Gamechanger: Location affects Search Results. So What?!
Yesterday our friends over at
gShiftLabs wrote about the major shifts Google and Microsoft have made in displaying search results and to whom. As both of the search engine powerhouses mentioned, location and social networking are going to play a much larger role in the search results, and in some ways, results are going to be more tapered to the individual. For many of us SEO and SEM gurus, we think, so what? Our tactics for optimization might alter slightly, but the things that boost rankings always will be links, online credibility, and more followers.
Although all of that might be true, what about our clients’ expectations. No more are the days when we could tell them a specific rank for a certain keyword. Now, there are a whole lot of factors floating around that affect how to measure our labor’s performance. Additionally, all of these search engine changes mean reporting success is that much harder. Sure, they are getting more traffic, but if they want to know what that means, we have better come up with a way to show them in an accurate way.
The biggest issue to us seemed to be location. What if our client has predominantly Texan sales, but in Texas they are at average organic position 5 whereas here in California (where I gather data for the reports) they are at position 3 for the same keyword? That can be a problem. Furthermore, think about all of the retailers with multiple locations. Their average SEO effort might appear to be poor from their corporate office, but from their flagship store locations, it could be great without them even knowing they should give their SEO partner a pat on the back.
If you don’t believe that this is for real, check out these examples with the search query “beauty salons” (from our office in Santa Clara, CA):
If I count Google places as position 3 and image results as position 4, the positions where location really mattered were 5, 6, and 7. What happened to the other sites that used to be in positions 5, 6 and 7?
Still not convinced? Let’s travel to Decatur, TX (I put a finger on a map). I don’t have enough money to fly everywhere I have ads displaying though, so I decided to mask my location with a cool Android app called “Fake my Location.” Here’s what I got for the same search using Google (classic view):
Again, after the Google places, we can see some Texas results. Uh oh, and there is the introduction of an apparently non-location based company called Buzzle.com. Hmmm.
Needless to say, this is going to have widespread consequences on the way you report SEO success. So, until the SEO measurement tools catch up to the engines’ new custom results, for us optimizers out there, we better get our plane tickets out or fire up the old cell phone to show us that matter the most to us and our clients.