Thoughts About the New Local Stack Display

Note: I am heading out for a 5 day vacation. Responses might be limited. Please fill in the blanks for me and keep the conversation going. Dave would get lonely otherwise.

Google seems to have completed the roll out the new local search result with reports of its visibility from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, UK, Australia, South Africa and even Canada (which is usually last in these sorts of things).

I would suggest for the sake of clarity and expediency that we name the new display the Local Stack to distinguish it from the Snak Pak that is used in the hospitality searches. Regardless Dave Oremland has special dispensation and can call it the Crap Pack.

Some thoughts:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 8.13.56 AMThe simultaneous world wide release is different than many previous local display rollouts. I am wondering if that is due to the fact that the European anti trust issue around local has dissipated or if it was viewed as important to put the final nail in the coffin of G+ Local with one fell swoop.

The new display certainly provides an increased opportunity for organic results. I am not sure what will happen on clicks for Adwords but those businesses that were lower in the old display may feel compelled to double down on their Adwords activity.

The display aligns neatly with the new Home Service Ad booking tests and could easily be replaced in those market segments that rely on bookings. Obviously complaints about Google not showing answers and being evil will be heard. Google, being driven by the capital markets, has one overriding interest that supersedes all others regardless of their happy talk and that is profits.

This reduces opportunity in the pure local display on the front  page but the total local opportunity may not be less as ALL links that previously went in disparate directions now head off to the new Local Finder (operative word is may) . That includes links that went to G+ but Maps as well.

The roll over that used to produce the Knowledge Graph now goes to the Local Finder. In that display there are 20 opportunities for visibility.

The lack of phone numbers will necessitate additional click throughs to the Local Finder. So much for Google surfacing answers on the first query but at least it increases local opportunities.

I am not convinced that exposure will come close to what has been possible in the 7-Pack but here’s hoping that the dashboard analytics (unreliable in the best of times) have been upgraded to handle the new display and can provide meaningful comparisons.

Clearly every link to G+ has been removed. This has been a long time in coming as has been in play for quite a while. Concurrently Google will also be removing “shell” pages, those auto created pages for non verified listings, from G+. Google+ is becoming Streams and as of now, its value as a local social platform is minimal.

Reviews, long disassociated from Plus are not really affected as they continue to display in the shadow box wherever they are selected from search, Maps or the new Local Finder. They continue as an element of the local Plus page but I doubt those ever got many views and will get fewer now. And seeing reviews is now a two click process into the Local Finder and then another click on the reviews. Not easy and not friendly.

A single location branded search still brings up the Knowledge Graph with phone number BUT a search for a brand that has multiple locations shows this new pack with NO phone number and requires what should have been a quick recovery search into a two click two step. Very bad form on that one.

There are some oddities in the display around service area businesses and those without websites as those two prominent icons are missing. As Phil Rozek has pointed out the current Local Finder seems to expose the exact location of those who have hidden their address. Not good for those seeking a modicum of privacy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 8.14.48 AMI would love for folks to send me their Local Analytics a week and a month from now as well as report on their traffic.


Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Thoughts About the New Local Stack Display by

75 thoughts on “Thoughts About the New Local Stack Display”

  1. Not a fan of this so far. The results look a bit spammy in the insurance industry. Pictures are being pulled from various places, website URL’s are not visible, phone numbers are gone and fake addresses are abound.

    Local Stack, Crap Pack, Local 3 Pack….whatever it is, it doesnt look like a good experience so far.

  2. Not a big fan of this on the consumer end – I’m missing the knowledge panel and star ratings.

    It does fast-track users to maps results which, for multi-location franchises, makes it a bit more friendly to our local guys.

  3. Still kind of shell shocked and have not had time to research much. This didn’t hit for me til yesterday afternoon when I had to leave for the day. Just woke up and my head is still reeling a little.
    But in a nutshell here are some of my initial thoughts.

    This is really disheartening to those of us in local – for so many reasons! AND it’s not that great for consumers either.

    Only 3 choices. NO PHONE and no address on the 1st page SERPs, you have to click through to get that info. But then when you do, you are presented with a lot more choices that could distract away from the original result you wanted the phone # for.

    Plus NO G+ Local page link any more. Not that that page was viewed by consumers or that important to them.

