Breaking: Will Google Kill Search Location Setting? Bad News for Local SEO if So

Linda Buquet

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Pretty big news if this happens. Google is testing a new layout and if it happens it's going to be a problem.

Myles from BrightLocal just gave me a head's up on a story they broke yesterday and was surprised no one was talking about this, because it could have a SERIOUS impact on those that do Local SEO for clients.

Over in the UK Google is testing a new layout and that layout is MISSING the ability to select a "custom location". This is a feature that users would seldom need/want/use. Business owners are IN that city so they don't need to change location to check their rankings. It's only Marketing Companies and SEOs that need that feature!

Head over and see the screenshots.

Google search update - removes 'Custom Location' option | BrightLocal

This weekend we spotted that Google is currently testing a new SERP layout which switches from using vertical navigation links to horizontal (see screen shots below).

While reviewing these new layouts an ‘eagle-eyed’ member of our customer service team noticed that the ‘Custom Location’ option has been removed from the ‘Search Tools’ list.
Is this just a test OR could it just be an oversight OR will this someday soon be the new normal? :eek:

You KNOW how Google likes to hide stuff from us - like referral data and G+ Local categories.
Will she blind our ability to check rankings via custom locations?

What do you think???

Test? Oops? Or ON NO, here we go again!
 

Colan Nielsen

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Interesting stuff. Well, if they get rid of it from the SERP, we can still use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool which can be set to a specific city. I doubt they will ever mess with that since it is designed for PAYING customers.

The problem with that tool is that it has major limitations when it comes to local results.
 

Chase Billow

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Good point about the Adwords tool, but I can imagine that becoming available only when you're logged in to your Adwords account.

Thanks for the heads up on this, though, Linda. Doesn't surprise me one bit. All the info is going away. That's the trend.
 

Linda Buquet

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Sure glad a couple of you commented. To me this is a pretty big deal. But started to think maybe Myles and I were the only ones that thought so. :confused:
 

Colan Nielsen

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It's comforting to know that Myles and the team at Bright Local are on to it. According to their article their "engineers/developers are currently working on an update to our Local Search Rank Checker tool which will allow you to set you location as part of your search settings"
Bright Local has some great SEO tools, and they adapt very quickly to changes in the Google environment.
 

Linda Buquet

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Colan he just replied back by email thanking you for your tip about the Adwords tool and said he's going to check that out too!
 
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Geez, here's to hoping it's an 'oops', Linda. I use this feature all the time.

Oh, Google! :mad:

Thanks so much for reporting.
 

Don Berthiaume

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Thought I might chime in. This is what I'm seeing here on the east coast tonight...

10-23-2012 9-15-52 PM.jpg

So it appears I am able to customize the location. And, if I switch locations, Google Pack does return that location.

10-23-2012 9-16-27 PM.jpg

Anyone else seeing this, or have this capability?



 

Linda Buquet

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Oh wow Don, looks like the update is rolling out. I don't have it. Still the left side menu.

WONDERFUL that you have the location setting. Either it was just missing in UK version or they just fixed it. Great to know.

THANKS for sharing!
 
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Don:

You beat me to the punch. I see the same exact thing from Minneapolis, MN. I was working with a client today over the phone and all of the sudden I got this new layout. I was like...what:confused:

At any rate, I'm able to change the location just fine by using the same drop down you've highlighted in your screenshot. Here is my screenshot:

10.23.2012-21.25 - tvanslooten's library


By the way, I've been getting this new layout all day today. Is this going to be permanent then?


Travis Van Slooten

Thought I might chime in. This is what I'm seeing here on the east coast tonight...

View attachment 170

So it appears I am able to customize the location. And, if I switch locations, Google Pack does return that location.

View attachment 171

Anyone else seeing this, or have this capability?
 

Linda Buquet

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Oh YAY! Thanks for confirming the location setting Travis! I feel better now.

See the post I linked to above at the Google Webmaster forum. Sounds like it's either a broad test or rolling out. But lots of complaints about a variety of other features. Some saying worst update they've seen.
 

Jason Kamara

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I noticed the layout change on Sunday, but I didn't realize the location setting had changed. I seem to have a different search settings bar than Travis. I can choose city, state or region level but there is no option to choose from which city, state, or region I wish to search.

This is what I get from Vancouver, Canada: google-layout-update | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

I sure hope this new layout doesn't stick.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jason yours looks more like BrightLocal's screenshots from the UK.
2 different versions OR just testing different options?

Thanks Jason for weighing in to show us what you see!

Kinda makes me wonder what I'll wake up to tomorrow. :eek:
 

Nick Rink

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Think those changes are only on google.com at the moment and they seem to mirror what you see on mobile devices. Here's a screenshot of a search on google.co.uk and we still have the ability to set location in the left hand nav bar. Although knowing how these things work I'll likely wake up tomorrow and it's all changed!
 
