This is the first of a three-part series on Local Search in Google (The Centroid Battle for Las Vegas). In this post we’re going to look at the ‘7 pack’ of results that appear when searching for hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I do much of my research for local in the city of Las Vegas, primarily because there is more of everything that one might be searching for. For example, there are scenarios where a hotel can be found on every corner, which makes it easier to study how one business location is ranking versus the others. Our research today begins at the intersection of S Las Vegas Blvd & E Flamingo Road in Clark County, Nevada.
I chose this intersection because this is where Google has determined to place the centroid for the city of Las Vegas. The location differs from what’s considered the center of Las Vegas according to US geological survey maps and some other government map data, but I think in this case Google made the right call, let’s seek to understand why.
Ask your friends or family who have been to Las Vegas to name a hotel that’s located in the center of all the action. Chances are, they will name one of the major hotel properties located near the center of the strip (S. Las Vegas Blvd.), versus downtown Las Vegas (a more accurate geographical center of the city). This goes against the wisdom that Google places centroids near city municipalities (like in downtown Los Angeles).
To know where we were starting, I simply did a search for the city name [las vegas] to determine Google’s preference for placing the centroid. You can typically do this for any town or city you’d like to locate a centroid for. I then set my browser’s default location to Las Vegas, NV (you can also disable local search by selecting United States) and typed in my keyword of interest.
For the image above, I moved the map so I can refer to corresponding letters, results will appear differently on your screen when doing searches. It’s important to know that the screen grab was made in Oct 2011 and live results will vary.
I’m assuming you’ve been to Las Vegas and walked the strip at least once. You may have been in a drunken stupor but now you can tell people you were conducting research. Take a look at the map and count through the 7 letters from A to G. Notice results A, B, C and E are north of the centroid (Flamingo Road) and results D, F, and G are south? Do you see how five of the letters are clustered and two are quite a distance away from the center. That’s not at all uncommon and I’ll refer to those scattered individual results as wildcards.
The Flamingo Hotel & Casino (in position C) is located nearest the centroid and Caesers Palace (position B) is located directly across the street, giving us the feeling perhaps that everything appears normal, but it’s not the case. To spot the misfit take a look at the address for The Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South) and see which addresses are the furthest away. Notice any?
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. (position A) to 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. (position D) is a 3 mile one way walk and so we can see THEHotel at Mandalay Bay (in position D) is marked in the wrong location. It should be south of the Luxor (position G) and adjacent to McCarran Airport. It could be happening intentionally or Google is accidentally marking this hotel property next to Caesars Palace. Imagine the disappointment of a first time tourist in Vegas booking a stay at Mandalay Bay based on this map and discovering it’s at the near absolute end of the strip. Also, the hotel expected in position D has had its place hijacked and/or sabotaged (more on that in post 2 of this series). We can see the 7 pack isn’t perfect, even for a highly visible search term like hotels.
Viewing the image above, we see that only three hotels use a local 702 area code phone number, while the other four use either a toll-free 800-number (Luxor and Harrah’s), a toll-free 877 number (Mandalay Bay), or a toll-free 888 number (Flamingo). One of the original Nevada area codes, established in October of 1947, was area code 702. Due to growth in the Las Vegas area, nearly all areas outside of the city rely on other area codes. There is disagreement in the local search community on the value of phone numbers, but it is my feeling that if you have a number that signals location, make use of it.
Five out of the seven hotels listed include ‘Las Vegas Boulevard South’ in their address. One location (Caesars Palace) uses the abbreviated 3570 Las Vegas Blvd S address, and the MGM Grand lists its address as 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard without identification of North or South.
Remember, my location was set to Las Vegas, Nevada and my keyword searched was hotels. Four out of the seven locations (technically 3 of 7) use the keyword in their listing, but positions A, B and C (the top 3) do not. Think any of the bottom four could be positioned better relying on their brand name alone?
Some would argue that all of this granular attention to detail doesn’t really matter when it comes to getting listed in the 7 pack, I’m perfectly content with them thinking that way. If you don’t think the city centroid matters (more importantly in the mind of the consumer versus just Google) take a look at this.
The largest privately funded construction project in the history of the United States was the construction of CityCenter in Las Vegas. Construction costs totaled over $9 billion and the project was started by MGM Resorts International. Take a peek back at the map above to locate this area of recently constructed hotels. CityCenter is south of position D, north of position G, and east of the 15 interstate. It’s positioned nicely between the cluster of five hotels and the two wild cards.
It may interest those deeply into local search to know that Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, and Luxor, are all owned by MGM Resorts International (along with hotels in the CityCenter). Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, and Harrah’s (positions B, C and E) are all owned by Caesars Entertainment Corporation.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. owns other hotels near the current city centroid and MGM Resorts International owns hotels near the current wildcards. It’s a virtual poker showdown on the streets of the Las Vegas strip, and Google is the house.
In part two (now posted) we will look at who’s not listed in the 7 pack (even though they share the same streetcorners as those that were) and identify a few of the likely reasons why. The centroid battle of Las Vegas has just begun.