Huge Expansion of the Google Onebox
As of today Google extensively expanded application of the Onebox for local type queries in serps.
Onebox maps now covers searches by state names, ie Used cars Florida, Nursing School Pennsylvania. Previously its appearance was more locally focused for queries like used cars Miamia and nursing schools Philadelphia.
The onebox also shows for industry secondary terms. Previously it didn't.
All of which injects the google onebox, the google maps inserts and the google maps algo serps more prominently throughout a far greater variety of localized searches in serps.
Similarly it drops organic serps listings further down on the page real estate.
Its a significant move for a lot of reasons.
The primacy of the Google maps serps becomes more important than organic serps for a wider array of businesses.
Currently G maps is evidencing a significant number of mistakes most of which is being evidenced via google groups Maps for business Owners. I don't believe there is ample evidence yet of Google's customer service capabilities to correct the number of mistakes that are appearing and being reported.
Regardless Google has dramatically expanded its presence. One outcome, I believe will be a movement to direct google advertising versus IYP or verticals (industry related directories or adertising forums). It will over time, suck up advertising dollars.
With the one box dominating the critical real estate on the first page of google serps--and subsequent opening of the onebox to the full array of businesses ranked w/in Google Maps--competing advertising sources lose their visability and primacy. (verticals and IYP don't show w/in Google Maps).
Despite the problems Google must be very pleased with traffic performance to date and should continue to expand this aspect of search.
Well, sure, Google may be pleased all it wants, but how pleased are those who are in the onebox? Does it work very well for you? I heard it made some difference this month, right?
My impression is that it will hurt my business site's visibility. The change occurred yesterday. The day before yesterday I was surprised at the strength of logical long tail searches that combine geographic and business terms. In virtually every one of those cases my site was ranked #1 in organic search for all 3 major engines. I'll lose some of those in Google. That will hurt as Google is generating a higher and higher percentage of market share for search. When I have the time I'm going to check all phrases against organic rankings and G maps rankings.
For my business and others in a metro region with more than one state bordering a major city the onebox and Google maps algo will have a huge impact. This will happen in places like St Louis (Missouri and Illinois) Kansas City (Kansas and Missouri) Philadelphia (Pennsylvania and New Jersey) Washington DC (Maryland and Virginia) and other similarly located border cities. The google maps algo heavily favors businesses that sit within the State of the long tail inquiry. So a searcher essentially looking for hotels in Kansas City metro region regardless of either state, but who puts in Kansas hotels.....will see lots of hotels throughout Kansas before they see any relevant hotels in the Kansas City metro area that have a Missouri address.
From a very preliminary review it looks like my business site is going to take it on the chin for these types of queries.
Correct me if I'm wrong but I get the impression that Google is cruising full steam ahead towards this local and personalized search, but it can't deal with some very basic and very critical elements such as national businesses that have one website but maybe have offices or locations in the area being searched for, cities and regions that span two stats as EP mentioned, or even get addresses etc correct. That last bit might be the fault of the data Google is pulling in, but the issue remains. Am I off base on that and simply don't use local search enough to know better?
Of interest Barry Schwartz reported at seoroundtable that some had seen this onebox showing in the middle of a page for organic serps. (I caught a version of this). I guess G is currently experimenting with placement of the onebox.
Placing the onebox in the middle of the page (the example query was Pennsylvania Engineering Schools) allowed for the first 3 or for sites to rank above the onebox. Of interest in that example all or most of the top 3 were verticals (or ranking/ advertising sites that aggregate a lot of relevant businesses within their optimized site.)
A while ago I was attracted to a statement SEO_AM made with regard to Google's current efforts to get webmasters to report sites that are selling text or anchor text links on the sly.
SEO_AM noted that in a way this is a manner for Google to control advertising expenditures. The less one pays for higher rankings to other websites....the more those funds might find their way directly to Google.
I think that line of thinking potentially applies here also. I'd be real surprised if Google left the G Maps onebox in the middle of an organic serps page with verticals sitting above it in the page real estate that is most viewed. Placing the onebox above those sites reduces their effectiveness dramatically.
The result might be to move advertising dollars out of verticals and over to Google.
