Recently Google made a drastic change to their SERPS (search engine results pages) that you may not have visually noticed, but you financially felt.
There is a section of Local Business Listings that show up in the center of the search results on Google for most businesses. People typically call these listings Google Places because that was their original name when Google launched this feature. Professionally this is called Local Search results and the number of listings is called a “pack.”
As you can see from the image below, there are three businesses that are featured in the pack.
The most drastic change that Google made was this pack had the option of being a three, five, or seven pack of listings. It may not sound like this is too big of a deal unless your business was one of the listings that was cut out by the change. There now is an option to click on “More information” to display more local search listings, “dentist” in this case, however very few people are going to click that link. What they will do is choose one of the three listings.
If your business was previously in a five or seven pack and now you are not being shown, it can be detrimental to your phone calls and foot traffic. This is because people use Google as the phone book of today to search for products and services. If you cannot be found in the phone book, your phone does not ring.
To make things more interesting, Google has removed the phone number and the full address that is displayed on the listings. This means people will have to click the “Website” link and go to your website to find your phone number and your physical address. This move puts a lot of focus on your website because if they visit your site and it doesn’t look professional, or the users cannot find the phone number to the location they are looking for, they are going to leave your website and search for another business.
The process of ranking in local search is called local search optimization, and there are very few agencies that have this capability or experience. It is not just as easy as creating or claiming a listing because every business has that automatically created, and claiming it just shows you own it. The magic is getting it to show up in the pack, and now there are three opportunities per search.