This weekend we spotted that Google is currently testing a new SERP layout which switches from using vertical navigation links to horizontal (see screen shots below).
While reviewing these new layouts an ‘eagle-eyed’ member of our customer service team noticed that the ‘Custom Location’ option has been removed from the ‘Search Tools’ list.
About ‘Custom Search’ option
This option allows a user to artificially set their location so that they can view search results as if they were a user based in a different locale (city, town and even zipcode).
While this service offers little obvious value to normal search users, it is extremely useful to those of us in the local SEO industry who use it to check on local search performance for clients around the region & country.
As Google strives to serve increasingly relevant results to searchers, location-based results have become more and more common, both for organic results and Google+ Local results (aka Google Places or Google Maps). Search results can be subtly or significantly different depending on the exact location of the searcher – which Google determines through the IP location – which is why SEOs have loved this option in the past.
Now you see it….now you don’t!
The following screen shots compare the current/old Google layout vs the new layout. You can see the ‘Custom Location’ option is missing from the ‘Search Tools’ dropdown in Image 2.
Image 1: Current Google layout
‘Custom Location’ option is sandwiched between ‘Nearby’ & ‘Translated Foreign Pages’ options.
Image 2: New google layout
All the other search options remain in place, except for ‘Custom Location’ which has vanished.
So why is Google doing this?
Well our best guess is that this option gets very little usage from genuine searchers. And it gives valuable insight for SEOs which helps them to optimize their customers’ campaigns. Google doesn’t have a public ‘anti-SEO’ stance but they hardly go outta their way to make life easy for us do they!
So what can SEOs do to monitor location based searches?
Well we (BrightLocal) are going to write a nice letter to Google and ask them to put the ‘Custom Location’ option back in….yeah like that will help…
But we do have a solution in the making. Our engineers/developers are currently working on an update to our Local Rank Tracker tool which will allow you to set you location as part of your search settings. In light of these changes by Google we’ll be speeding up the development of this solution because we know our customers are going to want this even more.
Got a different viewpoint on this subject or some useful insights you want to share? We’re interested in publishing unique content written by smart marketeers on our blog. Contact us with your details & ideas and we’ll get back to you ASAP!