On the 6th August Google updated the search results you see in a query that has local intent to show three local businesses instead of seven. In the language of a local SEO expert like CoolBison, the 7-pack is now a 3-pack.
The local pack is not just showing fewer business listings, it is also redesigned to fit more with the mobile user interface. This is very important and has a direct impact on business in Bristol and other cities around the UK.
Clearly it’s going to be more difficult for our SEO Bristol clients to appear in a pack of 3. However, Google are always looking to improve user experience, and Google Business pages that are properly optimised will win the day.
Also consider that fewer local map listings actually enhance organic results. With the old 7 pack a third positioned organic website actually resulted in a 10th position on page 1 (if you exclude Adwords.) But with the new 3 pack all organic results are pushed up the page.
Here is a picture of the new local pack, displaying only three results:
Here is a screen shot showing what the local results looked like last year:
Compare that to a zoomed-in view of the new look:
This obviously will lead to fewer phone calls and sales for those businesses that appeared in the fourth position or lower. But it might lead to more business for those in the first three results.
There are plenty of local SEO experts talking about this now, including Mike Blumenthal.
Our mastermind group emailed Google for a comment on this change and will follow up when we hear back.
Postscript: A Google spokesperson reported:
We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.