As you know by now, Google is all about information; however, the latest development in the land of Google caused a bit of a stir. Google has confirmed they will be placing ads in the Local Pack. This means that now, one of the three local results is going to be an ad. This means local SEO pros are going to have to increase their efforts further to ensure their clients are showing up in the top two local results, rather than the top three.
The Former State of the Google Local Pack
Prior to this change, the local pack highlighted the top three business search results, based on relevance and physical proximity to the searcher. This element of Google was beneficial to many companies looking for growth via the internet. There are countless businesses that have received new customers simply because they were nearby.
The Three-Pack Facts
The standard local pack features listings for the top three local businesses including their hours of operation, distance, actual location on a map. There is a “more places” button providing users with access to all the local businesses, but the three pack honors are only given to the businesses that are most relevant and close by.
Well, that is how it used to work.
As of April, Google started to roll out its ad pack – this included paid listings posted over the local three pack. For users on a desktop, the results looked similar to the other paid Google listings. However, mobile users received a somewhat different experience – the ads appear more organic, with the same information as the organic results. The only indication that it is not part of the organic result is the “Ad” indicator next to the “nearby businesses” notation.
The New Two-Pack Format
With the new format, the paid results will appear inside the three-pack, at the very top of the listing and will be identical to the other listings beside the “Ad” notation listed above. This means that the coveted top three spots are now even more competitive for SEO providers because there are only two organic results available. However, for paying advertisers, getting to the top of local search will become much easier – they just buy their way to the top.
There are a number of questions posed by some marketers, including whether the Google market share is going to be hurt due to users having to scroll down to reach the natural rankings. Right now this doesn’t seem to be an issue since Google is still considered the “top” in terms of search engines. That said, with continued changes that support more paid advertising, the answer could change in the near future.
It also makes marketers wonder if the top of Google’s priority list is stock price, rather than user’s search experience. While this is a valid concern, the fact is, Google is still dedicated to offering users with a quality search experience and providing the most relevant results for their searches. This is something that Google made abundantly clear when they rolled out the news of this upcoming change to the local pack results.