We’re Seeing a 23.4% Drop in Local Packs

You probably heard that Google rolled out a new local algorithm that puts more emphasis on traditional web ranking signals. You probably also heard that Mozcast was reporting a massive 60% decline in search terms that returned local packs. Mike Blumenthal reported yesterday that the data in this drop could be skewed by the way Mozcast collects its local data by using the “near” parameter. Our Local Rank Tracker doesn’t use the near parameter – it sets the location just like how someone would in their browser – so, we dug into our data to see if we could get a clearer picture on the actual drops.

The algorithm update happened on July 25th. Here’s data from our rank tracker showing the difference in local packs before and after:

  • Thursday July 24th: 448,088 search terms returned local packs
  • Friday July 25th: 343,127 search terms returned local packs.

That’s a 23.4% drop in local packs.

People have been reporting fluctuation in these results though. One day the term will not show a local pack, and the next day the local pack will be back. We pulled data over the past week to see this just how much fluctuation there is. Here’s the data:

  • 2014-07-21: 453,744 local packs
  • 2014-07-22: 455,090 local packs
  • 2014-07-23: 456,128 local packs
  • 2014-07-24: 448,088 local packs
  • 2014-07-25: 343,127 local packs
  • 2014-07-26: 339,678 local packs
  • 2014-07-27: 344,185 local packs

One thing you’ll notice is that there are regular fluctuations happening every day, and this has always been the case, even before this update. Some terms show a local pack one day, and the next day they don’t. We don’t yet know why Google decides to add or drop local packs on a daily basis.

Of course, the big news here is the huge drop off on the 25th.


Which Terms Have Been Dropped?

We decided to looked into which terms stopped showing local packs. I wanted to provide all the data, but there are some branded terms in there. It would not be cool to reveal the names of any of our customers, and I don’t want to manually sift through 100,000+ results to pull out the branded terms, so I’m just going to tell you about the general themes I see in the results. For each of these, I have verified them with a few manual searches in big cities.

Terms that appear to no longer be triggering local packs (based on our rank tracker data and some manual testing):

  • mold removal
  • dui lawyer
  • dui lawyers
  • dui attorney
  • dui attorneys
  • real estate
  • realtors
  • emergency plumber
  • commercial * (painting, construction, remodeling, etc) – anything with commercial preceding it seems to have stopped returning a local pack.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the common themes we’re seeing in our data.


What’s up, Google?

So what do you think Google is up to with this? What have they got against real estate agents, dui lawyers, mold removal companies, and emergency plumbers? Is there a common thread with these business types? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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  • Darren,

    23.4% seems more logical and closer to what I’ve been gathering. Not seeing much of a difference in traffic for any of our clients though. I appreciate your time and effort going into this and I look forward to seeing you post more content related to this update.

    Greg Smith

  • Hi +darren I asked you a question in Googe+ in +mikebluementhal post citing your results: Wondering if results are for US only or including Canasa what’s the ratio ?

  • That is a monster data set compared to everything else I have seen, thanks for publishing it!

    Any idea on 7-pack to 3-pack contraction with that sample group?

  • Great data, Darren. Great request from Mike.

    My question is-> Whose sites replaced the PAC’s. My off the top of my head thoughts are that its directories.

    Can you take that data and go back and search for frequency of appearance of certain well known ubiquitous directories and directory/review sites? If its not the directories…then who? Were the serps filled with smb url’s or something different?

    Here is our long term experience with certain smb’s. We track the following: traffic, adwords traffic, google traffic, google + direct traffic., form leads, total leads(that means forms, emails , calls and walk ins) and sales. Then to the best of our ability which types of leads contributed to the sales. Frankly our sales are different than leads. We have gone through periods of “selling well” and “selling lousy”.

    Our long term observations of a number of smb’s is simply that when ANYTHING displaces our organic visibility, (organic or PAC) we lose leads.

    The anything can be ANYTHING: More ads at the top of the page. Thicker ads with site links at the top of the page, Knowledge Boxes, Hey, Darren: Directories.

    Hey Darren, if a directory displaces our url, even if the directory links to our smb’s we could receive 20 leads, rather than 50 if we outranked the directory.

    But the big point is if 24% of the PAC’s were lost entirely…and a side point is if 7 PAC’s were replaced by 3 PAC’s. The question remains. What URL’s and what type of sites replaced the smb’s in Google’s serps???

