Big changes in the SERPs happened today with the roll out of an integration of Google Places with Organic search rankings. The 7-pack is gone! In its place Google has integrated Places listings with Organic results. It’s called Places Search and Google announced it on their blog today – http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/place-search-faster-easier-way-to-find.html
What does this look like? Well, now instead of seeing a 7-pack with the top 7 listings in your area you only see the organic listings. However if the organic listing has a Places account attached to the URL it will integrate the pictures, address & reviews from that account into the SERP snippet. Also the Map with the place markings has been moved to the right hand side pushing aside the AdWords sponsored listings. Not only this, but when you scroll down the page the map floats covering the sponsored listings as it goes.
What does this mean? Well, for a start it increases the importance of showing up in the top three sponsored listings. If you’re number four now, you appear below the map way down the page. Also as the map covers listings as it goes there may be instances where listings don’t get seen at all as they are covered as the user scrolls. It also increases the importance of optimizing your site for local traffic. Places rankings tended to work differently to Organic and users could find ways of optimizing their places account to appear in the 7-pack without having to be concerned with their Organic listings. Now it’s all about your organic listing. So choosing to target local traffic needs to be a concerted effort that you roll out, site wide.
This has been coming for a while. Way back in July users saw Google testing this new SERP ‘in the wild’ – http://www.screenwerk.com/2010/07/06/whither-the-7-pack/. Google is due to roll out this new SERP in over 40 languages in the next few days and we’ll start to see the effect here on advertising over the next couple of weeks. Now, if you don’t have it showing already you can see it through this special link. Obviously they’ve done some tests on the effect on AdWords revenue but it remains to be seen whether covering peoples ads is a good idea.