In early August, Google made a huge change to its local map pack. This change is redefining the way searching for a local business is done. The new listing results for local businesses in search changed from the previous 7-pack where seven local businesses were featured before having to click to view more, to a trimmed 3-pack view. This has resulted in the need for several SEO practitioners to rethink how they optimize and edit these listings for hyper local results.

 

What Has Changed?

In my opinion, all of the changes make sense in Google’s efforts to make local search as relevant and user friendly as possible. Google wants to deliver results that are high quality and represent the best options around a user’s current location. Many of the changes make sense for the evolving local search, instant result, and no hindrance world we live in when it comes to mobile and desktop browsing. Many of these omissions will not make a whole lot of sense to clients and businesses that wish to show all the information about their business. Google’s perspective in this case is not about showing all the information about a particular business, but the right information for the situation.

Phone Number Removed on Desktop

For local results displayed on the SERP on a desktop, the business phone number will no longer be displayed. The option to “click-to-call” from a desktop computer, or even just see the phone number associated with a local business listing, is no longer an option. However, when searching from your mobile device you do have the option for click-to-call which will immediately connect you to the phone number associated with the “Google My Business” listing for the company. This puts even more emphasis on making sure this information is updated and correct. The click to call option is the only option on the listing itself; therefore it should streamline the process of connecting a potential customer to a business.

 

Only Show the Important Information

Besides the phone number and click to call option, providing only the street address and a clear display of hours is key to making the search effortless. The full address for a local business is no longer shown. Only the street address is displayed, not the city. You may also choose to add the option for users to click the directions button on a mobile phone or desktop, which will provide them with directions to the address associated with the respective company’s Google My Business profile from their present location. Again, having inaccurate information will provide a terrible user experience.  With the introduction of Google’s Pigeon algorithm, we know Google is showing more relevant results to businesses within the immediate area of the person doing a search. Business hours can now easily be seen on map pack results. Now you can very easily see how long a business is open until and if they are currently closed.

 

No Website and No Google+

There will no longer be a link to the website displayed on desktop or mobile in the new map pack. Previously, users could see the website that was associated with the Google profile within the map pack, but now it just shows the brand name and a website icon that links directly to the website URL associated with the respective company’s Google My Business profile. This option is also not available on mobile. Removing the display URL under desktop results is a design and functionality choice I do not agree with. It provided a higher level of trust with users on where exactly they would end land to proceed for more information on the business. Removing the link to the Google+ page is an odd choice since this platform is already socially dead. With that said, these profiles are still necessary to even compete within the local map pack as far as reviews and updated pictures are concerned.

What Does the Local Search Future Look Like for Bing and Yahoo?

With the drastic reduction of both results and information on Google, the competitor’s local results seem to be bloated in comparison. But is that a good thing? Bing local results are awful when compared to Google’s offerings. The results are missing hours for some of the top results, and ratings are obviously not taken into account. For example, when I searched “plumbers NJ” several 1 star reviews populated. The full detail pages were also bland and none showed pictures of the business. If a result did show any the thumbnails, they were crammed at the bottom. Yahoo fares a bit better since the full detail page and even the search results are exactly the same as Google’s legacy map pack. However, the results in my experience offer no options based on location. The results returned to me were from completely other parts of NJ. Local search pages are not phonebooks and the results should be based on my location, not the name of the business. I am curious to see if Yahoo and Bing local will follow Google’s lead in the future and reduce the number of results, the information displayed in these results, and the connection between the listing and where in fact the user is searching.

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