While unannounced updates to the Google algorithm are nothing new, including the initial release of changes to local listings through the Pigeon update that occurred and was rolled out globally from July to December 2014; this week the changes to the local listings has been quietly introduced, but has major impacts for the industries and businesses who understand and make use of local listings as an effective marketing tool.
A Summary of The 3 Pack Changes
The first item of note is the speed in which this has occurred, usually Google does testing first, then makes changes to a few verticals or countries at a time before taking it global. In this instance, they have rolled the change out globally within 24 hours from first being sighted.
Secondly, it has brought the results on desktop searches inline with mobile, showing only 3 results at a time rather than the previous 7. Some have suggested that on mobile the results only showed the first 3, and unless a user scrolled down anything that was in position 4+ was essentially invisible. So there does seem to be some logic in the change.
Google has also modified what is showing in the results, they include:
- User reviews
- What seems to be information from your Google My Business or Google plus page
- No link through to your Google My Business Page
- You may or may not have only part of your address.
So far, there is no phone number or website address shown until a user interacts with it further by clicking on “more” at the bottom. Even then, you see the map, and further listings, but there is still no site details or phone number until a user clicks on the listing directly.
The Impact on Your Online Business Presence
If your business was previously listed within the top 7, but not in the top 3, you have lost some immediate brand visibility, in that people no longer see you listed in the local listing pack. While you may not have received many clicks from a link being at 4+ anyway, you have now lost a subtle brand presence opportunity.
If your industry is competitive, (now defined as having more than 2 competitors in your local area) you are going to be working harder to be in that top 3.
While Google is taking the viewpoint of “bringing a better search experience to their users with more relevant information… for searches that have multiple results for a given location.” See the postscript in the blog post from Search Engine Land. This undermines what a lot of people still aim for as a best case scenario for their website – to appear on page 1 as often as possible.
How to Increase Your Local Listing Visibility
As always, quality linkbuilding combined with positive user interaction through reviews and making use of local citations will have the greatest impact for your business being listed in the local listings. However, with the competition now fiercer, as dropping from 7 to 3 halves the opportunities to be displayed, getting yourself into that box is something that will need to be evaluated as a matter of priority within an online marketing strategy.
As a Business Owner, Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Does my business rely on local search results
- Do I have the time to dedicate to getting positive customer reviews
- Can I list myself in the appropriate local citations to gain strength
- Does it matter if I am shown for my suburb or city, or is the organic listing enough for my company
Google My Business is a great place to start, and if you haven’t claimed your listing yet, doing so will help your online company presence on multiple levels.
For the rest of those questions, you may need some external help in improving your company presence online, especially with this latest update. While we haven’t seen the full fallout of this change, keeping in line with Google quality guidelines will see your website through the long-term, and any bumps on the way should have minimal impact on your business.