Google Local MapGoogle made a pretty big change to their search results recently. It probably won’t be a big change for users, however it’s a HUGE change for those of us performing “local,” geo-targeted marketing. Here’s the low-down…

Google has just removed the ability for users to manually change their search location from the search results pages (SERPs). This feature was located under “Search Tools,” on the Google SERP, as detailed in the screenshot below. It’s now missing.

Google-Search-Tools

The average user doesn’t really use this feature, so it will have minimal impact. However, if you want to check a certain geo-location for local search results, you now need to type in the City & State name along with your query.

For me, that’s a big step backwards. I live in Cleveland and am always performing searches for my 90 year old mother in MI. Now I can’t just set my location to Birmingham, MI and go searching… I have to type in the city and state, ON EVERY SEARCH, EVERY TIME!

Here’s what Google’s official Search Help section states about searching in a different location now:

Google Search Location Instructions

So why did Google make this change? I think it’s just another step forward in Google’s attempt to push marketing folks away from focusing on keywords, and towards marketing their websites by focusing on relevant content, user experience and social sharing.

Bonus: Google probably also LOVES the fact that it’s messing with a lot of rank tracking companies out there and interferes with their delivery of local search rankings to marketers. A lot of these companies use this specific Google location setting to gather their keyword rankings. Now, many of these show the actual search results for THEIR location (of their software’s local IP address). This means that reviewing local rank tracking data in this type of software may no longer be accurate, and may look like you lost all your local traffic, when in reality you didn’t.

Hat-tip and kudos to Joe Soltis for discovering this and figuring it all out. Also, Thanks to John Daters for his help in this learning process, as well.

Want to know more about Google Location Setting? Click here.

Larry Engel

About Larry Engel

As SEO Strategist for Fathom, Larry Engel oversees the research, design and implementation of search engine optimization (SEO) methods for the Fathom Education team. BrightEdge & Google Certified, Larry's experience also includes 12 years in account management, 5+ years as a Certified Google Advertising Professional and 6+ years’ concentration in SEO. Larry has a mini MBA in Social Media Marketing from Rutgers University.

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