MacAdam Lea
By MacAdam Lea | SEM, SEO | September 17, 2015

Search Engine Marketing: Local “Snack Pack” Update

In August Google significantly altered how they display local search results. Previously when you searched for a business in a specific city Google would show a list of seven local options, what Google calls a local “Snack Pack”. The landing page has now been rearranged so that only the top three businesses are shown, forcing users have to click on the local map to get access to the full list of local competitors. This update is mainly going to affect your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results since there currently isn’t an option to set bids for Snack Pack listings, but PPC ads are now more prominently displayed as well since you’re now forced to scroll past the local Snack Pack if you want to view any organic listings.

Snack Pack Missing Organic

New Rating System:

So what does this mean for your online advertising and your average click through rate? There are a number of points to focus on. The first and most important is doing everything you can to ensure that your business is displaying its “Star” rating on all local listings. Having a high rating has always been important to any PPC or SEO listings since of course users are drawn towards high ratings over low and unrated sites, but there is a new option in the Snack Pack for users to sort results by the number of “Stars” that business has. If you’re only running ads in an area with very limited competition then this may be less of a concern, but If you’re competing with dozens of rated competitors this is going to be a necessity. So pull up an incognito window and Google your business. If you find that your business isn’t showing any ratings then it’s time to get with your web designer and find out why.

Snack Pack Rating System

Home Service Ads:

Google is also testing out a PPC version of the SEO “Snack Pack” which they’re currently calling “Home Service Ads.” Right now it’s only being tested on a limited basis in San Francisco, but if it gets rolled out to a national level it will essentially turn local listings into a Pay Per Click situation. If you’re a business that isn’t running any sort of Pay Per Click advertisements but still receive a significant amount of your traffic from local Google listings then this is something you’ll want to watch out for. If Google changes how local listings work and you don’t change with it you could end up missing out on a source of revenue.

Does Being Top 3 Matter?

It’s important to note that even if you don’t show in the top three spots of the new Snack Pack it’s still possible for users to see your local listings. A full list of nearby business is still shown on the map section of the Snack Pack, and if a user wants to see past the first three options they can click on either the Map or the “View More” option at the bottom of the list. In the world of PPC showing up lower than the top three spots doesn’t necessarily mean that people won’t click on your ads, in fact we often see increases in ROI when we don’t try to compete for those more expensive slots. Unfortunately the new Snack Pack has only just been released, so it will be a couple of months before we can determine exactly how vital it is to show in those top three positions. Keep an eye out for a future blog on this topic once we’ve accumulated more data.At Digital Reach Agency we try to craft comprehensive Search Engine Marketing campaigns by optimizing our clients’ SEO and PPC settings in unison. We’ve found that the two have a symbiotic relationship, and that if you boost one side the other benefits in turn. If you’ve familiarized yourself with PPC advertising by reading some of my blogs and want to learn more about SEO I recommend reading some of the blogs by our head of Search Engine Optimization, Ralf Shulz:

As always thank you for reading, and I’ll PP-See you next time!

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