In one of the most significant updates to their local search results this year, Google recently reduced the “pack” of local businesses appearing at the top of results from seven to three.
Taking away four spots may not sound like a big deal, but with local results on highly specific search queries only becoming more important, this may have a big impact for businesses who used to make the cut.
Besides moving from seven results in the pack to just three, the results no longer link to the Google My Business page or Google+ page. Google has clearly been re-evaluating Google+ and its role in search over the last year or so, therefore a development like this was expected by some.
Mobile and desktop views of search have remained fairly similar despite the change. One thing to note is that mobile results have a call option by tapping a listing to expand it.
Finally, users still have an option to expand the “pack” to see more results—three is simply the default.
Which businesses appear in the “pack”?
As always, which businesses appear for certain keywords and which don’t is a complex secret. However, we can see certain clues that influence positioning, such as geographical proximity, website rankings outside of the “pack,” and even reviews, among others. This just goes to show that a properly optimized website and local listings are only becoming more important to organic search.
As you might imagine, businesses which no longer appear at the top of local search results are not going to be happy about this change. Reduced visibility of even one spot in search results can mean the difference between getting a phone call or losing one to your competitor. If a business has banked on their local search result visibility in the past, then now is the time to reevaluate their SEO or inbound marketing strategy.
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