What is the Reasoning Behind Google’s ‘Local Pack’ Changes
Google is known for changing things in its interface and algorithms without much (or in fact any) warning, leaving internet marketing specialists to discover changes and try and figure out what kind of impact they will have on the online marketing and business world! One such change happened a few weeks ago (the exact date it happened depends on where you are, but the change has now been rolled out all over the world and applies to every user), and is likely to have a big impact on people who run locally focused businesses.
What Is The ‘Local Pack’?
You may never have heard the term ‘local pack’ used before if you don’t work with search engines or internet marketing, however you will almost certainly have seen the thing it refers to. The Google local pack is the part that appears at the top of your search results when you do a search specific to a location, like for example ‘hairdresser Birmingham’, or ‘pet shop Northampton’. It shows you the first businesses in the area you searched for as different search results, and they are also shown as locations on a map. The other normal style search results are shown underneath them, but as you have probably experienced, you can usually find what you are looking for in the local pack and so don’t need to look at the normal search results.
How Has It Changed?
The most important change to the local pack is that instead of listing the top seven ranking businesses in the specified area in the pack, it now lists only three. As well as this, it can give more enhanced listings for those three lucky businesses, such as pictures, reviews, and even products. There are some other more subtle changes too, for example the name of the business now links to a more enhanced results page with more information about the business such as directions to get there, opening times, and more, instead of the Google+ page for the business. This effectively means Google no longer forces a business to create a G+ page, which is good news for the majority of people, given Google+ has been one of the company’s rare failures.
Why Were These Changes Made?
What Google values most of all is giving its users a good experience, because its user base is what it makes money from (users don’t pay for any services from Google, but they do see ads – if users began to find Google was giving them less useful search results than a competitor their user base would diminish and advertising on Google would be harder to sell). They wanted the local pack desktop users see to be more in line with the mobile version, and offer more relevant information on the first screen. In many cases, they are not as many as seven businesses of a given type in a given area (though of course in many other cases there are), so the changes only really have a negative impact on businesses who were previously in the fourth spot or lower on the old local pack – for those in spots one to three it is a good thing.
Businesses who find themselves negatively affected by the local pack will need to review their SEO and perhaps consider using AdWords to get a better listing. For users, however, the change may well be a helpful one.