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Are The Top 3 Local Search Results in Google the New #1?

If you are a local business and rely on Google traffic from your local metro area, then I’m sure you’ve noticed some changes lately in the local search results which might dramatically impact your overall local SEO strategy.

Back in August, Google updated their local search results from displaying the top 7 businesses, to now showing only the top 3 businesses for any given local search query.  And I’m writing about this now because, over the past few months, I’ve been hearing a common phrase from our clients that I find very interesting.

The phrase I keep hearing is “the top 3 local search results is the new #1!”

So what are they saying?

Basically, they’ve identified the update Google made to their local search results by cutting the displayed results from 7 (sometimes 5) down to only 3.

The Importance of Mobile in Local Search

Nowhere is this philosophy more true than with Google’s local search results on mobile phones.

Back when Google local showed upward of 7 local search results, the mobile user was left having to swipe down to view letter D, E, F, & G (or position #4 thru #7).

And perhaps this was one of the driving forces behind Google’s decision to cut the search results back to just the top 3.

Because now, with showing only the top 3 local search results, there’s no longer a need to swipe down.

Here’s the local search results for the popular search phrase “atlanta personal injury lawyer”.

google local mobile desktop

Of course, in the desktop version it’s easy to see there’s only 3 search results showing, but you also get a lot of other variations on the screen such as the ads, and the organic search results below the local.

But the real power of the top 3 local search results can be seen on the mobile phone.

Showing only the top 3 local search results on a mobile phone really condenses the relevancy factor for these top 3 businesses.  With only the top 3 local search results showing, there’s a lot less options for someone to chose from, a lot less noise, and a higher quality presence for the businesses that are found in the top 3 results.

And this is why I’ve been hearing the saying, “the top 3 local search results is the new #1”.

Statistics continue to show that the #1 local search result continues to get the dominant share of conversions.  And conversions for local search results means “taps to call” from a mobile phone, and website or directions from a desktop computer.

But it’s clear that being found in the top 3 local search results, especially in hyper competitive markets like “personal injury lawyers atlanta” where there’s hundreds or maybe even thousands of competitors, carries a substantial amount of weight.

The Tap to “Call” button

And perhaps the most relevant factor in Google’s local search results in mobile is the “Call” button.

Notice how the mobile local search results present the most relevant action element for the business – the “Call” button.

Google understands that if you are searching from a mobile phone, the most likely action you would take is to place a call.  As such, they’ve removed a lot of the noise that would prevent that from happening.  They even moved the “Directions” element to a simple hyper text word underneath the address.

So in a lot of ways, the saying is correct.

Being found in the top 3 local search results is perhaps the new #1.

And according to Search Engine Land, Google’s comment on this latest change was “we are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users. This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews and prices, for searches that have multiple results for a given location.”

But from my perspective, the most relevant feature for a local business, at least on a mobile phone, is the “Call” button.


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