This month Google made a big change to how it displays the Local search results. The usual 7-pack of results that showed up for searches that included a geographic location such as “web design in Epsom” have been replaced with 3-packs in the desktop search results. If you were ranking in the Local results before and are still in the Google 3-pack this is obviously great but if you were in the 7-pack and have now been culled, this is a problem!
Other changes include the full address of the business is no longer visible, nor is it possible to click through to the businesses Google+ page.
This change brings the desktop results more in line with what people were experiencing when searching on a mobile. See screen grab below from an iPhone.
However the Local results do not appear above the fold on the mobile screen, you have to scroll down to see them. See screen grab below showing the results of a search for “web design in epsom”:
As you can see it is only the top 3 Adwords results that are visible. On desktop, the change from the 7-pack to Google 3-pack means there is less opportunity to rank in the Local results and is likely a push towards getting business owners to pay for Google Adwords. For mobile ranking in the top 3 Adwords results is obviously more beneficial as they are above the fold on the page (visible from the beginning so you don’t need to scroll down).
There is a good post from local search specialist Phil Rozek that discusses the possible benefits to be had from niching your business offering in order to have a better chance of ranking in the new 3-pack. By niching you will be going after less competitive search terms and be more likely to convert visitors who are looking for that specific service into customers, as you will appear to be exactly what they are looking for!
If you are interested in testing Google Adwords as a way of getting traffic to your website click the link to read more about Adwords.