    BUT that seems totally contradictory to Google’s goal of getting SMBs to claim/verify their local listing. The average SMB isn’t doing to know that the data on their page is what shows up in search and maps. I think some will think, “There’s no page anymore so why bother to claim and maintain one”.

    If they can’t see a page, it’s like it doesn’t exist OR why bother with it, right? Don’t you think many that aren’t working with consultants like us and don’t know what’s up will think that way?

    I think a lot of SMBs will just give up on Google Local. I think we’ll hear them in the Google forum telling us things like “who cares if the page isn’t complete or there is a problem with my data. I don’t rank in local any more because there are only 3 spots and even if I did – that page is gone so why bother”.

    I also think consultants are going to have a much harder time getting business – unless they really put the focus on organic rankings. Because in many markets where the top of the pack was dominated by EMDs, there is no chance for other businesses to break into that 3 pack.

    Am I being too negative? Is there a bright side I’m not seeing yet?

    1. @Linda
      I will wait for the analytics before declaring defeat. The fact that ALL links, including reviews, other than web or directions go to the new Local Finder I am hopeful that there will be an increase of visibility on that side. The fact that the phone number is missing may affect behaviors as well. That being said you could be right.

  4. While not an immediate fan of the local stack snak pack (wink), the expanded view does have some better usability features than Google Maps. I do agree its missing some elements. It appears better designed for tablet & mobile, yet a little clunky funky on desktop.

    1. @Cody the Local Finder is dramatically faster and more usable than Google Maps for this task. I have always found the new Maps to be an abomination for discovery… but there are still, as you point out, some real quirks.

  5. Maybe the lack of a display phone number will allow for better attribution of calls from the listing? (not sure I trust the ‘calls’ reported in GMB)

    What is more concerning to me is that it looks like big-brand businesses are dominating the 3-pack.

  6. Having done a couple of searches here in the UK, the one thing that annoyed me most is that if you are looking for a shop once you type the query, Google displays the name of the shop and the street name. This has no benefit to the user unless they click through onto the listing.

    1. For single locations the number shows. But for multi location branded searches it does not. You are correct that is a recovery search and should show the phone number.

  7. When you say “Clearly every link to G+ has been removed”

    There are still links to Google+ via Photo Views but they are links to the Google+ Page of who uploaded the photo.

  8. “when I click on them I am taken to Views in Maps and not the Plus page.”

    Yes, but there are then links through to the Google+ Page from Views (to the Page/Profile that uploaded the photo)

  9. Hi Mike
    I just tried a few mobile searches in Adelside and the 3 pack results and the expanded view all have two icons – directions and phone call – this looks different to your visual.

  10. Mike: Thanks for the comments and the “dispensation” and link to my earlier “whine”. 😉

    I think this will be difficult for smb’s. On a desktop and mobile the combination of the map and just the 3 pack take up a lot of digital real estate. In urban areas with dozens of businesses it gets difficult to be found for a simple search for a listing or directory of choices.

    Choices are limited. The top 3 are winners. Below that its a brutal fight for visibility if at all. The presentation is not a directory of choices in any reasonable way.

    Google may have replaced the phone book, the IYP’s and all other directories…but it definitively defines who makes the “cut” of the top 3. Not many alternatives, besides advertising on adwords.

    I strongly believe most users will just accept this and move on. After a year of the absolutely NO INFO CRAP Pack for restaurants with NO Phone #, NO LINK, No Address, and NO MAP…..there was simply no outcry. Google presented the worse possible information and the writing public and the public at large didn’t complain. During the past year, Google retained its dominant position in search, gave the public the worst possible information and didn’t hear a peep of a complaint.

    Its a ruling monopoly. It will present this data and the results will play out.

    On a related issue I read the same data about Apple Maps usage on IOS devices as did you from June. You can see it here. What I found surprising was that IOS users were downloading and using Apple Maps 3.5 times as much as the 2nd most used mapping app…google Maps.

    ie….the default app was used over 75% of the time. Even more amazing was that Apple Maps had been absolutely ripped by the internet press. While that was about 2 years ago…there have been no well documented press releases about improvements in Apple Maps. So even with terrible press, and being a relatively newer product compared to the well known google map…..the apple map gets used over 3 times a much.

    I reference that because users will fall in place and roundly use this new google location presentation. Just as with the last year the public won’t complain, but businesses not in the top 3 will suffer from lack of visibility for something as simple as a directory with critical contact information: an address, a highly visible link, and a phone number. Much of the SEO press won’t reference it, and we’ll see if the general press picks up on it.

