– This blog was originally published on the ADsmith blog. –
The journey of finding a local business’s products or services often begins with a Google search. Anyone who has ever done one of these searches has seen Google’s local pack.
“Local pack” is the term people who work in search engine optimization (SEO) use to describe the block of local businesses shown at the top of a search result.
In this example, when we query “marketing springfield mo,” we see a map along with three local businesses. But this is not how Google has always displayed local search results.
Below is a rendering of the same search query from the beginning of August.
Do you see a difference? Besides the fact that ADsmith is now ranking in the 1st position, we also see, in the second example, that there are 7 businesses listed in the local pack.
In early August, Google changed from showing (mostly) 7 businesses in local packs to showing only 3 businesses in every local pack. We say mostly, because if there weren’t enough businesses related to a search, Google results might have yielded 3 results…or none at all. But now, local packs are grouped in threes.
Why did Google make this change? What effect will it have on your business? What can you do to improve your rankings in the local pack?
Why the change?
It is clear that Google is trying to create a more uniform experience on both mobile and desktop searches. For instance, if we make the same search on mobile that we made on a desktop…well, you can see where this is going. Mobile decided 3 was the magic local pack number before that change was seen on a desktop search.
The only thing that has really changed is that now it doesn’t matter what device you use to search Google—the result will look pretty much the same.
Why does the change matter to a local business owner?
There are two sides to Google only showing 3 businesses in the local pack.
- Your business was already showing up in the top 3 of the local pack.
- Your business was in the 4th through 7th position in the local pack.
If you are in the first group, celebrate! There are now fewer businesses to compete with to catch a searcher’s attention. At the same time, though, it is important to not be complacent. This change has the potential to cause more businesses to invest in SEO. Those top three spots are going to be prime, coveted real estate.
If you are in the second group, then you no longer show up in the local pack, which means it’s probably time to boost your SEO efforts. Below are a few insights that could help your business move back into the local pack.
What factors affect ranking in the local pack?
The move to have a unified experience on mobile and desktop means that physical location is going to play a bigger role in ranking in the local pack. A business can’t just pick up and move to gain more search traffic, but it is good to be aware of the impact location can have in local search. This is especially true with businesses like car mechanics and restaurants, where searchers care about how far they have to travel to a business.
Google reviews have always been important because the star ranking catches searchers’ eyes. The number of reviews and the overall star ranking on Google seem to be more heavily correlated with positioning in the local pack—this is especially true after the change to the 3 business local pack. A searcher can even organize the local pack by a restaurant’s star rating. This feature could be coming to other highly competitive industries in the future. Having a plan in place to get reviews from your customers is more important than ever.
There are many more factors that go into ranking in the top 3 of the local pack than this blog can cover. If you have any questions, feel free to contact ADsmith’s digital team. Also feel free to contact me directly.
Local SEO is more important than ever. No business wants to be left out of the top 3.