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Google and its never-ending shifting of the goal posts

August 20, 2015

Goodbye 7-Pack (amongst other things)

Recently it’s come to our attention that Google has rolled out a global change to the now defunct 7-Pack. If you’re not sure of what the 7-Pack is, what we are referring to is the list of seven local companies that appeared in Google search results directly beneath the Google ads.

The aim of Apex Digital, through a variety of SEO techniques and strategies, is to see our clients breach the 7-Pack which results in increased visibility. It goes without much explanation that those results found lower down the page (and over on page two and beyond) receive less visits for a particular search phrase than those at the top of page one.

What Google has now done is reduced the 7-Pack to a 3-Pack. This is great news for those three businesses within the pack, as they now have less competition (visually) than previous. Those businesses ranked four-seven in the pack are now relegated back to the traditional ‘organic’ results on a page by page basis.


But that’s not all…
Not just content with whittling down the 7-Pack to a 3-Pack, a number of other changes have also been made. For an in depth discussion around the changes, refer to Jennifer Slegg’s article Google Local Shakeup: 3-Pack Only, 7-Pack Removed; Addresses & Phone Numbers Gone.

Some of the more important changes made include:

  • The exact address of the business is now removed – all that remains is the street name.
  • Phone numbers are removed. No longer can you search and just read a phone number off the results to make a call. You can ‘call’ if you’re on mobile.
  • Google+ Links have now been removed.
  • Business hours have now been added to the result.
  • Google reviews are now known as just ‘Reviews’ – the good news is that they are still present!

The most interesting change potentially with all those made is the removal of the Google+ links, especially since the verification and claim process for a business page has been Google advocated for some time now.


So what does the Pack look like?
We’ll if you searched “online marketing new plymouth”, previously the 7-Pack looked like this.

Now the Pack has obviously dropped to three businesses and looks like this (as at 13/08/15)


While on the surface of it, these changes don’t seem too significant, it is the user behaviour that may become unstuck – or significantly different.

Where the previous intention from Google had been to drive traffic to the individual webpages (via the 7-Pack results – and you could claim that they still are considering you need to access websites for additional information i.e. physical addresses, phone numbers), Google have actually implemented an additional step in accessing 3-Pack results. Rather than take you directly to the business of choice, Google takes you to Google’s Local Finder. Here you are presented with 20 local listings, the overview of the 3-Pack business you selected and a Google map with location marker of the business. From this page you are able to view all the information that was present in the 7-Pack prior to the change with the addition of directions.

This is what you’ll see:


Whether this changes user behaviours or potentially just annoys some users is yet to be seen. Rather than use this offering, Google may find users flock to the organic results instead as a more user-friendly alternative. And with an element of skepticism, how long would it be before we see AdWords sneak onto this page?


So what does this mean for you?
It means that it is now as important as ever to ensure that your site is developed and set-up to maximum efficiency in terms of SEO. We’re still advocating the creation of top quality and frequent content provision, chasing Google+ reviews and ensuring your site is appropriately indexed.

What it does mean is that if you’re ranked fourth or lower in the search rankings for your keywords, it’s vital that you take action now and look at every possible option to get into the top 3 (and legitimately using a white hat approach).

It’s important to note that you may never crack the 3-Pack for certain search criteria – there may be a significant amount of competition for particular keywords, advertising budgets of the competitors maybe significantly larger and/or there are some entities that are viewed as the ‘authority’ of a particular search result so you’ll never feature (unless you become the leader in a particular field).

The upside though is that there is now more space for more organic results on page one. What you would expect is that with four less in the Pack, by reason we could assume an additional four entries (minimum, since we’ve actually reduced the amount of content in the individual Pack results) could be provided on page one of the SERP.

If you want to discuss your options further, give us a call or drop in for a coffee to speak to us and see how we can help manoeuvre you into the 3-Pack or up the organic search results.


Image sourced from


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Filed under Apex News \ Digital Marketing

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Add a comment4 Comments

Reply Jim (Author) | September 14th, 2015 at 6:10pm
Hiya- my search results dropped off sharply form August 15th ish. Across 30 odd sites. All of them have dropped at least 30-50 %. I have been trying various things and testing everything. All I can really think of is that Google have simply shuffled everything. Some sites have retained their top positions, but dropped off on other searches. This sucks. They use the promise of "algorithms" and "do no evil" - then once we have built the system for them, they burn us? Sounds like the story of the Great Pyramids. A scam. Still testing things, but looks like a deliberate attempt to force more people onto Adwords.
Reply Paul Walden (Author) | September 15th, 2015 at 10:01am
Thanks Jim for your observation. There will definitely be some businesses/websites that will be hit harder than others. Would love to see the results of your testing.
Reply Paul Walden (Author) | September 28th, 2015 at 5:31pm
Thanks Jim,

Some interesting observations there! Look forward to seeing what else is going on outside of Auckland.
Reply Jim (Author) | September 27th, 2015 at 2:11pm
Well- I have been over data for around 50 clients..
These are the conclusions:
- there is no real pattern that can be seen
- some sites have been hit by region, some by device, some by the removal of spam sites
- not worried about cities outside auckland, or the spam sites.
- no pattern on the mobile devices visitors, although apple devices do seem to be hit slightly harded- might be coincidence
- over all - it seems that Google have shuffled results for lesser keywords. all top ranked keywords remain unchanged- top sites still have their top keyword spots/ rank. but seems traffic on lesser keywords have been effected- which is quite clever, bcos it looks like nothing has happened, but once added up, smaller/ more random keywords can be 50% of your traffic
- in the worst cases, some sites have dropped off 30% in their city (which is all auckland). and no real pattern to it.

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