Here’s a Wired blog post that says some interesting, if confused, things:
Ed Reese, business development director of Hotbed, a San Francisco-based film production company, was paying about $400 a month to Yellowbook.com and Superpages.com to promote the company’s local listings on the internet. Because Hotbed caters to local ad agencies, Reese wanted to make sure the business was seen by people who searched for the terms “San Francisco” and “Film Production Company.”
As long as he paid his Yellowbook and Superpages fees, Hotbed was among the top three local listings under those terms in the Google OneBox (the box of results that appears immediately under the search box).
Then, as an experiment, he stopped paying, and Hotbed mysteriously fell off Google’s top ten local film production companies in San Francisco. He has since made it his mission to figure out how to improve his site’s placement in Google’s local search, and his conclusion, so far, is that he’s got to pay to play.
This suggests that all the listings in Google local search results on Google.com are, in effect, paid inclusion. This is not correct. In some cases, there may be overlapping results between IYP sites and Google because:
- These IYP sites offer feeds to Google as trusted local data sources
- Google relies on some of the same underlying commercial databases that IYPs do
Alternatively, perhaps he was paying for local SEM services from the IYPs and they were doing a good job for Hotbed. But that should not affect the organic links in Google Maps.
Google has its own local index and algorithm that is separate and independent from third party advertising/influence. And there’s no paid inclusion at Google in general (Yahoo has it by contrast).
As an interesting experiment, compare results for these three queries:
Sushi, San Francisco, CA
Plumber, Denver Colorado
Lawyer, San Antonio Texas
The only category in which there’s any overlap in the results is the sushi restaurant category. But otherwise, there’s apparently no direct Google Maps inclusion based on inclusion in IYP results.
Despite the fact of no paid inclusion, something doesn’t make sense here. If Hotbed was truly part of Google’s local index it should not have disappeared by discontinuing his relationship with the IYP sites.