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@Colan - thanks for the kind words - we try our best!

@Don - good spot on the custom location setting in the new layout. There are always multiple layouts in play during any test.

Interesting that google appears to be testing this search option and keeping all others constant?!

I tested various states of logged in/log out and also cleared all browser history. This didn't make a difference - i got the same experience each time.

Also, it does appear to be just google.com which is affected right now - Uk, Aus, Can not affected from the tests we've done but the sample size may be pretty small.
 

KabanaSoft

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I've actually been seeing this new top / horizontal search options layout since the first week of September, but only when i was logged into my Google account (if i logged out it went back to the old layout)...and the layout i was seeing there was no option to change the location setting..did anyone else see this new layout over the past month or so?

Its funny because now that everyone else is seeing it, i can't get this new layout to show even if i'm logged into my Google account, so they are surely doing split tests at the moment.

My first reactions to this new layout when i first saw it were:

a) It SUCKS!

and

b) It will probably break Places Scout's ability to change the location setting if rolled out to everyone. Fixing Places Scout to support changing the location setting with the new layout should be fairly easy as long as they keep in the ability to allow the user to change the location setting. So going to wait until the dust settles on this before i do anything, but if it breaks anything in Places Scout, i will be sure to provide an immediate fix once we can confirm that its officially rolled out to everyone.

Also this new layout has actually been the default layout for Google on the new Galaxy Nexus 7 Tablet that i bought the first day it came out, and i absolutely hate it on a tablet. It is literally useless on a tablet, and is nearly impossible to change search settings such as the date range using just touches, it simply doesn't work and accept the user input properly, you have to press and drag tons of times to get it to work and sometimes that still doesn't work. Major FAIL GOOGLE!

In addition, i've noticed that Google has considerably shrunk the width of the SERP results with this new layout (i compared old SERP screenshots i had with the new layout to confirm this). It seems like they have allocated alot more space to the the map on the right if present as well as the left sidebar...if you resize your browser window you will notice that while the left sidebar and the right map expand when increasing the width of the browser window, the width of the SERP results does not increase (please let me know if anyone else has noticed this).

The above leads me to believe that Google is doing this to increase the available space on the overall SERP pages so that they can stuff in more ads on both the left and right side of the SERPs. Which isn't uprising, since the avg. CPC has actually dropped 15% in Q3 of this year vs Q3 of last year, so they will need to generate more clicks to make up for it, which they can do by adding more ads into the SERPs. Plus, psychologically speaking, people read left to right, so if they put ads in on the left as well, they will surely be more visible and seen more than just being at the top and right.

I'm really hoping that Google changes their mind on this new layout. Seems like no one likes it, and i really hope they don't take out the ability to change the location setting, as that would be a major blow to all of us who rely on obtaining data from various locations via keyword only searches.

Linda, where is the formal place to complain to Google about this new layout? Is it the link in your post #8? Perhaps if we can all cause enough uproar they will reconsider...but i have a feeling if they are going the route of using the space on the left for ads, that business politics will trump any of our outcry, especially if it means more $$$ and ad revenue for the Big G.
 

Linda Buquet

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In addition, i've noticed that Google has considerably shrunk the width of the SERP results with this new layout (i compared old SERP screenshots i had with the new layout to confirm this). It seems like they have allocated alot more space to the the map on the right if present as well as the left sidebar...if you resize your browser window you will notice that while the left sidebar and the right map expand when increasing the width of the browser window, the width of the SERP results does not increase (please let me know if anyone else has noticed this).

The above leads me to believe that Google is doing this to increase the available space on the overall SERP pages so that they can stuff in more ads on both the left and right side of the SERPs. Which isn't uprising, since the avg. CPC has actually dropped 15% in Q3 of this year vs Q3 of last year, so they will need to generate more clicks to make up for it, which they can do by adding more ads into the SERPs. Plus, psychologically speaking, people read left to right, so if they put ads in on the left as well, they will surely be more visible and seen more than just being at the top and right.
Thanks so much Mark for your in-depth insights! I don't have the new layout yet and had not had time to analyze other changes via everyone's screen shots. So THANKS for heads up on those other issues!

Linda, where is the formal place to complain to Google about this new layout? Is it the link in your post #8? Perhaps if we can all cause enough uproar they will reconsider...but i have a feeling if they are going the route of using the space on the left for ads, that business politics will trump any of our outcry, especially if it means more $$$ and ad revenue for the Big G.
The link I posted in #8 is the only one I knew of when I 1st posted this but have not looked for others. I'm sure they are out there. BUT yesterday I saw a couple actual Googlers replying and taking feedback seriously so I'd say that's likely the best place to air your concerns!
 

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