Evolving Interactive’s Reaction to the Local Search Ranking Factors

chicago local seo map

Every year the very talented David Mihm releases a survey called the “Local Search Ranking Factors.” Mr. Mihm surveys some of the best minds in the industry and compiles a report to help all of us learn how the local space is changing, what is working and what could cause your business trouble.

The one constant year after year is that local search marketing evolves and this year is no different. The advent of the Snack Pack, the evolution of the Pigeon update from a year ago and the disappearance of Google+ makes this a very interesting year indeed.

In case you don’t have time to review everything from the report published on Moz.com, we at Evolving Interactive wanted to highlight some of the main points of the survey and give you some insight into the major changes discussed in this year’s report.

What’s Important?

According to the experts surveyed, the most important components to a strong local search marketing campaign are building quality links and improving domain authority. This might sound a lot like a typical SEO campaign to a lot of you. Phil Rozek agrees, saying, “In the past year or so, “local” seems to have come full-circle: it’s mostly organic SEO (read: links).”

The other key component that Evolving Interactive felt was underrated by the survey is “Quality/Authority of Structured Citations.” By “citations” we are talking about local directory websites or industry specific sites that list your business (i.e. Yelp, CitySearch, etc).  Evolving Interactive has been able to help websites with little link authority rank in the local section quickly by building citations and making sure that those citations are consistent on all sites.

What hurts your rankings?

A lot of things that will hurt your local campaign are fairly commonsensical. The top “Negative Ranking Factor” was selecting the incorrect business category. It might surprise you to learn how often this mistake happens to campaigns we inherit. Before any of this advice will be helpful, we recommend that you review the Google My Business Guidelines. It’s so easy to avoid mistakes like having an address at a P.O. Box as long as you understand the rules.

Evolving Interactive also thinks it’s important to do some on-page work to help your Local Search Marketing campaign. Four of the top 10 Negative Ranking Factors have to do with mismatched NAP (name, address, phone number) either on your website’s home page, Google My Business page, or the absence of NAP data in a crawlable fashion on your home page. Contact us if you have any questions about entering this information properly.

What is the Snack Pack?

In August, Google made a significant change to their local algorithm. Instead of showing 7 results, they are now showing only 3. That wasn’t the only significant change. The snack pack marked the end of Google+ as it relates to local search. Prior to this change, Google’s search engine results page showed a link to the business’ Google+ page in the local results. That link is now removed. Interestingly, the phone number is also missing from the local results for desktop users.

This is a major change that has sparked a lot of discussion. The experts in the Local Search Ranking factors were asked about this change. Joy Hawkins explains, “With Google getting rid of links to the G+ pages for most SERPs, the push for businesses to be more active on G+ has really died down.“

Miscellaneous Takeaways

The most important thing we think a local business can do is to accurately fill out your Google My Business profile, include NAP on the pages of your website, build consistent citations on other websites, and then build links with good anchor text.

As always if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at info@evolvinginteractive.com.


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:

local stack screen grab

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

Snack Pack Screenshot
Snack Pack Screenshot

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.



Another shake-up in the SEO world. Google recently released a new search engine algorithm called Hummingbird. This update has affected 90% of searches and focuses on conversational queries rather than keyword based queries. Hummingbird indexes websites based on how thoroughly they answer the searcher’s intent. Because of technologies like Siri and voice command, conversational search has become much more commonplace. For example, searches like “Mona Lisa location

Voice search is changing the way that people search on the internet, and thus changing the game for SEO. Before technologies like Siri and voice command, people would search by entering specific keywords or keyword phrases into a search engine. Now, because of voice search, there is a shift from queries focused on precise keywords to a more relaxed and conversational language.

For example, if you are searching for a hair salon via voice command you might say “Where can I find a good hair salon?

You know what will be the biggest SEO trend in 2014?


At this point, it’s unavoidable. If you want your site to rank well, you’ll need integrity.

Recent changes to Google’s algorithm like Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird have put a premium on providing useful content to users in honest ways. You can no longer sneak a useless site to the top of the SERPs with keyword stuffing and link schemes. Gone are the days of black-hat SEO, and it’s about time.

Remember how obnoxious it was to see a site rank higher than yours because someone used black-hat techniques? Ever get annoyed when someone disparaged the SEO industry as a whole because of a few bad apples? Thanks to the recent algorithm changes, there are new restrictions to prevent shady tactics.

Some view the restrictions negatively. The many changes have made some of the easy (black-hat) techniques not only ineffectual but damaging to SERP rankings. But there’s a positive way to look at it. With shady tactics now proving harmful to search rankings, there is no reason to spend your time and energy employing them. And having that extra time and energy is good, because ranking higher in SERPs now requires more work and thoughtfulness than ever before.

As search engines get better at delivering what customers want, websites will have to get better at providing the valuable content that gets delivered. This means you can’t get away with keyword stuffing or link schemes to artificially boost your site’s rankings. Now that cheap tricks won’t help rankings, the true cream will rise to the top. And if you want to be at the top, you need to provide valuable content that customers want. It’s that simple.

There are no more tricks, and for that we should be grateful. With such frivolous distractions eliminated by Google’s updates, we can now focus on the hard work of providing quality content to our customers.

Having reflected on and reacted to the major industry updates of the past years, let’s look forward to 2014: when hard work and integrity will yield superior results.