Google’s local search results function is great for small and large businesses alike. When someone searches in your local area, your information, location, number, hours, photos, and pretty much everything else about your company is posted right in front of their faces, and shows them how to get to you. As always, though, we should expect fluid changes from these titans of the search engine world as they look for ways to best serve their customers and business interests. New local results policies will change the way that SEO and business in general in locals around the world are done.
What is different?
Previously, when somebody made a local search, the results page would display what was a called a “7 pack of results”. That is, there would be 7 local results prominently displayed with the address, web page, map location, Google + Page, and phone number displayed. In general, it was a far more comprehensive listing than what you can currently see displayed on desktop and mobile.
What you can see now is only a “snack pack”. Only 3 results are on display for local listings. Only a street address is given, no phone number, no Google + page, and no map display. You will need to click-through to see that information. What you can now see are hours of operations, and, if you do click through to a result, you will be brought to a page that displays reviews and ratings, as well as shows you a map and displays 20 total results on the left hand side. Mobile also sees the same package as desktop, just with a call function being visible to the right of the listing.
Why the change?
As always, Google is looking for ways to best serve their clients and business interests. This change was no doubt to fit better with the mobile interface that so many users are moving toward, and since so much of Google local is done on the go, it comes as no surprise that the local results have begun to cater more to those users. A spokesman for the company also commented on the issue, saying that they are exploring new ways to bring more relevant information to their users, and this would allow them to see reviews, pictures, and prices more easily for more relevant information.
What does it mean for you?
This means that businesses in that 4th spot and below are going to see their traffic, phone calls, and leads greatly diminished. It also makes it all the more important to fight for those top spots. They are now far more valuable than they were before (and they were pretty valuable then). All hope is not lost, though. Should someone click-through to the second page where the reviews, website, directions, and other options are offered, you have a good chance to be displayed as an alternative along the side should they not like what they see.
If being in one of the top spots wasn’t necessary a few days ago, it now certainly is just for the sake of being seen. If you aren’t one of the top results, you won’t be in front of your customer’s eyes. The new changes should help people on the go find exactly what they need, but it certainly won’t help businesses that aren’t embracing Google local mobile search. Getting into the top three used to be valuable. Now it is essential.