As of Friday, Google made a significant change to its search results.
Now instead of having 7 businesses represented in search results with local intent, there are only 3.
Well first and foremost the map has moved from the top right of the Google search results to the left hand side. This would be in keeping with the view that users get on a mobile device and as reported last week, in the UK mobile usage of the internet is greater than desktop usage. So to keep congruency for the user, regardless of the device they are using, makes sense.
Another difference on the desktop version is the fact that your business phone number is now no longer displayed. Instead the options are to click directly to the users web site or get directions.
Oh and of course, the big one. What was 7 business listings on last week is now just 3.
Using the same search criteria on a mobile device you can see that the website and directions buttons have been replaced by a phone icon, which is a click to call feature.
How Will the Change Impact Businesses?
It will only impact businesses that were in the 7 pack prior to the change. After all if your business wasn’t there before the change then it will have no impact. If you were in positions 4-7 on the map then you can expect fewer calls and inbound leads via Google.
If you are on the new listing in positions 1-3 then I would suggest that the change will have a positive impact for you.
Put simply, your business is only going to be competing with 2 others in the area meaning the chance of you getting a phone call from the map has increased roughly 2.5 times from 14% to 33%.
How can you increase your chances of getting more calls?
To increase the chances that your listing will be picked over the other two then you need to optimise your listing to stand out from the other two. Ways in which you can do this include:
- Introduce business photos:
- Add Videos
- Add updates to your listing.
- Get and respond to Reviews
If your business is not in the new local listing of 3 then the following is a good place to start.
- Check that you have a Google My Business account.
- Verify the account.
- Update all details including; business name, address, postcode, hours of business, main business category.
Chances are this alone will not get you into the top 3 positions but will provide the foundation for a local search engine optimisation strategy.
The cynic in me is saying that this is all about Google digging deeper into the pocket of advertisers. As there are a lot of businesses that were in the old 7 pack that will no longer be on the first page of Google for their service and locality at all. Meaning that if they do want visibility and to continue getting the inbound leads and calls they were getting then one of the options is to pay for that privilege through Google Adwords.
In a blog post on Search Engine Land, Barry Schwarz shares a quote from a Google spokesperson with regards to these changes that says:
“We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.”
Is this a trial by Google? How long will it last? Will it benefit Consumers? Will it benefit businesses? Only time will tell….