Then there were three!
It is official. Google shortened the so-called seven pack of local listings down to three on mobile and desktop devices. This seems to be part of a Google’s larger plan for mobile search. Just like they changed the mobile algorithms earlier this year, they shrunk the results for the local pack by more than half. More than likely this is because they eventually want to turn it into a Google Ads product like Google Shopping.
Let’s take a closer at how these changes affect business owners.
Understanding Three Significant Changes to the Three Pack
Changing Google Local Pack to Pay to Play
First, as we mentioned above this is an indication that Google wants to make money from the local pack. Which is not surprising, since recent reports indicate that the local map pack is the most relevant and trustworthy information on the search engine. 61% consider the local pack results relevant, while 58% consider them trustworthy. Compare this to natural search results which are 27% relevant and 31% trustworthy. At the bottom of the list are paid search results that score only 10% and 9% respectively.
With Google officially declaring that mobile traffic is over 50% of all searches on the site, it is not surprising they want to change the format of the biggest mobile search results.
Lower Click through Ratio on Spots 4-7
However, it was not all about turning Local eventually into a paid traffic source. More than likely Google had, “far fewer clicks and calls from the listings after the first three.” This is in line with traditional search traffic on Google. It states that the vast majority of searches bring traffic to the first ranked site. After that there is a significant drop off in traffic. When we say significant, we mean significant drop. The first 5 results of organic search results get 67.60% of all clicks on a page. After removing shopping, paid, and other results, the bottom 5 get only 3.73% of the clicks.
Essentially, they were getting views, but not conversions. Moz pointed out that even if the companies did not always get clicks, they received exposure. This could be a loss of branding for businesses in the future. However, as the numbers show above, the views on lower results are so dramatic as to almost not even be noteworthy.
The final thing was they did not just take away the bottom four of the 7-pack. They also removed a number of features on the Local Pack. First, they removed the Google My Business Pages. This is part of the dashboard that runs merchants local listings. It is connected directly to Google+. As Search Engine Journal mentioned, more than ever, this makes Google+ more irrelevant.
Google+ Local was one of the biggest features of the social network for businesses when launched back in 2011. However, watching Google lately with their social network is like watching a mechanic with old cars. Google seems like they are stripping the social network for parts.
Whatever does not work, they throw out. This includes the Google My Business Page where you ran your local page through Google+.
Second, they removed both the addresses and phone numbers from the search page. While rumours abound on how they might add it back for paid search, this is kind of baffling. Why remove addresses from a local search? You know people want directions. Google always focuses on making it easier for the consumer, so they can increase ad revenue. This sort of seems to contradict that idea. In exchange for removing the address and phone number we do get the store hours for the results we find along with a website link. If the store is closed, Google mentions this to users.
This is definitely helpful. Why waste your time calling or visiting a store that is no longer open?
The changes we see in the Google local pack are just the beginning. Over the course of the next few months, we should see even more changes afoot to the local listings that consumers have begun to rely upon for meals, shopping, and other local excursions.
For now, focus on how to improve your businesses rankings on the local pack. Make sure that you have a plan in place to help you get the most out of three-pack. If you have any questions, and you need help from an SEO and social media agency, please feel free to contact Shout to see how we can help you.