Difference between a Places Search & Organic Search

October 20, 2015

For the past few years Google has put a lot of emphasis into local search. In response to the growing desire for local information, Google has taken steps to improve local search for consumers and businesses.


You have probably noticed when searching for local information the results are different; If not, don’t worry we’re going to break it down.


What’s the difference between an Organic Search and Places Search?

If I searched for “Electrical Contractors in CT”, Google will recognize that this is a local search. Unlike an ordinary search (for example “Weather”), the search engine gives me two sets of results: Organic and Local/Map/Places.



  • The first returns listings from Google Places into what is known as a ‘Local 3 Pack’. Google will select the most relevant businesses based on our location and search query.
  • The second is what we call an ‘organic listing’; it’s the type we are most familiar with. To get here we would expect to use traditional Search Engine Optimization methods. Let’s take a look at the two and what you should be aware of as a local business owner.

What makes them different?Google Places Search


It is important to remember that organic search & Google Places are very different.



  • Google Places ranks businesses – Not websites
  • You don’t need a website to appear in Google places results
  • Google puts more emphasis on reviews when ranking places listings.
  • Ranking organically requires traditional SEO methods, ranking in the 3-pack is much simpler.

At first you will probably notice the places results appear at the top, above the organic results.


This is not uncommon and why it’s important to understand the difference between the two. If you know how to get into the local 3-pack or map box, you will most certainly stand out from your competitors, especially if you have reviews.


Good Organic Rankings but no Places Ranking?

A common problem for local businesses is a good organic ranking, but no Google places ranking.


Take a look at this example, again searching “Electrical Contractors in CT”.


www.pecofct.com appears in the organic search but not in the local pack above. Here are some reasons this can happen:



  1. Good Organic No PlacesThe business is too far from the search location
  2. The business website has no NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)
  3. The NAP is inconsistent with the Google Places listing.
  4. The Google My Business listing is incomplete or wrongly categorized.
  5. The business doesn’t have enough ‘local citations’ including your business name & address.
  6. You have no business reviews – This is not a definitive solution to the problem, but reviews certainly help to promote local rankings.
  7. Your Google Places listing is new – With SEO nothing tends to happen overnight, if you have only just created or updated your listings, give it a little while to before expecting positive results.
  8. You aren’t keeping to White Hat SEO techniques – If you have paid for cheap SEO or anything that automates the process, you may have been penalized by Google.

Note that Places listings have little effect on Organic listings. The two are separate entities; however a good Organic Ranking may lead to a better chance of a good Places Ranking.


Good Places Ranking but Poor Organic Ranking?

You might have the same problem but the other way around. Why am I ranking in the 3-pack but not organically? The answer is simpler than you might think.



  • Remember that Google places ranks businesses
  • Organic searches rank websites

The requirements for ranking a local business are far less than a entire website. To get your website up the organic search results you need to focus on traditional SEO methods. These include:



  • Generating quality backlinks
  • Social activity
  • Quality, regular content
  • Highly relevant pages
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