In August of last year, Google modified its local search display format on desktops. In an attempt to make the user experience more similar across all platforms, the move was made to more closely resemble results on mobile devices. As we’ll see, these changes have impacted local search results.
Previously, seven local results were displayed with the associated map in the right-hand section.
Following the update, that number of results shrank to 3 with a larger map above them. Google also changed some of the information that is displayed.
A Complete Look at the Changes Made To Go To Local Search Results
The local search pack on the SERPs has gone from 7 to 3 in what is now commonly referred to as three packs or “snack packs.”
A large map has been added above the results, which consumes a great deal of space above the fold.
Links to the businesses’ Google+ pages have been removed. However, website and directions links have been added. Additionally, when the user clicks on the business name, they are taken to a page with a knowledge graph containing more information about the business where they can also add a review.
Complete addresses and phone numbers have been removed from many local search results, presumably in the hopes that this will lead users to click through to get more details.
The information that is displayed in the snack pack varies greatly from one business type to another.
For example, a search for local record stores will not yield phone numbers in the snack pack but a search for furniture stores will. And for some businesses, only the street name will appear in the results while in others the complete address will be present.
The Impact of the Snack Pack Update
For those businesses that habitually found themselves within the top 7 local results, but not necessarily in the top three, of the previous local packs will now be relegated to a second tier status that is only seen if the user clicks on the more results option at the bottom of the snack pack.
Not surprisingly, the top three spots are now far more valuable and competition for them is bound to become more intense.
This shift also underscores the importance of the Google My Business platform and other local citations as a means of achieving better local results.
The data that appears on the search engine results page and in the knowledge graph is largely drawn from existing Google Plus pages and local listing sites with higher authority.
The secret to achieving high-ranking local results remain similar to what they were before. Particular attention must be given to accurate and complete citations, strong on page optimization, quality links, and customer reviews.
A Deeper Analysis of Local Search Ranking Factors
If you’re interested in getting into the top 3 spots in the local search rankings, there are some very clear areas where you should focus your attention. In September, Moz published their findings of the 2015 Local Search Ranking Factor Survey. In it, they break down the eight most important factors that contribute to a business’s search results with the relative importance of each one. Here’s a look at each of them.
On-Page Signals (20.3%) – Presence of name, address & phone number (NAP), keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.
It’s crucial for your website’s pages to all have contact information that is displayed consistently. Try to eliminate any variation that may exist. For example, avoid using abbreviations like Ave. in some places and the full words like Avenue in others. The same holds true for the way your business name appears. Keywords that are specific to the information contained on the page in question are also very important.
Link Signals (20.0%) – Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.
Good quality links from outside sources are still a very important part of achieving good results. Conversely, bad links can negatively affect your rankings. A comprehensive assessment of the links directed to your site should be done to determine their quality and value.
Business Signals (14.7%) – Categories, keyword in business title, proximity, etc.
Business signals helps Google determine the kind of business you are so that it can show up in relevant searches. Keywords are particularly important for companies with generic names. If your company is called ABC Consultants, it will be beneficial to add the kind of consulting wherever you name appears (e.g. ABC Consultants in engineering).
Your proximity to the user’s location is also a vital part of your business signals, making the accuracy of your listed address critically important.
External Location Signals (13.6%) – IYP / aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.
Having your business information listed on credible directories, such as Internet yellow pages sites, will help your results. The number of listings is important, as is the consistency of your information. Here too, your NAP should be listed in the same fashion for consistency’s sake.
Behavioral & Mobile Signals (9.5%) – (Click through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, offers, etc.
The number and kinds of actions users take while interacting with you online has an impact on your results. In addition to click through rates to your site, check-ins while people are visiting your business, mobile users who click on links to call you and promotional offers all help to improve your behavioral & mobile signals.
Review Signals (8.4%) – Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.
Your review signals include the number of reviews you receive, the rate at which you receive them and the diversity of reviews you get.
Social Signals (5.0%) – Google+ authority, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, etc.
Not only is social media a great way to build and maintain a relationship with your customers, the way they interact with you on those platforms will help to boost your local search results.
Of course, if taking on the task of improving your local search results isn’t something you want to take on in-house, you can always call on the pros at Lead to Conversion to help you out.
Contact Lead to Conversion and lets examine how your site ranks in local search results and how we can get you to the top.