    Finally, I did a wide variety of searches for all kinds of smbs in different markets. Very very occasionally I found one smb with an organic listing above the 3 pack map. In some industries, such as attorney’s for some searches a wide ranging very strongly SEO’d (lots of links) type site sat above the Map and Crap 3 pack.

    The ads at the top of the page stick out. The map and then the 3 Pack. I predict a lot of clicks on ads.

    Google Wins!!!!

  11. @Dave
    The Apple press has reported on regular and steady updates to Apple Maps. I have found them to be better at many things (but not business discovery) than Google Maps. It is my preferred navigation app at this point.

  12. Removing the address and phone # from the SERP is the biggest change here for me (other than going to 3 results, obviously). This is clearly a move to get better attribution from local listings for G. I’m sure it’s always killed them that folks can drive directly to or phone any of the 7 businesses in a pack from the SERP without Google knowing which business got the call/ visit. Now they have to interact with the listing, tying a web event to the conversion (theoretically).

  13. I spotted the new Local Snack today in Poland, too. So far, I have not observed aby changes in rankings. On a tablet, I still get the old good 7-pack.

    Is this a twilight for Local agencies or a dawn of new era for ranking in the Local Snack?

  14. The three-pack has been a thorn in the side of hospitality marketers for a while now. It’s making hoteliers either frantic or resigned, and as Linda Buquet said, ready to give up on Local. A lot of them think it’s a move to force people to spend more money on ads. Besides that, it doesn’t even look good, it’s not appealing. Maybe Google thinks people will just stop seeing it and skip to organic results.

  15. Wondering how we’ll need to report this to clients… obviously the rank trackers will all be borked… BUT – if we used to report on organic ranking and then map pack ranking, should we report on ranking within the new Local Finder?

    Will that matter? Will anyone care? Like you said, it’s going to be VERY interesting to see the analytics on this in a month or so…

  16. My gut reaction same as Linda’s so far. I think the missing Google+ Local links are going to make this really confusing for consultants explaining the value of creating a listing … because there isn’t a listing any more. There’s a ranking and a finder, but the listing is all but buried now. It’s totally new territory.

    I further think the lack of phone numbers is outrageous. Worst usability ever. It’s almost like Google is obstinately ignoring that we all have phones with us now everywhere we go … and we use those phones to dial phone numbers. But Google isn’t providing them at a glance any more and that seems so disconnected from reality.

    @Dave – I tried to make an outrcry over at Moz and we had such a good discussion 🙂

    One thing I am noticing though … because of the absolute stark bareness of the Local Stack, the ‘more’ link seems way more prominent to me than it ever did before. So, I guess the thought is that more people will click on ‘more’.

    Have a really good vacation, Mike (but how can you leave us all at a time like this?)!

  17. With the 7 pack, businesses felt like they had a “fighting chance,” because even if they weren’t letter A, B, or C – as long as they appeared, and had enough reviews – they felt they could get a “chance” at getting business. It makes sense too, because if someone is letter D but has 15 more reviews than anyone else, they would probably get some degree of consideration from prospective viewers.

    It might be naive of me to say this — but I think the 7 pack might have actually helped reduce SEO spam! Since businesses saw visibility in the 7 pack, they felt “at least we’re getting something!” — now with the 7 pack gone, there’s an IMMENSE burden on getting within the “magic 3”.

    What this means now, is that SEO efforts are going to increase – if I could, i’d insert a link to the “Game of Thrones Meme — WINTER IS COMING”

    This means, – more spammy backlinks – due to fiercer competition for Letter A, B, or C.

  18. @Miriam: What was only restaurant, hotel and local entertainment sites is now every local business. No phone numbers, no addresses, minimized links. On a mobile now tailors, opticians, therapists etc, have an option for a call. How long before Google starts charging for the calls???

    It was a crap pack for the restaurants, hotels and local entertainment for the last year. Now everyone gets to share in the crap pack.

    and @Mike: I’m not lonely: Here is one person’s take: something to do with a middle finger

    Have a nice sojourn

  19. Let’s not beat about the bush, this is an obvious revenue ploy from Google. Overnight they’ve increased their ad-to-local ratio and small businesses will now have to resort to PPC to get consistent page 1 rankings that were previously free*.

