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Changing SERPs for Local Businesses

If your business has brick-and-mortar locations, you know how important visibility in local search results is. Any changes to the way local results are displayed can significantly impact your web and foot traffic. Today, I wanted to share three recent updates in the local search landscape. Note: these updates are not necessarily about ranking factors, but rather the format and display of search engine results page (SERP) listings.

Google Opts for the Snack Pack

At the beginning of August, Google again changed the number of listings that appear in the local listings section. They dropped it from a 7-Pack to a 3-Pack. This allowed Google to expand the size of the map and (sometimes) give more detail about those lucky three listings at the top. But for some searches, they’ve taken away some details, removing address, phone number, ratings and photos. It varies widely by search at this time.

And for those businesses sitting in positions four through seven, well, they’re super unlucky. Users can still click to see more listings, but it’s unlikely that the majority will. These businesses can expect to experience reduced phone calls, foot traffic and website visits.

Google Ads More Local Ads to Mobile

A few short weeks later, Google started adding a third ad on mobile devices for certain queries. This is good news for advertisers, providing another opportunity for them to get in front of on-the-go searchers at lower CPCs than positions 1 and 2. And it may help to explain the move to the 3-Pack (when businesses in positions 4-7 start seeing less traffic, they’re more likely to start paying for ads).

Interestingly, the addition of a third ad doesn’t seem to be taking up more space overall. It seems Google is choosing to display less features when they include more ads. So it may not have as major of an impact on organic performance as one might imagine.

Facebook Star Rating Removed From Google

The star rating that typically shows on listings for a brand’s main Facebook page seems to have been removed from Google SERPs (however, it’s still showing for local Facebook Place pages). Neither company has confirmed an update, so it’s unclear whether Google made the change to SERP display or Facebook made it to their schema. Either way, it does create a less eye-catching listings, and thus may result in lower click through rates.

Have these changes impacted your local business?