case), but the layout of the information just seem really unintuitive. You have to wonder now if Yahoo and Bing will make changes to their local 5-packs in the future.

  • I agree with James: it looks and feels odd. At first I was chalking that up to just disorientation due to the geographic change, (like moving furniture in your living room and banging you knee) but the very first time I saw this change I completely missed the map listings below the map–couldn’t find them at all. Thank you years of banner blindness.

    It definitely makes the lower map listing less noticeable. SHeesh. Do we know if this is a permanent change?

  • actually…my SERPs are doing three different things with the map pack.

  • Hi David,

    Excellent (and very thorough) summary of this MASSIVE change. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out for large accounts where they have a large traffic volume for local, organic, and paid search. I think one of the more interesting outcomes is CPC for the top paid positions (like you mentioned). I’m really looking forward to taking a look at the data over the next few weeks to see how this plays out for my clients.

    I think it’s pretty safe to say this will add a new session (or at least a lot of new content) for the next Get Listed Local University event 🙂

    Nice coverage, David!


  • How often are you seeing the “o-pack” show up?

    If you search “Brainerd Pizza” you get a new layout. If you search “brainerd, mn pizza” you will see the old standard 7-pack. To me, the 7-pack or 10-pack is really handy for looking up #’s and reviews. Not sure why they would change it to this..

    They just blogged about it on their blog:

    “Place Search” it the term they used, which isn’t really a search if it’s integrated into universal search.. it’s more like “Place Results!”

  • Matt McGee

    O-Pack? C’mon … it’s to be called The Keg. If we previously had 7-packs and 10-packs, we now have a full keg of local covering both columns of the UI.

    The Keg!

  • I suppose the quasi-7-packs could be called Pony Kegs, then…hmmm…I kinda like it!

  • A couple of thoughts on this new “0 Pack” UI.

    1) This is definitely a different look and feel, but I think it accomplishes what Google wants… more SERP engagement.

    To be honest, I kind of like it from an organic perspective. However, I am not sure I like it from a PPC perspective. Specifically, ads traditionally having done well in the 4th or 5th paid position now have to deal with the hideous vertical map pushing them down mostly below the fold. And, this means less eyeballs or less immediate visibility.

    2) I hate to say it, but I think our average cost per bid just increased. Paid position 4 – 10 are now shoved so far down we can most certainly expect to see a stronger perceived value in bidding into the third paid position. The rise in cost will trickle down and effect all 10 paid positions.

  • “Despite the fact there are far more links on the SERP to click on, most of the links on O-Pack results point to Place Pages.”

    There’s only one Place Page link per O-Pack/Locorganic/etc. result.

    But it is starting to seem like this could actually be a net-positive to smart local directories.

  • I’ll have to agree with McGee, the new SERP’s should be called The Keg.

  • Eric, I’m with you about the PPC. I’ve already sent a notice out to clients, preemptively letting them know that they may see less traffic since the cost per bid will likely go up . I think it’s good to let them know it’s coming, and why this is happening so that in the next few months when results start to look different, they aren’t surprised.

    One thing I’m really thankful for is not having to explain and deal with Map Spam. I always cringed when I saw those beat out my clients’ listings. Holding on to ethics doesn’t make it any easier to tell a client they’re being outranked because their competition is cheating.

  • This is the best analysis on the web right now of the monumental changes occurring on Google this week.

  • Hello David et al…

    Yup, this new (my term) Google BLEND, was rolled out just this am up here in land…and I’ve checked each and every client and we’re so far, about where we were without the BLEND. That is, as we’d worked hard and long on the various local components including local dirs, reviews, testimonials (thanks to Mike B!) we’re up top in the new BLENDED pages. Well, not all of course, and we’re working away on more 3rd party local small dirs to try to help.

    Sure has “messed up” the end of the month tho….tons more to do now before our Nov 1st serp reports…sigh….oh well, if you love what you do, then the Google BLEND is just another hurdle, eh!



