Google Pulls Local Phone Numbers from Search Display

Filed in Google, Local Search by Matt McGee on November 5, 2009 15 Comments

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 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.

Comments (15)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. D. says:

    I can confirm Google’s removed the option to call a business from Android in the UK too which is a shame because it was such a handy feature

  2. If they are in fact pulling the phone numbers, it’s probably to force people to buy local listing ads (when available) because those include the phone number. So, if you want your phone number to show up in the local listings, you gotta buy an ad.

  3. B.W. says:

    Matt, this certainly looks like a step back.

    Apart from your company name and URL, the only other component for company differentiation and visitor evaluation is the reviews. I guess locals better get pumpin’ on the reviews.

    Even then, one can’t assume that many more reviews are either good or bad without reading them.

  4. rsandberg says:

    Looks to me like Google has taken a page from Chicago and Illinois sleazy politics, its called pay to play (or your out).

  5. Mike Ramsey says:

    I wonder if this is to produce a more accurate click through rate. Could backfire since it makes the process to contact much more difficult, but it will make LBC dashboard stats more accurate for business owners and push the places page.

    It will be interesting to see if this is a test or the future for all listings.

  6. I’m still seeing phone numbers in all the searches I am doing (including the aforementioned Bradford PA restaurants)- hopefully this was an anomaly?

  7. Cory says:

    The changes would help improve Google’s “time on site” metrics and help draw the user into the company’s profiles… perhaps they feel that is more valuable than allowing the visitor to call immediately without first qualifying the company(s) listed.

    We’ve also been seeing a lot of changes w/ “local” type searches, including not seeing any local results when using a specific service query and a zip code. Obviously, we know there are businesses that should come up, but they are not for some reason. Testing to see if it has something to do w/ the recent “local listing Title must match business name” restrictions Google implemented.

  8. Sue says:

    I have to admit the look is cleaner but yes just another level of click through until you get to the number. Reviews seem to be the way to go but you cannot always rely on good ones. Intersting post and will keep my eye out to see if this is a universal change. Thanks!

  9. Brent Nau says:

    Cory – I am seeing the same thing. I check a set of keywords often and am now noticing that the Google Local listings have disappeared from the main search results for those service-type keywords.

    I am also noticing more official business names being presented in the Lucky-7 box and less “keyword-rich” listings.

  10. Walt Goshert says:

    Think maybe Google learned something from PPC crowd using Phone numbers in ads to avoid paying for the click?

    Naw… say it ain’t so!

    They’re just way too busy running all kinds of Beta tests, and not smart enough to pick up on how maybe phone calls for local biz are more important than click-throughs.

  11. Matt McGee says:

    I’ve updated this post with a statement from Google saying it was a bug and they’ve fixed it.

  12. Melissa says:

    Matt, Google maps hasn’t been displaying at all on my local searches for a couple of hours. Maybe they are fixing some things…

  13. Greg B. says:

    It’s day 3 now that the maps have been missing from local search. If I search anything related to local web design or search engine marketing the maps are gone.

    But if I search for say “snowboards Seattle” the map is there. Wondering if the maps will be coming back?

  14. John says:

    So it’s official that it wasn’t intended or at least that’s how they want people to see it.

    Do you guys believe it was really a bug? Kinda sounds fishy, and the way they were able to reply to your email pretty fast is unbelievable. It should take them a day or two to sort out all mails going into their boxes.

  15. Very interesting, I have seen slow changes pretty regularly recently while watching blue menthals blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *