I talk with a lot of people who are confused about their rankings and placement at Google. It doesn’t help that Google changes things from time to time, sometimes from one week to another.
Throw into the mix that Google often changes the results shown based on WHERE you are searching from. A search performed on a computer in Boston might show slightly different results than the same search performed in Chicago.
One of the more significant changes in the recent past is the placement of local listings (Google Places), in some cases taking up the majority of a search engine results page (SERP), when a local search is performed.
Google Places listings only show up for local searches, not broad searches: “boston caterers” vs. ” do it yourself catering.”
This graphic clearly identifies the different elements of a search engine results page and hopefully may end some of the confusion. This is a search engine results page at Google for the search “wedding caterers in Hyannis.”
1) Paid advertisers (PINK)
2) Local listings (if a “local” search is performed) (GREEN)
3) Organic listings (top ranked sites as a result of search engine optimization) (YELLOW)