Say Goodbye To The ‘7 Pack’

Whether you call it Google Maps, Google Places, Google Local, Google Plus Listings, Google My Business Listings, or the Google ‘7 Pack’, the set of seven listings that often appear at the top of local search results has changed significantly in recent weeks.

Google has been testing a new format for their local listings and officially launched the new format a couple of days ago. The new layout reduces the number of listings to a mere three (as opposed to seven) and eliminates the address and phone number from individual results.

What does this mean for local businesses? Well, that depends on how heavily your business relies on these listings and where you ranked before the change. If you relied heavily upon your local listings and were ranking fourth or lower, you may see fewer leads.

On the other hand, if your business ranks in the top three, Google has effectively eliminated four of your nearest competitors and that could mean more clicks, calls, and visits for your business.

Why the Change?

According to a Google spokesperson, “We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.”

Our research didn’t find any results that included actual prices, but some results provide an option to filter results by price, hours, or star rating. Most results include abbreviated business hours and addresses as well as Google+ review ratings where applicable. Results that include an image have no icons at all.

Unlike the previous version, clicking the business name no longer takes you to the business’ website. Instead you are redirected to an expanded view of the local listings with the selected business’ profile highlighted.

It should also be noted that while desktop results provide icon links for directions and the business’ website, mobile searches provide a ‘click to call’ icon instead.

What’s The Bottom Line?

In my humble opinion the new format is bad for local businesses and is likely to confuse the average user.  Whereas before users could click on the business name to access their website, that is no longer the case. Instead they will be taken to Google’s expanded list of local listings that match their query.

In order to access a business’ website from the original ‘3 Pack’ users must click the ‘Website’ icon to the right of the listing. In cases where a photo is included there is no link to the business’ website. How’s that for user experience?

In addition, limiting the number of listings to three as opposed to seven also limits the number of choices offered to the user. Again, bad user experience.

The bottom line is: If you are relying on Google’s local listings to drive traffic to your website, you’re doing it wrong anyway. The businesses that are most successful with generating leads from search are those that are ranking well in organic listings. While Google’s local listings used to be an added bonus for those that are ranking well, they now represent nothing more than a degraded user experience for your customers and Google’s.




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