Monday, August 31, 2015

Google Local Makeover: Local '7 Packs' Gone!

Old Google Local Search Result
Old Google Local Search Result

7-Packs Now 3-Packs

Whether you call it Google Map Listing, Google Places Listing, Google Local Listing, Google Plus Listings, Google My Business Listings, or the Google '7 Pack', the set of seven listings that frequently appear at the top of Google local search results has changed notably in recent weeks.

It was predicted that sooner or later Google will switched to 3-pack from 7-pack layout when google first rolled out 3-pack listing for restaurants, nightlife, entertainment and hotels, back in November 2014 in the US search.

Google has been testing a new local listings format and officially launched the new format a couple of weeks ago. In the language of a Local Search Engine Optimization Expert, the 7-pack is now a 3-pack. The local pack is not just showing fewer business listings, It is also eliminates the address and phone number from individual results and redesigned to fit more with the mobile user interface.

Here is a picture of the new local pack, displaying only three results:

New Google Search Result
New Google Local Search Result

Exact Addresses Removed

Google has removed specific addresses from their local listings, instead only showing the street name. This requires a searcher to either click through to the website or the map listing in order to get the exact address.

Phone Numbers Removed

Google Searchers will no longer have easy access to the phone number of the business. They now need to click through the listing or get the number from the website. The mobile version (detailed below) doesn’t display the phone number but does have a “Call” option for each listing.

Google+ Links Removed

Google has also removed the Google+ links that we have all become familiar with. Because Google has pushed for local businesses to claim their page officially, this change is pretty interesting.

Business Category Added

The Business Category you choose for your listing is now showing in local search right below your business title. Category is critical to being considered relevant on any given search result and should be chosen carefully.

Store Hours Added

They have also added in store hours, including opening and closing times, depending on the time of day of the search.

Reviews No Longer Labelled “Google Reviews”

Gone are the labels on the reviews listing them as “Google Reviews.” Now they are simply called “reviews” with the number of reviews for each business still included.

No Flyouts

We are used to being able to scroll over local listings to see the local card for the business displayed on the right hand side. This no longer happens, to see the “Card”, you have to click through to the secondary local page.

Why The Change?

According to a Google spokesman: "We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location."

Where Clicks Go?

Unlike the previous layout, clicking the business name no longer takes you to the business' website. Instead you are redirected to an new expanded view of the local listings with the selected business' profile highlighted.

It should also be noted that while desktop results provide icon links for directions and the business' website, mobile searches provide a 'click to call' icon instead.

New Google Mobile Search Result
Mobile Google Local Search Result

How it Looks on Mobile?

Mobile also sees the complete address moved, with “Call” being the notable option here.

What Does This Mean for Local Businesses?

Well, that depends on how heavily your business relies on Google Local Listings and where you ranked before the change. If you relied heavily upon your local listings and were ranking fourth or lower, you may see fewer leads.

On the other hand, if your business ranks in the local top three listings, Google has effectively removed four of your nearest competitors and that could earn more clicks, calls, and visits for your business.

This also means that if you’re not in the top 3 listing, then you better start working on your local SEO Contest. I believe the update will now place an even higher emphasis on getting reviews and building out your citation profile.

Summary

If you are entirely relying on Google's local listings to drive traffic to your website, you're doing it wrong anyway. The businesses that are most successful with generating leads from search are those that are ranking well in local as well as organic listings. While Google's local listings used to be an option for those who ranked well, they now represent nothing more than a degraded user experience for your customers and Google's.

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