Google constantly tries new configurations of their search results page, testing and learning to see which configuration is optimal, for which audience. And good for them!
A configuration that seems to have stuck is the inclusion of more location-based results in the body of the results list.
Changes like this mean that businesses need to keep up with new Google algorithms, and new web technologies. Businesses that diligently built up their SEO for strong rankings in Google results may well find themselves pushed below the fold because they have weak local search performance.
As with standard SEO, optimising your results takes years of link building effort, but there are 4 things you can do to grab the 80% of benefit.
1. Register your business on all of the geographically-based websites you can. A good starter list is FourSquare, Gowalla, Qype, Google Places, Bing & Groupon (adding vouchers if relevant to your business).
2. Go to geositemapgenerator.com and create a kml file and a geo-sitemap.xml file. Then register the xml file with Google Webmasters’ Tools.
3. Make sure that you have included address details on all of your businesses social network pages (Facebook, etc…).
4. Wrap the details on your ‘contact-us’ page with microformats tags (new to HTML5). These are parsed by the bots of all of the major search engines, which helps them to understand the key contact details for your business.