Google has been testing a new layout for the Local Pack interface in the past few months and has now announced that the change will be permanent.
The Local Pack is an important section of the local search results. It presents the top three businesses for a local query, as well as a map pinpointing the location of each. Being featured here can make a huge difference to web traffic and local business sales.
Google has typically displayed three results with a map on them since 2015. Before that, seven results were listed in the Local Pack without adding a map.
New local package design
The new design, which only applies to desktop searches, will feature three results on the left of the page and a map on the right. A notable advantage of this is that the map is larger and may therefore be easier for some researchers to use.
The updated design:
The old drawing:
Confirmation from Google
In a statement released to Search Engine Land confirming the changes, Google said, “We are constantly exploring ways to connect people with the useful information they are looking for.
“We are currently rolling out an update to the desktop search interface so that when people search for nearby places or businesses, such as ‘parks near me’ or ‘restaurants near me’, they will easily see local results on the left and a map to the right. We expect this to be widely available in the coming weeks. “
SEO experts shared on Twitter that they recently spotted the updated interface for some local searches.
Spotted: the local GIANT MAP package: pic.twitter.com/ARW8juTGeI
– Miriam Ellis (@Miriam_Ellis_) December 9, 2021
Whoa. Check out this huge local package: pic.twitter.com/C8y2KZo3gu
– Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) December 7, 2021
What does this mean for BrightLocal customers?
We are confident that BrightLocal customers are not expected to be affected by this update and that reporting data will likely not be affected.
As usual, we will continue to monitor the situation and release any updates accordingly.
Local search ranking fluctuations
As more and more local SEOs reported seeing the new Local Pack design, there have been too reports of major changes to local rankings.
For the first time, companies have been seen to climb into the Local Pack, with those with high reviews appearing to be enjoying the highest earnings.
Reports of unexpected traffic fluctuations from local searches have also been posted online. A number of SEO experts have speculated that this could be the result of an algorithm update, although some suspect the Local Pack redesign may be the culprit.
Advertisements in the local package
As if there wasn’t already enough change in local search going on at the moment, there has also been talk of increased ad presence.
Sterling Sky’s Joy Hawkins tweeted that she saw two ads in a Local Pack, where previously it was the case that one was the top.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen 2 ads appear in the Google Maps app before (usually it’s 1). pic.twitter.com/h4MrR2zaae
– Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) December 7, 2021
In response to Joy’s tweet, others shared that they also saw two announcements in the Local Pack recently, with some predicting this could become more common in the next year and beyond.
A potential problem with the ads in the Local Pack, as well as impacting the user experience, is that they can sometimes appear in cities surrounding the target location. When this happens, it’s not great for the advertiser who is wasting a portion of their budget, and it probably doesn’t have any value for the search user either.
With an increased presence of ads in the Local Pack, the visibility of organic results will naturally be affected. This could harm the value of these results for local consumers.
It remains to be seen whether this two-ad anomaly is a permanent and universal change to Local Pack advertising, or whether it is simply a test or a bug.
Local search changes
These changes to the Local Pack are coming shortly after Google My Business was renamed to Google Business Profile (GBP), an update that also saw Google make further announcements about the future of this local business tool.
If you are an agency running GBP listings or a business owner doing their own local SEO, now is a good time to make sure you adhere to best practices. Volatility within search engine results is to be expected, but once the fuss subsides, those who follow the guidelines and optimize effectively can expect to reap the benefits in the long run.