Local Search IceBerg

I was having an interesting conversation with an agency client this weekend about why mobile traffic had been flat/down to their retailer clients’ location pages since the end of 2015. My initial response touched on part of the answer:

“I suspect they are experiencing a change in traffic to their site as a result of the anchoring of the Local 3-pack in SERPs that occurred in Fall 2015. Here’s a post I did on this phenomenon at the time:

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

Many retailers saw a reduction in clicks to their sites because the 3 pack was showing up for more queries and often people did not need to click from a GMB page to the site to get the phone number of driving directions. Most companies were not tracking clicks from their GMB pages so this went unnoticed. So in reality they may not have “lost” any customers; it’s just the traffic switched from their site to their GMB pages.”

The subsequent discussion delved into why Google had made this change. And while I guess it is sort of obvious, what could be more SEO than stating the obvious…

Google likely has data that shows that many local mobile searchers don’t give a crap about your website. Most of them just want the phone number or driving directions. You can see it in the difference between desktop and mobile SERP UIs for the same query:


Home Depot SERP 1.5



Home Depot Mobile SERP
























And this analysis seems to be confirmed if you do brand queries for most local retailers. It appears Google thinks the majority of people just want phone numbers and driving directions. But this is really just the huge tip of a YUGE iceberg.

The thing with Local search is it is a lot like everything else in “Local” – vast, and insanely fragmented. And it’s the fragmentation that makes it such an opportunity for us optimizers.

Even if the majority of local mobile searchers want “navigational” info, that’s kind of a one-time thing. But as more of us live on our phones it’s all of the stuff we do before and after these navigational queries where the opportunity lies.

For example, my daughter and I were in our car looking for a store that had the backpack she wanted for school. The first thing she searched was for the type of backpack she wanted, then whether or not a store she had heard of (Nordstom, Target, etc.) had it in stock. Once she had verified that, then she wanted to find out where the store was. I don’t expect Google to work miracles but it seems like inStock schema could help them, and local retailer sites, make this kind of query pretty efficient, if it didn’t think most people just wanted phone numbers. But I imagine it’s hard to get this right for the 99% of local-oriented queries that are not navigational.

What I am driving at is that Local Packs/GMB pages are not black holes.

I mean seriously, track your Google My Business pages. If you are invested in doing more than providing users (and Google) with phone numbers and addresses, you might actually see some traffic and revenue near you.

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