Today Google formally rolls out its new presentation of local results, called “Place Search.” It offers a dramatic change to the look and feel of SERPs on Google.com. The first and most obvious change is that the “7 Pack” is gone. And there appear to be some fairly major SEO implications, which should provide many hours of enjoyment for the SEO community as it tries to reverse engineer the algorithm.
The changes won’t come as a surprise to close Google watchers. A number of people previously spotted Google testing these pages in the wild and have written about them in some detail, including Chris Silver Smith, Mike Blumenthal, David Mihm and Andrew Shotland. Google sees the changes as an extension or evolution of universal search in the local context.
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. 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.”
On to the physical SERP changes. The best way to make this concrete is to show the “before” and “after” pages.
Immediately below are two screenshots for the results to the query “San Francisco Dentist.” The first page below is an “old” SERP with my annotations. Below AdWords comes the “7 Pack,” which is followed by mostly local web results. This was the “old” arena for third party local SEO.
Here’s the new page for the same local dentist query: