Phone Numbers Return to Google Local Maps

Written by: Jason Bayless | November 17, 2015

Research shows that there are over one trillion searches performed on Google’s search engine every year. In fact, every Google search uses approximately 1,000 computers, but only takes .2 seconds. Google widely used search engine is equally as popular as Google Maps. However, recently there have been major changes to Google Local Maps search results.

Google’s Popular Services
Google’s My Business is a free and popular way for businesses to increase their visibility and attract customers. While Google does not charge anything for this service, they do offer upgraded services, such as Google AdWords and Google AdSense, which are two of the most popular online advertising tools. The benefit of having a My Business account is that the business will naturally appear in Google Search, Maps and Google+. On the other hand, Google Maps is one of the most popular mapping and direction services on the Internet. Google actually offers a Map Maker service that allows users and businesses to conveniently submit requested changes.

Google Local Map 7-Packs Drop to 3-Packs
In August of 2015, Google suddenly changed how they displayed local business listings. That is, they reduced their familiar 7-pack display of business down to only 3 listings. In addition to this, they made many surprising changes. They stopped displaying full address and instead, only showed the street name. They removed Google+ links and business phone numbers, meaning that the user would have to click on the listening in order to see the number. However, they did also add the business hours. Finally, they removed the convenient fly-out function, which means that hovering the mouse pointer over the location will no longer automatically display the business card.

As a result of these changes, there was increased competition and intensive negative SEO maneuvering to secure one of the coveted three spots. Critics point out that while this move would naturally benefit local businesses, it would also naturally increase Google’s profits. However, industry experts have pointed out that by forcing users to click through results, it gives them a better idea of which sites are more popular and also increases traffic to local businesses.

Recent Adjustments to the 3-Pack
In September of 2015, Google announced that they were restoring certain information displays, such as full addresses and phone numbers. Users found it frustrating to have to click through results when they just wanted to easily view the information. Therefore, current Google searches for local business will include the name, rating, phone number and hours of operation. There are also links to the website and directions. Interestingly enough, local restaurant displays feature the money sign which indicates the price range of the establishment.

How Google Ranks Local Businesses
There haven’t been any algorithmic changes to local searches since Google released their Pigeon update in 2014. Google Pigeon is a unique local search algorithm update designed to improve the rankings of local businesses in a search. Research shows that there are seven major ranking variables, including business, external, on-page, link, review, social, behavioral and personal signals. For example business signals refer to the company’s keyword title and external signals refer to citation volume. On-page signals indicate presence of NAP and link signals refer to inbound anchor texts. Review signals are based on quality of reviews, social signals are sourced from social media analysis and behavioral signals refer to click rates. However, there are also localized, snack pack and negative factors that influence rankings.

In the end, Google made some unfortunate changes to their search ranking algorithms for local businesses, but fortunately have added back address and phone number displays.