Google kills the local 7 pack and more from this week

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Its been an interesting week this week to say the least with important announcements from Google and Facebook but seeing as Google is were we work the most let’s start with that one.
Major changes to the Local 7 Pack
Google have had a sizeable shake up on local. In short instead of showing 7 businesses in the pack in the map in local searches they are now only available to 3 businesses, exact addresses are no longer showing – just the street name, phone numbers have been removed, Google+ links have been removed, store hours have been added (depending on the time of day of the search) and you can no longer navigate over a ‘card’ to see it expand, you have to click on them.
They are encouraging more click through’s so searchers have to go into your ‘card’ (your listing) to find important information out about your business. Just try and search for yourself and you will immediately see a difference to the whole aesthetics and layout of these listings. If I am honest I miss the pins, the 7 pack and the hover over expansion that the old style allowed. But, alas those days appear to have gone!
Competition is sure to hot up for those top three positions as many businesses have now dropped out of the pack. This is a sudden shakeup from Google and have quoted a spokesperson for them stating:
“We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.”
Really? Wasn’t this information already available – just appropriated to more companies in response to searches? The changes were launched internationally and in the US rather than just in the US first. The removal of Google+ links feels inevitable and the option to keep phone numbers and exact addresses back seems logical to encourage click through and enhance the accuracy of the data sent back to Google. The rest feels a little brutal for local businesses trying to get a footing on the local scene having found competition high at national level.
Page Admins get New Feature on Facebook
Last week Facebook released a new feature that changes the way people and page admins will be able to communicate with each other, Admins have been given the option to respond to comments privately whereas previously the user had to instigate the message. This is an obvious step by Facebook in improving customer service, allowing things to be much easier for both businesses and consumers.
Administrators on a page now have the choice to reply to a comment through a message. Normally where you see the “reply” and “like” on the comment there is now an added tab called “message”, it is here that you need to click to message people back instead of publicly replying – therefore meaning that issues can be resolved in a much more professional way.  Also included on the new thread is a link back to the original post and comment, hopefully eliminating the need for businesses to repeat themselves.
Another cluster of things included in this update will be improved messaging tools for the page administration, making it easier to do mass selects, marking messages unread, deleting, etc. Also, for the consumers there will be a badge above the opening times section that will state “Very responsive to messages” – on the basis that your reply time is at a median of 5 minutes and you also will need to reply to (at least) 90% of your messages.These features will be rolled out worldwide over the coming weeks.
So this week we will finish Lab Weekly with a tip for you on a subject we are often asked about and even in this day and age is often overlooked.
Meta Data for the Beginner
Are you struggling on how to write the perfect meta description? Well in this weeks tip you can read all about where to start and what is right and wrong when creating a meta description.
The main purpose of a meta description is to get the visitor in Google to click your link, meta descriptions are for generating click-throughs from search engine.
Characteristics of a good meta description

  1. It should be around 130 to 155 characters however there is no exact number, it all depends on what Google adds to your search results and how much they want to know.
  2. The description should be actionable, in an active voice. Meta description is the invitation to the page so it can’t be dull!
  3. It should include a call to action this will emphasise your text
  4. It could contain structured content; Noting the price could trigger the click, also you could use rich snippets for this as well
  5. Make sure the description matches the content, Google will check if your meta description tricks the visitor into clicking on the site and this can penalize the site
  6. The description should contain the focus keyword because Google will be more inclined to use that meta and description and bold the key word in the search results
  7. it is very important to make sure your meta description is unique and isn’t the same as other descriptions. If you are struggling to think of a description then it is better to leave the description empty and let Google pick a snippet from your page that contains a keyword. Visit Google Webmaster Tools > HTML improvements or use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for duplicate meta descriptions.

After reading the points above you might feel like you want to change all the meta descriptions, this can be a burden with all the pages you have. Google has an answer for this:
‘ If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritise your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.
Now that you have read all the important points for creating meta descriptions, there is nothing stopping you from perfecting your descriptions!

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