If you live in the digital marketing world, you may have caught the buzz about a big change Google rolled out recently in local search results. If not, here’s a brief recap:
- The “Local 7-pack” of search results is being replaced by the “3-pack”
- Specific addresses and phone numbers are not visible without clicking a local result
- Google My Business pages are now not linked in local results
If you want more information on the specifics of the changes, when it was seen, where it’s been seen, what day it rolled out and more detail, I recommend checking out the updates from Mike Blumental or TheSEMPost.
Instead, I want to focus on what this could mean for your business.
Reviews Matter More than Ever
Reviews have always been important in Google’s local search. Having a high number of reviews that are great quality is one of the best ways to have your business show up in map listings and localized search. But with the most recent change, reviews are now a massive differentiator.
With the reduced number of scannable local results, those with a star rating have even more of a visual advantage. Look at this search for “San Francisco lawyer” and tell me whose site you would visit? And the only way to get those stars is to have more than five reviews of your business on Google.
Check Your Analytics
The change hasn’t been live long enough to confirm this, but I suspect local listings with Google My Business pages will start using the “Insights” feature a lot more.
Previously, when doing a local search a user could see the businesses, their address, phone number and hours just by hovering their mouse over a listing. This meant that users could potentially see a listing, hover, get a phone number and call, all without recording any type of tracked action for Google to quantify. Now, that information requires the searcher to click on the listing and get directed to a secondary landing page.
Hopefully all of this means that local businesses will get a better sense of how much visibility they have on Google’s local listings. Time will tell for sure.
Get Ready for Pay-to-Play for Local
The most obvious impact of the change is that there is simply less room for a local business on Page 1. And according to one recently released eye-tracking study, 30% of local searchers are clicking on ads.
In a standard desktop layout, a Google user will see all 10 ad listings, as well as the 3-Pack, before they ever reach the #1 organic result. If your business runs on local search and is highly competitive, you may not be able to risk being that low on the page.
Expect that more local businesses will jump into AdWords as their organic visibility decreases, which means that cost-per-click bids are going to increase as the space gets more crowded.
Ultimately, this new change may end up being a lot of noise over nothing, or it may take a while for the impact to be felt, a la Mobilegeddon. As with many Google changes, it’s nearly impossible to predict. But it’s safe to assume that when it comes to local search, if you’re in the top spot the next few weeks may be very, very good for your local SEO. If not, well…time’s a-wastin’!