  • David, thanks for the post. It’s something I’ve seen all sorts of variations on results for, so we can only wait to see what settles after the dust clears. I do like your choice in calling it the “O-Pack”, perhaps that’ll catch.

    You’ve put together a great synopsis of what people have seen here so far. I’ve noticed several differences for my own clients, in some cases it’s jumped them into the Places area where they weren’t before, in others, they’ve dropped a few positions where they used to rank higher in Places. Whatever happens, I know this will affect a lot of people in major ways. Thanks again for all the info, saved a bit of page jumping to get some extra details you had here.

  • @David

    Do you think businesses will start to rely on optimizing their default Google Places Page image now with this new integrated search results?

    Imagine using a large Google Tag as your default image or some sort of Guarantee badge. This would draw a user’s eye to your listing in the same manor that Google Tags was intended to do.

    I noted that with the new integrated SERPS [Blended-Pack] there must be at least 4 of the 7 businesses with images for Google to integrate them into the blended results.

    What do you guys think?

    Has anyone found less than 4 images being displayed in these new integrated SERPS?

  • Gorgeous recap, David!

    Agree with your sentiments and am finding all the commentary on this fascinating and thought-provoking.

    BTW, isn’t Google calling this Places Search?

  • I think they are reserving “Places Search” for when you click on the “Places” icon to the left of the search results. We still need a name for the combined/blended results.

    Jim, your idea of BLEND would work except that I think it is too generic since there are many kinds of blended results already (news, video, images, etc)

  • Ive gotta put my midterm vote in for Jim’s “Google Blend” too as I’m looking forward to seeing just what ranking factors were blended from positive placement on local & positive placement in organic into creating this “O-Pack” concoction.

  • Donovan

    Happy …

  • Great summary David…

    While I dont like the look and feel quite yet, I think it will be a net positive. In local service industries (i.e. plumbers etc), the organic rankings were not yielding anywhere near the kind of results compared to the local listings as of late. This will allow those with well optimized sites and well built local listings to be rewarded with one solid ranking. This should defanitely eliminate a great deal of the spam that was in the 7 pack as well.

    Companies that previously had a page one organic ranking, and a 7 pack local listing should be fine but they now will have only one result in the “O-Pack”. The end result will be a results page with less clutter and more relevancy.

  • The Keg! The Keg! The Keg! It must be called “The Keg!”

  • Great summary. On the Google Adwords side, I think you have to consider them adding photos to Top 3 Adwords positions to compete with the photos displayed from Place pages.

    One can also speculate that a low CTR on Adwords when photos are shown will lead these to be eliminated entirely.

  • Frank Lewis

    My take;
    1) A self contained and dedicated place pages SERP is simply another “layer”. Where the traffic growth to Maps seemed to stagnate at approx 55 million monthly US uniques over the last 2 years, this facilitates more users into local results and subsequently more opportunities and value for monetization.

    2) Depending on the search query, you may see title tags or you may see the current place pages business title field for a particular business. Those that violated guidelines with descriptives geographic modifiers will lose out (finally!). Remember that no one questioned the incorporation of a “confidence score” and this is a much better means than relying on “user police”.

    3) Directory publishers and secondary search engines are the real losers. No longer a FREE ride for eyeballs by way of Google.

    4) Only the most skilled SEO’s that have diverse marketing backgrounds will flourish –

  • This might be a bit divergent, but doesn’t a place-page makeover have to be coming soon?

    The new 0-pack de-emphasizes the place page itself, which at face value seems like an odd strategy for Google. IMO, putting the place page and the website in the same visual space must mean that Google will eventually make the two links (places and business homepage) have some different functionality, right?

    My bet is the place page will become a bit more like a Facebook wall, allowing business owners to have a “conversation”/communicate with potential customers. Many small businesses have websites that are pretty static, since they don’t have the means/motivation/access to update their sites frequently.

    Also, maybe the places page could become a de facto mobile website/mobile search result for many businesses.

    Hmmm…exciting stuff. Great reporting.

