Last month, Google made some sweeping changes to its “Local Pack” search results. The most obvious being the decision to show only three results instead of seven. Why??
Google’s decision to show less listings apparently is mobile motivated. “Three-pack” search results make desktop searches copy the mobile listings, allowing more room for reviews and map results. However this drops the ‘local pack’ listing number down considerably . On the positive side, the results are laser localized. So the list is smaller but the competition is smaller.
Also, some believe that the top sites listed in a map view appear to be unaffected by the upgrade, so far, leaving some ‘wiggle room’ for businesses that don’t make the top three.
So what should you do if you find yourself on the outs of this smaller local pack?
1. Don’t Over React
If you were No. 4 before the update, your traffic hasn’t been affected much, according to Andrew Shotland, president at Local SEO Guide, Inc.
“While there certainly will be a loss in visibility and phone calls from those businesses that were in positions four through seven in the previous local packs, the truth is, those listings weren’t generating much activity anyhow. It is likely that this is one reason why Google removed them,” Shotland says. “In the near term, SEO consultants are going to have a challenge in explaining to the client who used to rank number four in a local pack why it’s no big deal that they are not on page one anymore, when last week they were touting how awesome it was to be ranked number four.”
2. Reviews Still Matter
Although Google has removed exact addresses and phone numbers from search results, starred reviews have not been removed. Concentrating on good reviews can take advantage of the remaining review listings.
“Based on the current display, particularly the local finder, it does appear that ratings and reviews are much more prominent in the UI,” Shotland says. “So focusing on making sure your business has a high rating with a decent amount of reviews should be a priority.”
Longer tail keyword phrase targeting is advised. Laser target your ‘targets’, shying away from more broad terms.
“If you just got bumped off of page one because you haven’t made the top three, my first suggestion is to position yourself as more of a specialist, if possible,” according to Phil Rozek, owner of Local Visibility System. “Dominate a niche, in other words. Try to rank for ’emergency dentist’ rather than ‘dentist’, or for ‘kitchen remodeling’ rather than ‘remodeling.”
4. Backlinks Backlinks Backlinks
“Even if you inhabit a smaller pond, you’ll still want to become a bigger fish. So to that end, I’d suggest doubling down on your link-earning efforts,” Rozek says. “Start with easy links, like joining at least one local Chamber of Commerce, joining an industry or professional organization, and maybe getting accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Of course, there’s an infinite number of other good links you can get, but those are a solid start and often overlooked.”