Mike Blumenthal wrote something very interesting today:
Google is now showing the Local 10 Pack on broad single phrase searches with obvious local intent (nods to Florist SEO Watch who spotted this on Saturday and Cathy Rhullodafor pointing it out) without geo modifiers. He found it for a range of categories (such as florists, doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.) that Google has deemed local.
I was able to see it on the search for “doctor” and a number of other searches:
Notice there’s no modifier and yet the 10 pack appears, based on IP targeting presumably. What it indicates is that Google is acknowledging there are many more “local searches” than those that feature geomodifiers. There are a wide range of categories and queries that are “inherently local” (i.e., services where fulfillment must happen offline). I have also argued that the majority of product searches are ultimately local because they are fulfilled by a purchase in a local store.
Though often the query will suggest it, Google isn’t necessarily sure where someone is in the research or purchase process (especially with products) in some of these situations. I suspect that’s why the 10 pack in the example above is somewhat tentatively pushed down the page. Compare “San Francisco Doctor” and the placement of the 10 pack in those results, where Google can be much more confident of the user’s intent:
Regardless, this is a welcome development because it starts to reflect real user intent with a lot of these queries that may not contain a modifier. It should also drive lots more organic traffic into Maps and make that property more important than it already is.