Local SEO: Google Search Shows Fewer Maps Results

Google launched an important update of the Local Snack Pack (maps results in the search engine results pages) in the beginning of August 2015. This update increases the competitiveness of local search and makes it even more crucial for local businesses to optimize their websites.

The Local Snack Pack update is considered the biggest Google update for local SEO since the Pigeon update. In this post we will outline all the changes and the first implications based on click tests.

The New Local Snack Pack

The most important change is that the usual 7-packs in the desktop search results were replaced with 3-packs. With this change, Google adapts the desktop search to the mobile search, where the 3-packs have been implemented for some time.

The following examples show the results for a search for a hairdresser in Zurich in desktop and mobile.

Google Local Snack Pack for a search for "Coiffeur Zürich" on desktop

Google Local Snack Pack for a search for a hairdresser in Zurich on a smartphone

Along with the change to 3-packs everywhere, Google has made some additional changes to the local packs:

  • Addresses: Google does not show the complete addresses anymore, but only the street name. The user has to click on the result in order to see the full address and the phone number. Luckily, the “Call” button on mobile search results stays.
    Display of addresses in the new Google Snack Pack results
  • Ratings: The new Local Snack Pack provides the option to filter by rating. As a result ratings become even more crucial for local businesses. These ratings are from Google +, underlining that Google+ / Google My Business remains relevant.
    Filter by rating in in the new Google Snack Pack results
  • Sponsored results: Google is currently testing sponsored 3-packs, so this might become a marketing possibility in the future. However, these new home service ads are currently only available in San Francisco and for two professions: plumbers and locksmiths.

Click Tests for the New Local Snack Packs

Casey Meraz from Juris Digital conducted some tests to see where users were clicking the most in search results containing the new Google Local Snack Pack. The major findings of these tests are:

  1. Reviews are crucial: In every test scenario, reviews attracted the most clicks.
  2. Organic results vs Local Snack Pack: If an organic search result was displayed above the local snack pack, the majority of users clicked on the organic result. If the organic result appeared underneath the local snack pack, people tended to click on the local results. When the local results had no reviews, however, the test users clicked slightly more often on the organic result, even if it was underneath the Local Snack Pack.
  3. Clicks on “More”: In every testing scenario, some users clicked on the link to see more local listings. Thus if your business is not in the top three results of the Local Snack Pack, you still have a chance to get found. You should however aim for a ranking in the top three to get the maximum amount of visibility and traffic.

Note that these tests show some first indications about the user behavior for the new Local Snack Packs. However, further studies are needed in order to be able to draw reliable conclusions.

Implications for Your Website

As the Local Snack Pack now only contains three instead of seven results, local SEO has become even more competitive. As a result it is even more important for local businesses to optimize their websites for SEO. Read these blog posts to find out how to optimize your local website:


Do you have questions about local SEO? Feel free to send me an email.