On August 7th 2015, a small but incredibly important Google update took place which affected the way Google presents their local listing data on their first page, often referred to as Google local pack which is essentially data from Google my business or Google places. These local listings are very important to small business or any business with a local presence and allows business owners to be present on the first page of Google for their business if well optimised, often by-passing competing websites and pages in the traditional organic web.
Google essentially updated the way they present local listing data to their users. The update replaced their so called 7-pack with the new 3-pack. The 3-pack is also always accompanied by a map with the top 3 lists being displayed on it.
See the screenshot below of a search for “car rental london” to see what the new local 3-pack plus map looks like:
This change is a very significant development in local search as essentially, Google will now only display 3 business listings instead of (up to) 7 business listings. They also no longer display phone numbers and a link to the google+ page directly from the SERPs page.
Early analytics on the behaviour of this new local 3-pack by seoClarity have revieled that Google is now showing their local pack in the #1 position much more often. The local pack use to show only 25% of the time in the #1 position and now shows 93% of the time in the top position! That is a huge and significant difference.
This means that the first fold of the search page for local search terms is only composed of Adwords and Google’s universal listing in the form of the new 3-pack for local search.
This will have a big influence on the traditional organic web listings, which now will only appear under the fold for local search terms 93% of the time, assuming this #1 prevalence on the local 3-pack holds.
My analytics sources are showing an increase in clicks for Adwords sponsored listings for all local search phrases as the user now only have 2 choices (Ads or local listings) instead of the traditional 3 (Ads, organic web, local listings). More money for google!
This is a sad development for the organic web, that will see users scrolling down past the first fold in order to find them 93% of the time. But at the same time it is a huge opportunity for local business to climb higher on Google page 1. It also means that for companies that rely heavily on local search (many local businesses), having optimised Google my business data is becoming even more important as now there will be 3 and not 7 business listings displayed, plus the chances of a higher click through to local listings taking away from the organic web (at least for local search).
It is also a suspiciouse move from google. The fact they are removing the Google+ reference indicats they are looking at turning Google my business (GMB) into its own stand alone Google App and product and potentially commercializing it to a sponsored solution (paid listings). The 3-pack resembers the sponsored 3-pack for Adwords. The future of local search in google could be a paid one unfortunately. Time will tell.