    This is an action contrary to “user experience” or whatever other BS they’re trying to explain away. If a user is trying to look for a “dentist in Denver” how is showing them 3 local options better than 7? There’s no logical answer that makes sense.

    They’re fixing a problem that doesn’t exist… scratch that… they’re fixing a problem to maximize revenues.

    It’s very un-Google.

  20. I can’t see this being a usability move and capturing the clicks for data would seem extreme but certainly wouldn’t put it past them. This to me is about getting more advertising spots to show up on the right by moving the map inline with organic results. Something had to go so chop out 4 businesses and now all the sudden there is more room for ads. Here is a screenshot of what our local pack looks like after this change. We are now showing only 3 true organic listings above the fold and 11 ads. To me this is more about ad space than usability. Google truly doesn’t get local.

  21. I investigated a bit in my industry: accommodation/hotels.

    For a hotel/accommodation business if is not selling through OTAs (like Expedia, etc) on the local results, it shows on the right side the website.
    I noticed this only in France – – search for “hebergement Paris” and check “FIAP Jean Monnet”, the second result.
    Same for

    Changes not visible in Bucharest (Romania) as yet. Our site is still visible in the old format if you look for “accommodation in Bucharest”.

    Of course, more money for Google.
    The OTAs present int the local results are actually paying as ads to Google.

    Not fair! I could go on but I would never stop!

  22. I’ve had a lot of people at my place ask “Why reduce to a 3 pack, how does that help users?”

    I don’t think as some have suggested, a 3 pack is simply to make room for more ads or make the ads stand out more.

    As I’ve said several times, I think this is going to eventually (gradually after several other small changes) turn into pay-to-play- something like the home services ads we’ve seen in San Francisco.

    I say “gradually after several other small changes” because remember a year ago or so when we started seeing alot of packs being reduced from 7 to 3? Many freaked then. BUT there was not a display change too. Just one little change, to gradually get us used to reduced packs, in preparation for this!

    I think this new style 3 pack is a gradual progression toward some new pay-to-play model. (They kinda got us use to it gradually by starting with food/lodging.)

    It may not be pay per lead or call like home services, because if it’s across all industries that would be harder to do, as far as pricing it. (Atty vs dog walker.)

    May just be a straight pay to be listed model.

    “Only 3 precious spots – pay a premium if you want to be in one of them. If you can’t afford a 3 spot, then there is always Adwords.”

    OR maybe once they are ready to charge, then they’ll add phone# and it will be pay per click or call.

  23. @Don Whelan: “So glad I did not purchase the new 7 Pack Training Coaching/Class I was looking into.”

    I know this is not going to change my training at all. 7 pack or 3 pack, the algo is still the same. It’s the exact same 3 on top as were before. It’s just that there are only 3, so you have to try harder to be on top.

    But it’s still all the same ranking principles and best practices.

    The only thing I’d say is a little different, is I’d put a lot more emphasis on on-site SEO, so if you don’t make the new 3 pack, you’ll at least show up in organic.

    But I’ve always stressed putting primary focus on organic ranking because that played the biggest part in the 7 pack algo. It’s just that ensuring you have all the right local hooks in place on your website now, is even more important than before!

    And I think links are more important than before too. (To ensure you rank in organic in case you don’t make the 3 pack.)

  24. Annie, who has been dealing with the No Info Crappy 3 Pack for a year for her B&B customers commented above with this keen insight . Thanks Annie.

    I searched for one of your clients. They are in a “market/destination” for B&B’s with about 30 or more alternatives (per Trip Advisor). They aren’t in the 3 pack per my “head phrase search” (city/B&B). They do have over 600 Trip Advisor Reviews and about the same # of reviews on Google and Yelp.

    (By the Way, Bing search for B&B’s in this area shows a 5 pak with more info…and it is using TripAdvisor Reviews, which is probably a good choice with high volume).

    She referenced how clients have lost interest and grown in despair about Google local search.

    Seems like good solid advice about things to come. Thanks for commenting, Annie B

  25. Another observation taken from a webmaster who doesn’t do Local.

    Several years ago Google penalized many sites with its Panda Penalty. Google deemed that sites with “low quality content” were penalized. It hit all kinds of sites.

    The Crap Pack, which doesn’t include a phone number or an address on a desktop view is Low Quality Content. If one is considering a business you might well want to know where their address is. You might want to call them. If you are considering the business you might want a highlighted link to the site to see what they have to say. Google gives a relatively crummy link, and mostly Google curated information.

