The key to great search results is relevance right? Is there such a thing as search results that are TOO relevant?

Once upon a time (just a few week ago) Google search results pulled a healthy mix of websites both relevant to your local IP address and also more powerful sites not necessarily local to you. That healthy mix has changed quite dramatically as of late, with many expert internet marketers noting similar changes about the time of the Penguin 2.0 release.

Don’t get me wrong, localized search results have their place, especially when searching Google for something like “dentist” or “bakery”. That being said, more specific searches should pull results less localized for queries like, “vacation ideas” or “hockey scores.” You would expect to see scores from the NHL ranking higher than the local high school team correct?

Now what if you’re searching Google for a generic keyword that is typically tied to a specific geographic region. Take “rafting” or “hiking” for example. Those general keywords are typically influenced by normal SEO factors like site structure, age, title tags etc and also the link profile of the site. So how has Google’s decision to give more preference to localized search results affected sites that rank well for those generic terms across the US? There are a lot of industry experts out there complaining that their highly optimized sites are actually losing ground in search results to more local results, but fairing better in their respective geographic area.

My question is: how do location based websites fair in search results from various areas around the country? You would think that a search for the Ocoee River in Tennessee by someone in Oregon would show the same results as someone located in Pennsylvania correct? Let’s see:

Search From Oregon

Search from Pennsylvania:

Not the same! Why would that be? Your guess is as good as mine, but this is something that these whitewater rafting companies are going to have to get sorted! The majority of search results are the same which makes sense, but you can see that results eight and nine are swapped. This is just a quick sample, but my gut tells me that across a bigger sample we would see more dramatic results. This is a strange change indeed that is likely to create permutations throughout the SEO community as rankings become less stable across various geographic locations. I’m personally looking forward to more information being shared about this change and what exactly is influencing Google to display different results for queries like this around the country. The local SEO industry definitely just received a boost from this algorithm change!

Have you noticed Google results are becoming more localized? What about rankings for location specific keywords like “homes for sale in Mechanicsburg, PA” – have you noticed any clear differences?