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Why Local Business Should Care About Google’s Latest Page Layout Changes

Without a great deal of fanfare, Google has just (Feb 2016) made certain very interesting changes to the layout of results presented when local searches are carried out. For local business owners, this change offers both opportunity and challenge depending on your point of view and search marketing strategy.

So what exactly are the changes that have been made and what are the implications for marketing a business in Google?

February 2016 changes to Google search result layout

Change is nothing new for Google and we can be sure there will be many more to come in future.  These latest changes see primarily;

a) Removal of the Pay-per-click ads that used to be displayed in a sidebar on many search results pages

b) The introduction of 4 pay-per-click ads at the top of the page, followed by the Google 3-pack (sometimes called Local Pack) listing.

There are several big takeaways for business owners to be aware of from this change but one of the biggest is that  ‘free’ organic result listings in search are regularly going to be pushed below the viewing area of a searcher’s screen display.  For those businesses sitting pretty in the top 3 organic listing places for a given search term, this is not good news. Potentially, therefore, the value of ranking in organic search could (and probably will) become of less value.  When planning a long-term SEO strategy, this will be an important point to consider.

In a nutshell, here are the main points to be drawn from this change

  • Pay-per-click increases in opportunity and attractiveness to the business owner.

The addition of a 4th paid Ad slot offers greater opportunity for advertisers (and increased revenue opportunity for Google). If your paid Ad is currently ranking number 3 at the top of the page you will likely receive a significant boost as position 4 becomes the new position to prop up paid listings.  Local business owners will be reconsidering whether a paid Ad campaign (through Google Adwords) is going to be more in their future interest than going after good rankings in local organic search.

  • The value of ranking in the local 3-pack just became a lot more important

The first ‘free’ ranking position is now occupied by the 3-pack listings. It follows that these have also now more than ever taken on greater importance. The number #1 position in the 3-pack is going to be even more desirable for a business owner. When considering what questions to ask a potential SEO provider, a business is also going to want to ask about ranking for multiple search terms in the Google local pack. Local rankings in Google Maps and 3-pack is a valuable local SEO expertise to have and one to tap into if your Search Optimisation or Internet Marketing provider offers the service.

  • Ranking in Organic search listings has been devalued

As previously mentioned, even the highest rankings for organic keywords (so long a free source of additional traffic for business) will have their value reduced. Just how significantly remains to be seen as it will take a while for new search habits to form with the searching public and for those patterns to be established and recognised.

There are other minor changes in addition to this latest layout change but the main 3  are discussed above. Google changes constantly but this I would consider a major change because of the potential to change the pecking order of value in Google’s search results.  Both SEO consultants and business owners will need to adapt (as they always have) to changes in search engine behaviour but that has been true ever since Google became the big kid on the search block.

There is both significant opportunity and risk to the current order here. If you, as a business, would like to discuss these changes  and their impact on your current search optimisation strategy then please feel free to Contact Us.

Search page example with thanks to


Newport SEO Services