One of the biggest shake-ups in Local SEO took place last month, causing a flurry of online debate and fears about where it might all be going. On August 6, it started to become apparent that Google 7-packs were disappearing, being replaced with 3-packs. In Google Local Results, these are the search results that show a business's name, address, phone number and map.
Within hours Google had replaced all 7-packs with 3-packs, across all countries, without any warning or, it seems, testing, which is unusual for Google. Suffice to say businesses were alarmed and Local Search Optimisation was suddenly very hot news.


Why Did Google Make The Change?

We all know that mobile usage is growing at a phenomenal rate so it seems Google wanted to change desktop search results to look more like mobile-specific search results. Mobile users only see the top three results, and the map. So now desktop users are experiencing the same effect. Google is very focussed on improving the user experience so the change should come as no surprise.


How Are Businesses Reacting To the Change?

Of course the first issue local search engine optimisation services had to consider was how this affect traffic those businesses in positions 4 to 7. Generally Google does not make such huge changes without extensive testing so it was assumed that those sites listed in positions 4 to 7 weren't receiving as many clicks as those in positions 1 to 3. But that didn't pacify those businesses affected by the changes, who saw their positioning as a branding opportunity, regardless of the number of clicks. It has even been suggested that this is a move by Google to force local businesses into becoming paying AdWords customers.


What Other Changes Were Made?

Another change affecting Local SEO is the removal of addresses from these top positions. Specific addresses have gone with the 3-pack only showing street names. However, there is a benefit to this, as it encourages users to click through, which is a positive for those businesses not listed in the top three. As far as internet marketing Sunshine Coast goes, there are benefits to the changes, as businesses compete for those top three spots, improving their services and the user experience.


Local Search Success Factors Are The Same

But local search engine optimisation services will have to focus on quality links, strong on-page optimisation, and accurate and complete citations. Whether a business is trying to get into the top 3 spots - or stay in the top 3 spots - they will have to refine and improve their online presence. And for businesses who have always been focussed on Local Search Optimisation, it's a reward as they won't have to contend with as many competitors.


Time To Improve Your Rating

One thing is very clear, and that's the growing importance of a business's ratings and reviews, and that's an area where internet marketing Sunshine Coast is important. For example, local restaurants. There is now a search option based on a restaurant having achieved a certain rating. So the customer can search for 2 stars and higher, 3 stars and higher etc. It's pretty clear that searchers will usually go for the top rating of 4 stars and higher. Having good ratings is desirable anyway but now, with this Local Snack pack shake-up, they are now a priority in Local SEO. And clearly, the more restaurants there are in your area, the more important those ratings will become.


Can Users Still Add Reviews?

Well, yes and no! The change has made it much harder to leave a review, if no other reviews are already present. But an advantage is that again, it will encourage users to click through to a business's site. What is clear is that local businesses without ratings or reviews will be at a disadvantage, so professional and thorough Local Search Optimisation should now be considered crucial.


What's The Knock-on Effect On Website Design?

As users are effectively being encouraged to click-through to a local business's website, more attention will needed to be given to ensuring it is up-to-date, easy to drive, fast and informative. This will now be crucial in internet marketing Sunshine Coast. It's almost a case of use it or lose it! If creating a good website and local search optimisation has been on a business's back burner it's definitely time to re-ignite it and get it to a professional standard as quickly as possible, or risk being left behind.


Shake-up Places A New Emphasis On Links

Links have always been an important part of Local SEO but are sometimes overlooked by businesses. Today the importance of building high quality links is crucial. Search engines use links to rank a page and generally speaking, the better the websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results.

So, despite the initial uproar and fears, the Local Snack Pack shake-up does bring benefits to those savvy enough to recognise and work with the changes.

Author Bio:  Neil is the founder of Suncoast Web Solutions with 15 years of experience in web development and hosting. His tried and tested website marketing solutions ensure clients get the ranking they deserve. This write-up is about the benefits of the recent, Google Local Snack Park shake-up.

Summary: As local businesses recover from the shock of the latest Google changes, we see there are definite benefits for those recognise the importance of Local Search Optimisation. 

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