A decade ago obtaining local search engine rankings for business was not particularly difficult if you knew what you were doing. You modify the content of the website so that search engines clearly understood the business operated in that particular local area. He contacted sites to link to your client's website recommending them as a local business. From the content on the site and these external links Google was able to determine yes, this was a local business, yes it had local content and other businesses were recommending it as a provider of services or products in his local area so therefore it deserved to rank well in local search.
Then Google changed the rules. Where previously the front page of Google had contained 10 natural search results, now it might contain only seven with As many as 10 Google places listings now appearing on the First page of Google. The positioning of these Google places listings could be anywhere from right at the top of a natural search results, below the Google AdWords sponsored links the somewhere in the middle of the page. This was disastrous for many businesses that were operating from my the just outside the centre of their local area or even on the fringe of it, but whose business was very much a local provider of services covering the entire area. Businesses that had held the number one position for local searches and overnight had their rankings drop to the equivalent of position 11.
Google is aware of this anomaly and how it must be affecting certain types of businesses. The problem with Google places is that it has no mechanism to classify certain types of business categories as likely having a mobile base or main place of operations (cleaners, pool servicing companies, Electrical Services, TV antenna installers, mobile mechanics et cetera) and thus in these cases widening the spread of businesses that can be shown in Google places without giving too much emphasis to those right in the city centre. All businesses are treated as if the centre of their operations stems from their physical base.
It is not necessarily a good result for users either as well is businesses. My neighbour Mike who lives three houses over does satellite installations. He never goes into the office which is based on the outskirts of town. He does however regularly attend their factory base which is in the industrial area of the city. When I search for satellite installations "my cityname" I don't get any information that there is a mobile installer three doors down to do the work. Neither does Google places tell me of the factory base that Mike goes to to stock up on equipment that is to on a half kilometres away when I do a search in Google places. Why not? only the head office may be recorded in Google places, not the location of mobile workshops or factory bases. The head office itself only comes up in Google places in very obscure searches where the searcher lives on the perimeter of town.
This is not useful to me as not useful to the business. The ludicrous result of all this is that the managers of Mike's business are now looking to close their city perimeter office and move into a much more expensive city office. As silly as this sounds once they are in the city their business will be up or get a highly valuable Google places listings for satellite installations "city name". nothing will have changed in an operational sense for the business. They will still have a workshop base in a different area to the administrative head office but how fast someone is going to attend your home to install or repair your satellite is now depend entirely on the residential addresses of their mobile team.
It would make far more sense for "satellite installations and repair" as a category to be marked as a mobile category and when searching for "satellite Installations and repair cityname" Google places go far more weight the markers like incoming links, quality reviews, et cetera.
Of course this is all wishful thinking on my part and and the SEOguys will be resorting to traditional SEO in order to obtain rankings for a new client for the terms Electrical Services Brisbane. The concepts of good content, well structured site with good HTML and relevant industry specific recommendations still holds true and that's what will be focusing on