    Look forward to your response.


  • Here’s everything I’ve seen so far from this update:

    1. The queries that show 7-packs have changed.
    2. Some 7-packs are now “3-packs”
    3. Kw + city results have changed, and
    are no longer the same as “keyword” with location set to city.
    4. Yelp’s rankings haven’t improved for my niches, it’s
    actually the opposite.
    5. For my niches the Google+ centroid has changed in a
    major way and the map is zoomed out, showing results much farther away.
    6. One kw I follow is “tampa house cleaning”. I noticed that one website is ranking
    organically 1 &2, which are above the map listings, and they are also ranking in
    the map position A. (location set to Tampa). I’ve never seen one website get 3 in a row like that for a non-branded money keyword.

    I’m wondering how this will affect keyword planning for local. You can’t just throw kw+city in the keyword planner anymore. If you’re trying to assess the ROI for citation services for a client, you need to put in KW, and KW+City in GKWP, then set location to your city. If the volume is good, then you need to check that there is still a 7-pack showing! This is because just searching for the kw may no longer trigger the 7-pack.

    Citation auditing just got more complicated.

  • Hi Darren

    Would be very nice for you to share the results of the analysis same as Moz did, for the anlysis to be double-checked and confirmed on a local level.


  • I’ve seen a major drop off of local pack results for my client in the mold removal and water clean up industries. Makes no sense – these are national, legit businesses. They don’t even have that many spammy lead gen portals servicing them.

  • This could be a stretch, Yesterday, July 28th, Zillow announced the acquisition of Trulia ($3.5B), most real estate related SEPRs will now be dominated by Zillow and Trulia. Perhaps the same IB that took Google Public also facilitated the acquisition…

  • Even if 23% is way better than 60+% this is still a major update. We are about to see what is the real impact for all local business owner that are affected – we have few mold removal companies across US and I’m eager to see what’s the aftermath.

  • I saw another extremely significant change from the pigeon update that I have not seen mentioned anywhere. I have tracked for a long time the map pack for the search term “dentist” and “dental”. Prior to pigeon, these search terms would pull a map pack that was tight around the location of the searcher. With pigeon that changed. The map pack for “dentist” now sometimes – but not always- shows a wide section of the city. It depends where you are searching from . But what happens in some cases now if that true local results are lost – you are being show the strongest sites for half a city. An example of this is searching from a specific zip in west Houston, “dentist” gets a map showing the entire west half of Houston – worthless as local results. However if you search “dentist near me” then you get the results that used to return with just ‘dentist”. This is not always consistent – some areas still return their tight local results, other areas show half a city as the “local” results. I am not sure if this is a glitch or something permanent but would be interested to know if anyone else has seen it. Of course where the half city is returned, only the biggest websites show up – the little guy just down the street from you does not show up at all.

  • One of the only factors I see with the industries that were effected, all share some commonalities.

    1) These are perhaps the most competitive industries in regards to Local SERPS

    2) other than attorneys, most of these industries have a high work from home rate.

  • Funny that I should come across this article. I am a painting contractor in Indianapolis IN and Ive seen some wild shake ups lately. First I noticed that my two major keywords had no organics above the pack at all. That was for cityname painter(s).

    Next thing I notice is that my pack rank and organic rank in relation to competitors. They used to mirror eachother and now they dont. Some organics increased for niche services that the big guys dont advertise for too. All in all, if you look at where either listing is compared to the top of the page, Its about the same. That being said my seo efforts are not what they were a few months ago so maybe its more about the authorship recent activity.

    The most interesting to me is how the organic and pack rankings seemed to no longer mirror eachother.

  • Any search terms having anything to do with water heaters have been dropped from the packs.

  • Not sure that Google has anything “against” these industries per se, but these are the industries that are typically flooded with spammy SEO tactics, and Google is probably attempting to clean some of that up. Ironically the tip towards directory listings has given many spammy websites the upper hand…

  • I do SEO and PPC for realtors, they have been hit very hard — much higher than 23% traffic loss. One client has seen 50% loss in overall traffic.

    Between the local impacts from Pigeon and then content pages from Penguin (think individual MLS listing pages) — realtors have been hit very hard.