Internet Marketing Tips, Suggestions, & Ramblings

Google Local 3 Pack to Be 1 Ad, 2 Organic Listings

Showing up in the local search results is about to get even more difficult.

Coming Soon™, an ad is going to sneak its way into the Google local 3 pack. That’s right—the local 3 pack that Google cut down from 7 ads is going to include 1 ad and 2 organic listings. Users won’t have to expand the local listings to see it; the ad will be right on the search results.

Local businesses have already had to put more into ads to stay competitive. Now they’ll have to increase their efforts (and their monthly spend) to make any meaningful impact.

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The latest change to the Google local 3 pack will make the first listing an ad, with two organic listings following it.

What People are Saying About the New Google Local 3 Pack

The news came from an announcement at SMX Advanced last week, reported by Joy Hawkins on her Google+ page. The news has already begun building buzz, and from what we’ve read the response has been anxious at best. It echoes the apprehension we felt when Google reduced the local pack from 7 down to 3.

Here’s the screenshot Hawkins took, which she admits isn’t the greatest quality:

This screenshot shows what the new Google local 3 pack may look like once it releases: an ad on top, marked with an icon, followed by the organic listings.
It’s better than nothing!

Several users, including Hawkins herself, mentioned how hard it was to get into the Google local 3 pack. We used to have a little leeway with 7 ads, which was still tough considering the thousands of businesses competing for the top spots. Now, getting into the local pack at all could be a financial strain on businesses that have had success with organic but haven’t focused much on PPC.

Then again, if you’re only relying on organic for traffic, maybe it’s time to put some resources toward paid search. After all, research has shown that both organic and paid search complement each other to great success.

When Can You Expect the Local 3 Pack?

The local pack of 1 ad, 2 organic listings is currently in testing. This means we might see something slightly different once Google rolls it out. We could even see more ads. Hawkins asked at the presentation whether there were going to be ads on top of the search listings in addition to the ad in the local pack; Google told her “they’re testing both but most likely it won’t be 5 ads in a row (4 ads + 3pack).”

Note that the screenshot above is without the usual ads at the top. It’s possible the final version will exclude those ads, so it doesn’t hit users with a bunch of ads at once, but we’ll see.

Currently, the ad looks like it’s going to be the top listing, with the organic listings below it. With the top spot as a paid ad, the emphasis on “pay to play” that so many in the comments have mentioned is clear.

Maybe we’ll have to start calling it the “local 2 pack” after all.

One thing’s for sure: Google continues to make the rules, and we have no choice but to play the game.

Is your business panicking at having to deal with the demands of the new local 3 pack? Don’t fear—we at SEO Inc. have the experience and know-how to not only help you excel in this new paid search environment but succeed in it. Send us an email and let us help you!

About Eric Seal

Eric SealEric has written copy for hundreds of blog posts, press releases, and website pages across a wide range of industries, from upscale luggage vendors and industrial warehouse equipment to luxury international hotels. His ability to write engaging content while maintaining a client’s brand and voice has made him a valuable member of the SEO Inc. team. Eric holds a BA in Literature and Writing from Cal State University San Marcos.