Get ready for changes in the Google map pack. Again.

If your business depends on being in Google’s Map Pack and you’re not already in the #1 or #2 spot, you’re probably still worked up about the Map results going from seven listings down to only three.  So what is a Map Pack?  You’ve seen them, here’s what they used to look like:

ken 1Many businesses counted on being featured prominently in the Map Packs because all of their contact info as well as online reputation was there so that buy-minded consumers could make purchase decisions on the fly.  When Google stopped showing seven listings, that effectively wiped out about half of the choices for searchers.  Now Google shows three listings only, forcing businesses to pay attention to search engine marketing.  Here’s what current Map Packs look like:ken 2

As you can see, I’m illustrating the impact that Google’s recent announcement at an industry conference for search marketers will have on Map Pack results.  What does it mean for your business? The important thing is that the ad will take one of the three spots available, making it a 2-pack with a space going to the highest bidder, making being found in local search results harder.ken 3

To gauge how consumers might react to ad placements in Map Packs, BrightLocal surveyed 690 US consumers by comparing an ad mockup with the current Map 3 Pack.  Here’s what they found:ken 4

Of those surveyed, 43% of consumers would click on the bottom business, and 35% would click on the top (1st) business.

Reviews probably play a big part here; the most popular 3rd listing has review stars, and the middle result with zero reviews was the least popular. What this seems to indicate is that users will not immediately be put off by Ad labels on local results, but that plenty of other factors come into play.

Now that you know what’s coming, you have some time to prepare.  What to do?  Well, if you’re not already in Maps position #1 or #2, you’ll want to start moving in that direction.  How can I do that?  Well, lots of factors contribute to this – like how much competition there is and what they’re doing, how well placed your website is in unpaid (organic) search results, how many other directories (and the quality of those directories) have your correct business information, whether your business listing is optimized or not, etc. etc.

We can draw from the survey that having a 5-Star Reputation is also pretty important.  Having a system which encourages (and simplifies) asking for reviews and publishing them in the right directories plays a big part on not only getting into the Map Pack, but also getting the clicks.

Of course, you could also pay for the ad – but you’ll likely face stiff competition which may drive the per click cost up.  Additionally, the ad would have to pass Google’s muster in order to get published to begin with.  I’m not a big fan of feeding Google for a 35% shot at a click, especially if I can get there naturally.

If you have any questions about how any of these play a part in your online marketing, just send me an email – I’m glad to help.


About the Author:  Ken Ivey, affectionately dubbed ‘the Web Czar’ by peers – has been helping businesses embrace technology for 27 years. Contact him at  [email protected] or call 920-645-2700