Google has just made a series of updates that have bearing on how well local businesses appear in search results.
Here’s a rundown of the changes and how they could affect your ranking.
Local ‘7-Pack’ Now ‘3-Pack’
When users conducted a search with local intent, Google used to return what was called a “7-pack,” which appeared near the top of the results and displayed seven local businesses ordered algorithmically by a combination of the number of reviews and distance from the searcher’s location. The 7-pack has now been replaced by a smaller, more simplified version — the “3-pack” — that has, seemingly, been redesigned to accommodate mobile search.
Implications for Local Businesses
Less chance for front-page returns. The reduction from 7 results to 3 means that there is less opportunity for a local company to appear in front-page returns. To compete for 3-pack placement, a business will need to get more reviews, as that seems to be a significant factor.
Google Plus presence eliminated. The disassociation between local search and Google Plus is notable and indicates that Google is back-peddling on the social network’s significance even further. Google also announced that it will shut down any non-verified Google Plus accounts. Businesses that wish to retain their Google Plus page need to claim and verify their listing in Google My Business , the portal to all things local business-related.
Organic search is more important than before. These changes force businesses do a better job of optimizing for organic search. That means having an SEO- and mobile-friendly website, updating the site with fresh, relevant content, and getting listings in local directories based on industry category.
Advertising may be necessary. Given these changes, local businesses may have no choice but to spend part of their marketing budget on advertising. Google AdWords can help get a company on the front page.
5 Steps Local Businesses Can Take to Protect Against the Change
1-Conduct a search for your business category — including city and province — to see if you appear in either the 3-pack or local finder.
2-Claim your listing on Google My Business and populate your Google Plus page with accurate information.
3-Encourage and respond to customer reviews.
4-Build citations by claiming your business listing in local directories.
5-Stimulate organic traffic by getting a search-optimized, mobile-friendly website. Keep it updated with fresh, high-quality content.