As reported by Mike Blumenthal, Search Engine Watch and Cathy Rhulloda, Google is now using your IP address and other location qualifiers to give its local “10 pack” of results as local solutions to your one word request. If I now need a lawyer in Raleigh, NC I can just search “lawyer” and on the first page, usually around the fourth or fifth result, I will see the 10 pack.
These same results will show up at the top of the SERP if you use a local geographic qualifier so Google is not quite committing whole heartedly to saying local is the absolute best result for these types of searches. They are however ratcheting up the level of prominence of a company’s Google Maps profile since the sheer number of searches that it can appear in has gone up considerably in many cases.
Results initially are spotty. In other words, it doesn’t work for all terms. This is a pretty strong development, though, as it relates to local search. All the more reason to make sure you small business types claim and optimize your listings.