Local SEO: When 7 Became 3

Filed in Blog by on August 24, 2015

 
If you’re into local SEO – whether it’s for your own business or for your clients then you’ve probably noticed that Google has made significant changes to its local maps listings (unless you’ve been living under a rock!).

Google implemented these new changes on August 6th, 2015.

 

Big Changes To The Local Pack

What used to be the 7 pack is now the 3 pack. This means that only 3 businesses are now listed in the maps section, which itself has been given more real estate space on the front page of the SERPs.

Other big changes, as far as using local SEO for lead generation, include:

 
1. Removal of the telephone number of the business from the maps listings

2. Removal of the business address

3. Removal of the Google plus (Google My Business) page.
 

 
DentistLondon-1

 

If a user wants more information on a particular business, they now have to click through either to the business website or on to the enhanced maps listing (click on the ‘More Dentist’ option or the actual map) which then returns the top 20 Google My Business listings:

 
DentistLondon-2
 

Google has made the business opening hours more prominent in the maps listings and they also provide a warning if that business will be closing soon.

Instead of addresses and phone numbers you’ll now find store hours more prominently displayed in the Google local pack, along with warnings if a location is going to close soon.

Information about opening and closing times is pulled from the Google plus/Google My Business page and this will have to match the schema markup information on the business’ website.

 

Reviews

Reviews have stayed the same as they were in the older maps listings.

U.S. users may see a Zagat rating (Zagat was bought out by Google in 2011) but as from before, the gold stars will only show up once the business has a minimum of 5 ratings.

Google’s new maps listing have so far been rolled out to the US, UK and the rest of Europe, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Eventually they will be rolled out worldwide.

 

Mobile And Desktop Search

The new maps listing changes apply to both mobile and to desktop users.

The major difference for mobile users is the ability to tap to ‘Call’ the business directly – see screenshot below.

 
DentistLondon-mobile
 

The business’ telephone number isn’t displayed on mobile search so the user won’t know the actual number they’re calling until they initiate the call.

Personally I’m not in favour of this feature.

Why? Because it gives a business the opportunity to introduce premium rate numbers like 0845 or 0870 and profit every time that a user calls them.

 

What These Changes Mean For Local Marketers

The ranking factors that get a business into the maps listings haven’t changed: i.e. citations, reviews, website authority. If you want more information on the local SEO ranking factors then click on this post.

Fewer spots in the maps listings mean greater competition but don’t assume that if you were in the number 1 spot that you’re now guaranteed to hold on to it.

 

Our Test Results – I.P. Is King

We’ve tested results from local maps listings using different i.p. addresses (simple enough to do from a mobile device when you’re moving around and connecting to different masts) and it looks like the closer that a user is to the business location, the higher up in the ‘3 pack’ that business will show.

This means that even if you were ranked 7th in the enhanced maps listing of 20 businesses, you could still potentially show up 3rd if the user was geographically close to your business when they carried out their search.

Whilst I.p. address is a major factor for the top 3 results, the actual ranking in the enhanced list is not dependent on i.p. so it’s still worth trying to get as high as possible in the top 20 results.