Google is constantly testing and adjusting the look and feel of search results in order to make it more useful for consumers while increasing their revenue for display ads. With so many changes happening all the time, it’s often hard to see the effect of a change until there’s been some time to analyze the results. Recent data suggests a change that was thought to have little overall effect may be one of the biggest changes Google made in a while.
As was reported in a recent article on this site, Google reduced the number of entries in the “Local Pack” from seven down to three. A new report from SEOClarity suggests that the new local pack with the reduced number of entries is getting seen in more Google results.
When Google made the change to the local pack, the obvious effect was that four businesses would receive reduced traffic from not being easily seen on the SERP. However, the bigger change is when and where Google chooses to show the local pack.
According to the analysis from SEOClarity, before it changed to the 3-pack, the local pack used to show up in the number one slot in the web search results only 25 percent of the time. However, the exposure to the local pack has more than tripled since the change. The study says the new 3-pack shows up in the number one position 93 percent of the time.
This means the benefit to the businesses that remain in the local pack is far greater than originally estimated. Not only do these local business have fewer competitors in the pack to glean away potential visitors, the algorithm change for when the local pack shows up greatly increases the number of times when their business gets such topic billing. On the other hand, this is disadvantageous for web-only businesses that don’t local operations to promote in such a way.
“The new prominence of local business results means that web-only enterprises that have for years focused on traditional search optimization – and have, as a result, built up tremendous authority and visibility – could be pushed down the page by as many as three rank positions, by companies with a well-optimized local presence,” wrote Mitul Gandhi on the SEOClarity Blog.
According to a chart of the data provided by SEOClarity, the top spot now will show a local pack 93 percent of the time versus 25 percent of the time. And 99 percent of the time, consumers will see the local pack in the top two positions. This is a huge three fold improvement from the 31 percent of the time that local pack was shown in the top two positions before the change.
While it’s difficult to say for any certainty why Google made these changes, there are a few things to keep in mind. The trend among Google for the past few years has been to make their search algorithms more useful for people who are searching for local information. The increase in the number of situations where the local pack shows up may indicate that Google finds more queries local-related than they had in the past.
Also, the fact that the local pack in smaller means they can use it in more places without losing many of the current items on the that page. Only the last two or three entires from the page will get bumped back a page, which is more acceptable than knocking out seven. Whatever the reason, the change is something that local business owners can use to their advantage. By improving their local SEO strategy, business owners can get their site shown in the ever-important local pack.
For more information about recent changes Google has made that affect a business’s SEO strategy, read this article on Google adding more ads to mobile SERPs.