On August 7th, Google rolled out a seemingly small but incredibly significant update to the manner in which it displays local businesses within its web results.

Instead of the traditional 7-pack map results, Google updated its format to display a greatly reduced (but expandable) 3-pack local listing format (aka Google Local Snack Pack).

7-Packs Now 3-Packs

The move to 3-packs rolled out throughout the day.  And in an unusual move for local, Google launched this change both in the US and internationally at once.

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Key Changes with the 3-Pack Update

Aside from changing the number of listings, several other factors may impact local search exposure for businesses, changing the way search users get information in what Google calls the consumers’ micro-moments of need, based on time, location proximity, price, and context of experience:

  • Change in flow: Business names now link to a second-level Google Map page rather than the business website, which was the historical flow. This mirrors the behavior on mobile search, requires a bit of back and forth between Google and the business’s website, and may bury the local business-specific information consumers are looking for.
  • Full address info and phone numbers were removed on desktop results, requiring additional clicks to see what 38% of consumers may need.
  • There are still no ‘visible’ phone numbers or full addresses on several mobile browsers, although inconsistently there are some mobile results that offer a click-to call button.
  • All links to Google+ pages have been removed, which supports G+ as a casualty of Google’s foray into Social.
  • Business hours are presented, with an additional ‘closed now’ note when the business is closed for the day (relative to the date/time the search was performed).
  • Increased user interaction on Google products (with ultimately more ad views)
  • Users will see an overview of additional local listings, for a total of 20 listings, when clicking through to a listing (other than the ‘Website’ link).
  • Some local listings are sponsored ads, though they blend subtly with organic results, given the similar look and feel.
  • Feast or famine? While the competition for local is increasingly competitive and the functionality more desirable to consumers in-the-moment, the search results provide consumers first with just three results, then overwhelmingly with 20 results on another Google Map page.

This change also impacts the way user’s access information through the local pack. In the 7-pack, contact information was listed directly in the local results box, and users could see an address or phone number without interacting with the search engine. With this update, Google no longer shows a full address or phone number, forcing desktop searchers to click into the local results box to access contact information. Clicking into the results box takes users to a maps page with additional listings and information. On a mobile browser, users still have the ability to call the business directly from the local pack, but the full address no longer appears.

So what does this mean for your business? If you’re in Google’s local pack, you can expect more traffic, calls and clicks since users see this information as relevant and trustworthy. If you’re not in Google’s 3-pack or the subsequent results on the maps page, you can take some steps toward optimizing your local listing and overall web presence to increase your chances of appearing. You can also take a look at your search campaign as Google still shows ads either above or beside its pack.