There has been a significant shake-up in Google results for search terms with local intent, something that is likely to have an effect on local businesses that rely on the search results for new business. Where there were previously 7 results in the local business listings there are now only three.
Those businesses that were in the local search results in positions four to seven and receiving phone calls from mobile users will probably be the first to notice the impact as those calls taper off.
The desktop experience is not great; when a desktop user clicks on a result they are taken to the “Local Finder” which displays a greater number of results than the initial search page. This means that potential customers that have already selected your business out of the top three will then be exposed to a larger number of your competitors, including those with great reviews and possibly more appealing business profiles.
The phone numbers have also been removed from the first set of three results so desktop users cannot simply call from the initial results but are in fact forced to click through to the Local Finder results, which seems counter-intuitive. I’m aware of at least one business currently ranking in the top three that claims to have noticed a drop in calls.
Most significant is that all links to the Google+ pages have been removed, although reviews are still being displayed.
We will be monitoring the changes that may still occur, as well as the effect this will have on local traffic and leads.