In the past few years many website owners who have a physical shop / business have become accustom to not only thinking about their search engine ranking but also their Google Local position. For many months Google gave significant presence to it's local business listings with the normal search results, creating a brand new way to drive search engine traffic to your website.
More recently Google has changed this approach and has reduced the number of "local services" it displays within it's search results. It has also reconfigured they way it presents the maps on the page with the map now appearing in the ads column to the right for the more popular search terms.
One other key change Google has made is highlighting Google Local advertisers by marking paid listing icon in blue instead of the standard red. In the examples above you can see how for the businesses advertising in Google Local for Adelaide Plumbers have been able to use this to great affect, Sydney Carpet Cleaners however have not been so luck with the advertisers being masked by the free red pins.
As a web development company who helps manage a number of small business online strategies, these sorts of inconsistencies make Google Local a lot more difficult to work into a online marketing campaign. It also highlights that when it comes to Google, nothing should be taken for granted and what's working today may not be working tomorrow! Given this, don't treat search engine marketing with a "set and forget" attitude. Instead, try to stay pro-active and be prepared to adapt when Google changes the rules.