Evaluating Google’s Impending Local Search Two Pack

Jasmeet Babra | Jun 29, 2016 10:31:46 AM

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two_pack.pngIn the ever-changing world of Google search, another update will force your brand to buckle down its local online presence even further. At SMX last week, Google’s Global Product Lead for Local Ads, Ali Turhan, alluded to local ads being featured within the existing local three pack. After this update takes place, the first position will be an ad, followed by two organic results.

In the past year, the local pack has shrunk down from seven listings to three, leaving brands in the dust if they were not already ranking in the top three positions. Since then, Google has changed the nature of local advertising on SERPs, removing ads from the right rail and moving them to the Local Finder on Maps, and now, replacing one “Snack Pack” spot with an ad. So, what does this mean for brands? Even more cut-throat competition to rank organically.

Brandify analyzed Google local pack results across various industries, and found that almost 16% of store locations that currently rank in the 3rd position for their top 3 targeted keywords could potentially drop from the pack. Through Google’s attempt to monetize the local pack, marketers who don’t have the budget or resources must ramp up SEO and include Ad Extensions to prevent losing visibility and local business.


This impending update will be a disruptive force in the way marketers allocate time, effort and resources towards organic versus paid search. With less organic real estate available, it’s important to focus on the relevance, quality and visibility of branded local listings. Before the update rolls out across verticals, Brandify analyzed three industries on Google organic search and noted some key preventive measures.

Categories and Attributes

Identifying the right category and keywords generates greater visibility in search results. From a SEO perspective, this is especially important for local listings because search engines evaluate a brand’s credibility based on its ability to satisfy user intent  through specific queries and categories. Additionally, rather than moving excess information into business descriptions, leveraging Google API’s new attributes will give a competitive advantage. Information like wheelchair accessibility, drive-throughs, has store pick up and other special attributes are key to note and vary depending on your brand’s vertical.

In a dataset including Brandify clients and others we monitor for industry benchmarking, we have found that 64% of retail locations for large multinational brands rank in position 1 for their top 3 targeted keywords. Among other brands, retailers must prioritize categories and attributes for greater organic visibility.

Keywords on Local Pages

Dynamic local page data is essential establishing unique, added value for consumers and Google. Integrating location and intent-specific keywords is a great way to start. Another way is through review integration into local pages (since review response has increasingly become a ranking factor). And most importantly, regularly updating actionable data like NAP, hours and local page URLs will help Google recognize the dynamic and consistent transformation of your location information.

Brandify’s estimates indicate that among large multi-location brands in the finance vertical, approximately 20% of locations rank in position 3 for the key terms 'bank' and 'atm'. If these brands are to keep feeding Google the most location-specific keywords, reviews and dynamic data, high visibility is certain.

Some say that Google is transforming from a search engine to an ad machine. Brands risk penalization or ranking poorly because the real estate is becoming so competitive. Even as a test, the new ad display for nearby business pushes the boundaries of identifying the ads with the single listing at the top of the display. 

This new ad display is an indication of  Google’s direction  with local ads, what pack ads might be like and how far outside the radius of the local pack they might be. In addition to ad quality and relevance, Google is adding proximity and open hours as factors in choosing which ads to display.

For marketers who are ready to dedicate a budget to this change, the ads will be part of Adwords Extensions and will be available to local business advertisers who have their Google My Business listing connected to their Adwords accounts. All search campaigns are eligible to show local search ads as long as location extensions are enabled with no additional set-up required.

On average, Brandify found that 12% of healthcare locations rank on position 3 in Google search. These locations would be directly impacted when Google’s change rolls out. Healthcare brands which share almost equal percent of locations ranking for position 1, 2 & 3 should start taking the proper measures to start connecting location extensions.

As the tides of Google Local change, it’s important to constantly evaluate the balance between your brand’s paid and organic efforts. How much local business could your brand lose from this update? Download our 2 Pack Impact Calculator to see what it means for your brand. 

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Topics: Local Advertising, Google My Business, SEO

Jasmeet Babra

Jasmeet Babra

Marketing Data Analyst at Brandify

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