Local SEO has become a prominent reality in the world of business in Las Vegas and around the world.
Ranking among the top searches can lead to a boon for companies. In fact, many have stated a significant rise in the leads coming in.
However, Google has slipped in a change that has caused people to make a u-turn on their opinion of what is being done. In fact, it has caused alarm among consumers as well because it does not hold true to what they have become accustomed to which is the new placement of ads by Google in their “local pack.” Let’s take a look at this in detail.
What Is A Local Pack?
Let’s start by assessing what a “local pack” is. The “local pack” is the top three listings that show up with a map above the listings, reviews, address and phone number which will appear when you search up for most local keywords like, for example, “Las Vegas SEO” or even “Las Vegas criminal lawyer”.
It could be a trio of good restaurants providing Italian food or a trio of excellent plumbers. It doesn’t matter what you are searching because Google will make a local suggestion for you.
However, the local pack is now going to be changed. It is going to provide three suggestions, but one will be a “paid ad”. A business can pay for this spot and have it for themselves.
Ad Comes First
The first concern with this change is how the ad is placed. It is being put above all other ads. A local business that is ranking without money is going to come in 2nd place underneath the paid ad. It doesn’t matter how much goodwill or ranking power it accumulates through legitimate means.
The businesses paying for an ad spot will always be ranked 1st.
Being able to be first by paying is troubling because it sends the wrong signals to everyone and eliminates merit in seconds. Users are not content with having to look continually past the ad and feel it is going to lead to a wrong decision being made.
Decreases From Three Suggestions To Two
Sample mock-up above courtesy of Bright Local
The local pack of ads is designed to provide three recommendations near users. It is an easy way of knowing the best solutions close to home and not having to go out of your way to search for them.
Unfortunately, the change how now reduced this to two. Sure, the businesses paying for a higher spot could be running a real enterprise, but it is not always going to be like this. Some companies with weaker websites but more money will also shoot up the rankings because they can pay to be in the local pack, and that could hamper user experience.
The biggest hurdle Google will have is showcasing the legitimacy of the ad being pushed to the top. It is akin to someone budding the line and getting their way first which is what has caused alarm among users.
The first result is supposed to be the “best” one according to what Google has done in the past, but this is not the case any longer. It is not as honest as it used to be if the ad shows up on top and favors those who have larger budgets. In essence, anyone can push to the top if they have enough money.
Encouraging Grey-Hat Tactics
A “grey-hat” tactic is one which borders the line between what is fair and unfair. Most businesses who are looking to rank will use this as a means to prop up their business. A good business doesn’t stand a chance when they are competing for two spots, and someone else shoots straight to the top with a larger budget.
These tactics are not something Google will want to encourage, but their policy change is going to do just that.
Everything Google has done to this point including its algorithm changes has aimed to push away from illegitimate tactics to rank. However, this is doing the exact opposite, and that has rankled some feathers. It is not fair according to experts who believe money will be used as leverage for weak businesses to remain on top which will never let new businesses grow and that, in turn, is going to ruin a user’s experience on Google.
The question now is, will Google change back to a proper “three pack” of local ads or is it going to stick to what it has going on right now? This is a question that is being asked, but Google has remained steadfast for now.