The Google 7 pack is dead. As of last week the 7 pack, which had been the mainstay of my local marketing efforts, has disappeared. In it’s place a 3 pack, sometimes referred to as a snack pack.
I am not happy about this change, but what Google gives, Google can take back.
The 7 pack was a great way for local businesses to get free exposure to the market. Now it took some effort and know-how to get there. Once on the 7 pack, local merchants, contractors and professionals had visibility that otherwise would have required months of costly SEO effort. Or an ongoing investment in Adwords pay per click advertising.
As Google makes the bulk of its money on pay per click advertising, this change can be seen as a shrewd strategic play on their part.
Tons of my fellow SEO types working on local markets have been recruiting people to the 7 pack. Now that they have had a taste of first page results, many of these will see a sudden drop off in business. I suspect many will make up for the difference by investing in Google Adwords.
I have a client who only recently decided to stop paying for Google Adwords based on our success in getting him first page visibility in the 7 pack and also in the organic listings. Wile he still has some presence in the new 3 pack, he was bumped out of multiple keywords.
This is bound to have a sharp adverse near term effect.
The new challenge will be to fight our way into the new three pack, and a renewed role for traditional SEO. This later area was becoming almost obsolete as the ads and the 7 pack often accounted for 100% of the “Above the Fold” space for most search terms in the local marketplace.
That made the effort to improve SEO rankings less important.
So now we have a new world, one in which SEO will once again become valuable and where really succeeding in getting clients in the 3 pack will matter.
Change is a common occurrence in Google Land. For the local market, this change is at least as significant as the big panda and hummingbird algorithm changes of the past few years.
Now there is a rumor online that Google may start selling spots on the new three pack. I hope not. But until they do, I will be working to get my clients into the three pack, and when we are successful the good news is that the benefits to those who do show up there should be huge.
No longer will they be competing with 6 others, they will be down to just two. And that is pretty good odds. I fully expect to continue stressing the need for Reputation efforts with the superb RepPilot system. The star ratings on the three pack will be even more important. The best rating is certainly going the get the most “First Calls.”
So while I mourn the loss of the 7 pack, I celebrate the new challenges. The bottom line is that these changes, as disruptive as they are, reward those businesses who secure reputable SEO help to assist them in adjusting to the ever changing online universe.
The savvy businesses which learn to roll with these occasional punches are the ones who will grow and prosper, while they less aware competitors wither on the vine.