Several weeks ago Google shook up local search when people began to notice that the usual 7-packs of listings that showed up in search results for local businesses were suddenly replaced with 3-packs. This means instead of searchers seeing seven top local listings, they were only now seeing three.
In order to see more listings, the user must now click a menu button below the top three listings to expand their view – which, let’s face it, most people won’t do. So Google is effectively leaving four businesses out in the cold that used to be shown up front during local searches.
This was a totally unexpected and sudden move on Google’s part and was almost immediate across all verticals and all countries. Generally they test local changes like this, before rolling them out, but not this time.
According to some online reports, Google changed their results to bring them more in line with mobile-specific search results, and the 3-pack fits nicely on mobile screens.
If you recall, I warned extensively about changes that would be coming in Google search earlier this year, when they rolled out their mobile-ready requirements.
The Effects of Google Local Search Changes
So, just how much does this affect those that were at the bottom of the 7-pack results?
Many local business owners who relied on these results may find themselves frustrated at no longer showing up on the front page.
If they were previously number four in these results, they are now invisible and hidden without further actions on the searcher’s part. And, if you were number eight and fighting for that seventh position, your fight just became a lot more difficult to win.
It’s unclear how much traffic those 4 to 7 spots were getting, but many SEO experts are surmising that they weren’t clicked nearly as much as the top three.
Still, even if the businesses weren’t getting a lot of click through traffic, they were still getting brand visibility by showing up in those spots. Companies will now have to scramble to make that up elsewhere in their local SEO efforts.
Right now the cheapest, if you don’t count your time involved, way to garner visits to your site is to really hit things hard with inbound content marketing.
What Can You Do?
This means it’s now more important than ever to be promoting your website and business, both online and offline, at all times.
Get listed in local directories online.
Be sure you are listed in local online directories, as well as industry directories. Many listings are free, although you may be inundated with sales calls trying to get you to upgrade.
There is no need to do a paid upgrade, but you definitely want to be in those local search directories in a free spot.
Start doing some paid advertising.
Now may be the time to dip your toe in the sand with paid online advertising using pay per click ads. You can set your budget and paid ads will often land you in coveted page one spots, depending on your ad bids, industry and competition’s ad bids.
If you aren’t ready to commit to Google or Bing ads, you might want to consider starting with targeted local search ads on social media networks. These are relatively inexpensive and you can geo-target your ads so they are only served up to people in your target market.
Work on good inbound content marketing.
Right now the cheapest, if you don’t count your time involved, way to garner visits to your site is to really hit things hard with inbound content marketing. Make sure you are blogging, guest blogging on complementary sites, posting to social media, managing social media pages for your businesses and keeping them active, and offering free advice via forums and online discussions.
These are just a few of the many inbound marketing ideas you can use to draw interest and visitors to your own website.
Getting Professional Help
If all of this seems daunting to you, you can always hire someone to manage these tasks for you. Good SEO work does not come cheap, but it can be effective, if you are willing to stick it out for the long haul.