Google appears to have removed the phone numbers from map listings (7 Pack) that show in response to local queries. Here’s a typical recent local search result for “dentist, San Francisco”:
Look at that same query this morning. Yes, it’s much cleaner looking but the phone numbers are gone (from all but the Local Listing Ads):
Several things are interesting about it:
- The absence of conventional AdWords (this is very interesting and worthy of independent further exploration and discussion)
- As mentioned, the presence of phone numbers in the Local Listing Ads but their absence from the 7 Pack
This appears to be a global change. Here’s what shows for “sushi, London“:
No phone numbers on the first page. If you click down, the phone numbers are there:
The change appears also in mobile but somewhat inconsistently. Below are variations on the query for “sushi” with and without location from an iPhone:
It may be difficult to see, but there are no phone numbers on the first page in any of the three left queries:
- Sushi, London
- Sushi (Web)
- Sushi San Franciso (Web)
In the final screenshot on the right (“sushi” using the Local tab), we do see phone numbers. Otherwise they’re not present — though they were as recently as a day or two ago. The question is: Why has Google made this change? Is Google trying to drive calls to advertisers rather than organic listings, which now “bury” the phone number below the click:
Is Google trying to combat or prevent this:
The second image is a screen from the European Directories-Skype deal that uses phone number recognition to “activate” (free call) the numbers of European Directories advertisers and overcome the problem of diminishing SEO visibility for local, organic third party links on page one “above the fold.” The removal of phone numbers from the “7 Pack” effectively kills that deal’s value. There was reason to belive that Skype and other directory publishers in the US and around the globe would have done or are working on something similar. If the purpose of removing the phone numbers from the 7 Pack was to kill the directory-Skype deal scenario it would raise anti-competitive issues I believe.
I’m going to ask Google to comment and I’ll post any response I receive from them verbatim.