As of the beginning of this month, Google began implementing a change to the way that the local results are displayed in search. Where we’ve been used to search engine results displaying 7 local listings (with the map on the side), Google has now replaced this with only 3 local listings displayed in-line with the map, in a layout that is effectively the same as the mobile layout for local results.
Another change here has been the removal of links to the verified listings Google profile, effectively severing the connection between Google+ and the local results from the user side. (Companies still need to set up their business pages in order to show up here though.)
The new local results have been seen immediately below the Google Ads ads for that keyword, (before all organic results) as well as below the first organic result. It appears the most frequently seen variation however is to have the local results immediately above all organic results.
Implications Of The New Local Results Display
The most obvious implication of course is that it’s going to be relatively more difficult to rank for the local results now, with local results displayed reduced by more than half.
Depending on which variation is displayed, paid results from Google Ads may gain an advantage, if they’re the only results visible above the local pack. Those top 3 local results may also enjoy more clicks, but according to an initial study by Moz, the organic listing has been seeing more clicks as well, with some users skipping the local pack entirely. (Possibly due to unfamiliarity with the new layout.)
However, in cases where the first organic result displays above the local results, that organic result received a significant majority of the clicks.
Obviously the full implications of the change-over are yet to be determined, as increased user familiarity with the new layout may produce different results, but there’s no doubt that the changed landscape of the results page will affect user behaviour.
One very interesting result reported so far is that despite the changes, the presence of reviews and ratings on a result appeared to noticeably increase the chances that that result would be clicked on, regardless of whether there was an organic listing above the local results or not.