    Google is practising Panda. I’d suggest penalizing google and looking elsewhere!!!!

    The above is an astute observation. Google is treating the public to exactly what it “said” was its reason to penalize websites. One really needs to rethink Google as a quality search engine. Its a google engine, and right now, little else.

  26. Mike, Enjoy your vacation! By the time you get back, things will have settled a bit. We can all bitch about this, but lets face it – This is still better than Y****!

  27. @Jeffrey Megner: I just did a search in two neighborhoods for restaurants on desktop on Y**** or Yahoo and on Google.

    Yahoo’s information presentation is DRAMATICALLY BETTER.

    1. It gives a 5 pack rather than a 3 pack
    2. There is a map of the neighborhood on first view
    3. Every restaurant has an address and a phone number
    4. Both google and Yahoo have a “click for more “choices” below the pack
    5. Yahoo’s presentation of “all the restaurants has all that address and phone # info for every restaurant. Google doesn’t want you to see where they are located or give them a call.
    6. Click on a restaurant and it gives you a Yahoo knowledge box. Similar kind of info that google gives. There is a link via the restaurant url vs a box. Maybe that is the same…maybe not.
    7. Yahoo offers Yelp reviews. Google offers google reviews (once known as google+ reviews).

    I surveyed volumes of restaurant reviews last year. I did the greater Washington DC area and then chose a LOT of other metro areas….but specifically NOT major coastal cities that Yelp targeted.
    8. In the DC area Yelp averaged about 7 times more reviews than google. FB, btw, had almost as many reviews as Yelp…and way more than google. In non Yelp focused cities…yelp reviews were about 2 times as many as google.
    9. I’ll tell you where the Yahoo info is deficient. Their local data isn’t well updated. Its probably very outdated.
    10. I’ve tested frequently. On restaurants I’ve found that Google and Yelp’s accuracy are very very close. I’ve also updated at both. They are roughly very close on updating accurately. If Yahoo (or Bing) used Yelp’s data base on SMB’s it would probably be close for accuracy in the US.

    Yelp’s presentation is infinitely more informative and helpful than is Google’s in this case. I’d use it if you are searching for restaurants.

    Actually, from what I’ve learned from frequent restaurant searchers….they like to use yelp for information. Even those who have negative feelings about Yelp use it because the directory of information is very thorough and very good and very complete.

    The main area where Yelp suffers currently though is for reservations. Yelp is pushing its own very inexpensive alternative to OpenTable. Its hardly used. That means that if you use Yelp and want to make an OT reservation…you probably have to go to the restaurant site.

    On the other hand…Yahoo shows a link to making a reservation—as does google. The Y links to the reservation I picked all turned up OT, as did the Google links. TIE!!!

    Now I need to look at Bing…but seriously Yahoo is far better. It gives information. Google withholds information.

  28. @Miriam
    I dont think this should effect what we tell to clients. G+ and GMB are still used frequently throughout the new Local Finder. Hours, Website, Photos, Reviews are all used when you click into the 20 Pack and view the listings.

    I think you are right on in your entire assessment. I wrote about it already how I think this is going to either be a Pay to Play or something similar. G is going to monetize this the best they can. Its already being prepped in San Fran.

    We all have to adapt to this because this is likely how the Packs are going to stay…its not going to get better. Saying Bing/Yahoo etc have a better experience may be the truth but Google has over 70% of the market (depending upon who you read) and the general public isnt going to make much of a fuss of this. People are resistant to change and this wont make much of an impact on how people are searching for Local. The impact will be felt for SEO’s and small businesses but not for consumers.

    Adapt and survive.

  29. Just when you start thinking that Google is the best thing that ever happened to marketing, they hit you with corporate greed…. Can’t really blame them, I would probably do the same. The best solution to this problem is to diversify your marketing efforts and not count on Google for “free” leads… Nothing is free, and Google just made this point perfectly clear. Great content, good links, perfect service – it is all great, but money don’t smell, so adapt. With SERPs showing 80% paid listings, local business owners have to find other ways to promote their services. The prices for SEO will have to go up, though. Now you’ll have to create content, and content is not cheap (good content). So I guess there is an opportunity for those who can benefit from it… Someone said before – “Google gives, Google takes”. I feel really bad for those who structured their business solely on local marketing. Google just gave you a middle finger to work with….