  • Why would you want to go on a crappy diet ,right?. Eat how much you like, just dont forget to keep excercising

  • o-pack, the keg, nah… I’m calling it the floater. I can’t believe this is something people think fits under the heading of “quality user experience”. I do believe that it’s a real world test, that they have not fleshed out the final way they’re going to display things.

    The only thing I know is I too agree that anyone who’s been advocating best practices will have an advantage with it. And that Google’s going to make a boat-load more money now that they’re essentially FORCING sites to have Place pages. And that, in turn, means anyone who offers SEO also has an opportunity to make a boatload more money. By offering Floater Optimization 🙂

  • Zac

    The ad words position 4-10 is a big issue – one I imagine Google will address once the likes of Web Visible, Marchex, and Reach Local start complaining. I understand that if performance decreases on Google, automated Ad Words platforms that exist to optimize campaigns at the big 3 companies will begin to push ads on other content networks and search engines to get the right bid traffic. Either Google will fix something – or these companies will need to change to address this problem.. either way – it’s an issue.

  • Houston rolled out the new system a few days ago and we noticed distinct variations of the 1st page with some of the results the new maps listings actually taking the whole page (with of course paid). I suspect the end result will be a compromise because i feel like google will lose users if the tend to be to “paid” oriented and dont show the most relevant sites.

  • I like the name blend for what has taken place. Blending the organic and maps results is a win/win for SEOs and our clients who spent the money to build a locally optimized site. The maps were great, but they were overrun with garbage. In one fell swoop, map spam is gone. Problem listings that ranked 6 or 7 on the 7 pack or not at all…are now listed 1 or 2. Now, every business needs geo targeted websites or landing pages if they expect to decent SERP results. With the new instant search – decent equals the top 3 spots. Now, if Google can just fix the duplicate listing thing…

  • Jim

    Wasn’t I seeing at first that the right column map box would float down when the page was scrolled? Thus actually covering up the 1st 3 adwords ads?

  • One key industry that was not mentioned was online travel- This move seriously damages anyone who does not have a physical address, aka all of the online travel world. The general sentiment that seems to be going around (And I wrote about a few days ago) is that the move is actually about getting Googles hotel metasearch results off the map page and in to the natural results.

    So a search for hotels in New York will bring up the Places results with a link to Compare prices from other websites. This is exactly what everyone knew would happen when google could not buy kayak and instead bought ITA, they will try to own travel search.


  • @Graham The lack of physical address issue isn’t specific to travel, it applies to any business that services areas outside of their physical address. I work with thousands of doctors around the country, some of which service an entire state. Since ‘the change’, I see very few exceptions where a search performed doesn’t contain 100% businesses with physical addresses within that specific city.

    Unless something changes, it seems near impossible to show up for a local search unless you have a physical location in that city… 🙁

  • Dave Oremland

    Nice review, David: I’m going to keep reviewing this in detail. Some things seem to be showing differently today than the first 2 or 3 days it came out. Also I’m getting different kinds of views dependent upon where I place my computer.

    For instance: I noticed a local coffee shop that hadn’t claimed its local listing. Pretty popular place in my town. Lot of signals going to the site. Before the change the business didn’t show in the 7 pac. Unclaimed listing and the category was “tea shop” No category mention of coffee shop.

    Initially after the change the business site wasn’t showing in the organo-local/O-Pac/Blended Results (we have to agree on a name soon 🙂 ).

    Today: The business in question gets a high O-Pac ranking when searching for it from my home town. When I switched to a far away destination and did the same search IYP’s headed the list followed by some O-Pac listings with the business in question.

    To my great surprise; when I went to Maps itself the business was showing second. Wow….did this change with organic results permeate directly into the G Maps rankings????

    That one surprised me.

    The thing I’m going to be looking at very carefully for several businesses is using G Analytics to check traffic by towns and relative to specific phrases. I think this is going to be a critical element to look at going forward.

