In addition to its ubiquity, one of the hallmarks of Google is the near constant modifications to search algorithms and results displays. True to form, Google rolled out several new changes to the local search display in recent months in the name of a better experience for users.
Here is a breakdown of three of the biggest changes in the way search results are displayed:
1. More Ad Space Among Search Results
The typical search results page (SERP) has a hierarchical structure of ads, local map listings, and then organic search results. With the latest changes, there is an increase in ad space at the top and along the right side of the SERP, which pushes the map and organic results closer and closer to the edge of the fold. While this isn’t as worrisome on a large desktop screen, these ads take up most of the screen-space on a smartphone and organic results are firmly below the fold.
2. Fewer Local Map Listings
In a layout feature nicknamed “Snack Pack”, only three results identified on and listed beneath a large map. Previously, the top seven local results were shown on the map, making those first few spots even more valuable virtual real estate.
3. New Ad Format for Local Home Services
Instead of the usual banner ads, the new local home services ads tag local businesses as “qualified” or “trusted professionals” and place their listings top and center on the SERPs. Currently this format is only available for select industries in San Francisco, CA but if the beta-testing is successful, Google will probably expand the format to more areas and business categories. Potential customers could read this section as a vote of confidence, which could be a real plus for local businesses in the home service industry.
This latest round of revisions to Google’s search results pages heighten the field of competition and places greater emphasis on paid advertising. While more ad space (i.e. revenue) is great for Google, unfortunately it’s tougher for small businesses who rely on organic search engine optimization to reach potential customers.
Keeping up with organic SEO is still important, since the ranking factors are yet unchanged and the basic principles of SEO will continue to benefit your site in the long term. Additionally, savvy internet users typically choose organic results for a sense of authenticity rather than participating in obvious ads.
However, if your business operates in tough markets or highly competitive industries, it may time to consider starting a pay per click campaign (PPC) or another form of online advertising to cut through the crowd. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-281-3490 to discuss your best options for SEO and digital marketing strategies.