Google Places search results pages drive me crazy on a daily basis. They go from displaying businesses that are 20 miles away to returning incomplete, unverified, places pages with no website above legitimate businesses.
Today I was searching for ‘laser hair removal’ in nearby St. Paul. A look at the Google SERP below shows the usual local results hogging nearly the whole first page of organic.
The first two listings look like they belong but after that the results are strange at best. I did a quick comparison with some values from Open Site Explorer.
LRD is the number of linking root domains and DA is Domain Authority. I graded the site URL and the places page listings myself based on pretty simple metrics of phrase usage and proper placement.
The first two results use the search phrase (sans city name) nicely in the business title on the places page. They are also running the new Google tags but I think the phrase use in the title is placing them first and second and not the free month trial of tags. The first result is actually in St. Paul while the second result is in a suburb of St. Paul.
The third result has no reference to the search phrase on the URL page, the phrase is poorly referenced in the places page, and it is on a weak domain. The only two signals the third result has going for it is a domain name that is close to the search phrase and a business address in the city searched for.
The fourth result comes from a page that isn’t in the linkscape index but is on a fairly strong domain. The URL page is highly optimized for the search phrase but the places page doesn’t contain anything close to the search phrase. And the business is not actually in the city searched for but a distant suburb.
I am tempted to call the fifth result on the list and offer to do 10 minutes worth of work to their places page and watch them jump to #1. They have the strongest domain in the list. The URL page is highly optimized for the search phrase. I am very confident that adding the search phrase to the Google Places listing would move them up the results quickly. As I say that I remind myself that the listing above in the #4 spot has an F grade for the places page also and I have no idea why it is in the results (confidence killer )
The sixth result has no website but has a places page that targets the phrase and the business is actually in St. Paul – the city I searched for.
The results get worse from there with spammy directories. My biggest questions in all of this are:
1. If I search for a city name and there are businesses in that city, why doesn’t Google show those first?
2. How can a business that is at least 15 miles away from the center of the city and that doesn’t use the search phrase on their places page (#4), outrank businesses in the city targeting the phrase?
Here is a map of the results. I’ve placed an ‘X’ near the center of St. Paul.
I know there are better search results sitting on page 2 of the SERPs. And I know there are laser hair removal businesses actually in St. Paul. So why is Google showing me results that are 15-20 miles away?
It is fairly clear that domain authority, page authority, domain optimization (or relevancy) and Place page optimization play a critical role in the top 2-3 positions. I would say that due to lack of quality competition we see very strange results in situations such as this one.