The Rocket Blog

Worried You'll Be Affected by the Local Pack Shakedown?
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One thing’s for certain about local SEO packs – change is the only constant.  Until recently, Google’s algorithm for local SEO packs produced seven top results for local businesses, giving them prominent visual placement and a map-based interface that was more eye-catching than even having a top AdWords spot. Basically, it’s a free boost in online and offline traffic businesses can and should take advantage of, and in some verticals, top ranking could be achieved simply by having the right info in the right directories (Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Travelocity, etc.). Easy, breezy, effective online marketing, so let’s focus on targeting local packs.  Right?

Well, no…and here’s why.

7 – 4 = 3 (and only 3) lucky winners

On August 7th, all verticals across all locations saw local pack results reduced to three followed by an accordion option to display more.  It didn’t take long for marketing and tech bloggers to confirm the suspicions that for good or bad, the 3-pack was here to stay (for a little while, at least), knocking four slots off of those highly coveted yet suddenly fickle local pack ranking results. As with any algorithm change, there are legitimate concerns of how shaving four results off could affect businesses dependent on prime real estate on the SERP.  And, as should be expected by now in the world of SEO, some industries in some locations might feel the changes more drastically than others. It’s a complicated collection of data to consider.  

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The skinny on local packs

Local SEO packs have been an experiment for Google and will likely continue to be as the company seeks to fine-tune user experience through relevant, spot-on search results. Speculative reasons vary by expert on why Google decided to reduce local pack results, ranging from making the tool more mobile friendly to Google’s ultimate pursuit of better clickthrough rates on targeted search results.

Obviously, Google’s local pack algorithm considers multiple factors before returning results in a query. These factors range from where the querant is located when performing the search, to how Google has redrawn geographical boundaries by focusing local searches on neighborhood markers (described here in greater detail).  Your business might show up in the local 3-pack when Susan searches on her mobile phone two miles from your store, and might not even be visible when she’s searching for it 10 miles away, unless you’re using neighborhood markers in your various other online marketing channels.

Does this mean changes in local SEO packs could affect your web traffic and business if you’re a small business owner? Yes.  Is there anything you can do about it? Well, besides realizing that you can’t control the constantly fluctuating Google SERP landscape? Not really. At least...nothing more than what you should already be doing with SEO best practices [like these].


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Here's our take

Jay Peyton, Senior Internet Marketing Strategist at RocketFuel, offers this advice for businesses navigating the dynamic nature of online marketing. “The thing with any sort of changes to the organic results is that they change all the time, and you should never put all your eggs in one basket—not just with the results page but with the keywords you’re targeting, as well.”

“Try to mix it up,” Peyton suggests. “Not just within your SEO strategy but also across different marketing channels.”  This broad approach to SEO is still the best overall internet marketing strategy most businesses can take, especially when the rules are changed so often in the middle of the game.