Google Forgets Their ABC’s on Local Search

Google search results are now displaying 3-packs of Maps results almost universally, across all industries and sectors. The first Maps result does not have an “A” next to it, nor do the second and third results have “B” or “C” respectively.

Google also decided to remove the phone number and street address from the results in this new 3-pack. So you will see only a business name, review score, street name (without a number), and the business hours if they are available. The video below offers a detailed review of the changes.

Nearly every local search for a business or service will return a result with this 3-pack. Orthodontic search results pages now look similar to searches for plumbers, restaurants, car dealerships, and just about any other business you can search on the Internet. Noticeably absent from the Maps area is any mention of Google+ or any links to Google My Business pages.

If a website is connected to a Google My Business listing, then a small globe icon will appear in the 3-pack with the word “Website” linked underneath it. Clicking the globe icon or the word “Website” will indeed take the user to the business website. That is where the simplicity ends.

Click on a business name, or click on a review score, or an address, or any of the white space of any business in the 3-pack, and you are taken to a new layout with 20 listings stacked on the left, with a vertical slider for scrolling down. A Google Map of the local area is displayed to the right of the listings. It is essentially a 20-pack powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Again, the alphabetical rankings are absent.  Aside from the order in which the listings are stacked, there is no rank assigned to them. Clicking on any of these businesses will cause a Knowledge Graph panel to pop up to the right, over the top of the map.

Only now do we get the relevant business details such as the phone number and full street address. This is after two clicks across two different screens. Also, the 20-pack stays put as the user views the Knowledge Graph.

The Knowledge Graph panel gives prominence to the number and score of Google reviews. Other than reviews, the panel shows the business NAP (Name, Address, Phone) and usually a small number of images, if they are available.

Clicking any of the other listings in the 20-pack will open its corresponding Knowledge Graph panel in place of the previous business. As long as the user does not click directly on a globe icon or “Website” link, they are free to click about the page in any order they choose, perusing one Knowledge Graph after another.

With this new setup, Google is allowing (and one could argue that Google is encouraging) the user to do all of their research without ever visiting another website. By comparing the physical location and review scores of local businesses, many searchers will have the information they need to make a decision. Once that is done, Google is ready to provide a phone number, an address, and driving directions.

This new arrangement will place an even greater importance on Google reviews. The stars that display for businesses with at least five Google reviews are probably the strongest visual cue on the entire page.

Many users will scan the page for gold stars and overlook businesses lacking reviews. It puts businesses with a strong review profile at a distinct advantage. If you have not been proactive up to this point with your online reviews, especially Google, now is the time to get moving!

For more information on the latest Google updates and how to strengthen the Internet marketing efforts of your orthodontic practice, contact the Orthopreneur team today!