In any case we will see over time if this middle of the page placement is maintained. I don't think it will be around for a long time.
Well, there are two links to check the local business results through Google Maps from the onebox.
It is also pretty huge (taking 2 slots)?
As you said, you'll need to dive into Google Maps/Local to improve your ranking, because you'll be competing with sites that are not shown in the SERPs, but which for some reason are shown in Google Local.
I think the onebox will stay, because from the eyes of Google, it improves relevancy. Only human behaviour tracking on Google Local (or a huge Internet-wide riot of local search marketers) may change this position, IMHO.
Take it from me...any site that wants to span a metro region like KC, St. Louis, Philly, with more than one state can definitely do it within organic serps and get high visibility no matter which state the searcher puts in the search. That is very doable.
From my current review of this the Google maps algo is heavily skewed toward the address of a site.....so if you were searching for Kansas City area hotels and did a query with Kansas in it ......any hotels on the Missouri side would be ranked very low.
On the other hand, back in December the G maps algo was more like the organic algo....and heavy optimization of on page and anchor text would have resulted in rankings across the region.
As far as the google maps thing goes though I think it is a work in progress and will change more over time. (tho I wish the algo would change the way I'd like it...IMMEDIATELY!!)
I am taking a long look at this purely from the impact of this change on my role as webmaster, site owner, and how it will effect the business from a financial perspective.
The web has become our primary source of leads into the business. Google clearly is the number one source of SE leads.
I have run a list of se phrases from google over the tem of the currently installed analytics package (over 3.25 years.) there is a lot of data.
Over time I've found that roughly 1/3 of the se traffic to the site are generic industry phrases (no geo description). We both rank high for these phrases and buy local advertising for the phrases. 1/3 of the traffic are combo industry phrases and relevant geo phrases. By a long shot these are the best and most critical conversion phrases. The last 1/3 are either from other topics on the site, irrelevant stuff, industry-geo phrases for regions where we are irrelevant, etc.
The generic industry phrases convert...but not nearly at the rate that the geo industry phrases convert. (Of interest--it has been reported that an estimated 1/2 of all searches that are nominally local in nature are not initially made with a local/regional geo term-- i.e. Dentist)
There are over 60,000 google search terms in the data. Of interest the highest single geo/business term search only shows about 500 times. It is very long tail.
The relevant geo terms span 2 states and a city and then related terms like local counties, towns etc. My business is located in a suburb of the major city in one of the 2 states.
Of the 7 best geo terms the site ranks #1 in G for organic search in all of them. For Maps it ranks 2nd in one of them, 1st in 3 of them, 8th and 9th respectively in 2 of them....and one phrase does not have a maps onebox insert with the query. The 2 queries where it ranks lower are for the other state ie as with the Missouri located hotels in the Kansas City area from the post above)
The first thing I'm going to do is up my advertising ppc campaign for the terms where my site is whipped by the G maps onebox insert.
Dave, I am sure you have learned what it takes to get into the one-box. Have you already optimized your site/pages for that or only working on that?
I'd bet that the vast majority of small business operators whose sites are being affected by this are oblivious to what is going on. The small business operators I know including direct competitors and other business operators, some of whom I help, and some of whom I know are primarily oblivious to all this.
Of interest when the onebox first came out I know some small business operators who benefitted dramatically. They mentioned potential sales calls were way up....but had no idea as to the reason.
I've put some effort into working to manipulate onebox results. While relevant serps are generally #1 for many terms...when the relevant one box impacted my site and got settled in late January my site was sitting at 3rd in the onebox.
I interacted a lot w/ both bill slawski and mike blumenthal and tried some things and saw that onebox g maps ranking move from 3rd to 2nd. I haven't done much since then...but I'll start working on it again next week.
The new set of terms are more widespread and the impact in certain cases is favorable and other cases pretty negatively severe. I'll be working on that also...but as mentioned earlier w/ regard to cross state terms I'm currently not optimistic for impacting the onebox solely through web efforts.
In the meantime, to my chagrin I'm upping spending on ppc. I'd like to hear from pittbug on this....I know he has a number of clients who should be getting yanked around by this stuff!