SEO Expert: John Vargo September 4, 2015

Top 3 Users Impacted by Google’s 7 to 3 Local Pack Change

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There has been much discussion in the last month about the changes made to Google’s listing results. Specifically, we’re talking about the change from a 7 pack to a 3 pack in the local search results. Who does this impact and how?

What is the Google Local Pack?

You have likely come across the local pack, but perhaps did not know what it was called. When a Google search is performed, you will often see results with a local map. This area, the map and associated local business listings, are collectively known as the local carousel or local pack. Up until last month, Google typically showed 7 local business listings in this area; now they only show 3, which is why local seo services are imperative.

Local Pack Results

Google local pack from 7 to 3 - Webolutions

Additional Changes in August 2015 to Google’s Local Carousel

In addition to the revision from 7 results to 3, here are additional changes to the local listings:

  • Addresses removed from local business listings
  • Phone numbers removed
  • No more link to Google Plus, rather a larger map will appear when a local result is selected
  • Business “Open Until” added, showing when a business closes for the day
  • The hover informational fly-out has been removed, a click is now required
  • Local pack display moved up in the results (used to have 3 organic listings above local map)
  • 20 results rather than 10 when one clicks on the location map

Google’s goal is to deliver a better user experience with this change in search engine results. While Google’s intentions are for continuous improvement, many have complained about the local pack change from 7 to 3 because it provides less information. Not only are there four less results for local business options, but the amount of information has been reduced as well as the simple hover function.

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Who Has Been Impacted by Google’s Local Pack Change?

There are three main user groups that have been negatively impacted by this local pack change, including search engine users, local businesses and SEO professionals.

1. Search Engine Users

Ultimately, the most important target audience to Google is the end-user of their search engine. Users want to find relevant information as quickly as possible. Google delivers a better product when they can provide the desired search result in the least amount of time.

When the first result does not answer a query, users will go back to the search results and continue looking for an answer to their query. When a user clicks the back browser button quickly, this is called a “bounce”. Google tracks bounce rates to evaluate the results they deliver. Lower bounce rates indicate that a result is accurate, while higher bounce rates indicate that the result is not answering the query and, therefore, should move down in the results.

Users prefer to have more local options rather than less. Now, if one cannot find a satisfactory local result, they must take an additional step to acquire the information they need. This is counter to Google’s desire to provide the best results as quickly as possible. Why, then, would Google make this change? This leads us to the second group negatively impacted by the local pack reduction; local business owners.

2. Local Businesses

The reduction of four spots in local listings has the greatest negative impact on small businesses. The change from 7 results to 3 represents a 60% decline of space allocated to local businesses. This is great for Google and major brands, that now have less competition. Google benefits because small business owners will now have to advertise in order to be found in search results. In my opinion, Google is the primary beneficiary of the local carousel change, not users.  Learn more about Webolutions’ Local Search Marketing.

3. SEO Practitioners

Those who work to achieve better rankings in Google are also negatively impacted. Whether a small business owner or SEO professional, having a business found on the first page of Google is now more difficult.

As mentioned earlier, Google continually strives to deliver better search results. A common approach to improve search results is to eliminate improper search engine optimization techniques that do not meet Google’s guidelines. Specifically, Google frequently changes its algorithm to close loopholes that black-hat SEO folks prey upon to achieve better rankings.

Black-hat SEO techniques make the overall internet user experience less rich because inferior search results are delivered. Web pages that have been optimized and promoted using improper optimization methods typically have poor content that does not read well, have limited to no informational value and create waste online.

The recent local pack change does not improve Google’s ranking algorithm. It simply provides less page space to rank local businesses.

How to Use This Information

Google strives to continually improve its search engine results. Common practices include changing their ranking algorithm and page layout. In August 2015, Google reduced the number of local listings from 7 results to 3. This change to the local pack, or local carousel, has had a negative impact on users, small businesses and search engine optimization practitioners. Why then has Google made a change that does not improve search results or the user experience? The simple answer is Google benefits. By making it more difficult for small businesses to be found on the first page of results, Google’s advertising revenue will increase as businesses must now turn to paid advertisements in order to be found. Our Webolutions team is available to discuss the best strategy to get your business noticed through SEO and paid advertising tactics. Please give us a call at 303-300-2640 to get started.

As an internet user, what do you think of Google’s latest changes?

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