Google made a significant change to the local pack Thursday evening. This update rolled out simultaneously worldwide, according to Mike Blumenthal and other local experts. We wanted to discuss this change and how it might impact your business.
3-Pack Instead of 7-Pack
The biggest takeaway of all is that the local section of the search engine results page is now showing 3 results rather than 7 (a.k.a. Google is showing a 3-pack rather than a 7-pack). Before last Thursday, there were some occasions where the local section might show 3 results, but the standard was to show 7 different local websites. That is no longer the case. Here’s an example of how the page looks now:
This change obviously kills the visibility of sites that were previously ranking #4-7 in the local section. It has become not only important, but essential, to be one of the top 3 businesses in the local pack.
The New Design
Businesses in the entertainment, hotel and food industries probably have seen a similar display previously. Google launched the “Snack Pack” update last spring that showed a similar result for businesses in these industries. The “snack pack” update mimicked a mobile experience on a desktop. Now this design has become the standard for all local businesses.
One of the things you’ll notice right away is that some things are missing from the listings in their current state. Before this update, Google showed the phone number and displayed a link to the Google+ page for most listings. For desktop searches, the phone numbers have disappeared and the links to Google+ pages are gone as well. For a visitor to contact you, they will now need subsequent clicks.
There are some exceptions to this rule. Mobile searchers get a slightly different view. They have a click to call option, but will need subsequent clicks to visit your website. Branded searches for a single location business that bring up the knowledge graph will show the phone number. Mr. Blumenthal points out that for local businesses with a multiple locations, the phone number does not show up and actually requires multiple clicks even when the company name is searched.
The design change is a slight benefit to organic listings a little bit further down on the page. When Google was showing 7 local websites, the searcher had to scroll further down on the page to see first page sites a little further down the page. Now that only three businesses appear, the real estate for lower ranked organic websites just got better.