Update, 11:45 am: After emailing Google to ask why the phone numbers have been removed, a Google spokesperson replied back saying it was a bug:
“For a few hours this morning phone numbers were not displayed as part of local universal search results on Google. This was a small bug, and we quickly fixed it.”
It looks like Google is making more small changes to how its displays local search results — but these are small changes that might have a big impact on both local businesses and the users searching for them.
Missing Phone Numbers in 7-Pack
On a number of searches I’ve done, it appears that Google has pulled phone numbers from the 7-pack display. Here’s a screenshot of an old search from Bradford PA restaurants that I’m borrowing from Mike Blumenthal for the sake of comparison:
And here’s a screenshot of that same search conducted just now. Notice that the phone number of each restaurant is gone.
It’s certainly a cleaner look for the 7-pack, but it adds another step in the process of search-find-contact. Phone calls are the lifeblood of most local businesses, and it’s now harder to find local phone numbers on Google.com searches. That’s bad both for the businesses and the customers who want to contact them.
Google asks “Is this accurate?”
The other change I’m seeing is to individual local OneBox listings. (What are we calling these? Authoritative OneBox?) Not only is the business phone number also gone from this display, but it’s been replaced with a question from Google: Is this accurate?
If you click on the question, Google asks you to confirm that something’s wrong — either the address, phone, map, or business info. is wrong. (I have no idea what happens when “Confirm” is clicked.)
This is similar to how Yahoo has allowed users to indicate bad data in local business listings since early 2007. But in Google’s case, you can only hope that they have several layers of safeguards in place to prevent the obvious spam/sabotage opportunity that this presents.
Your thoughts on these changes? Comments are open.