The answer to the question.... nothing. Actually, that is not totally true. If you missed the news, Google announced that they will start returning local results for single word search phrases like "restaurants" or "dentist." Before the change, you'd have to search "restaurants in arlington, va" or "dentist 22042" for Google to pick up on your intent to see results near a certain location.
In the example above, I searched "restaurants" and Google returned local results as the 5th listing. I will point out that if I had searched "restaurants arlington, va" the local search results would have been even higher.
The interesting part is that Google is inferring from my keyword search and my IP address (the unique address assigned to my Internet connection) that I was looking for places to eat in Arlington, VA. Who does this hurt? The big lead aggregators and directories (DentistDirectory.com, eLocalPlumbers.com or even Yelp.com) who have made it a business to position their sites at the top of the search results for important one and two word phrases. A local dentist could never hope nor want to be listed as the top result for everyone searching on dentist across the country.
Here is where things get interesting. Google is now guessing your location and showing you results closest to that location. Your IP address isn't nearly as accurate as a physical address. This means that the businesses closest to the center point that Google selects will be listed higher than those further away from that point. Google will allow you to set your preferred center point, but many people will not figure that out. So now the Dentist, Plumber, Lawyer, etc... closest to the center point will rank above you.
In my particular case, Google has approximated by location about 3 miles from my current location.That is pretty good, but there will be many unhappy Dentists and Restaurants that I drive by on my way down the street.
If you are a local business, this is great because it levels the playing field against the big national aggregators and directories but follow these steps:
- Go claim your Google local business listing
- Make sure you include your important keywords in your business name. If you are a mexican restaurant make sure you name yourself "Blancas Mexican Restaurant" instead of "Blancas."
- Make sure your address is correct
- Run some test searches in your area. Where does Google place you? This will likely differ depending on your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
This adds a whole new dimension to Location, Location, Location!! Will people start clustering around the centroids that Google defines on their map? Might not be a bad idea. How much is office space near the White House?