One of the benefits of working with local clients, both large and small, is that we see a lot stuff. Recently we have been conducting a rank tracking project for a large national brand with 1,300+ locations. This has has given us some interesting insights into the move from the local carousel to the local fanny pack. Most often SERP changes, either algorithmic or feature-based, get analyzed at the SMB level. This makes these changes seem monolithic and pervasive as you are just looking at several tiny slices of the picture.
Do you smell what Google is cookin’?
When we started off this project in December, a good amount of this client’s local results were still returning traditional packs even though they are in the prototypical carousel vertical (restaurant):
|December 15, 2014
|3 Pack Exists – Total:
|Local Pack Position – Total:
Before we get into how this was different in January, you should know that we are tracking all of the relevant keywords. We are tracking keywords that are also Google My Business categories, adding the city and tracking it at the ZIP code level.
An example of this would look like “Vegan Restaurant Costa Mesa” and would be tracked by passing zip code 92627 in as the location of the searcher (thanks Authority Labs!). Spoiler Alert – the client is not Native Foods
Okay, back to what we found. Here is the punch line, Google is still continuing to roll out the fanny pack even within verticals. This becomes pretty clear when you look at the January data:
|January 14, 2015
|3 Pack Exists – Total:
|Local Pack Position -Total:
WOW, more 3-packs! This is evident because, duh, the amount of non-fanny pack results showing up has been cut in half. Here is a visualization to make it a little more clear:
There are a few takeaways from this:
1) This provides more support to Linda Buquet’s theory that local results are different across different data centers.
It also seems like the roll-out across data centers is pretty slow.
2) Google may not be going all-in on the fanny pack.
If you combine the slow rollout with all the different local result displays Google has been testing then it looks like fanny pack may not be here to stay for very long.
3) Multi-location national brands should be bucketing their local search data, both regionally and by market size.
This lets you better understand the competitive landscape that your brand is playing in so you can develop specific tactics and stratagies to win rather then relying on “best practices”.
4) Invest more in local organic search.
With all the flux in local, and the fragmentation of local search results, it is probably a good call to reinvest some of that local search budget into a better local organic strategy. Even if Google does go all-in on the fanny pack, you would still want to invest more in local organic because there will be net-fewer local pack results available to show up in.