    I think in time there will be plenty of ppc ads being shown every which way. Assuming the structure of the google pages continue to be shown the way they are right now….it puts an incredible premium on being in the top three.

    Bidding wars HERE WE COME!!!!

    Frankly, I’m spending serious time on both organic and local seo to cement existing strong visibility.

  • David,

    Sticking with the beer theme, how about the “Party Pack”, where everyone’s invited. 🙂

    Do you think the rankings factors will really change much because of this? I think they may be more correlated with organic rankings now. So what if you business doesn’t have a website? Outta luck I guess.

  • Excellent Post David!

    My vote for an alcohol-related name is “Car Bomb” not just because of how car bombs are made, but because this Google update makes me want to drink a few.

    I’ve also seen some serious inconsistency here, as shown by your own screenshots, and the results appear to be almost random (to the average web user). Can inconsistency really bode well for the average web user? Or for Google? Do you expect that dust will actually settle with the search results? or is this it?

    I’m interested in why “hats portland” has a different 7-pack than “hats portland, or”. Since you are in Portland, are the results different still if you searched for “hats”?

    Most importantly I love that you used the word obfuscate in your post.

    Cheers David!

  • Plamen

    @Jeffrey yeah there is something randomish in the results, but if you test a lil bit more you’ll see some trends. For example popular keywords for specific cities (hotels, vacation rentals near Miami, Hawaii, etc) will give you the blended results with picture, links to reviews, description and so on. There are cases of 8 and 9 pack, when blended results (maybe) are stronger than the pure organic, or the next organic have local listing and the things… hm… blend. My 2 cents.

  • Thanks for pulling all this info together in one post, David. One thing I noticed is the number o f organic results on the SERP is reduced from 10 to 7 or even fewer on searches returning the new layout. This, of course, impacts the possibility of showing up in more places on the first SERP.

  • Hi David,

    I wonder if we aren’t all reaching conclusions based on wrong information. What I mean by that is I’m not sure the screen shots you’ve used above are in fact the final layout that G is attempting to implement. I believe that that algo is still rolling out and will be for the next 30 days or more and during this period the Search Results Page Format will be changing. Have you ever made several changes to your Places Page and watched how long it takes before it displays correctly?

    In Google’s 10/27 announcement for Place Search, they said, “Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information. In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view…….”

    One should infer from the above that a search with geo-targeted modifiers will return the new “Place Search Results”, as will clicking the “Places” link on the left nav bar. The additional inference, therefore, is that clicking the “Places” link on the left nav bar will return identical results as a regular search that Google detects as a “Place Search”.

    The problem I have with this is that when I perform a geo-targeted search, I get results that include Places (with balloon to the left and included on the scrolling map on the right) and organic with various orderings. When I click on the Places link on the left nav bar I get different results — Places listings first and sometimes after the Places listings “Web Search Results” are included, however, the Web Search Results are returned infrequently. Rankings also shift significantly, luckily most often in my favor. The system seems to take the higher of Places or Organic Results.

    For CA I get the above, for Hawaii searches I still see the Places One Box in the search results. If I click the “Places” link on the left nav bar for Hawaii searches, I get listings formatted as described in the prior paragraph. I guess they must be rolling out the algo from East to West.

    2 Conclusions —

    1) My search experience and many of the unusual experiences I’ve read in other users’ comments are because the system is in a state of flux as the algo is still being implemented and is settling in. We haven’t reached a final result yet and may not for another 30 days or more.

    2) When I click on the Places link on the left nav bar, the results I get are what Google intends the rankings and layout to be for a geo-targeted search using the Google Search Box when the algo is fully implemented.

    Would you agree with conclusion #2 ?

    It is virtually impossible to plan without knowing the answer to #2 above. I hope we can get an answer as it is critically important for all of us to know so we can assess our situation, understand how our current optimization affects the new algo and implement an SEO strategy that will allow us to maximize results.

  • I think the new changes should really help local people find the websites of local businesses the obvious losers will be the huge amount of businsses that are hidden away in the big directories and anyone who’s site gets pushed below the new maps listings.

