Local Listings Crackdown by Google

One very effective way to get high visibility on the first page of Google search results is for a business to secure a spot in the so-called local 3-pack.

Google 3 pack local results


However, securing a top 3 spot in local results so your site is visible in the 3 pack has become increasingly challenging. This is because it’s become way more competitive due to many businesses waking up to the opportunity and competing for a top spot. Compounding this is the fact that there are fewer top spots (prior to Aug last year seven results were shown in a “7 pack”).

There are some industries where the competition has got very aggressive and spamming is rife. The most notable examples of this are locksmiths and plumbers. Often people need these services urgently and outside normal business hours – plumbing emergencies like overflowing toilets or being locked out of your house late at night won’t wait until tomorrow.  As a result, these “I need it now!” services tend to be expensive and highly lucrative.

That means there’s a lot of money on the table to be fought over by competing locksmiths and emergency plumbers. In the States many of the plumbing and locksmith business competing for top spots in local 3 packs have resorted to a taking a gun to a knife fight mentality. Consequently, many of the results in Google local search results are full of spam and scams. This reflects poorly on Google which is taking measures to combat this.

As we reported last month,  Google has been testing a more stringent Google My Business account verification process for plumbers and locksmiths in San Diego.  These businesses had to complete an advanced verification process by 10 Nov. Clearly that date has passed and the impact of this is dramatic.

On 9 November there were well over 60 listings for ‘plumbers san diego’ in Google local search results (with the top 3 appearing in the 3 pack). As at today (20 Nov), the total number of local listings has dropped to six!



The six listings are businesses that passed Google’s  Advanced Verification. And, interestingly, every single one of them has a storefront and all have driving direction request buttons. From this it appears the key to appear in local listings is pass the advanced verification process, be a real business with a tangible physical presence, and have a complete Google My Business profile.

Why should you care?

At this stage, spamming of Google local search results doesn’t seem to be a big problem in NZ. That may change as more and more businesses start competing for a coveted top 3 spot which gets them into the 3-pack.

The advanced verification process Google has been running is a trial at this point limited to locksmiths and plumbers in the San Diego area. When and whether it gets rolled out wider into other industries and locations is unknown at this point.

Irrespective, smart local businesses in NZ should recognise from this the huge benefits of appearing in Google 3 pack results can deliver. If you haven’t already, it’s important to secure and optimise your Google My Business listing(s) to enhance your chances of appearing in the 3 pack.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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