How Google Is Shaping User Search Behaviour
I believe I’m the first to observe this new addition in Google regional search, which effectively tries to suggest more local search queries for generic search terms.
Try it – Type in any generic service type such as lawyer, dentist, or florist into your regional Google search engine, and you’ll notice results such as the one above. In what seems to affirm to their ‘Do No Evil’, and ‘offer the most relevant results’ mantra, Google has started to suggest localized business queries for generic searches on regional google domains such Google.ca, .co.uk, and .com.au.
In essence, Google is shaping user search behaviour from searching generic phrases to more localized ones that offer better relevancy. After all, one of the main reasons most folks use regional google search rather than google.com is to get better results – No one wants to find a plumber in Waco, TX (due to heavy SEO) when they are really located in Vancouver, BC.
The caveat of course is that people are stubborn – they don’t change their habits easily, but this is a step in the right direction. Local search terms may have lower search volume but they generally have higher conversion rates as buyers are pre-empted by the very nature of the local search.
Implications on Organic and Paid Search
Shaping user behaviour and therefore traffic can have significant implications to the world of organic and paid search. If the trend continues, we will see an increase in traffic from local search terms, thereby increasing the bid costs on terms that were once cheap. It is impossible to say how long this might take for users to generally stop searching generic terms and start with localized search queries from their base (first) search.
In any case, this means that advertisers will have keep a very keen eye on the shift between generic phrase searches to local search, and adjust their campaigns accordingly. From an organic SEO standpoint, this means that search campaigns will require more components of local seo, in order to rank at the top. For example, some of my client’s rank very well for generic keywords (which is great), but do not rank within the top 5 for every single market they service, simply because a lesser number of hours has been focused on attaining city based rankings. In other cases, clients who have no e-tailer presence and are purely local will benefit from existing rankings that are relatively ‘cemented’ compared to other sites that are trying to optimize for local search queries.
In general, local seo will no longer be an add-on to an SEO campaign, but rather become an integral part of it, with local seo best practices such as:
- Building links or reviews from local citation sources.
- Having a separate landing page for each business location, or service area.
- A greater focus on local business directory link building (as a part of passive seo).
- Enhancing existing PPC campaigns with local maps targeting and business coupons.
- Since searches are being localized, optimization for the Google Maps one-box will become that much more important.
Why It Might Be Counter-Intuitive For Google Shareholders
Unless the industry jumps ship from generic keywords and switches over to local-only keywords overnight (ain’t gonna happen), revenue from Google Adwords will go down as local search terms generally cost far less to bid on than generic keywords. As previously stated, user search behaviour takes a long time to change, and this should diminish any impact on overall revenues Adwords as a paid search platform, but in the long term one has to wonder if Google is shooting itself in the foot? Perhaps it hopes to make more revenue from sheer volume of keywords, but I do not forsee local keywords being more expensive than generic keywords any time soon.
Rolling it Out in Canada, the UK, and Australia
I’ve only tested the local query suggestion box in .ca, co.uk, and com.au but the box seems to be customized based on which regional search engine is used. For example, here’s the difference between Australia and Canada respectively, for the same search term:
Thoughts? Comments? Observations? Let me know if I’m completely off base, or if you agree with me on my thoughts regarding this change. Looking forward to discussions in the comments then.