Big Google Change Impacts Boise Business

Google made a big change in local search search results in early August with a severe reduction in the number of Boise businesses showing up in local searches for products or services.

The “Local Pack” listing of businesses at the top of local searches for a product or service went from 7 to only 3 local Boise businesses showing. Local SEO guru Mike Blumenthal has named this shorter search result and new view the Local Stack.

The Local Stack represented the listing of businesses displayed in search results with a little red “teardrop” map marker with their review rating (usually from Google+) on the left and their address and phone number on the right. That view is now gone on desktop, which has the same view as a mobile device.

This significantly reduces the number of spots for local Boise businesses to appear on the first page of a Google search for their product or service. While mobile searches now outnumber desktop searches, a little less than half of all searches are still done on desktops or tablets with non-mobile browser displays.

Traditionally, organic website SEO results appeared below the Local Stack, with possibly one or two results above. Ranking organically for your website AND your Google+ page listing are both extremely important to winning Boise market share for new customers.

And that’s not all. We’ll leave the biggest possible change for last.

Here are the 4 things you need to know about this: 

  1. No more phone numbers or complete street addresses. While the phone icon and click-to-call functionality remains in the mobile view of the Local Stack – likely the largest source of phone calls for any business in Boise (when’s the last time you used the Dex phone book to find a business?). Now, the new desktop display does not show the phone number or complete street address. That information is still a click away.
  1. User interaction has changed entirely. Before this change, mousing over a listing in the Local Stack of Boise businesses created a “flyout” display in the right hand column that displayed more information about that Boise business, including a few reviews. Now, there is no mouseover flyover and clicking on anything other than the website link in a Local Stack result takes you to a Map View with a Local Pack of 20 businesses on the left in a list while the entire remainder for the screen on the right is Google Map of Boise and markers for each business listed. You can now see phone numbers for each company. The list mirrors the expanded mobile result, with a condensed map at the top and a listing of more businesses underneath. Some observers wonder if people clicking for a phone number will now look closer at a longer list of competitors (and phone numbers).
  1. Google+ Review Switcharoo. While Google’s push for social through Google+ is being sidelined, it’s not entirely out of social, as this Wired article points out.And while a business’s Google+ page (aka Google My Business page) still drives Local Pack information and for now appears to track the same Insights, the business’ Google+ link has been removed in the new Local Stack. Google Reviews are now just labeled “Reviews” and only appear 3 clicks in after clicking reviews from the business listing in the map view. There is plenty of proof, however, that reviews are still the key driver to the top result in the Local Pack after listing/directory optimization. Expect a closer examination for fake Google+ reviews as these have an outsized influence on where a Boise business will appear in the Local Stack.
  1. This will surely change click through rates from the 1st page of Google search results, but we’re not sure how yet. The only published research we could find so far comes from Casey Maraz at Juris Digitalthat was recently updated at Maraz saw the Local Stack taking just 8% of clicks if there weren’t many reviews, boosting organic click through rates to 62% for website results. That changed significantly if the Local Stack was showing reviews, jumping to 33% of clicks while organic overall declined to 40%. Adwords and “More Local Results” both held fairly steady, splitting the rest of the clicks.

Search Engine Land so far seems to be the only source so far to have a reply from Google: “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.”

Summary: Being in new Local Stack now requires being one of the top 3 local businesses in Boise search results for your product or service. Google Reviews (now showing as just Reviews) are even more critical for Local Stack success and if your business has foot traffic, get your Google Photo tour completed. This increases the urgency to get your website on the first page and as highly ranked as possible, particularly if your not in the top 3 for the Local Stack.

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