It’s now even tougher to be listed amongst the top local search results on Google. This month, Google made a change to what’s called the “local pack”, or the number of company listings that are displayed in organic search results. Before, there were seven companies in the pack (often deemed “Google’s 7-pack”). Now, there are only three.

Here is an image of what the local pack looks like currently:

Google Local 7 Pack has been Reduced to 3 Pack

As you can see, even though there are plenty of search results (all those red dots on the map), there are only THREE companies listed.

What does this mean for business?

  1. Your website is now more important than your phone number. In the new local pack, address and phone number are removed from the main search result. Instead, the search results show your store hours, reviews and offers a link for the website and directions. Of course, you can still see the spot on the map where your business is, so address is still important. But it’s interesting to note that they make your website URL prominent and not focus on your other contact info. Make sure that your search listings have a Website URL, and it can’t hurt to make sure your hours are filled in too.
  2. Google is taking away its emphasis on Google+. Google also removed the links to Google My Business pages. This makes Google+ less relevant, which might be a relief to a lot of people who felt forced into creating a Google+ account. In the meantime, it’s still best to keep up with your Google+ pages while we wait and see what The Big G chooses to do next with their social media service.
  3. It’s going to be even harder for a local business to rank here. While we always want to be as high as possible in search results, now it’s even harder. As you can see on the example above, there is A LOT of local competition in our area for our industry. I would be willing to bet that it’s similar in most other industries. This means that the majority of businesses won’t be listed on the local pack of Google. My prediction is that customers will rely less on this first page as a result. They might get into the habit of expanding the local pack to see all 20 top results, or looking in a different area for local results. People like options! If this happens, businesses will not place such an emphasis on ranking locally. Of course, it could be the exact opposite – competition for that 3 pack could greatly increase. In that situation, only the best, most relevant sites will prevail.
  4. It’s more important than ever to make sure your website is optimized. As you can see, Google is not going to slow down any time soon in aiming to give people the most relevant search result possible. This means that it is extremely important to make sure your website is helpful, mobile-responsive, complete, and relevant.

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What are your thoughts on the new Local Pack updates? As a business, do you see the impacts? As a consumer, how do you react? Let us know in the comments below!