(June 30, 2016) at SMX Advanced, Google announced that they will start showing an Ad within the Local Pack. This will reduce the local pack from three to two positions, making an already difficult ranking proposition even tougher for local businesses.
Last year ( 6th August 2015 ) Google changed the 7 pack, which displayed seven local business listings to the now current 3 pack.
It’s no surprise that Google has chosen to monetize the local pack. It is estimated that 80% of all search queries carries a local intent and a significant portion of these local queries trigger the local pack to be displayed.
After Google changed from the original 7 pack to 3 pack, heat map studies showed that a larger percentage of users ignored the top three Ads and concentrated on the local pack results as their first choice in deciding which business to visit or call.
Majority of my clients Google business pages ( service industry ) receive significantly more traffic from their business page that is positioned in the local pack then directly from their website positioned organically below the local pack.
In short, it’s a Gold mine for Google.
Typically a business has to rank well organically for their Google business page to appear within the local pack. There are some exceptions to this, particularly for hotels, where OTA’s are dominant organically or where directories like Yell, Yelp dominate organically.
Other Ranking Factors:
Relevance: Relevance is how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Commonly refered to in local SEO as NAP consistency.
Distance: Just like it sounds how far is each potential search result from the location term used in a search?
Prominence: This describes how well-known or prominent a business can be. This is based on information we have about a business from across the web, like links, articles, and directories.
As a local SEO specialist we look for opportunities and this presents ( if you use Adwords ) for additional placement, re-marketing opportunities, call tacking.
I suspect the current 4 Ads above the local pack will be reduced to a smaller number or Google risks a “Don’t be Evil” label.
The local pack is heavily weighted in relation to area / location ( see ranking above ) will businesses outside of defined postcode be able to have their Ad displayed, if they do allow this, thats an opportunity to encroach on additional service areas.
Google has announced this publicly, so expect it to roll out pretty quickly.Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community