Google Places provides information about local businesses
A common question we have encountered in relation to Google Places campaigns is the following: We are targeting Melbourne for our Places campaign. How does this affect searches performed when a user’s IP address is outside of this location?
The purpose of Google Places is to provide information about local businesses in search results. You can tell Google Places is at work if a map appears on the right side of the search result page.
Initially, Google Places listings were only shown if the search term contains a location such as Melbourne or Hawthorn. However in late 2010, Google changed their algorithm to also show Places listings for certain generic keywords such as “hairdresser”. Note that generic keywords doesn’t tell Google about the area you want to search for, and in order to return relevant local businesses, Google uses the IP address of the user to fill in the location.
This means when people in different cities search for a generic keyword, they are likely to get different Places results. This is not necessarily a bad thing for businesses. If you are a hairdresser based in Melbourne, you really only want Melbourne users to find you when they search for “hairdresser”. So although you may have less traffic, your visitors are more qualified – that is, they are more likely to convert into a sale.
On the other hand, if the search term contains a location such as Melbourne, then Google will display Melbourne businesses regardless of the user’s IP address or physical location. If you perform SEO on keywords containing Melbourne, then your listing will appear even for users outside Melbourne.
One final note: assuming a Melburnian user searching with a Melbourne IP address performing a search for “hairdresser” will give different results than a search for “hairdresser Melbourne”. Ranking for one keyword doesn’t guarantee ranking for the other – for both terms to rank in the top 10 or in Places you will need to include both keywords in your SEO strategy.