During the initial few days of August, 2015, Google released a new format for local search display which had a major impact on the local business organizations. The update wasn’t a change in the local search ranking factors but it was rather a change in the method of display of information about local businesses on the search engine results page or the SERP.
Previously, Google displayed a wide array of local and organic search results. Typically, it was a 7-pack where 7 local search results were shown depending on the search and location inquiry. However, after this new update, it has gone through a change where it is now showing three local search results, which is also being called the Snack Pack. One more noteworthy change is the increase in the total number of ads that are shown above the fold of mobile results. Although this doesn’t directly apply to the local SEO search results, yet this is surely going to have an effect on the local businesses as this will push down the three-pack below the fold.
What are the new changes brought about to local search results?
- The local search results page now shows three listings instead of 7 but the number of organic results still remains the same.
- Due to the reduction of local search result from 7 to 3, there will be too many companies that would require increasing their local spending on ads in order to maintain consistent traffic. This is particularly true now because ads might be consuming increased space above the fold.
- There has been added a large map to the local 3-pack search and this has taken off a lot of important space.
- Mobile and desktop results will now be in the same format.
- Photos have been eliminated from different searches.
- Phone numbers and addresses have been deleted for many search results.
- Review stars aren’t displayed for majority of the branded searches.
- Actual SERP display differs greatly depending on the type of business.
What implications does this have on local businesses?
Local business firms now need to invest more in paid advertising to maintain the level of visibility that they enjoyed before. Click costs and competition will also rise and the businesses which won a position within the 7 search results may suddenly see a drop in website ranking.
Overall, this change in local SEO search results has given a jolt to the local business firms, especially those who invested little or nothing on paid search.
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