    Thanks David

  • David,

    Thanks for your opinion. You say it so gracefully. I think you are bang on. Google wants users to come to Google for the best results….users don’t know, or care, much a PPC, organic, local listing in the serp. they just want the right / best results. I’ve always felt the 10pack, 7 pack, whatever, was confusing to the ‘average’ user.

  • Been having a real kick outta all this change web results wise from Google….so I put up a quick poll here — — to try to figure out what we SEO types “should” call this new layout/design/serp page results….and so far, Mike B is in the lead!

    Pls drop by and vote, eh!



  • Mick O’Hea

    I’m confused as heck after today. I’ve noticed that the number of O-pack results, and the order the appear in, varies depending on how many results are requested (i.e. the &num=xx).
    For one search, the 6th O-pack result (i.e ‘F’) slipped to ‘G’ at &num=13, vanished from page 1 altogether for &num=40 (and was replaced in the O-pack – at ‘F’, pushing the site there down – by a site which hadn’t featured on page 1 until now), and then re-appeared at &num=83, as a new eighth entry in the O-pack.
    I can understand that expanding the number of results could bring back a better candidate for the O-pack, and push an existing entry down into the ‘regular’ results. But pushing it off the page altogether, only to bring it back again when the result set is increased again?
    And the adding of the extra O-pack place is a bit arbitrary, for another search it happened at &num=13.

    It all seems a bit arbitrary, or at least impossible to get any kind of accurate measure of. I’ve been working to try to get a site ranked locally, but at the moment I’m finding it impossible to even work out what the ‘actual’, unpersonalised SERPs are. If such a thing even exists anymore.

  • testing…testing….testing…from what I see up here in….the Google engineers are still testing as like you our client roster web results are fluctuating….not enuff to be worrisome at this point…but yes they are “floating” tween various rankings….

    that said…I wonder — like I’m sure many SEO practitioners do, how long this “testing” will be going on….add in the whole Review issue too and it’s worrisome if this continues much longer, eh!



  • I gotta say all results for our businesses have been extremely favorable. Straight fundamental organic SEO coupled with well optimized and supported places pages. As for the testing; it will go on forever, that’s the game. The fluctuating listing results mentioned may be purposeful. Kind of a rotation of rankings in a given vertical to level the field and provide the user a different experience every time.

    Here, here (insert your own keg reference here) to the O-pack . Good to see the spammers dealt with, but they’ll be back to be sure.

    As for Adwords, when the dust settles you can be sure it will favor Google; it has to. This does give 1-3 a dominant hold. I may prefer position 10 in favor of 4 for someone shopping around if the current methodology holds. Testing and more testing. Great post and Blog.

  • Faizan

    According to my point of view, we need to more concern the placement of our business according to Google changes. Because Google do all the changes after lots of research. But how Google take review, our business listings in our business placement. So in future 7-pack, O-Pack will further change. So need to more focus other factors then Google page layout

  • What a lively thread! I have not seen a change on my page rank since the changes but I was never too concerned as I have always used my website as an informational tool rather than a sales generator, although we do get cold calls from our website. The more we do the higher our rank is. It seems more about filling your life with things that benefit others. Its almost like Google just wants people to follow the golden rule (ha ha ha) and developed an algorithm for it.

  • I think that the algorithm is settling in and we will see erratic results for 30 to 90 days or more after roll out in an area. The erratic results everyone comments on are to be expected with a change this large.

    I’m in the San Francisco area and the New Places Search is here. It’s just started rolling out in Hawaii about a week ago and displays for very few of our keywords. Seems the roll out is taking place East to West and in more densely populated metro areas first. This explains why users in outlying areas are seeing the old Organic Search Results or a mixture of Organic and Places listings. Organic listings before the Places listings or mixed in with the Places listings is definitely not intended. The rollout in the metro areas first is pretty logical.

    I, as each of you, wanted to know what the end layout would be so I could start the planning process to adapt to the new algo.

