Is Google going to be “Pay for Play”?

If work for a Denver SEO company that mainly focus on helping small business with their local SEO efforts then no doubt the last couple of weeks have been full of sleepless nights. The last 3 weeks Google has really thrown some curveballs at us.

First, they took away the 7 pack, and turned it into a 3 pack AKA Snack Pack. Typically Google slowly rolls out major changes like this, but not this time. It seemed like in matter of 24 hours this change to the “snack pack” was completed. And once this was done, every local SEO was screaming about the changes. You should have seen the message boards light up. Simply amazing!

While this rollout was going on, Google was beta testing their “Google Home Services” in the San Francisco market. Basically, they removed the organic map results completely and put in “pay to play” results. They where testing this for a couple of niches, lock smiths, plumbers and cleaning companies.

The first 3 results sort of resemble the new “snack pack” except, you have to pay to be in these spots. If you click on “More plumbers to view or contact” this brings up more paid spots. The organic map results are gone.

 

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 After the ad box, there are 10 organic results. What I do find interesting is of the 10 organic results there are only 4 real plumbing companies listed. The remaining are from big brands such as Yelp, Yellowpages, Home Depot etc.

There are 21 possible options that a typical user can click on: Three in the “ad box”, “More Plumbers”, 10 organic results and 8 AdWords on the side. Of those only 19% of those results are from local companies not paying to be on the first page of Google. To top it all off, the first local company doesn’t show up until spot 5 in the organic listings.

So with these changes that Google is testing out, how is this going to play into local SEO? I believe this is going to kill any sort of effort to rank maps. Does this mean citations are going to be less important? To a certain extent, yes, but mainly no. I personally don’t think they will carry as much value as they have had in the past. Yes, I know the value has been decreasing over time, but they still help build trust. Also, I have some clients that do get traffic from these sites, not much, but some.

This will kill off most of the SEO’s that do lead generation sites. It use to be fairly easy to rank a site in Google Maps for a fake company. Even with Google + requiring a postcard verification, there are/where ways around that. This is sort of a good thing for local business. Its just a shift money from one company to next. Either you are paying high fee for an SEO company or paying for Google AdWords.

 

 

Test content, to be posted later. Need additional research and sources.