Snack-Pack Updates: Satisfying or Are You Still Hungry?

By Terrance G Kern on December 7, 2015

Not so long ago, searching for a business on Google resulted in a search engine result page of approximately 20 sites based on its ever-enigmatic ranking algorithm. Then the SERP was set on its ear with the July 2014 roll-out of the “Pigeon” updates.

While Google maps were featured along with the top seven listings, the “map pack” was not consistent and even nonexistent for some searches. In addition, many small businesses complained that the new algorithm gave greater rankings to sites like Yelp! and other local directories rather than ‘legitimate businesses.’ Over time, the “seven-pack” became the most consistent feature of the update.

The negative reviews on the Pigeon update from industry experts, cited that rewards were given to paid and spammy sites and was under serving web searchers. However, there were favorable notes on the affect on higher organic traffic to sites, and an improved localization of the search results.

What’s different with Snack-Pack?

Fewer business displayed

The latest “Snack-Pack” update seems to further distill web searches to a mere three-pack of map listings within the body of the page. Google My Places

Features of the “snack-pack” update, which launched August 7, 2015 include a reduction of the standard seven-pack map listings from Pigeon, to a snapshot of three.

The comparison of the pre-pigeon search:

And the new search for business under Snack Pack:

Our search for a hardware store in Omaha now yields only three stores within the maps feature, although additional stores are listed on the map designated by the red dots sprinkled about the greater metro area. The motivation behind the reduction in listings is fairly clear when you launch a search from a mobile device. With the rise in mobile searches and the announcement from Google that mobile surpassed desktop searches just three months prior to the latest update, the design suits mobile to a T (right image).

The more abbreviated maps pack is causing local businesses to further complain about being shut out of the SERP, however, if the user takes the extra step to click on the map, the screen reveals all of the locations listed on the map on the left with a popup caption appearing when the user hovers over the red dot to view more information on the location.

More prominence, more often

In addition, the 3-pack local listings have a higher visibility in search results and show up more frequently than its earlier incarnation, which should make some local businesses feel more comfort. In fact, according to a study done by seoClarity, a review of keyword searches comparing the 7-pack and new 3-pack formats revealed that the new format shows up in the #1 spot 93 percent of the time versus a mere 25 percent with the Pigeon update.

Google Places Listing
HGoogle Mapsowever

searchers noticed with some annoyance that their search for businesses not only gave them less initial information, it also omitted addresses and phone numbers. Apparently the outcry must have been heard, and searches now do include these key pieces of information. (Mobile versions list only the street name and allow for one-click calling.)

Local cards lead to competitor information as well

Previously, clicking on a business revealed further information on that business, called a local card. Now any clicks in the 3-pack will lead to a listing of more competitors while also displaying the local card.

Enhanced awareness of your location

Before businesses throw up their hands in disgust, Google does give a user’s location some weight in their search. This means that the top three businesses featured will change based on the user’s location at the time of the search. If the search is mobile, this is extremely useful, especially if you’re sitting in a car wondering where the closest hardware store is. So if a business did not rank in the top three local listings, they are likely to make the cut for people searching for them in a closer geographic area.

So, how do businesses respond?

As previously mentioned, local directories are the big winners here, but it doesn’t have to mean that local businesses can’t share in the success. Searchers are wary of paid and sponsored results, and the model is set up to encourage more organic results. So while Google seems to be moving toward search results being a directory within a directory, the searcher is more likely to be led to a business organically.

The other good news is that local business listings are completely in the hands of the business. How well and how consistently a business profile is set up among GoogleMyBusiness, Yelp!, Manta, and so forth is key in converting a search into a sale.

Going on offense:

  • Start with your GoogleMyBusiness page, because this is where the information in a Google search is going to pull from. Any other directories should also receive the same scrutiny.
  • NAP (Name, Address, Phone) – all should be consistent, down to whether a location has abbreviations in it or not.
  • Images (and plenty of them) – people love visuals, and a business’ location is one thing, but if customers know what they’re looking for, and they like what they see, they’re likely to add that business to their list. Also, photos that are clear and fit within the
  • Description – what keywords will searchers use to find you? A well-thought out description of what a business does within their directory profiles connects customers to stores.
  • Build positive reviews – ask customers who love you to tell everyone else about it. As they appear just below the business information, reviews (deserved or not) can make or break your business’ success
  • Build back-links – these help drive SEO Austin, and any other websites (Chamber of Commerce, professional organizations, social media sites, blogs, etc.) that link back to your website help boost your placement in searches, and can earn you a spot in that coveted 3-pack listing.

Google My Places listing

Google Maps ListingsTo illustrate using our hardware store example, here’s what a local card looks like for two hardware stores, one of them not completing their GoogleMyBusiness page.

 

Lozier’s information is obviously lacking the images, but they also have to combat the fact that the only visuals that appear on their local card are maps to their competitors.

 

On the other hand, Westlake’s completed page doesn’t leave room for it, including images. It should also be noted that no reviews = “People also search for” maps. It’s your business, and the listing is free, so talk about it, show pictures and don’t leave room for the competition.

SEO Optimization

Finally – and ultimately – it comes down to making sure your website is fully optimized on all pages to get the highest ranking possible in searches. You may be a master of your craft, but unless it’s web marketing, this will be money well spent. Tags, keyword usage in h1 and h2 headers, and other well designed coding of your site can reap the best ROI.

Snack-pack is here, and while it’s changing the look of web searches, it does not have to mean businesses lose. Strategy, coupled with your knowledge of your target market, can make this a dish worth digging into.

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