Category: Author: Jaren Martineau
Before and After screen shots of the change
Late last week, Google rolled out a change in the way that it displays local businesses in the search results. These results had formerly been displayed in “packs” ranging from 3 to 7 results on the first page of Google search results for select searches. Here is a sample of how a search would have looked prior to this change, showing a 7 pack (highlighted in green for convenience):
Following the update, here is a screen shot displaying the new way that the local pack is now presented. There are now three results that are found immediately below an image of a Google map (highlighted in green for convenience):
Some are calling these new 3 packs the “Local Stack“, while yet others are calling it the “Crap Pack”. The changes that were made are more than just a change in the number of results displayed, or even the visual appearance of the local packs. The new local packs create an interesting twist. If you click anywhere in the new local pack, other than the links that say “website” or “directions”, you will be taken to a different page of local search listings that will show even more than the three local practices that are shown in the local pack. This expanded list of results is called the “Local Finder”. Below is a photo of the local finder (on the left), which shows Google plus information for a practice (to the right of the local finder) when you click on the practice from the list.
The local finder will show 20 results of local practices on the first page of results from a desktop computer, or it will continue to display as many results as are available when scrolling down from a smart phone.
Here are samples of what the new 3 pack looks like when doing a search from a smart phone (in this case running Android):
And here is what the local finder looks like when you click to see (in this case) “More dentist”:
Thoughts on the impact of these changes
At first glance, it seems as if there will be less visibility for local practices than there was prior to the change, with practices that were formerly found in results numbers 4-7 in the local pack being hit especially hard. However, this is still yet to be seen. If you notice, the search results displayed on a desktop pc search do not display the full address or phone number of the practice. This makes the searcher very likely to click on the practice from the results, which will take them directly to the local finder which then displays at least 20 local practices in the results. This may not hurt the 4th through the 7th search results as much when you take this into consideration. What it will do, though, is give local practices that were normally not displayed at all without further digging, a chance at increased visibility. If you were within the top 3 search results in the local packs, you may have improved results as a result. It is still too soon to tell what the full impact of these changes will likely be. We are performing some market based analysis in order to help us to understand the likely impact that this may have on both local search as well as in the rest of the non-paid search results.
How should we all react to these changes? Mary Bowling, a well-known local search guru, suggests keeping calm and seeing what happens. Google often makes additional changes as it responds to feedback and its own internal testing after releasing a change of this significance. Chances are that this change will be no different. We may see some slight alterations or even some drastic ones. It is still too soon to make any decisions in response to this change that require significant amounts of resources. Now is the time to gather information, test the waters, and keep any eye out for any additional changes or comments from Google.