Post by Erik Bergstrom, SEO Analyst
On August 6th, webmasters began seeing a big change on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). The 7-pack of local results Google usually serves slimmed to 3. Local results appear below paid ads and above organic listings on the SERP. These local-pack listings make it convenient for searchers to connect with brick-and-mortar stores in proximity.
Google is always testing. Yet, weeks after the 3-pack was first spotted, it remains on the SERP and looks like it’s here to stay. Because Google’s optimizations are focused around improving user experience, it seems as if the 3-pack has been generating more user engagement than the previous local-pack.
But, with this update, local business are now being left out. How can brands prepare for the future of the local-pack?
Beyond moving from 7 listings to 3, the local-pack has also changed in the following ways:
There are 2 overarching implications from Google’s latest local-pack update:
1) Google is furthering its focus on mobile. The first 3 results on a mobile device are visible without needing to scroll, so shortening local results and removing information (like telephone number) in favor of slimmed-down design promotes a better mobile user experience.
2) Results 4-7 were most likely seeing noticeable drop-off in traffic and over-complicating the SERP. Google doesn’t make changes of this magnitude without substantial data, meaning listings further down the SERP weren’t seeing comparable traffic to the first 3 listings.
We see this as further evidence of Google favoring quality over quantity. With less listings and the ability to filter by rating, local competition is becoming stiffer. This will force the hand of local businesses to adhere to Google’s best practices and further optimize their sites to compete for a top 3 local listing.
So how do brands appear in the top 3 local-pack results?
Ensuring your site is SEO-optimized with keyword-optimized META data, a solid aggregate rating, correct listings and a strong link portfolio will go a long way in helping Google (and users) trust your business listing.