A week ago, keen eyes noticed a major change in the way that Google lists businesses regarding local SEO. The changes are drastic, monumental to say the least, and marketers and webmasters had better get busy repairing the damage.
With all the misery and time it takes to SEO a site for local listings, Google up and changes the game plan causing people to scramble. It’s all about the way the usual 7 pack local listings have been changed to a 3 pack, or what is industry called, a Snack Pack.
What this causes is that when surfers go looking for a business, goods, services, instead of finding 7 listings, they’ll only find 3. This means if your local SEO isn’t spot on, well done, you’re going to be in the back seat and not noticed. The change is both national and international.
What Google has done is thrown a monkey wrench at the SEO field and local SEO in particular. They removed specific addresses from the Snack Pack listings and only are listing the street name. This makes the searcher have to click through to the map listing or the website to get the specific street address. This is a nuisance to the surfer who might be in need of knowing things from the start, so only time will tell if surfers like it or not.
Not only were addresses removed, but phone numbers too. No more easy access to the actual phone number of a business. You now have to go the extra task of clicking through the listing to the website and then find the phone number and does not have a call option for each listing. This is going to end up as a major frustration for surfers and for convenience’s sake, they might drift to other search engines and search options where they can get the pertinent information at a glance instead of going through a click-thru circus.
Things get worse.
Google no longer lists the reviews as Google Reviews. This is probably a legal issue as people post fake or bought reviews that makes it look like Google endorses them officially. Google also removed their Google+ links. Speculation is that Google wants local businesses to take more responsibility for the sites and not ride off Google’s brand. Google did add store hours which is a plus.
These changes by Google caught everyone by surprise but shouldn’t have. Just when things get comfortable is when one should start worrying. Google threw a curve to the SEO industry and business online in general. Many businesses will win and most will lose out with these changes as it’s going to cost the companies to pay for new SEO and local SEO repair and engineering. The SEO companies are going to have to start all over again with clients’ sites and blogs and hope that by the time they get done, Google won’t change the game again.
What we’re seeing here is that Google isn’t done with trying to provide the best service to its surfers, but at the cost of its customers who do business online. The small business is up against a wall now. Do they spend the hundreds of dollars per hour to get new local SEO done to the new Google specs, or do they sit it out and wait a few months to see how the changes of late populate their sites on the listings and maps?
Those who wait may find that the bigger companies have gobbled up all the top spots because they were able to gamble on expending capital to fix their sites where the small guy couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Fair and square has nothing to do with what just happened, what has happened is Google