    As a result, I decided to check some of the major metro areas and sure enough; the rollout was essentially complete there. About 2 weeks ago I looked at the following –

    New York Plastic Surgeons
    Atlanta Plastic Surgeons
    Miami Plastic Surgeons
    Chicago Plastic Surgeons
    Houston Plastic Surgeons
    San Francisco Plastic Surgeons
    Seattle Plastic Surgeons

    Each query returned 3 PPC Ads at the top and the New Places Search view with 7 Places listings followed by 2 to 6 Organic listings. These results match the results in the Special Link with an example for “Chicago Museums” that Google provided in it’s announcement on 10/27/2010 — .

    Apparently the number of organic listings is affected by the amount of data that is merged into the Places listings.

    The above Search Results for “Plastic Surgeons” is the intended final layout for the New Places Search.

    2 weeks ago the maps scrolled for all but the Houston Search Results Page and on Google’s Special Link with the example for “Chicago Museums”. Today I checked and none of the maps scroll. I suspect G has figured out that scrolling maps cover their PPC Ads and will cut into their revenues and they changed it. The other upshot of this is that the panic about massive PPC price hikes is probably not as relevant as before. I think it will still be more important to be in the top 3 spots but not as compelling.

    My experience is that rankings for the New Places Search tend to come in as the higher of prior Organic or Maps Search Results and Maps carries more weight. What I mean by this is that a keyword that used to produce a 2nd position on Maps and a 15th (second page) position for Organic will produce a second position for the New Places Search. However, if you reverse it, you may not rank at all for the New Places Search. So if I used to have a 2nd position for Organic and was on the second page or later in Maps, I may not be in the first 7 results on the first page for the New Places Search.

    The other thing I have noticed is that keywords that were on the first page but had only been optimized for 3 – 4 months lost position in the New Places Search. The same happened for the broader Theme Level Keywords. On the new keywords the answer is to just keep going and I’m already seeing them bounce back. For the Theme Level Keywords, I believe that a Themed and Silo Structured website is finally a must as predicted by many of the thought leaders on the subject.

    And, there you have it. If you have thoughts and comments, please post them here. I’d appreciate the input.

  • Durant Smithcoat

    Something I found interesting about the new role out. In the time I’ve had a Place Page, I’ve never been displayed due to merging with my competition. Since the change to O pack, My Place page appears consistently in the top 3 for my target searches. Not a bad perk so far IMO.

    Another interesting note: I received an email from Google Places yesterday which included this line: “While reviewing your Places listing for XXXXXXXXXXX, we believe we found some inaccuracies that we’d like to correct, but we wanted to check with you first. ” They suggested a change from the name of my business to the name of said competition, and gave me the option to reject that change, or to modify it as I see fit. Could this be Google’s (partial) fix to the merging issue so many have had a problem with in the past?

  • Emiel

    Hi Durant Smithcoat,

    What do you think, are the main reasons for this improvement.

    At first, the ranks of the 70 business I do places for, were influenced pretty badly
    but it has recovered over the past month, to around the same value
    as before the change.

  • This may have a conditioning impact on the user. Having the places results eat up more space users may start to explore deeper into the search results there will always be users trying to avoid clicking on an add. This would be beneficial to Google as they would get more page views and have the ability to show more adds. I have always thought the search companies need to condition the users to go deeper into the directory. If people only want to click on the first thing they see why show any more options. This could be great!

  • Matt

    we actually loosing a lot of calls, since places took over the first page we are at the top but our organic listing has been merged and we dont have that map plus organic listing going and it seems to have affected traffic greatly……

  • Jim

    Every day seem to bring another change with local. I hope the big G competes it’s trials and then we all will know what format they are staying with

  • This change has been extremely frustrating. My clients are looking to me to provide answers and I’m getting tired of trying to explain these Google changes. I’m still shocked Google would block local PPC ads with that sidebar map…

  • My concern is that Google will be easily replaced by the next internet search fad. You can only frustrate your users so much. After that, they leave!!!