  30. I apologize for not knowing what seems to be basic knowledge in the group, but what is the “Local Finder” and where is it found?

  31. @dave yeah, drastic stuff. Only problem with your name for the pack is that I can’t see a ton of us telling clients, “Hey, we can help you rank well in the crap pack.” Doesn’t sound too appealing. Haha 🙂

  32. @brian Can you give me an example of a search in which you’re seeing a link to a G+ Local page using the Local Finder? I am not seeing any, but it could be I’m not doing the same searches as you.

  33. @Miriam As of now, Im not seeing any listings which have a G+ Local page link. What I am seeing is information from the Local Finder being pulled in from GMB/G+ pages. The Local Finder information seems to be similar to the Knowledge Graph. Hours/Website URL/Address/Photos/Reviews are all being pulled from the business GMB page from what I can tell.

    Im also seeing different 3 Packs for different industries. For instance Hotels/Bars/Restaurants are all showing a 3 Pack without the directions or website buttons. Insurance/Contractors/Plumbers/etc are all showing a 3 pack with the directions and website options. Why would one industry prompt directions and website while others wouldnt?

    Also, @Linda just pointed out that G is now showing the URL for the websites if you hover over the “Website” button. On Friday this wasnt visible. G was only showing a redirect link.

  34. @Miriam: You are right. You can’t sell local seo services that focus on visibility in the Pack, with a name like the Crap Pack. That won’t fly. It is a crap pack…but you can’t sell to clients with that moniker.

    The points I made about restaurants, which basically have suffered from a crap pack for additional year in the MOZ Blog piece you wrote back on June 16th this year now apply across the board to all local verticals. None are exempt.

    I have been looking through a lot of local serps to find outliers in the pack that are not that tied to a location….hard to find. I’m also focused on smb’s that have an organic listing above the crap pack. There are few. I’m doing some deep research on them.

    Very small clients with few resources (money) are not going to have the financial resources to beat the crap pack limitations….unless their operators are super clever and skilled. Larger smbs will pay for services or for adwords or both…that can get them visibility.

    Its a grim visibility world. Google has appointed itself king.

    @Alex: Mike suggested that the map that appears when one clicks on one of the smb’s in the 3(crap pack) on a desktop should be called the “Local Finder”. Not a bad name, but its only a couple of days old, and who knows if the name will catch on.

    I’d still berate the larger press outside of the SEO world and let them know what has occurred. Maybe they’ll raise a public stink that will catch on. Right now, the very reason why google got popular-> great results; is no longer true. Now their results are crap.

  35. Two observations:
    1. It seems that even with a city modifier, the 3-pack is showing locations closer to my location than to the city center.

    2. If you site has multiple locations, and the location pages are optimized well, Google will link to the specific location page rather than the home page when you do a branded search…
    see my video regarding this at –
    I discuss it toward the end of the video and would love to hear your input!

  36. BTW: Also seeing potential problems for SAB’s who wish to hide their addresses. The new map pinpoints the location on a map. I presume one can drill down to find the exact location.

    Definitely a security glitch. Needs to be fixed ASAP: Here is an example wherein the #1 position in the 3 pack…and before it a 7 pack, is an SAB: Photographer Fort Worth

    If i don’t want to be bothered at my home….this is a big big hole.

  37. hi,

    has anyone examined their GMB metrics (views, clicks etc.) to determine if there is a significant statistical change?

    When I logged in to GMB (for multiple accounts), there was only data up to Aug 8. Does anyone have data up to yesterday and compared it to the time prior to the change?

    I am curious to see if there are differences; for example comparing Mon-Fri prior to the change to Mon-Fri after the change and then comparing Sat & Sun prior to the change to Sat & Sun after the change.


  38. We are seeing it here in Australia already – not in the hotel industry but with Plumbers…a search for Plumbers Perth (a capital city in Australia) shows the new 3 Pack display…

    The results and order of the results don’t seem to be any different however. My client still remains in the same position as before, just now showing with less information and no phone number. So it may just be an interface change not an algorithmic update. Its difficult to judge that for sure however because my ranking software is still having a hissy fit with these results…Early analytics show an improvement in traffic volumes though which could be a result of people needing to click on the website link to find the contact details…

    The new display gives less information so my advice to clients is going to be maximise what you can display – if you have any advantage over your competitors take it. If you are open 24 hours – make sure your listing displays this. If you can get 5 star reviews…chase them. Your review score still shows even if the actual content of the review is a few clicks away.

