Google Switched To Local 3-Packs: Is There Cause For Alarm?

In August, Google rolled out an update to how it displays local results by eliminating all 7-packs and moving exclusively to mobile-optimized 3-packs.
Shortly thereafter, it appeared that the 3-packs were now consistently ranked in the top spot (below ads, of course) for any Google search that produced local results. From there, all Local SEO blogger hell broke loose:
“Google shocked the world last week when they mixed up how local results are displayed in search results.“
“GOOGLE LOCAL PACK PLACEMENT CHANGE CAUSES STEEP DECLINE IN ORGANIC BRAND CTR“
To be sure, the change appeared to be dramatic. But now that we are a month in, it appears the drama may have been more in our minds than in our traffic.
While it seemed that this update rolled out in August, in fact it has been rolling out since last summer’s Pigeon update.

A Timeline Of Events
July 2014: Pigeon Update Rolls Out

The local algorithm appears to increase emphasis on user location, knowledge graph results

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Local Search Voted Most Powerful Channel For Local Businesses

In August, we at BrightLocal ran our annual survey looking at which digital marketing channels generate the most traffic, phone calls, quality leads and ROI for local businesses. We dub this the “Local Clicks & Calls” survey.
The objective of the survey is to better understand which digital channels take up the most time/effort, which deliver the greatest leads, and which provide the best ROI. With incomplete data available in Google Analytics — and many conversions happening offline — this survey mines the knowledge and insights of SEOs/business owners about the channels that they witness driving their customer acquisition.
In this year’s survey, we had 477 respondents who had worked to optimize more than 8,200 locations in the last 12 months. The respondents were made up of search agencies (38 percent), small business owners (28 percent), search consultants (26 percent) and Web designers (8 percent).
We hope that these findings will provide useful insights to help search consultants and local business owners make better informed decisions about where to allocate their marketing time, energy and budget.
Organic

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The New Google Local Search Display

In early August 2015, Google released a new local search display format that will have a major impact on local businesses. The update was not a change in local search ranking factors, but rather a change in the way local business information is displayed on the search engine results page (SERP).
In the past, Google displayed a variety of organic and local results. Typically, seven local results (the “7-Pack”) were shown, depending on the location and search inquiry. Following this recent update, however, we are now seeing only three local results (the “3-Pack” or “Snack Pack“).

Searchers do have the option to click for more results, but this additional step will likely have a negative impact on local businesses ranked in positions 4–7.
Another significant change is the increase in the number of ads showing above the fold on mobile results. While this doesn’t specifically apply to local mobile results, it’s sure to impact search visibility for local businesses by pushing the 3-pack below the

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About To Launch A WordPress Site? Here’s What You Need To Know About SEO

WordPress is the most widely used content management system (CMS) in the world — roughly half of sites that use a CMS use WordPress.
There is good reason for WordPress’ popularity. It’s versatile, easy to use and highly customizable, due to the numerous plugins and themes available.
Many believe that using WordPress to host a site automatically guarantees good SEO. As the belief goes, all you need to do is start a WordPress site, and your SEO will take care of itself.
It doesn’t work that way. If you’re on the cusp of launching a new WordPress site, here’s what you need to know to maximize search engine visibility. My goal in this article is to provide several overarching strategies (rather than a technical how-to) that will improve your search potential.
1. WordPress Is Not An Automatic SEO Solution
First, let me reiterate the fact that WordPress is not an SEO silver bullet. The value of WordPress for SEO is that it is simple and intuitive. The platform

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SEO Disasters: Preventing The Unthinkable

Like any SEO veteran, I can recount my share of horror stories — launching Google Analytics and noticing that sudden, sickening drop in traffic.
Sometimes, sudden drops in traffic may be the result of an algorithm changes (such as Panda). However, in many cases, they are caused by bugs, inadvertent changes or overambitious engineers with a little bit of SEO knowledge.
In this article, I will examine three real-life case studies and outline the steps necessary for SEO disaster prevention.
Case #1: “Something Bad Is Happening To My Website.”
I was at a company offsite, and my phone had been vibrating with several calls. I left my meeting and saw that my good friend (let’s call him “Tony”) had called several times and left a message: “I think something bad happening to my website. Traffic is crashing. Some sort of SEO problem.”
Tony runs iFly, an extremely successful airport information site. Like many of us, he is very dependent on Google traffic; an SEO issue would be a big

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How Important Is Click-Through Rate In An SEO Campaign?

