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Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack daily-golden-nugget-1331-59
Back on July 10, 2015, I reported seeing a very different looking version of the Google Local search results in my Friday website review here. I was a little disturbed by the appearance of that mobile design and I'm now saddened to report that Google is keeping it. The implications of this change are larger than simply Google updating results to improve user experience; I think something much bigger is afoot.

Compare the old to the new

To start my discussion, let's look at the old 7-pack display and the new 3-pack display. Here's the SERP screen shot from one of my recent Friday website reviews:

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack 1331-google-7-local-pack-37

Here's that same screen shot today:

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack 1331-google-3-local-pack-19

Let's look more closely at the same results side by side here:

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack 1331-compare-old-to-new-local-pack-format-63

Here's exactly what's changed:
  1. All store information appears in black lettering instead of blue and green color coding. They were using different color coding during their testing phase, which I hope they bring back
  2. The new format says "No reviews" when none exist, whereas the old format only indicated the number of reviews when they did exist
  3. The new format shows the primary store category, whereas the old format never showed a store category
  4. The new format only shows the street name of the address, completely removing the building number and suite number
  5. The new format shows the store hours, whereas the old format never included store hours
  6. The new format shows an icon to click over to the website, whereas the old format showed the domain for the website.
  7. Clicking the new format brings you to a new Google Maps screen, whereas clicking the old format always brought you to the website
  8. The new format has a quick link to get directions which helps a lot when using this on a mobile device
  9. The old format included a telephone number; no more on the new format
  10. The old format included a link to the Google+ page, no more on the new format

Numbers Are Gone

I find myself a little confused every time I look at this new format simply because the street number is missing. At first glance, the above example is especially confusing because the address says "Coffee Pot Dr," which, I have to admit, I read as "Coffee Pot Doctor." Could this be simply because I know one of my jewelers is having a silver refinishing event in a few weeks, or did you read it this way too?

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack 1331-silver-refinishing-26

Address formats are so standardized that I think Google has done a grave injustice here by removing the numbers. For a while, Google has maintained that the addresses in their database should match the format recommended by the Post Office, but without the numbers I feel there will be many people other than myself who are initially confused. Perhaps we should start spelling everything out.

I'm also not sure why they are removing the phone numbers from the listing. Clicking the listing will reveal the phone number, but that's one extra step.

Google Local and Google+ Got Divorced

Google has been taking steps for a while to split apart Google+ information from search results for some time. Perhaps it was their way of telling us Google+ was "separated" from other Google services, but now this step seems to complete a "divorce."

Notable separation steps include when Google ended authorship and recently when Google+ Brand posts were stripped from Graph Cards.

The link to Google+ has been part of the Local Pack results for several years, but now it's gone. No sign of it anywhere in the 3-pack results. It's even missing from the Google Maps results you see when clicking the results. Take a look:

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack 1331-google-maps-from-3-pack-97
(click to enlarge)

Even the "Write a review" feature has been decoupled from Google+. Clicking the review button opens a popup window without jumping into Google+.

Even though it might seem completely bizarre, there are still many small businesses without websites. For the past several years, Google was inserting the Google+ page into the listing whenever a website was missing, but not anymore. Here's a screen grab from one of my recent reviews showing the missing website in the 3-pack results:

Implications of Google Local 3-Pack replacing the Google+ Local 7-Pack 1331-no-website-no-plus-page-84

Please note that the above screen grab came from Google's earlier 3-pack testing period and that it shows gray, black, and red color coding. I've not seen that color coding in a few weeks and I sure hope they bring it back.

What Happens To Google+ Now?

The Google+ connection to Local and Maps seems to be completely cut. I guess we can't call the local search results "Google+ Local" any more. They are simply back to being "Google Local Results" again. Whew, another name change.

Google+ is still there and people are still using it. Google+ social posts are still appearing in search results too. However, local searches from within Google+ have also completely changed and are not showing business results like they used to.

What does this mean for the future of Google+? Honestly, I'm not sure. You could argue that it's the beginning of the end of Google+ as a social network. But you could also say that Google+ no longer has any advantage over Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network that is vying for visibility in Google search results. All the social networks are on even footing now, without any advantages.

What Do These Changes Mean To You?

Here's my advice to fully round out today's Nugget:

Search for "jewelers in {your town name here}." If the abbreviations of your address seems the slightest bit confusing then you should go into your Google business account and spell out those abbreviations.

If your store is not appearing in the new 3-pack then it's time to hire someone good at local SEO to get yourself placed there. This could certainly be the reason that business has been slow recently.

Get more reviews! Ask your customers to write more reviews for you on Google. This is probably the only way to really impact your local pack appearance in a positive way.

Update your store hours, and keep them updated when they change seasonally.

Make sure the business category listed in the local pack is your true primary business category. Correct it in your Google My Business account if it's wrong.

Don't give up on Google+. If you post to Google+ on a regular basis already, don't stop. Your audience is still there and your posts are still appearing in search results.

If you've been reading these Nuggets for a while, then you'll understand that Google+, Google Local, and Google Maps conversations like this usually only occur every 100 now. I guess we need to take a shot.

AT: 08/31/2015 09:31:29 AM   LINK TO THIS GOLD NUGGET
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