Last week we learned that the 3-pack on Google’s local results will soon contain a paid listing, meaning that we’ll essentially have a 2-pack which will limit space for organic local results. This will make local search ranking a tougher, more competitive practice.
Joy Hawkins alerted us to the development whilst attending SMX Advanced in Seattle. The image Joy shared, although grainy, shows a traditional 3-pack, but with the top result including an Ad label.
We created a mockup of how the new local pack may look below:
Google Local Pack Mock-up
It’s fair to say the update, although not unexpected, hasn’t been well received by those in the industry (see comments from our previous post). Although you can still rank in the Local Finder page, limiting the amount of space by 33% will make it significantly harder for local SEOs & small business owners to gain visibility.
But what will consumers make of the change?
Will they feel duped about being shown paid listings where they’re used to seeing businesses ranked on quality & appropriateness?
Or are they indifferent as long as results are relevant & local?
Consumer Survey: Adverts in Local Listings
This week we surveyed 690 consumers in the USA & showed them the mock-up image displayed above.
We asked them to imagine that they were searching for a local dentist in Google and were presented the following results. Which would they choose & why?
It’s interesting but it’s not science
We appreciate that there are flaws in the methodology of this approach. It’s not a real-world situation and actions are a little out of context. Users may well behave differently in the wild but at least we get some insights into their thoughts & concerns about seeing Adverts in local search results.
Also, it’s important to clarify that:
- The image is just a mock-up (Google may not use this style or color of Ad label)
- We picked this set of results as it has a good mix of 3 results (varying reviews, etc.)
Which of those top 3 businesses are you most likely to click on?
- 36% would click on the top (1st) business
- 20% would click on the middle (2nd) business
- 43% would click on the bottom (3rd) business
From the mock-up, 43% of consumers would click on the bottom (3rd) business, whilst 35% would click on the top (1st) business.
Reviews may play a big part here; the most popular 3rd listing has positive review stars, whilst the middle result with zero reviews was the least popular. Also, in terms of pixel space, both the 1st & 3rd listings take up more room due to their display of opening hours.
All we can gauge from this is that users will not immediately be put off by Ad labels on local results, but that plenty of other factors come into play.
Why did you click on that particular business?
- 47% of consumers picked a business because it had positive review stars
- 16% picked a business purely because it was the top result
- 13% picked a business that stood out to them first
- 12% picked a business which a business name they liked
- 13% either picked a business at random or are unsure why
A majority 47% chose a business because it had positive review stars. The paid listing may have the top position, but it doesn’t have the eye-catching star rating & orange review stars. This just shows that having a review strategy in place will only take on more importance once Google rolls out the paid local results.
16% clicked on the top result just because it was in the top position, which is an inviting statistic for local businesses willing to play ball on PPC. However, it’s hardly an overwhelming percentage & proves that a lot more factors go into the psychology of click-throughs than just ranking positions.
13% clicked on the result that stood out to them first – and it’s hard to pin down exactly what that might be. However, it’s likely that the more you can make your listing stand out (with review ratings & opening hours) the more clicks you are likely to receive.
Did you notice that the top listing was an advert with an ‘Ad’ icon next to it?
- 60% of consumers did notice the Ad icon on the top result
- 40% of consumers did not notice the Ad icon
Although small, more consumers did notice the Ad label on the top result*.
Searchers are used to seeing PPC results by now & most understand that they are adverts even if they’re not entirely sure how they work. However, consumers may have a different reaction to being served paid listings in local results.
*Disclaimer: Google’s paid local inclusion may not use a green ‘Ad’ icon. However, we’ve borrowed the style from other PPC results for the sake of the mock-up.
How do you feel about Google including paid Ads in these type of search results?
- 42% of consumers like paid Ads or are happy as long as the businesses are relevant
- 44% of consumers dislike paid Ads or would prefer not to see them
- 14% feel tricked by Google
When served with a paid ad in the local pack, 58% of consumers have a negative reaction, whilst 42% have a positive or indifferent reaction.
Furthermore, 14% feel tricked by Google.
For some consumers, searching for a local product or service can be a personal experience. Some value the fact that they are being shown results within their local community, as opposed to larger corporations. Many consumers use Google above other search engines because they trust the relevance of their results. When Google starts introducing paid ads in local search results, that trust may start to be diluted.
Consumers may feel ‘tricked’ by being shown a paid result above the most relevant business for them (in googles opinion!) That being said how often is the top result in the local-pack the most relevant? With spam rife in many industries how can we be sure that the top-ranked business is there on genuine merit and not because the business that has gamed the system the best by working on their GMB listing, citation building, or simply by hiring a determined Local SEO consultant?
From Google’s perspective, most consumers will be happy as long as the local results are relevant to them, no matter if the listings are determined by an algorithm or by PPC.
For this reason, Google is unlikely to be deterred from rolling out these ads; it just means that local business owners & SEOs will have to get used to a new landscape – as we have done countless times before.