New Inequality in Google Places: Sitelinks in "Blended" Local Search Results

I’ve just seen what I believe is a new competitive edge that some businesses can wield over others in the Google Places “blended” search results: sitelinks.

For example, here’s a screenshot of how one of my clients shows up in Google Places—notice the 3 little links under his Google listing:

I’ve never seen sitelinks show up where they do now in Google Places.

Sitelinks have shown up in non-local (organic and paid) search results for several years.  In terms of how they’ve appeared in the local search results, it’s been the case for quite some time that if you search for a business by name and see its “one-box” appear in Google Places, typically you’d see any sitelinks that Google has given it.

(By the way, here’s a post I did on how you can get sitelinks from Google.)

What’s different about these sitelinks is they’re showing up for some businesses (and not others) in the cutthroat arena known as page one of Google’s local search results.  Some businesses get to show their sitelinks to customers, even when those customers don’t search for those businesses by name.

What’s more, I’ve only seen the “blended” sitelinks for the businesses that are already ranked at the top of the heap.  The above example of my client is one such example (hey, I’m not complaining).  Here’s another example:

It’s possible this is a test.  But I’d say that’s unlikely, based on the fact that sitelinks have appeared in more and more areas of Google over the years.

In any case, this isn’t an earth-shaking change, but it does change the local-search landscape a little (is that too many L’s?).  Mainly it’s a force-multiplier for businesses that are the top of Google Places for some search terms.  The sitelinks push the other local businesses down the page just a little bit, and the sitelinks are likely to boost click-through rates for local businesses that have them.

The moral of the story?  Try to get sitelinks.  An optimized, Google-friendly site can help your Google Places ranking big-time, and the process of trying to get sitelinks can help you tighten up your site and give it a boost in this way.  Plus, if and when you’re at the top of the local search results in your market, your sitelinks can be an even greater advantage over lower-ranked local competitors.

Have you noticed more sitelinks in your local market than you noticed before?  Is it only the top-ranked businesses that have sitelinks?