For consultants, freelancers and business owners, if you use Google as a way to bring in leads for your business in the form of SEO you already know that the landscape changes and will continue to change. You deal with major algorithm changes, shifts in local user experience, even the changing of names i.e. Google Places, Google+ Local and now Google My Business.
It should be no surprise that things change, and today we have one of those changes that impact MORE THAN HALF of those ranking in the local pack, are no longer ranking.
7-Pack Changed to 3-Pack in Local Results
Mobile already changed a while ago and since mobile continues to rise and won’t be going anywhere it only makes sense for Google to implement this with the Desktop searches as well. A more responsive design I suppose. It isn’t shocking but it also isn’t helping small businesses.
Google cares about Google.
With a 57% reduction in visibility for local searches that used to display a 7 pack, there is no doubt that this will hurt those businesses that were ranking.
Why is this a big deal?
First, lets be clear. This is not an algorithm change and any variance in rankings or lost rankings is entirely unrelated. This is a user experience change and it makes sense for Google.
You’re not penalized, there isn’t an algorithm change (though there are rumors of one happening in the next couple days), this is just Google being Google.
However, this is a big deal because like I said 57% of businesses lost their 1st page pack visibility.
Here’s an example of the new pack for the search term Plumber chicago il:
What is notable is of course the 3 results, but also the fact that no phone numbers are accessible in search. On mobile searches you can of course hit the call button which is good for user experience but desktop searches don’t have that luxury and will undoubtedly impact the calls businesses will get in the pack.
I have to wonder, why Google would make this update WITHOUT reducing the prominence and signals from businesses that manipulate local search by keyword stuffing the Google My Business, business name.
Why This Is ACTUALLY A Good Thing
Obviously people are upset by the changes, but this is the path we chose. Is Google really giving the middle finger to local businesses?
Maybe… or is Google just furthering the death of Google+ Local?
But instead of believing this is the end of the world and the beginning of “pay to play” with Google, I think it is obvious that this presents more opportunity.
SEO consultants AND small business owners should be happy about this change.
Do you know my thoughts? This reduces my clients competition in the first page of local results by 57%. This makes it more difficult for less knowledgeable SEOs and SEO companies to get in the top 3, whereas pretty much anyone could get in the 7 pack for any term, any location. In fact, there has NEVER been a keyword or location that I couldn’t rank with only on page optimization. I’m talking, dentists, doctors, lawyers, chiropractors, plumbers, new york city, LA, Miami, Chicago..
This increases the importance of having a website that can convert traffic into phone calls and leads.
Local SEO has never been very difficult, just different. The most difficult part of Local SEO is the misinformation proudly touted around in forums and below average courses with dated information from pre-2010.
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How To Use This To Your Advantage
If you are a business owner, B&M location or ranking in the pack you can certainly use this to your advantage because being in the top 3 you will see an impact in local search market share. This is good for you, as long as you’re ranking. If you’re using a less than competent SEO company or service, that may not be the case, however following a few posts made on THIS blog can probably help you beat out the majority of your competition.
Now… for SEO’s and Consultants…
Instead of complaining about this, you can use this to establish your authority, and get more clients.
Overnight, 57% of businesses lost their page 1 local rankings. It’s going to be a tough problem for the SEOs that are currently handling their account. That “More Results” button is your friend.
What people did before when prospecting was going to page 2 and 3 and find companies ranking far below the cutoff to see if they would be interested in their services. Now, you have those that are ranking between the 4-7 spots that are likely using an SEO company and no longer getting the results they wanted.
You have an increased chance of these companies being qualified as buyers, as well as qualified as someone with a “NEED” for your service.
Seems like a great opportunity doesn’t it?
It’s not just an opportunity for SEOs though, it’s an opportunity for web designers.
The reason this is an opportunity is because phone numbers have been STRIPPED from the results. This means that the website plays more of a role in conversions than it ever did before. Poorly designed websites, websites that aren’t converting are missing out on a lot of conversions.
It’s amazing how many websites don’t have clear contact information or phone numbers plastered all over the front page, even when they have excellent rankings and traffic. How many leads are they missing out on? These targets can probably have a 300% ROI in the first month of having a new website that’s optimized for conversions. That makes it a no brainer, doesn’t it?
This isn’t something to be concerned about, it’s something to be happy about. The opportunity is there for those that are willing to see it instead of dwell in negativity.
Pretty much any change, whether in Google, SEO, Marketing or life in general will have people afraid, and thinking the worst. The winners are always the ones that see the opportunity in what others see as instability.
Which are you? Let me know in the comments below!
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