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Google has once again retooled its search results delivery styling, this time narrowing the focus on local business area. The new “Google My Business” (AKA: “Snack Pack” or “Local Pack”) area narrows the sheer number of results now displayed on the first page, reducing the previous number of local (Google Places) results from 7 down to just 3. The new look does, however, offer increased visibility for the few businesses that actually do place in these local positions, providing a much more robust and accentuated piece of real estate.

The new preview pane, beta tested in July 2015 (with no formal announcement) and officially released by Google in August 2015, is not limited to Canada ( We’ve noticed the same local display layout in the US, Mexico, UK, Australia, Europe and a handful of areas in South America – at least as many as we checked manually. As far as we can tell, this appears to be a global roll-out and a long-term change.

Good News or Bad?

You could be doing the ‘happy dance’ if your URL previously enjoyed positioning above or below the preview pane, as now the number of first page results you’re competing with, and visible results above “the fold,” have been reduced. Because of the more limited (page 1) results choices, we may see a natural increase in click-through ratios (CTRs) for organic listings (below or above the Places preview pane), if searchers decide they would like to first read a bit (through meta descriptors) about what it is they’re about to click on.

On the upside, searchers do have a much clearer option to expand the ‘local preview pane’, revealing a more complete list of businesses as well. The map display, appearing immediately above the results, suggests to searchers that additional and often times numerous results exist. Clearer, more fool-proof icons, now adorn the Google Places results area, allowing searchers to readily access links to websites, as well as getting (user) location-based directions.

Of course, you’ll enjoy a more clarified visibility if your listing is already shown in the top 3 (local), but it remains to be seen as to whether it’ll be a positive or negative if it is not. Only user behaviors will determine if the new style is a plus or minus and general feedback may dictate if the new roll-out stays or goes.

Why is Google Doing This?

Most of us like to think of Google as an innocent entity that is simply trying to make the Internet a better place by organizing pages and content. Historically speaking, many updates to Google algorithms have in fact weeded out irrelevant domains that employ spam-like tactics to gain high positioning for keywords. Still, you can’t help but wonder if some changes are financially motivated. Google is a for-profit company like any other and businesses that are somehow disadvantaged from the latest “improvements,” may consider increasing their spend on Google Ads. Naturally, delivering significantly fewer page 1 results may make better financial sense for Google in the long-term.

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