For the last few months I've been reading about how important local search is for people, how it should be at the forefront of every business and tips on how to do it well. In the more shady marketing world, there have been hints and tips, tricks and schemes and all sorts of things that aim to get your business in the old 7-pack of local results.

In case you don't know what that is, there's an excellent article here that discusses it, and here's a picture:

google-plus-local-7-pack_wJfyW5
But Google's just changed the game again and changed it to a 3-pack, so if I do a search for “Birmingham Plumber”, I now see this where the 7-pack used to be:

3pack MW50uU
Sure, you can click on “More Plumbers” if you like, but this is a blow to businesses who were relying on that section for trade.

Or as SEOMaverick puts it:

Google has put another step between the users being able to contact local businesses from their search results for free.

If you’re not in the top 3…then your business is toast and you WILL NOT be getting seen for any local terms.

In the words of Ricky Bobby: “If you ain't first, you’re last.”

….or now in the case for all local businesses now, “If you ain't top 3, you’re last”.

via Google's ‘Snack Pack' Update: Local ‘7 Packs' Gone – SEO Maverick

A New Boost for Markup?

Semantic markup is somewhere many local businesses don't go with their websites. Although it's not really difficult to do, it takes time and it's a technical task that requires a web developer. It may well be worth some businesses taking the time now though:

It looks like store hours are only displayed if the website contains the proper markup. via Google Local Pack Down From 7 to 3 Listings

Is Google+ going?

And more telling, there's no longer a link to your Google+ page. Does this mean that Google will be winding it down?