Navigating Local Search in a Post Venice World

Last month I talked about some changes in the local search space that I was experiencing. There were more results appearing in the aesthetic surgery search space that looked extremely similar to local packs, yet they were still displaying an instant preview that was more characteristic of a blended Places Search result.

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Ultimately things weren’t making a lot of sense. What was blended? What wasn’t? What was happening? One week later, Google revealed the Venice update, and then things started to make more sense.

What’s A Local Pack Result?

Last month I shared the following SERP and questioned whether the first result was a newly formatted blended result or a local pack result. I can now with confidence declare that it was in fact a local pack result and not a blended Places Search result.

What are local pack results these are in fact both localized results. Last month I questioned as to whether or not the format of Places Search results were changing. Following some further research I have discovered that it has not. A local pack result will always feature the Place pin to the right with the address.

The once popular Places Search results that dominated many queries in the local search space have been greatly reduced and appear to be more reserved for long tail, or brand specific searches like the result below. In the past a search like the query above would have generated five to ten results like this at a time.

blended places results

Local in Non-Local Queries

Local results from broad queries like “Dentist” or “Divorce Attorney” have delivered localized results since the Places Search integration in 2010. However, with Venice these results appear to be even more prominent than before.

In the image below borrowed from Mike Ramseys post on Venice from SEOmoz you’ll notice that even broad queries with no local qualifier deliver localized results in a post Venice SERP.

showing up in a post venice serp

Showing Up in a Post Venice SERP

When Google released the Places Search update in 2010 sites that had a decent balance of Places optimization and search engine optimization came out on top. With the unveiling of Venice it appears that Google is now favoring organic ranking factors over Places.

This means that if you were focusing solely on Places optimization following the integration of Places Search, you are probably needing to go back to traditional search engine optimization practices to help stay on top.

In the aesthetic surgery space where I spend much of my time with clients for Plastic Surgery Studios, I have found that the local pack now dominates our search space again and the sun has set on the days of blended search results for queries like “Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon” or “New York City Dentist”.

In many markets doctors that dominated with a decent mix of local optimization and organic optimization are now trumped by strong Places players in the local pack results.

In other areas doctors who were weak in the local search optimization game, but strong in the organic have taken over in some markets based on their strong organic search optimization.

In many ways, we are back to the way things were prior to the unveiling of Places Search with the added bonus of local results for broad queries.

To stay on top of the local search space now you need to really analyze your year search space and determine what’s more prominent. Is it the local pack, or is it organic results?

If the local pack is taking up the top half of your query space you might want to look at trying to further optimize your Places presence as a means of showing up more prominently. If the local pack is less prominent, then perhaps strong localized on-site optimization with some strong relevant and local links may be what it takes to get to the top.

As with any search strategy it’s never good to put all your eggs in one basket. Assess what you competitors are doing if they came out on top following Venice. Mimic it and then do it even better than your competition.

Strong on page signals as well as strong Places optimization are important regardless of what’s happening in your search space, but if you can find the right balance it may be the difference between page one and page two.


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