    If you still rank in the top 3 then its really not a big deal – but if you were always struggling to get past the 4-7 positions then its going to be a real struggle now.

    The display seems to take up so much more of the page too – in some cases you have to scroll to get to the first organic result…its below the fold!

  39. @Lisa

    Good point about the phone numbers. It didn’t hit me before, but the fact that they don’t show the phone numbers for plumbers is sort of a big deal, since they’ve historically been part of their branding.

    I’ve worked with a couple plumbers who ditched their toll free numbers in favor of local area codes, to look more local. Then there was the plumber who requested a local number from the next area code over, since the clientele there was richer. But my favorite was probably the guy who fought to get his 20+ year old number ported from his old telephony company, because it had a prefix that they no longer issued (which proved that he’d been around town for a while.)

    Either Google doesn’t think that’s useful information for consumers, doesn’t know, or doesn’t care. Any way you slice it, I don’t think the plumbers are going to be too happy.

  40. Welcome home, Mike! My, we’ve been busy here since you left.

    Before you took off, you made a comment that because there was such little protest over Google’s shake-up(s) of the local pack before that they may think they did a good thing, or at least got away with it. I propose that we shake off our previous passivity and set Google straight on this.

    Wherever Googlers hang out e.g. support forums, G+, here…we should voice our concerns about their product. In essence the user experience now sucks. I’m sure Google would appreciate that feedback (not like they’ll do anything about it soon, but still).

    Their local product is far less relevant today due to the new UX. And as G has been telling us for years, if you aren’t relevant you aren’t going to rank. Whether it is ranking on a search engine or in your customer’s mind. I think they need to be reminded.

    I have concerns about their strategy. I agree with you that Google is pushing small, local business toward AdWords. And I think they will eventually price themselves out of the market for local ad dollars. CPCs will surely jump. Competition for ad position will be greater resulting in lower CTRs for those without deep pockets to make the top three in paid search results as conversion rates elsewhere on the page are typically not good. At some point the local guy is not going to see the ROI and opt out of AdWords altogether which is not good for Google’s business.

    How much does Google think it can cram down their customer’s throat before they abandon ship? The user experience now sucks. More clicks (effort) to get basic contact info (phone #, address, etc.) only to be taken to a screen providing it along with a whole page of direct competitors. Is that supposed to endear the business (customer) to Google? And after the big push for everyone to embrace Google+, they now essentially kick it to the curb. How is a local business expected NOT to feel betrayed?

    None of this is good for Google in the long run. I’ve got to believe that there are Googlers that would agree, at least privately. We need to support them. Lend credence to their objections that they can only voice within the company.

    They aren’t perfect by any means but Google has been a fairly good friend. And when a friend is making a huge mistake it is incumbent upon me and their other friends to say “Whoa, buddy!”. That’s what friends are for.

  41. This seems to be at odds with what some of us in the industry saw as a big push towards including more local reviews for local businesses. With what could be seen as a downgrade (at least visually) on their importance in the packs, one wonders if a corresponding shift in the importance of reviews as a Pigeon ranking signal might follow.

  42. When my clients see this, all they are going to ask me is “why are we paying you to do local SEO for us if all our competitors, who are using spammy tactics (like 60+ fake “reviews”), are the ones coming up in the top three local results?” Let’s focus on organic and paid advertising instead.

    This is going to make the cost of paid advertising SKY ROCKET for the industry I cover most – law firms. The small, newer firms will not be able to compete with the larger firms with more $$, bar none. I’m sure the same can be said of many industries.

    Whatever which way you look at things, people mostly click on the top 3 results and usually the first one. That has not changed.

    It’s as if Google is creating tiny oligopolies in every industry in every town in America. They make SO much $$. Where are the small business leaders? Why isn’t there more outrage over this? Do people who run small businesses just really have no clue how their lives are being controlled and manipulated because they simply don’t understand (still) how the internet works?

    As I said for a long time, if Google really wanted to do “no evil”, they’d simply rotate the local results … a small local business comes up number 7 in one search and then number 2 for the exact same search by another user. How difficult would that be? How much more useful to their users would that be? Isn’t that what they always say the bottom line is “usability”. Well, usability, my ass!! People should be sick and tired of this by now.

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