Google dropped a bomb on local businesses, first reported by Mike Blumenthal on Thursday. I had seen some testing on July 3rd, so it wasn’t a complete surprise.
Unfortunately, what I was seeing in the test – that there were organic listings above the new pack pack -doesn’t seem to have been kept for the actual roll out.
So why did Google kick 4 out of 7 businesses to the curb? If you believe Google, it was to improve searcher experience (more on that later). The real answer, however, is that they love to make more and more money, and they are hoping that you, as a small local business owner, will pay. For Adwords. Here’s a side by side visual of the old pack vs the new pack:
Unfortunately I didn’t get a full page screen grab of the old pack, but what is missing is that the map in the 7 pack got in the way of the Adwords ads on the right side of the page. That problem has now been take care of, at the expense of 4 businesses, many of which got their only Google exposure from the map pack.
Also notice, no phone numbers or addresses. You need to click in either to the website or the new Google map info card to see that information. Improved searcher experience? I think not.
Along with this travesty of a map pack update, I’m seeing some movement in organic rankings. This may be due to extended Panda refresh that Google announced in July. Again, to improve searcher experience?
Here is a search result that is near and dear to my heart: “Pleasanton Web Design.” And the new number 5 organic result “Brand Lift Marketing!” Looks good so far? Click through and this is what you get:
You may be able to convince me that they just need to work the bugs out of this update if there was any relevant content on the page. But the page is basically blank. So I guess you would call this a Panda fail, only it appears to be due to a Panda “improvement.”
So, if you are a small business effected by this recent Google local algorithm update, it’s probably time to diversify your marketing budget, because in my opinion it is unlikely that things will get easier for you in Google search. Trying to get into more SERPs in straight organic is always a good idea. Social media, and face-to-face are other viable options. Adwords might also work, but be very careful. Google is greedy and will not leave you much margin for error.