Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Jenn Slegg AKA Jenstar interviewed me and others last week in preparation for a big post she was doing about all the local changes.

I knew it would be HUGE, but thought it would be more just interview and opinions.
It's so much more and really does cover everything you need to know!

From MOZ:

<a href="">Google's Local Snack Pack Shake-Up: What You Need to Know</a>

Local SEO has seen the biggest shake-up since Google launched their first local algorithm, Pigeon, just over a year ago. On Thursday, August 6th, people began to notice that the usual 7-packs that frequently showed up in the search results for local businesses were suddenly replaced with 3-packs in the desktop search results. It initially wasn't too alarming, but as the hours passed it was obvious Google had changed the face of local search in their search results.

By the end of that day, 3-packs had completely replaced all the 7-packs across all verticals and across all countries. This was an unusual move for Google, since they commonly tested out local changes that only rolled out to specific countries. But this change was for everyone everywhere.

By the next morning, less than 24 hours after the first changes were noticed, Mozcast confirmed what everyone suspected: 7-packs were history and 3-packs were all the rage.

Above is just a partial snippet, click through to read the rest. Like I said it's HUGE!

Jen goes on to cover every aspect of the changes... from mobile to missing data to speculation about these changes paving the way to pay-to-play.

You'll find several of my quotes in the piece, but I thought I'd share the full interview I did with Jen because my answers were longer than what was published at Moz. (Of course... you know me... :p)

INTERVIEW - Qs by Jen, Answers by Yours Truly

1. How important do you think getting one of those top 3 spots is with the change to 3-pack?

Extremely important. Although IF users click through to view more because they aren't satisfied with 3 choices, the new "Local Finder" (list of 20 results after the more link) provides good visibility. (Big IF)

2. What do you tell those who were in those 4-7 spots that are now gone?

Really need to focus on organic - which will also raise you in local and could boost you into the new 3 pack "Local Stack".

For the past 3 years I've taught putting the majority of your energy into onsite SEO anyway. With the old blended 7 pack algo, organic ranking pretty much controlled the ranking order. But now using all the right "Local Hooks" is even more important than ever. And good solid backlinks are probably more important as well. In the past I didn't even need backlinks to rank clients and could do it just based on Places optimization and onsite. But now I'd say certainly in competitive markets backlinks are pretty key.

3. Should business be worried about the introduction of the new service ads in San Francisco? These 3 packs could easily be integrated or swapped with them.

"These 3 packs could easily be integrated or swapped with them." Yes, I have a feeling that's where we are heading. I think eventually all the local listings will be pay-to-play to some degree. And if there are only 3 precious spots, it's easier to command a premium. (See more in my answer under Q #5,)

4. One piece of advice for those trying to make the top 3?

I'll give you the same answer I've been giving people who ask how my Advanced Google Local Training will change. What it takes to rank has not really changed much. Getting on top is still the same. The algo did not change. There are just fewer spots.

I know SOME consultants that even see this as an opportunity. As I said at the Local Search Forum today: "If you are really good and usually get your clients in the top 3 (which should always be the goal anyway) then this update just knocked out 42% of your competition!

So as far as my one piece of advance it would be focus more on good solid organic SEO. (Both onsite and offsite.)That will help boost your rank PLUS even if you can't make the top 3, it will help your organic ranking and many consultants I work with say top organic beats top local ranking anyway. But I would also be sure citations are in order.

5. Why do you feel Google switched from 7-packs to all 3-packs?

I?ve ​talked about this a lot, but I think this is going to eventually (gradually after several other small changes) turn into pay-to-play​. Something like the home services ads we?ve seen in San Francisco.
I say ?gradually after several other small changes? because remember a year ago or so when we started seeing alot of packs being reduced from 7 to 3? Many freaked then. BUT there was not a display change too. Just one little change, to gradually get us used to reduced packs, in preparation for this!

I think this new style 3 pack is a gradual progression toward some new pay-to-play model. (They kinda got us use to it gradually by starting with food/lodging.)

It may not be pay per lead or call like home services, because if it?s across all industries that would be harder to do, as far as pricing it. (Atty vs dog walker.)

May just be a straight pay to be listed model.

?Only 3 precious spots ? pay a premium if you want to be in one of them. If you can?t afford a 3 spot, then there is always Adwords.?

OR maybe once they are ready to charge, then they?ll add phone# and it will be pay per click or call.

I just thought I'd share all my replies, because I've made many of those comments split up in various threads here and others places, but I thought it might be helpful to get my thoughts on the update all in one place.

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Apr 10, 2014
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I think Google is definitely moving to a Pay per Play model like you said, all the Local stacks in competitive verticals will become paid at some point.

but I think the new changes in the click flow on desktop and the GPS tracking they can do on mobile devices will eventually be used to introduce a Pay per visit advertising model, where the merchant will pay for each person sent in his store; a model they are already beta testing with some large multi-location brands at this moment.

Kaycie Smith

Mar 21, 2015
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"OR maybe once they are ready to charge, then they’ll add phone# and it will be pay per click or call."

Hope not, but I bet you are right! Great info and interview Linda! Thx for sharing.


Dec 9, 2014
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Interested read - and I will def be sharing with my team and my clients.


Feb 21, 2014
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without phone numbers, they'll probably lose market share for desktop local search. for mobile its not a big deal to have no phone numbers but for desktop it's a really bad user experience


Oct 28, 2014
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Step 1 - Create artificial scarcity on 1st page SERPs for local.
Step 2 - ???
Step 3 - Profit.

The local finder is pretty huge, most people looking for X service will see ALL your competition in the area and if you don't have reviews or a profile photo (looks like they've been testing this display within the LF) you're going to lose conversions...


Jul 2, 2013
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I am really curious to the cost of lead/quality for the places Google is testing this. When Google tested the auto version of this a few years ago, the leads were really expensive and not a high quality.

Despite the verticals I track going to the 3-pack, the Google Insights still show about the same amount of clicks - and for those that I had fully optimized product photos, I'm seeing some huge increase in photo views.

Brian Barwig

Sep 5, 2014
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I was also interviewed for that piece. I thought there were many more people interviewed than simply Andrew, you (Linda) and me....what great company to be in :) Im floored I was even asked to participate.

This article is extensive and goes into some great detail. Many SEOs seems to have similar opinions on this update though no one really knows what is going on yet.

How have your clients been reacting and what are you saying to them at this point?

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Here is another thorough overview from Mediative:

<a href="">The Local Stack – Next Level of Local SEO Evolution</a>
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