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.