I’ve been getting lots of calls and seeing lots of posts in the GP forum about really strange Google Places ranking shakeups. In doing research for these people I’ve noticed some very odd results that make me think either Google is doing a bad algo test in certain markets or the algo is simply broken!

One user in the Places forum that said not only his listing, but all the page 1 rankings in his market dropped to page 6. I’ve seen that happen and heard about it for other markets as well. So it’s not just one person that has a ranking drop (possibly due to a change the user made), but all the page 1 rankings dropped to page 4 – 6. (See some screen shots and SERP links below.)

In some cases it appears that in certain markets, G is reverting back to the old style 7 pack listings. (Note: I know the “pack” style listings have been showing up more for secondary search terms but not for core keywords) HOWEVER this Places algo does not seem to work the same as the old Places algo did, or appears to be buggy. Listings that are well optimized, have LOTS of reviews, citations AND have held steady on page 1 for months have dropped to page 4 – 6. And again these are “pack” style listing that used to rank based on # of reviews and citations. Now many of the listings that are on top are fake, not relevant, or even out of the area and should not be ranking on page 1 at all.

So here’s a hodgepodge of just a few of the problems and oddball results I’ve been seeing (using Firefox). Please share your results and research in comments too.

=============================================================

Just got a call from a plumbing company. Their ranking plus most of the established REAL plumbers who have been on page 1 for years, are now on page 6. This happened the same day Google switched to the old “pack” style listings for their core search term. And no, this does not appear to be a matter of well optimized site and poorly optimized Place page. Their listing and other plumbers that dropped, have tons of reviews and citations, so should still be on page one. Now the page one rankings are bogus and/or not relevant. A DirectTV, Real Estate and bogus plumber Place page have taken over some of the top rankings for plumbing searches in this major metro market.

Search Term: Indianapolis plumber Problems: numerous (See image below)

This plumber has been one page 1 for ages and checks every 2 days so knows who all the other local plumbers are that rank. April 11th Google switched this SERP from the merged results to the old “pack” style layout. That very day the company’s rankings dropped to page 6 even though they have more reviews and citations than anyone else in the 7 pack, except Roto-Rooter. Other long term page one plumbers also dropped back several pages.

What’s on top now??? The A listing is Angie’s List. YEP a directory! The C listing is either a fake SEO listing or bad scrape, not sure, but it should not be #3. Check out the Place page here. Title: Plumber. No web site. Location? Smack dab city center. BUT the description is about Satellite dishes, and the categories include Direct TV. And it deserves to be #3 for plumber because???

Click “more results” or Place search and the I listing is an unclaimed Place page for the Real Estate Commission. How is this scraped listing relevant to a plumbing search? And why are legit plumbers with 20 – 50 reviews on page 6 while the bogus listing above take top spots?

Click for full size image
Click here to view full size

=======================================================

Search Term: Dentist 10174 – Page 1 Place Search | Problems: numerous
Back story: The owner of the J listing (at bottom of image below) posted on the GP forum that weird gibberish from webcache.googleusercontent.com at some Dental directory was in their merged listing, instead of their site’s description. (Click image below, see #J)

When I researched to try to help her out I found the following anomalies in the SERPS too. #C is an online Dental Directory that should not even have a Place page. The site it links to is the TopDocs directory and shows all their New York Dentist listings. The H listing is an unclaimed Place page about a book/movie that Google scraped and added the Dentist category to.

Click for full size image
Click here to view full size

=========================================================

I’m not going to screen shot and document much about the other listings below. Will just link to them and hope that when you click you see the same thing I’m seeing. Again I used Firefox for all these searches.

Sioux Falls Dentist From what I am seeing this SERP has changed to the 7 pack style listings and most Places don’t appear to have many reviews, citations or optimization. (Just did a quick scan though.) From the GP Forum “I was ranking on the first page for several weeks for the term “Sioux Falls dentist” and now just the last couple weeks my places page is now buried on the 4th page. This also holds true for other dentists in my area too…

Seattle Chiropractor. I previously took a Chiro in this market from #44 to #1, so I check this SERP results page all the time. Now it shows ZERO local results. ZERO places. No map, nothing! Why is Seattle Chiropractor suddenly no longer a local search term???

Seattle Dentist – Major metro and this is primary search term so has been showing merged results for months. Just recently switched back to 7 pack. Just at a glance it appears to me that the listings on page 3 and 4 are stronger than the listings on page 1. But I have not gone through and counted citations. I have some VERY cool software that can run an analysis of all these results. I may use this market as an example when I blog about that software, in the next few days.

I’ve researched many other examples of the 7 pack replacing the merged listings for core terms in major markets and showing what I believe could be a different algo that does not seem to weight # of reviews and citations heavily like the old Places algo did. It also is not using SEO as a ranking factor. I tested that theory.

This post is just scratching the surface, but it’s already too long and I’m out of blogging time. Have you been seeing odd results or anything similar to the results I mention above? Love to hear what you think in the comments.