What is the Map Pack?
The map pack is a section of the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) that is only shown for queries that Google believes have a local intent. It is separate from the normal organic search results and a business does not require a website to be displayed in the map pack, whereas in the normal organic search results a website is required.
So what has changed?
The largest change to the map pack, that local businesses will be most concerned with, is the reduction in the number of results shown without the user clicking to display more results. Previously, 5 – 7 results were shown, depending on the query. Now, only 3 results are shown.
Here is a comparison between an older version of the map pack and a newer version using the search query "Solicitors in Bristol":
An older version of the Map Pack, showing 7 listings:
The current version of the Map Pack, showing only 3 listings:
Other, less noticeable changes include:
- The removal of links to Google+ profile pages. This could mean that Google will be placing less emphasis on Google+ profiles when ranking local businesses.
- The removal of business phone numbers and full addresses from the map pack. We believe that this will be a positive change as it will push searchers to a business’s website or Google My Business page which will make it easier to track users and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
- Larger, more visible “More” button, that shows the “Local Finder View”. Interestingly, this may increase clicks for businesses that were hidden on the old map pack with 7 results, as we expect that searchers may be more likely to click this button now, especially with fewer results initially shown.
- Larger button to direct the searcher to the website.
- A directions button to so that a searcher can easily find directions from their current location, without having to manually select the location in Google Maps.
- More emphasis on reviews – Google knows that it’s users love reviews, and with 88% of people saying that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, this is certainly a good idea.
- Removal of the “Knowledge Graph” that was previously shown when clicking on a local search result. With less information shown, the user will need to click through to the website.
Why is Google doing this?
Consistency – Many of these features already existed when searching on Smartphones, Google have been saying for years now that they want people to have the same experience on desktop and mobile.
The map pack on a Android Smartphone:
Tracking – The new design encourages interactions that can be monitored by both Google and business owners using both Google Analytics and Google My Business Insights.
Quality over quantity – The reduction of the number of businesses shown in the Map Pack means that Google wants to only show what they view as the most trustworthy brands relevant to the user’s search query.
How will this affect my business?
At this point, it is difficult to say until research has been carried out comparing data from the last few months to the next few months, however based on the looking at how the new map pack works and how we expect users to behave, we predict that there will be pros and cons to the new map pack for most businesses:
- Are you already in the top 3 results of the map pack for most of your target keywords? If so you should get a nice boost in traffic as some of your competitors will no longer be shown straight away in Google.
- Easier monitoring of conversions through your website and Google My Business.
- Simpler design, making the conversion process smoother.
- Not in the top 3 already? Your traffic may drop.
- Increased competition – With only three spaces available on the results page, local search marketers are going to be upping their game to make sure that their clients are in the top 3. Even if you are already ranking comfortably at #1 you may need to invest to make sure that you remain better than the competition as the stakes are now higher.
- Some users liked being able to get the phone number for a business straight from the Google search results. With the number now removed, some people may find this to be an inconvenience.
It will be interesting to see how this change to local search plays out over the next few months, and whether the new map pack will have a large effect on the local search landscape, or whether users will adapt and use the new “Local Search Finder” to view more businesses than they previously did with the 7 pack.