A few weeks ago we noticed a slight dip in traffic for our geographically targeted keywords, and on futher investigation we realised that this was due to Google local not appearing for town specific search terms. The way Google local normally works, is if you enter i.e. a town, followed by a product or service it, will bring up i.e. 10 local businesses. This was a little bit annoying as although we rank quite well for our selected keywords, Google local is great for nearby areas that you haven’t specifically tried to rank for. For example, if someone was looking for a service in Knutsford, Google local may bring up a few relevant businesses in nearby areas such as Northwich, Macclesfield etc, which is useful for both the searcher and the website owner. Google local also has added benefit for businesses as the results appear before the organic listings, and some people even see them as recommendations directly from Google (even though this is not the case!) and so automatically trust these results before any others.
I wasn’t massively concerned the sudden disappearance of local search, and there have been a few occassions in the past when the results haven’t appeared for a few days (i.e. when Google is updating the search algorithm). However after a few weeks had passed and it still hasn’t returned, I decided to look further into it. What I discovered was that Google local seems to still be working perfectly for most businesses except for specific types such as design, seo, website design etc. If for example, I entered the search phrase “manchester plumber”, Google local results appear as normal (see image above). If I entered i.e. “Manchester SEO” then Google local results would not be shown. Interesting… Had Google stopped showing results for certain businesses or services. It doesn’t seem unlikely given that certain online marketing companies are always looking to exploit things like Google local.
After joining some discussions on online forums, it would seem that Google hasn’t stopped using Google local results entirely for this industry, although the results are temporarily down most likely due to some form of spammer abuse. I would expect them to return in the next few weeks once the issues have been resolved. This will be part of the ongoing improvements that Google are making to Google local during the last few months.