The industry of SEO changed massively in 2010; (see our Review of 2010 in Search). We have seen the introduction / growth of Google Places, Google Instant, and Google Preview etc. Many of these changes have been keeping webmasters busy updating their websites so they don’t lose customers or business as a result of all these changes.
One thing I wouldn’t like to bet against is Google Places / Local business listings becoming a lot more competitive and dominant. Google seem to have focussed on this strongly through the second half of 2010. The SERP has in my opinion become a lot more relevant, it gives you chance to find good information, whether it be a news feed, a blog post, local business listing or a natural organic result.
The last big PageRank update was in April 2010. This is one of the longest periods (as far as I can remember) that it has not been updated in. This gives me the impression that Google could be changing or may have changed its ranking algorithm to place a lower importance on the number of inbound links your site requires for ranking in Google Places. I would say that your location and content / service you provide are much more important than link building. Google have now even introduced reviews for local businesses, not only does it allow you to review it using Google, it also picks up reviews from big review websites (see below).. who knows, having 100 positive reviews could be better than 100 back links.
A Google search for “plumbing Manchester” brought back this as the number one result. The website itself looks to have about 90 back links (Majestic SEO) and doesn’t even have a mention of “Manchester” in the title tag. The first organic result (http://www.empireplumbingandheating.co.uk/) has about 3500 back links (Majestic SEO) and has a mention of Plumbing and Manchester in the title tag. These changes could potentially confuse a lot more SEO’s during 2011.