Google’s Year in Local Search

December 14, 2012
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(This article was originally published at Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

At the beginning of the year, Google's results page for {restaurants in seattle} looked like this:

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Note: the size of the map, the presence and colouration of the main column ad block and the use of the restaurant's web page title in rendering the entity. In addition, the summary of reviews is derived from Google's community.

In March, a number of changes were introduced: the main ad block was removed and the size of the map was considerably reduced to allow more above fold ads to appear on the right rail.

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The main ad block was reintroduced mid March.

At the end of April, improvements were made to the naming of entities. In the examples here, the name used for Wild Ginger was originally taken from the web site "Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Ba...". The new name is simply "Wild Ginger". This indicates either a change in how the name is populated or a change in how the name is extracted from the web site.

In August, Google's search results incorporate the Zagat review scores combined with the native Google review scores:

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August also saw a subtle change in the rendering of the smaller POI in the SERP map:

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Through the remainder of the year, there were three additional changes. The ranking of restaurants appeared to undergo a modest change. For most of the year, Wild Ginger was at the top of the list:

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However, as we close out the year, it has dropped closer to the bottom of the list:

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The second interesting change was the introduction of local into the Google Plus product which saw the reintroduction of a two box approach to search (rather than a single search box, there are two boxes one for the 'what' of the query and the other for the 'where').

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Finally, there is the introduction of markers (POI) on the map for promoted content:

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