- Posted by Richard Iurilli
- On August 19, 2015
Two weeks ago, Google sprang a Friday surprise on local searchers: The “7-pack” in local search results is no more, and in its place is a smaller, more streamlined “3-pack” akin to the one seen in mobile search results.
The change is already making waves in local search results, as businesses compete for three spots instead of seven. And it’s big news for your hospital or health system even if your main location is already in the top three, because odds are some—or many—of your physicians or locations aren’t. As an organization with many people who appear individually in search results, Google just made local search much more competitive even if you’re not in a particularly competitive market.
Google continues to go mobile-first
If the new 3-pack looks familiar, there’s a good reason why: It’s almost the same view you’ve already seen if you’ve done a local search on a mobile device recently. Google’s all about user experience, and three results happen to fit perfectly on almost any phone’s screen. Now they’ve brought the same experience to desktop as well.
Google’s so-called Mobilegeddon got a lot of attention in the first half of 2015, but the pack update is just as big an indicator of the company’s mobile-mindedness. Many companies “go mobile” by shoving their desktop experience into a responsive template and calling it a day, but Google’s done the opposite by finding what works on mobile and taking it to bigger screens. It’s a trend that’s not going to slow down.
Top-three rankings are no reason to relax
The pack update only affects Google’s user interface, not its algorithm. That means that if you were already in the top three, you’ll still be there—at least until someone who dropped out of the pack results tries to knock you out.
There’s no doubt that some organizations might get desperate and ramp up their local SEO efforts when they see that their position has changed, and the danger of stopping SEO work when you achieve a high ranking is even greater now that other providers are targeting fewer spaces in results. In an already crowded local search landscape, it’s more important than ever to optimize both your on and off site SEO and keep an eye on what area competitors are doing.