Google local pack set to include paid listings

New Paid listings heralds the start of new changes for Google Local Pack

Google is bringing in yet more changes and it seems as though they could make things more challenging for local businesses.

At the SMX Advanced event, Google stated that they are now introducing ads to the local pack that we have become familiar with and the 3-pack will in some circumstances contain just 2 organically generated local listing results. For many this may sound confusing but what does it all really mean?

Essentially, it means that one of the three results in the local pack could be a paid ad making the challenge to appear in the top 3 results more difficult and competitive for businesses.  This could potentially lead to good quality local companies missing the opportunity to appear in the local pack and instead less established and lower quality organisations could appear there just by paying their way into the mix.  What is strange is that this in some way goes against the grain for Google’s objective to provide the best user experience, when considering buying your way past local established competitors.

Google say “We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly”.

On the plus side for businesses that have struggled to attract a local audience via a search presence is that they can now get themselves in a more visible position in search results making this a great opportunity for those that have not had any luck or have not tried optimising their website using organic SEO strategies.

Using the 3-pack already made things difficult for webmasters optimising for local SEO but the percentages have changed and this means that their work just got that little bit harder to achieve good local search ranking.  It seems as though Google have recognised an opportunity to increase revenue whilst providing an outlet for companies that may not have invested in organic search.

Google have always implemented algorithms to help improve user experience and remove perceived low-quality websites from search results but what is evident is that the local pack and natural organic results will be pushed further down the page.  However, there is no getting away from the fact that despite paid ads playing a stronger role in search results in recent years, search engine visitors still primarily focus on organic search results when it comes to clicks.  This has much to do with trust and has been a sticking point for Adwords for many years.

The local pack Ad inclusion is expected to form part of the Adwords Extensions and local businesses using Adwords will have access to these. However, they will only be available to those businesses that have the ‘Google My Business’ listing linked to their Adwords Accounts.  So if you haven’t already set up your GMB listing then this could be a good time to get it ready and verified.

Users of Google may notice that more Ads are creeping into the search results. This could mean long term that users may look to try out a different search engine if search results become too ad focused and make it more difficult to reach traditional trustworthy organic results, however , I don’t see any change or need for concern in the immediate future.

Organic listings have, over the past few years, been encroached upon by Pay Per Click ads (Adwords) and Google have made the recent switch from the yellow to the green ‘Ad labels’.  Most visitors are savvy enough to understand the difference between organic and paid results but Google will certainly be hoping that the new layout will improve Ad spend from its visitors with local search intent.  At present, we haven’t seen any of the paid listings appear in the local packs but keep your eyes peeled.

At RAD SEO we work with both organic SEO and Adwords as an official partner and use our performance marketing strategies when aligning both services to stop any overlap and get the best value for your budget.

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