Google Local Pack to 3?

Written by: Jason Bayless | November 07, 2015

Google’s local search results used to be a seven pack. When people searched for seafood restaurants, the first page listed up to seven establishments. Google decided to reduce it to a three pack. It is time for local businesses to modify SEO strategies.

Google 7 pack

The Google 7 pack, also known as the map pack, showed more information. Desktop users saw the phone number, full address, map location, and URL. The company’s Google Plus page was also available and Google provided a click to call feature.

Google 3 pack

Besides showing only three listings, Google reduced the information immediately visible to users. Mobile searches still provide the convenience of a click to call button. Google prominently displays business hours and even states that the business is either open or closed at the moment. When closed, it says what time the establishment next opens. In place of the complete address is a click for directions feature. Google provides a link to each listing’s website.

Why Did Google Change to a Seven Pack?

Supposedly, the change is to better serve Google end-users. It is easier; if a user wants to see more, she just clicks for more listings. The option to do so is the final choice just at the bottom of the three pack.

Some may argue that it is no coincidence that the user-friendly change also provides an incentive for businesses to use Google Adwords. Pay-per-click, or PPC, is now one of the best ways to achieve a page-one ranking. Page one consists of Adwords and the new three pack; Adwords are above the listings. There is only enough space available for the ads and the three reduced listings. Is Google forcing the use of paid search?

How does the change affect my business

The effect on individual businesses varies depending on the ranking position before the change. In a seven pack that suddenly becomes a three pack, the top three businesses keep their advantage. The disappearance of the other four choices increases clicks, calls, and traffic to the lucky ones located in these spots. The four who once occupied four through seven are now out of sight and out of mind. Loyal customers may still find you by clicking through. Being on the front page in a local search is now more than twice as difficult as it was before the change.

What Can I do?

Most businesses will intensify their SEO strategy in order to compete. Before increasing your current PPC budget, make sure that you are doing the basics right:

  • Select the correct categories within your business profile in Google.
  • Maintain consistently structured citations.
  • Obtain a physical address in the target city.

The correct category selection is vital. Google attempts to direct users as accurately as possible. Check your profile at Google by clicking here. The order of your contact information should always remain the same. If you are unsure, audit and correct this on every page of your website. Serving a geographical area without a physical presence spells trouble when it comes to ranking in the top three. Do you have an employee with an address in the market area? The solution may be as simple as installing a phone line at her home. Is it feasible for the employee to work from a home office? Any extra expense may be worth while.

Google changes things often. When it happens, the business world adapts. That is exactly what to do now. Review your SEO strategies; do the basics well and you will have the ranking you deserve.