The Local Stack – Next Level of Local SEO Evolution
How the new Local Pack Display will impact your Local SEO Strategy?
And Then They Were Three
The major Google update that started to surface last week has shifted the Local SERPs worldwide. The Local Stack, as it was named by Blumenthal, has deeply impacted the local SEO landscape. The traditional 7-pack has been replaced with a new 3-Pack, the Local Stack.
To get an idea of how significant this update was, take a look at the following graph from Mozcast:
The 7-pack listings in desktop local SERPs are definitely gone, keep in mind this layout was released on Android mobile SERPs last year and for the iPhone in Mach 2015 , this is basically a layout update that provides a consistent experience between mobile and desktop.
With only 3 business listings displayed on the first page, there is a greater opportunity for traditional organic listings to capture more traffic. But the ranking difficulty in the local pack has just increased, especially in larger agglomerations.
From our internal datasets, we are already seeing a drop in search impressions for the majority of the business listings we track, which is normal considering that almost 60% of the impression inventory on desktop is gone. It will be interesting to see how Google will update the insights dashboard to reflect the Local Finder impressions; we are now used to the irregularity of this data so we will wait before making any final statements.
The new Local Stack is now similar on all devices; it’s worth noting that moving the map to the left will technically generate more clicks on the PPC Ads. Like all the recent Google updates, increasing real estate space for Ads is still a priority.
A surprising change was the removal of the phone number and the complete address from the SERPs, the user has to click to get this info in the Local Finder.
While this update seems wrong from a UX stand point, we think it’s a key element for Google to increase the accuracy of its user behavior data for local intent, a better understanding of local searchers on desktop will help bridge the gap from online to offline and cross-device conversions, an attribution model they will eventually use to sell ads based on performance to local businesses (ex: Pay per store visits)
What exactly changed in the SERPs?
- The phone number is gone except when you append the word “Phone” to your query
- Website URL is gone, although it’s still possible to click on the website icon to go directly to the URL linked in the business profile
- Review links are gone, the golden stars are still displayed when the listing has more than 5 reviews
- Exact address information is gone – part of the address is still displayed
- Google+ listings links are gone
- Store hours added
- Clicks on the listings go to the Local Finder instead of the website
- More space for the website and the driving direction icons
- The roll over that used to load the Knowledge Graph is gone
- Different Local Packs are being pulled for different verticals, restaurants and bars have pictures on the side, Plumbing in San Francisco is on a pay to play model, etc…
The disassociation between Maps and Google+ seems finalized, it’s almost impossible now to land on a Google+ local page from the SERPs. A new type of local listings under the /VIEW folder indicate that Google will soon release a new type of local pages as suggested by Linda Buquet
- VIEW Page: https://www.google.com/maps/views/profile/117282003257983155227
- G+ Page: https://plus.google.com/117282003257983155227
We think Google will lean toward a deeper integration between local listings, street view and business view, and ditch the social part from local.
Update: A new type of local listings URL was spotted August 18th. This page is accessible from the Local Finder after clicking on a business’s photo and it’s displaying the photos and reviews from the previous Google+ local page:
The Local Finder
The new Local Finder is a great update compared to the old map navigation, it’s way faster, there are 20 listings and clicking on a location will load the profile info over the map. Reviews are definitely going to play a bigger role considering their new placement in the left navigation.
One area where Google screwed up is regarding service area businesses, they are exposing their exact location on the Map, but we all know that giving a hard time to service area businesses is a tradition at Google.
Where the users are clicking?
This number correlates with the SERP research Mediative released earlier this year, where only 11.5% of the users clicked on a listing in the 7-Pack and 45% of the clicks went to the first 2 organic listings below the 7-pack. The Local Packs were never very popular with the users; this may explain the constant changes in that area from Google, remember the local carousel? 🙂
When a user clicks on the Local Stack, the majority of the clicks will go to the Local Finder. To get an idea on how the users will behave inside the Local Finder, check out the Mediative Eye Tracking and Click Mapping white paper about Google Places, although a new study has to be made to assess the impact of reviews in the left sidebar.
We anticipate that the Local Finder will play a bigger role in the local search funnel now; a local listing not ranking in the top 3 will still receive an exposure when the user clicks in the Local Stack!
Moving forward, local SEO strategists will have to adapt once again, Google has proven multiple times that changes are the only constant with its local products.
It’s now more important than ever to rank your Google business listings in the top 3, a bigger focus on the number of citations and NAP accuracy across data aggregators and local directories is more critical than ever.
With the disassociation from Google+ we observed a huge increase of inaccuracies in the Google listings we manage. It could also be related to the recent re-opening of Map Maker, at least in Canada. Nevertheless, it’s important to monitor your Google listings on a regular basis; the information is always changing based on what Google will find in data aggregators and other citation sources. Incorrect pin placements or contact information can lead to enormous revenue losses.
For brand with multiple locations, building unique location pages is essential, and in addition to the traditional local information local pages need to provide more details about the services and/or products you offer and include surrounding neighborhoods and landmarks. This will help ranking for local queries that don’t generate a local pack. Having reviews on location pages is another smart way to generate unique content, and it gives you the opportunity to generate rich snippets in the SERPs.
For businesses with hundreds or thousands of locations, it gets complicated to scale the creation of location-specific quality content. In these cases we usually focus on the top 30 or 50 places, based on population and volume of searches.
And finally, keep an eye on your business listings in Apple Maps, with its recent increase in usage and the release of Apple Maps Connect; don’t be surprised if the next iPhone and iOS release gives Apple Maps data a more predominant space.
Multiple reports suggest that Google didn’t settle on a final layout yet, A 7-Pack was spotted on an android tablet, images inside the Local Finder are replacing the driving directions in some verticals, and there are 5 organic listings under the Knowledge Graph, Google seems to load the branded SERP of the business clicked in the side bar: