The Google Local Search 7-pack has been reduced to just a 3-pack, without notice and in all countries, as of August 6, 2015. Local search results performed on a desktop device now display fewer business listings, matching the amount that has been shown on mobile devices for some time now. Is the driving force behind this a unified user experience? Or, is it perhaps a strategic business move by Google?
A Google local search 7-pack used to look like this:
The new Google local search 3-pack looks like this:
A Unified User Experience?
The move to show 57% fewer local businesses for desktop device searches now matches the amount of results that had been shown on mobile devices. A 3-pack nicely fits a mobile device screen and looks great. However, I’m not convinced that the move to show just 3 results for desktop searches serves the user in any real way.
Was Traffic From Positions 4-7 Even Worth It?
We have read opinions of colleagues who feel that businesses displaying in positions 4-7 in the old 7-pack didn’t receive many click-throughs anyway. So, what’s the point in Google displaying them?
That may be an accurate opinion. But, regardless whether or not a business received many clicks from positions 4-7, I’d still rather see my clients info showing;
- to garner however many clicks, even if an insignificant amount, and
- for the exposure.
Is The Local Search 3-Pack A Google Business Decision?
To its credit, Google has always been all about user experience. But, this particular decision very well could be more of a revenue-enhancing one, in my opinion, for a few reasons.
- Reducing the amount of businesses displayed for a local desktop search, at the least, reduces branding opportunities which may force those not currently using AdWords in their media mix to re-think that decision. This would, of course benefit Google as well as the advertiser.
- Google is currently testing *sponsored* 3-packs. The test, being conducted in San Francisco, involves plumbing and locksmith businesses. Could this current move to the 3-pack be a precursor to a sponsored 3-pack? If so, then the reduction to a 3-pack definitely smells like a transitioning, revenue-generating move on the part of Google. It could be the old yellow pages model being implemented.
Local SEO Takes On Even Greater Importance
The local search pack is a very big deal. They are a big contributor to generating qualified website and / or foot traffic.
Without a 3-pack ranking, that traffic will likely take a big hit.
To make up for it, businesses that have embraced local SEO in the past must stick with it and / or perhaps put the pedal to the metal. Those that have neglected local SEO will now be forced into it.
It will be especially tough for local businesses whose organic search rankings had suffered due to being penalized by Google after an algorithm update, such as Panda or Penguin. Previously, those in this situation may have been able to rely on being displayed in the local search 7-pack to generate traffic. With this change, if a business is not now part of a coveted local search 3-pack spot *and* is still being penalized, then local SEO efforts are now a must.
The Secret Sauce
With spots 4-7 now gone from local search packs, the local search landscape has instantly become much more competitive.
The secret sauce for getting into and remaining in the Google local search 3-pack is the same as it has been since the beginning of digital advertising time.
- Optimized local pages
- Local and industry directories
- Online press releases
- Guest blogging
- Social media
Sorry to disappoint those businesses that are tired of hearing the above. We agencies are just as tired explaining it. Facts is facts, excuse the poor grammar…you simply cannot get away from the fact that the basics have to be in place to realize continuous, long-term success, including increasing the chances of landing a 3-pack position.
Evolve or perish.
Additional Changes For Google Local Search 3-Pack
In addition to business name, the street displays but not the street number nor city. Google+ review yellow stars display as well as business hours. And, there are icons that link to the business website and one to get directions. (See screenshot above.)