Local Search

Google Testing Mobile SERPS With No 3-Packs

By March 30, 2021 14 Comments

In the last couple of weeks, Google has been slowly testing a change to mobile search results that is one of the biggest changes I have seen in local search in quite some time.  Last week, Mariano Rodriguez from LawRank asked us if we were noticing more 2-packs in the search results.  After doing a lot of digging, we found that Google has been slowly making some big changes to mobile search results over the last couple of weeks.  The screenshots we have from the mobile SERPs from BrightLocal are consistently showing this change but several people I’ve asked cannot replicate these results on their phone.

According to what we’re seeing in BrightLocal, Google has been changing mobile results so that there are only 2 local results listed, instead of 3.  For example, this is what a user used to see on mobile earlier this month (traditional 3-pack):

3-pack on mobile

And now that searcher is seeing this (a 2-pack):

mobile serp

This change is only happening on mobile, as the desktop SERPs are still showing 3-packs:

For all the cases I looked at, the change was happening on different dates.  For one, it switched over on March 19.  Another was March 24.  A third one was March 16th.  In all cases, when it switched to showing a 2-pack, it didn’t switch back later.

This change, if rolled out fully, could have a really positive impact on businesses that hold the #1 organic position.  With one less result above it, that position just potentially became more valuable. This is true also of 3-pack ads. In this example, because the business has the top ad and 3-pack ad, they dominate 4 out of the top 5 spots.

SERP with Ads

When ads show up in the local pack, they never “count” as one of the listings, so this SERP used to show an ad plus three local results as depicted below.

SERP from March 11

Up until this point, I had noticed very few differences in ranking on mobile vs desktop for local queries.  However, with this change, they are now telling a very different story.

What are you seeing?  Are your mobile search results showing a traditional 3-pack or are you seeing it shrink down to 2?  So far, based on people I’ve asked, the results seem split.

 

Joy Hawkins

14 Comments

  • Ian Scott says:

    I am presently in Greece. On my mobile, searching for “bakeries near me” or “bike shops near me” both show 3 local results.

  • Same here in Switzerland, still seeing the 3Pack for locally based businesses .

  • I’m still seeing 3-pack in my little MSA (even though the results are stupid compared to my query).

  • Alvaro says:

    Hi, Joy, in Spain we see 7-pack, that means top conversion.

    Thanks

  • Jeferson Dias says:

    Here in Brazil, I already see surveys showing 2 packs by cell phone. Will this be bad for Local SEO?

    • Vitor says:

      Muito ruim Jeferson….menos um spot de tráfego pros nossos clientes o nosso perfil….

    • I assume it would make Local SEO more competitive. I also think that, if Google drops 1 location from 3 pack results and show only 2, they will try to incorporate more elements in how they rank businesses in 1st and 2nd position. Possibly, showing those businesses first which are Open Right Now!

  • Interesting find Joy,
    It could be a glitch or that the 3 pack changes are for making space for the $50/mo upgraded Google My Business plans?

    • WOW! That can be a huge deal! So local pack 3 would include one AD and 2 organics! That somehow makes sense, but really scary!

    • Joy Hawkins says:

      There are too many people confirming they see it for it to be a glitch. So far, about 30-50% of people in the US I’ve asked can see it.

    • Boyd Butler says:

      That would be my interpretation too. Although just as likely to have one paid for and two organic. Or three paid for, (as long as you have the right reputation.) The only thing that you can bet on is that Google will make GMB pay to support their profits.

  • Eric Downie says:

    I’m starting to see this now in Western Canada for dental and health-related niches. I haven’t tested much, but it has me sweating that 33% of the 3-pack real estate just went poof. That makes local seo more competitive than ever!

  • Eric Downie says:

    This really sakes things up for Local SEO. One might call it … the 2-Pack shaker …

  • Eric Downie says:

    This really shakes things up for Local SEO. One might call it … the 2-Pack shaker …

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