Google is making changes … again. Except this time its biggest impact is on local search marketers.
Early last month, Google released a new local search display format that doesn’t change local search ranking factors, but it does change how that information is displayed on the search engine results page (SERP). While in the past, Google has shown seven local results (depending on location and search inquiry), it is now only showing three. This has a severe impact on local businesses four through seven.
Another big change is the increase in number of ads shown above the fold on mobile results. Now, not only are there less local search results, they’re harder to find because you have to scroll down past the ads.
A few of the other changes that Google has made are the large map that has been added to the local search, taking up space above the fold; desktop and mobile results are now in the same format; address, phone numbers, and photos have been removed from many local search results; and review stars are not displayed for most branded searches.
How does this directly impact searchers and local businesses?
- Local businesses will need to start paying for advertising in order to maintain the same level of visibility as before.
- Competition and click costs will increase as more searchers click on local ads.
- Local businesses listed in positions four through seven of the previous search results will likely see their website traffic decrease.
- It will be harder for customers to find phone numbers for businesses.
- The new local search is much more plain, potentially resulting in less engagement and clicks to the website.
- There will be more competition than ever among local businesses trying for the top three local search results.
Overall, this new change greatly impacts local businesses and probably not for the best. The new format will likely reduce phone calls and website clicks for many, and local businesses will have to spend more money on ads to receive the same visibility in search results.
As usual, Google is keeping us on our toes.