POSTED BY Rachel Kruse - 10.06.15 -
Google has done it again. A few weeks ago, in a move that few experts saw coming, the search engine giant changed the search results landscape dramatically by dumping the traditional seven listing map listing box in favor of a slimmed down three-pack of map listings.
Although Google hasn’t come right out and said so, most industry experts attribute this latest algorithm change to Google’s ongoing mobile friendly campaign. The new three-pack model you are now seeing on desk top searches matches what mobile users have been experiencing for quite a while now.
And it’s not just a reduction in the number of map listings – the information in each listing has changed dramatically as well. Gone are phone numbers and full addresses but starred reviews are still included and they seem to carry more weight than ever before.
Even the positioning of the three-pack is different. Prior to this change, pay-per-click (PPC) ads almost always appeared first at the top of the page but no longer. By some estimates, the map listings now appear at the top of the search results 93% of the time, bumping the traditional PPC ads down the page.
Adjusting to Google’s latest algorithm change
First, keep in mind that the majority of the results on the search engine results pages (SERPs), also known as citations, don’t come from your businesses website. Search engines collect the majority of their results from other sources like local online directories, Google Plus (yes, Google Plus still matters), Yelp, social media sites and other review sites. If you want to be successful in local search, you must have a strong online directories and review strategy that is optimized regularly.
However, if you are in a highly competitive industry, you may never crack the top three with general search terms such as plumbing or plumber. One way to combat this problem is to specialize in your directory listings. For instance, there will be considerably less competition for “drain cleaner” or “hvac plumber” than for just “plumber” so your company will be more likely to show up close to the top of the SERP and/or in the three-pack.
As always, you need to use “white hat” SEO strategies to maintain or improve good search engine rankings. There are no guarantees that you will always appear on the first page of Google and algorithm changes like these are the reason why. Google spends a lot of time outsmarting the smart alecks that try to outsmart them. Trying to game the system with unscrupulous “black hat” techniques will almost surely backfire eventually and you’ll lose your good standing with the search engines – a sure disaster for businesses these days.
If there is one thing Google has remained consistent about over the years, it is appreciation of fresh, regularly updated content. Whether you are updating your website pages, writing a blog or regularly optimizing your directory listings, you will feel some SEO love from the search engines for your efforts.
Another area that will help your SEO is focusing on getting good reviews. Not only are these citations more likely to show up in the three-pack, they will also appear in the organic results, improving your visibility. The more reviews you have on various sites, the better.