As the legend Mike Blumenthal reported about a week ago, Google has moved from the local 7 pack to a local 3 pack.
What does this mean?
The “pack” concept is an industry term meaning that in local searches such as the one in the image “service” + “geography” where Google chooses to show the map results with pins, they typically showed 7 businesses. This mean small local businesses had a shot to get on that first page by really boosting their local search presence. Though local has been tied more to organic presence in recent years, it was still deemed as a little easier to get to the top of local than organic via good reviews and being close to the center of the geographic search area.
Now you may need to adjust your focus. Though Google does sometimes change its mind on these things, it appears with the substantial roll out of this change that it is at least here for a while. If they changed it again, I’m sure it would be bases on significant user data differences rejecting the 3 pack as compared to the 7. I would also see them adjusting by keyword from 3 to 5 or 7.
If you are a local business that is showing up 5-7 and on that first page with your local presence, and you are significantly behind in reviews and citations to the 1-3 ranked competitors, it may be time for you to focus some budget on building organically now that organic is getting a bigger portion of that first page. Also, organic strength feeds local strength, so you would still be adding to that strength. Of course if you have enough budget to continually boost both, that is even better, but for those choosing, organic may be the route to take now.