Google search rankings for local businesses have been shaken-up with the latest update that Google rolled out on August 6th 2015. In an interesting turn of events, Google has narrowed the previous local 7-Pack down to a local 3-pack. In the past Google has listed seven local businesses relevant to the search term at the top of the page, however, they are now featuring just three local businesses.
Along with the change in the number of results shown, a more streamlined local listing design has been implemented. This could be an effort on Google’s part to work along with their new Mobile-Friendly policies that have recently been put in place. The results will now show a business name, rating out of 5 stars and a contact phone number. The business address will also be shown if the business engages customers at a specific business location. Hours of operation will likewise appear, but will only be displayed for the day that the search is carried out. However, more details are shown when a user clicks through to the Google Maps listing. For instance, you can view the hours of operation for the full week by clicking the business link on the search page.
We can take a look at an example of the new format in the below screen shot.
This image displays the new 3-pack results for the search term: Vancouver Kitsilano Flower Shop.
So what does this mean in terms of Search Engine Optimization? These changes are quite profound on a local level. In effect, businesses now have under half the opportunity to appear in the coveted Google local business listings on the front page. Competition for these local listings is sure to become much fiercer as businesses contend for these positions. With this in mind, previously local businesses may have managed to appear in the local 7-pack listing with haphazard SEO practices, now the businesses will be on a tougher playing field.
What can local businesses do to fit in with this change and appear in the local 3-pack listing? Unfortunately, the only real answer to this question is to put more resources into SEO. By employing quality optimization techniques businesses can work to guarantee their spot on the new listing. This may involve utilizing specialized industry methods and may even differ from business to business or city to city. Employing a SEO expert is an avenue that could reap benefits in this regard. Often local SEO experts can help you outrank competitors who utilize inferior SEO practices. Quite frequently the paybacks from ranking in the local listings outweigh the cost of employing a specialist.
Lets take a look at a couple of the numerous benefits of making it into the 3-pack. Firstly, greater exposure to potential web searchers, which along with the Google ranking system not only potentially results in more clients but also builds greater trust and confidence in your brand.
Also, the same SEO practices that will land you in the 3-pack will also enhance your ranking in the organic or normal Google results. Potentially you could be doubling your exposure on the desired first page of Google.
We are happy to announce that we have been able to make it into the 3-Pack for some terms. Check out the below example:
In summary, while the recent changes may make it tougher for ranking as a local business, these changes can be exploited to get an edge over competitors. The key will be putting into place a good SEO strategy.