Local Universal Results Now Showing without Phone Number

Update: 2:00 p.m. 11/05/09: They’re up, they’re down, they’re up again. Phone numbers have returned. Please temporarily store your tin hats.

The local world is buzzing this morning as it appears that Google has removed or perhaps lost the phone numbers from the Local Universal Results. Matt McGee noticed them missing from the Lucky-7 Pack and SEO Book noticed them gone from the Authoritative OneBox. There are also reports of fewer OneBoxes showing in results.

Of interest is that while they are gone from Local Universal results they remain in the Local Listing Ads:

no-phone-except-lla

Did Google misplace phone numbers for every business in the world? Are they planning on rolling out a call tracking system? Or were they just “neatening” up the display along the lines of other recent changes to better display ads? Earlpearl noted in an email: “My first reaction is that removing phone numbers rolls people into more clicks, less phone calls. Possibly a way to hopefully generate more click throughs. Possibly an experiment. Google voice is too new, too experimental to get a big value out of testing that yet, IMHO.”

What do you think is going on?

Picture 104

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Local Universal Results Now Showing without Phone Number by

26 thoughts on “Local Universal Results Now Showing without Phone Number”

  1. Google monitoring and testing clicks vs. calls to determine metrics for packaging and pricing of Local Ads?

    Looking at the display of ads vs. the 7-Pak, the top billing along with phone numbers is much stronger Call to Action positioning for the Ads.

    Also, will Google test this in different Categories of Local Business?

    For example, Dentists… a Dentist who specializes in Dental Emergencies- a phone call means immediate business- vs. a Cosmetic Dentist- a phone call is probably an interruption.

  2. Google wouldn’t be trying to bias phone calls to the paid listings, would they? Naah, they wouldn’t do anything like that.

    Really hope it’s temporary, or I’m going to have to redo all my screenshots for my PubCon presentation next week.

  3. Seems like Google is really trying to push people further into Maps and Places pages.

    Another thought (although I don’t think this is necessarily the case) is that Google doesn’t have enough confidence in the accuracy of business phone numbers and that was providing a bad user experience for people who just picked up and called the number in the lucky 7. It makes sense, then, that they would display the number for the local ads (since it’s easy to ensure the accuracy of those numbers).

  4. @Mike

    That is interesting! What categories?

    I am curious, do others have any results to report on Local Listing Ads?

  5. @Jim – if that was the case wouldn’t it make sense for Google to still show numbers for businesses that have claimed their listing in LBC? If they were to do that it would be a powerful incentive for more small business owners to claim listings – something I’m sure Google would love to see happen.

  6. Not being in a testing area for the “local listing ads” (flat rate priced ads) I wasn’t quite sure what was being referenced. Thanks for the screen shot.

    The difference between phone numbers for the local listing ads and no phone numbers for the universal listing map seems to me to give the advertiser a lot more “bang for the buck”. The local listing advertiser is paying for the ad. The businesses in the 7 pack aren’t.

    References and links to the listings in the universal listing…the map gives a visitor/clicker a couple of options. For now the phone call is eliminated. Google can test to determine if more visitors act on those listings and if the visitors click on either the link to the business site or the link to the local business record information.

    Clearly the phone number in the business site needs to be highlighted, if it isn’t already. The phone number in the business record is very visible.

    If I were in Google’s shoes, its a great way to test how traffic reacts…and give more value to the advertisers.

    I know I’m going to look at my dashboard stats a bit closer now and distinguish before and after 11/5/09. Are there more actions on the map then before? I still haven’t bothered to tie G analytics to maps visits yet. If nothing else it will give me a better feel for the volume of click throughs that come from maps than come from organic visibility of the smb sites. If clicks increase post this elimination of phone numbers I’ll assume lots of visitors were clicking off of the map.

    (I’ve been pretty dismissive of dashboard stats to date).

    As a business operator I don’t like it. Of course I want my phone number in the map. Its highly logical and appropriate for information for visitors.

    Look overwhelming evidence from the market place is that local searchers, search on the web and ultimately visit a location with local purchases being far more prominant than buying on the web. Removing the phone numbers is dismissive of the intent of local searchers.

    It is the most current change in Google Maps. I suppose like most of the other changes they aren’t going to comment. Google is a big black hole in terms of interacting with the business community and with searchers.

    IMHO, they are having this every day impact on local businesses in a very dramatic way…and essentially getting away with it without commentary from the big world. Its damn sad that is happening in a crummy economic environment in which businesses are struggling.

  7. Not only are the telephone numbers gone. For the past 3-4 weeks in a search for Seattle Wedding Photography, Google has been offering an authoritative one listing, after having had a ten pack forever. Today they are back to a 7 pack without phone numbers.

  8. when you click on a “see more results near…” link below the 7 pack to see full Maps results, they are still showing the phone numbers in there.

  9. Something of interest as well is that 7-packs are 100% absent for searches in which they used to figure. “[city name here] web design” for instance used to always bring back the 10 or 7 pack. Now it’s empty. This started with google.ca searches last night but now seems to be spreading into google.com results. Other lost 7-packs occurring for “[city name here] graphic design”, “[city name here] search engine optimization” etc.

  10. @mike I’ve been putting that tinfoil hat on a lot lately it seems. Head is itchy. Thanks for telling me to take it off :)

  11. Good to see the phone numbers back.

    I haven’t done enough testing to know whether this is real, but it seems that the missing 7-packs tend to be on B2B search terms.

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