Google ranks its ‘UK Cinema and Film Listings’ results on top of their results page for queries of cinema name and location, eg. Odeon Swiss Cottage. This is called in the jargon of SEO as a hyperlocal query. The website of the cinema, Odeon.co.uk, comes only in second position after Google’s result.
An interesting feature of this page is that there is no Google ads. In SEO terms, Google are redirecting 40% or more of the clicks on results back to itself by occupying the whole of the first result with an icon and extra height of content. The owner of the content, Odeon, is clearly losing in visits to its website by the placement of its website in second position.
Clicking on Google’s entry for Odeon Swiss Cottage open a complete menu of listings with films and show times for that local theatre.
I expected that a click on any of the links of the films would redirect you to Odeon’s website. Not quite yet. Google expects to retain me and show me a synopsis of the film, a”more” link with a little bit of hidden content and yet one more piece of Universal Search: a video with a trailer of the film on YouTube!
I’m on Google… Get me out of here!
So basically I spent 4 clicks, Google exposed me to 3 pages and I do have to go back to the first Google results page if I happen to still intend to buy a ticket on, suprise, Odeon Swiss Cottage, my very first query. Bing and Yahoo! do offer the same navigation nightmare, if only on a less aggressive implementation: you do get a proper link to the cinema website on the second or third page of your navigation.
No business model for local
All three search engines seem to be building a bridgehead into local searches. They are not monetizing it. The traffic to the websites is growing. The cinemas operate their websites like portals: their navigation is clunky but it is fit for purpose: it exposes the visitor to self-advertising of many other films and promotions. Cinemas do keep the checkout process on their sites and offline and it seems that they have no incentive is sharing or losing it with big Google.