gShift began noticing and monitoring relatively significant changes in Google Local Search positions the week before last across all locally focused clients within our platform.
Local search results have indeed changed dramatically in the last week as Google moved from displaying 7-packs of mapped local listings to 3-packs both in desktop and mobile searches; thereby effectively removing four positions from Page One. Additionally, those sites which hold A, B or C positions have also shifted with some losing their top billing; indicating this is not simply a change to the local pack. In terms of actual gShift clients, 40% of all positions have been affected in some way while 21% of local positions have been lost altogether in the last 90 days. A far cry from what was at one time a 10-pack. And while they’ve trimmed down from 7 to 3 listings they are generally taking up the same amount of real estate on the page. Generally speaking the amount of traffic actually being received from the local positions 4 through 7 was relatively low (which is likely the reason they were removed), but there is, of course, still something to be said for simply appearing on Page One. Further, the listings which now appear are somewhat different and quite limited compared to their predecessors with only partial addresses, closing times, website and directions icons included on desktop searches.
Google is literally forcing desktop users to click either the listing, website or directions to get to additional contact and location info.
Mobile searchers are able to click on a listing (with the 3-pack occupying the majority of Page One) to access details whereby they can call a local business directly or get detailed directions and other info.
At this point, it’s safe to say the same local SEO rules and best practices apply if you want to be listed on Page One including:
- Ensure your site is technically sound and keyword rich (Title Tags, Heading Tags, meta descriptions, internal links, use local business schema)
- Maintain an up-to-date and complete Google My Business page
- Seek out reviews on your Google My Business page and from other local review services (e.g. Yelp, TripAdvisor)
- Obtain local backlinks and citations (e.g. Local Directories which themselves maintain solid organic positions, Chamber of Commerce, BBB)
- Create and share relevant, current content people will want to read, like and share
- Engage in your local social online community via the social networks
The number of positions available on has been cut in less than half, making it more important than ever to follow local SEO best practices in order to establish a business as a local authority. If you have a local business and you’re not in the 3-pack, you generally need only have a look at who is to see what they’ve done to get there. Note, with certain searches like restaurants, you are also able to filter by “Ratings” thereby increasing the importance of ensuring you ask for and obtain positive reviews and ratings via Google My Business or other local review services.
At the end of the day, we all need to keep in mind this is Google’s playground, it’s their game and we are all playing by their rules.