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JohnW
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Hi Ricardo,
I believe this will be a temporary situation.

With the intro of its mobile index, Google is going through one of its largest algorithm changes since it launched 20+ years ago. Every time a change like this has been implemented G has encountered unforeseen consequences that need to be remedied.

Ranking is a point scoring exercise. Each word in the search query is scored for how it is used on a search results page and on those that link to it. The page with the most points gets ranked #1. This means that as a general rule, the more competition for a specific search query, the more points will be needed to rank #1.

Now consider the completely different levels of competition for each of the different Google country search properties. With G.com, the basic USA population is 318 million. For G.com.au we have 25 million. There may be 25-times the number of pages competing for #1 USA spot vs. the number competing for the Au spot.

Therefore, to rank #1 on G.com to a USA resident searcher, a USA page will likely need many times the ranking points that an Au page will need to rank top to an Aust searcher.

It seems to take G months-to-years to tweak the ranking point levers so that results like duplicate content anomalies are remedied across its 100+ country search properties.

There were very large anomalies when G launched Panda & Penguin. At that point, some of my clients occupied all top ranking places down to #23 for a number of search queries. It took G around 4 years to resolve that one.

BTW, it is not just franchise sites that are temporarily benefiting in the way you describe it is also some general business directories, vertical directories, quoting sites and job sites.

I’m guessing that the current results are being pushed by the volume of linked search topic related pages on the Jims Mowing site (26,000).

Be patient and focus your SEO activity on building ranking points for your target locations.