Click-through rate (CTR) is obviously an important metric to consider in various facets of your online marketing strategy.
The CTR of your social media posts could determine how much visibility future posts get; the CTR of your ads could indicate their relevance to your target audience; and the CTR of your organic search results speaks to the value proposition of your page titles and descriptions.
The higher your CTR is, the more people will visit your site (assuming visibility remains constant), so of course it’s valuable to improve it.
Additionally, CTR has long been believed to have another benefit: increased rankings. In other words, many believe that pages with higher click-through rates for certain search queries tend to rank higher for those search queries. Essentially, CTR has been considered a significant factor that influences organic search rankings — that is, up until recently.
The History
There is extensive groundwork for the idea of CTR influencing organic search rankings. As recently as 2014, it’s been considered an important

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Making Your Support Content More SEO Friendly

In light of Google’s recent algorithm updates, many businesses have looked hard at ways to flesh out existing pages and create new, SEO-friendly content in an effort to grow organic search traffic without running afoul of any angry animals.
Despite this increased focus on “Google-friendly” content, I still see a lot of sites neglecting some fairly easy SEO enhancements on potentially valuable content that already exists on their site: support and community content.
Building and maintaining a community is an art in and of itself, but once your company has a base of loyal users and community members, that base may be creating extremely valuable content that you’re ignoring. If you have existing support documentation and community Q&A materials, this article will walk through how you can get more SEO value out of that content.
1. Identify Your Best Performing Pages & Untapped Opportunities
As with the process of optimizing your most important pages for SEO, the first step here is to

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7 Steps To Semantic Content Excellence

Lately, I have seen more and more people write about “Semantic Content Optimization,” the practice of tuning your Web pages to satisfy a larger percentage of visitors.
I’ve written about various aspects of it, too, including my article on the 100-User Model here on Search Engine Land.
In today’s post, I am going to outline a seven-step process for Semantic Content Optimization for one target Web page.
Why Does It Matter?
As I outlined in the 100-User Model post, Google is doing its best to evaluate content quality and user engagement with pages it chooses to rank high in the search results.
Higher user satisfaction with pages that rank high in Google’s search results means that those users will be more satisfied with Google’s search engine. In short:
The quality of your page is a ranking factor.
With that in mind, it makes sense to closely examine the most important pages of your site with a laser focus on their quality. As we have

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From SEO To SXO: Search Experience Optimization

How does one win at SEO in 2015 and beyond?
Some of the directives we have been hearing for years are truer than ever:
“Just create great content!”
“Content is king!”
“Build a quality site!”
But what is “great?” How do you measure “quality?”
You can’t evaluate content quality without considering the expectations of the user. It doesn’t matter how well the content is written if it’s out of sync with the user’s expectations. Great content, in the context of search, means you have moved beyond SEO to Search Experience Optimization (SXO).
The Search Experience Starts On Google And Ends On Google
Typically, user experience (UX) optimization focuses on optimizing success metrics. Perhaps those metrics are based upon converting users into buyers, gathering email addresses, generating page views or getting users to click on ads.
These are your metrics, not Google’s — they are your customers, not Google’s. With SXO, you need to focus on Google’s customer. This experience starts and ends on Google.
We have access to all sorts of metrics

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The Importance Of Monthly Versus Rolling Average Search Volume

When it comes to optimizing your content, it is critical to monitor search volume data. Properly optimized content will naturally use keywords to best match the queries of users so that interested parties can find and interact with the brand. When you understand the search volume data for different keywords, you will able to evaluate your market opportunity, as well as the potential demand for your content.
In an attempt to reward sites creating quality content, Google no longer shows you how your site ranks for keywords. However, the fact remains that keywords are still an important part of search and content performance.
Types Of Search Volume Data
Information from Google tends to be the most useful, since the search engine giant manages to dominate the industry. Google alone receives an estimated 64.1 percent of desktop search queries. So when you receive your search volume data from Google, you can trust that this information represents the majority of search engine users.
To

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