SEO has always been a moving practice, where the dynamics in how the engines index, return websites and content drives are optimised. This is illustrated clearly in the recent changes to the Google Local pack.
Recently, Google has released a rather significant update in early August to how it displays local businesses within its results pages. Instead of the seven pack of listings that most consumers and Web professionals have grown accustom to, Google now only displays three local listings.
In addition to this rather significant change in the number of listings returned, Google has also replaced the exact address with the street name only, removed phone numbers and Google+ links, and has added opening and closing times.
When users click on the title of a listing, they are presented with (and redirected to) more details on that business (within a popup that is overlayed on a map along with up to 20 other listings). Only when a user clicks specifically on the website icon in the listing pack will their click end up on a website.
What is generating the most discussion among SEO’s however is the frequency with which the 3-pack is being displayed and how their visiblity in the search results has likely changed. Recent research from SEO Clarity, for example, revealed that the new local listing format shows in the #1 rank position 93 percent of the time, a big increase from the 25 percent of the time that the old 7-pack was shown in the first position.
Google has long been on a mission to localise its results and there have been plenty of updates (e.g. Pigeon) to validate that claim. And as it stands today, the new format seems to be the standard across nearly every keyword with local intent.
What this means for SEOs is that local search optimisation is an absolute requirement. If SEOs want to optimise for the local pack today, the information provided in Google My Business is of the utmost importance.