The Case of the Missing Online Marketing Listings

On November 5, 2009, something curious happened the the Google Universal results for geographic keywords in the Internet marketing space: they disappeared.

Search on virtually any high traffic Internet marketing keyword, and add any city you can think of, and the 7-pack appears to be gone. I watch a number of these SERPs closely, and many of these keywords have shown Google Local results for well over a year.

To test the wideness of this phenomenon, I searched on the following keywords:

  • online marketing
  • internet marketing
  • email marketing
  • search engine marketing
  • search engine optimization
  • seo

using the following cities:

  • Austin
  • Dallas
  • Manhattan
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle

Trying every combination of the two sets, not a single Google Maps listing was returned. Other vertical media types (notably News and Video) were sometimes returned, however.

This change occurred the same time as the several hour long disappearance of phone numbers in the Google Local listings, but I suspect that is a coincidence.

For many of these keywords, Google previously even assumed there was local intent.

More general marketing keywords (e.g. [marketing san francisco]) are still returning Google Maps results. As are some longer tail keywords (including, fortunately, one for which I have the authoritative 1-pack).

Almost three weeks have gone by, so it doesn’t look like a temporary error by Google. Such things usually resolve in a week or so.

We can only assume that the change is a manual one by Google.

But why?

The SERPs for these marketing terms were a little bit spammy, but no worse than many other industries. And they were much cleaner than the locksmith SERPs.

Google’s always had a tenuous relationship with the internet marketing community (unless, of course, you’re spending a ton of money on Google AdWords). They wouldn’t be targeting this industry directly, would they?

Some might consider that evil.