Understanding Google’s Local 3 Pack
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When you search a query that causes Google to recommend some local businesses, it lists three snippet results. This differs from the previous Google local 7 pack that featured 7 local business results when Google first featured these special local snippets. This makes the competition to be featured as one of these snippets even more fierce and means you will need a good SEO understanding to feature your business in one of these prestigious positions.
What is a Google Local Snippet?
Google made a change to their search results page a few years ago to feature additional information that may provide the user with the answer to their query, without needing to click through to a web page. If you’re a local business, this includes information about opening times, events, ratings and even a location on a map. Snippets rely on a special code called ‘schema’ that you need to insert into your HTML to let Google read and display useful information. Google has a Structured Data Markup Helper for this exact purpose.
What does the 3 Pack look like?
When the 7 pack changed to the 3 pack, Google also removed phone numbers and address listings in a move that, combined with them also removing 1-click methods to access that data, increased competition even further. This is because searchers have to look for your business information on their own, and all clicks that searchers perform lead to a list of the competition. Clicking on a listing opens up a map with a pop-out detailing additional information for the business that was clicked (reviews, a website button, directions), but also a long list of 20 competitors. It is clear that Google thinks local competition benefits its users, but what might be less clear is how their local 3 pack affects local businesses.
Effects on Local Businesses
The idea of only featuring 3 local businesses per search suggests that local businesses will have a more difficult time being featured, and life will be a little harder for them from now on. However, upon closer examination, it seems that the 3 business listing may actually increase the exposure that businesses get from Google. This is because the top local results are not set for an area – for example, if you’re searching for a dog groomer in Manhattan, you won’t get 3 results every time you search. The results vary depending on your IP address. The way the Google algorithm works is that even if two searchers are searching for the exact same term, but with a couple of miles between them, they will see different local packs in the SERP (search engine results page). The top 20 competitors list does tend to stay the same, however, with those featured in the 3 pack always being picked from this list to try and implement a higher search visibility distribution.
The 3 pack also means that searchers will likely navigate to the map with 20 businesses displayed in a list, which increases a business’ chance of being seen, even if their SEO doesn’t allow them to place highly on the list. However, the 20 businesses have few markers of quality available other than Google ratings, which means that if a business’ client base is not the sort of demographic to give Google feedback about the business, they may be unfairly viewed as less trustworthy than their competitions.
Effects on SEO strategy
If you want to amend your SEO to utilize the benefits of being featured in Google’s local 3 pack, you should first commission a local SEO audit to assess what needs to be done. Depending on the results of said audit, you may need to change your SEO strategy in the following ways.
- Amend your ROI variables for local SEO from an exact rank in the local pack to consistently being featured in the top 20 map results, as it looks like it is impossible to be featured consistently in the top 3 from several different locations in your area.
- Fill out your Google My Business page, and do it properly. This ensures that your snippet has the richest data available, which can make your site look much more trustworthy than a competitor with an incomplete Google My Business page.
- Make sure you have a long, unique description of your business, complete with links.
- Make uploading as many photos as possible one of your top priorities.
- Make sure your business address and name are consistent with the address on your website and any directories you may be featured in.
- Encourage your clients to review you. This is very important because if you have great reviews potential clients will scrutinize you less, go in with a more positive mindset, and perhaps choose you over a competitor with a worse rating.
- Google reviews are reviews that come up in your snippet, but having good Yelp reviews, as well as TripAdvisor or any other online directory, also helps. This is part of SEO, as business reviews can directly impact search rankings.
- Ensure you have your full name, address and phone number on every page of your website (and make sure they’re all consistent with all mentions of your website in any online directory).
- As with all SEO strategies, make sure you have good link building. Backlinks from around the web are very important, but local SEO is special in that local links are preferred. To be featured in Google’s local top 20 lists, the highest quality sites to link back to yours are those that are locally based and very relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a café, getting a shout-out in some local coffee blogs will really help.
- Embed a Google map with your business marked on it into your landing page, which is a form of on-page optimization that offers a lot of value.
In general, one of the most valuable ways to ensure that you can get value from being featured in a local 3 pack (or the top 20 list) is to focus on your rating and reviews, as such an organic indicator of quality is good for SEO, as well as customer acquisition.