So we may have jumped the gun here as Google appears to be testing these changes to the SERPs, but if we waited until Google stopped testing things before commenting on them then we’d still be without Gmail accounts and most other Google products.
Korey and I share outline the recent changes and share our initial thoughts, below:
Anyhow, it appears that sometime yesterday Google started testing changes to how they show the “local” (map-driven) listings in the search results. Specifically, they seem to be doing away with the “7-pack” or “one-box” format where a map is showing (typically with up to 7 listings) immediately above the organic results and below the top 3 paid results. Instead, they are showing the organic results higher on the page, immediately below the top 3 paid results, but this time with the local listings and related info (reviews, link to the places page, map marker, physical address) all tied to the organic listing itself.
And if you’d like to see the before/after screenshots, check those out below.
The old SERPs layout:
The new SERPs layout:
You might not see these results just yet, as Google appears to be testing only with certain users. I came in this morning and when using Firefox I got the new results, but the old results with IE. That’s what I’ve used to compare in the video and screenshots above. The keyword is the same and the searches were done within a few seconds of each other, in the two different web browsers.
We tried to answer the “is this good or bad” question, and the answer (like so many things) is “it depends”. Based on the handful or two of old-vs-new results comparisons we did this morning for some of our regionally-focused clients, it generally appears to be a positive. Basically this change seems to strengthen the prominence of the top 3 organic results, b/c it moves them above the fold for local searches whereas previously they were below the fold due to the 7-pack appearing above the #1 organic spot.
As far as rankings go, the top 3 or 4 spots appeared unchanged in most of our tests. We did notice cases where the site that was previously #4 or #5 might drop a few spots to #7 or #8 if they did not have a local listing that was being pulled, and in its place a site that was in the #7 to #12 range (or so) could jump up a few spots based on it having a local listing associated with it.
Now we’ve only done a few tests and this is highly subject to change, but my gut feel is that they are now factoring in both the traditional “organic” factors as well as “local search” factors in this new blended organic/local results format. However, it appears weighted more to organic factors. I’ll call it a 75/25 split. But we’re only a few hours in so I expect our conclusions here to change a bit as we get more data and do more tests, plus Google is likely to tweak this a bit too over the coming days and weeks.