Anatomy of the Implied Local SERP

While 40% of searches contain explicit local intent, geographic intent can be inferred for countless more queries. For many of these queries, Google includes its Google Maps listings for the locality of the searcher automatically.

I was curious about the structure of Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) for queries that imply local intent, so I spent part of yesterday studying them.

To build a profile of implied local SERPs, I looked at over one hundred such queries and recorded pertinent information such as where the map was listed, what sort of map was listed (10-page versus 3-pack), and whether any other vertical search results were ranked above the map.

Only two of the queries were three words long. The rest were almost evenly split between one word and two words queries.

All queries were performed on August 18, 2009 and were made on a Time Warner Cable internet connection in Cedar Park, Texas. Geolocation services consistently resolve this connection as being in Austin, Texas. Screenshots of the SERP were recorded for each query. They were also taken for the query plus “austin”, so that comparisons could be made.

For an example of an implied local SERP, see this screenshot taken for [grocery store].

The natural location of the Google Maps listing on an implied local SERP is the fourth spot, but this can be pushed down by an additive vertical listing above it. In one case, the third organic listing had an indented listing after it, which pushed the Google Maps listing down to fifth. Otherwise, if there were no vertical listings above the Google Maps listing, it was always fourth.

There were four types of vertical listings that could be ranked above the Google Maps listing.

TypeRate of Occurrence

The distribution by rank of the Google Maps listing was as follows:


Placement in the 6th or 7th spot happened when two or three vertical search listing types out-ranked the Google Maps listing for a particular query.

The 10-pack was shown 92.38% of the time, while the 3-pack was shown 7.62%. Ie did not see the 1-pack on an implied local SERP.

For 12.38% of the time, Google placed the designation “Customized for Austin metro area, US” at the bottom of the SERP. This indicates that Google is blending pages that score for Austin within the organic listings. This is equivalent to adding “Austin” to the query for those organic listings. It did not change the ranking for the Google Maps listing.

In nearly all cases, the Google Maps listing on the implied local SERP was identical to the Google Maps listing on its companion explicitly local SERP. The only exceptions were the occasional authoritative 1-pack on the explicitly local SERP, which occurred when the company name matched the query exactly.

If a particular query returns an implied local SERP, that increases the importance of optimizing for its local variant within Google Maps. Google has not released and data on the ratio of traffic from queries with implied locality versus those with explicit locality, but it’s reasonable to assume it is non-trivial.

Implied locality greatly complicates things for national brands. Many of these companies are used to dominating the SERPs for their queries, and the addition of local listings across all localities (assumably) results in their having to fight hundreds of little battles. Most large companies are not structured to compete in this manner.

Concordantly, it’s a great opportunity for the local business!

Open Question
One unanswered question is how implied local SERPs differ by the location of the searcher. I’m especially interested in comparing whether a 10-pack or a 3-pack is returned. Is the selection driven by the nature of the query itself, or the nature of the local listings for a particular geography?

If anyone is interested in helping me by performing some queries (and taking screen shots) in other cites, please let me know.