Google’s Local 3-Pack
When Google reduced its local pack from seven listings to three, search engine marketers went into a tizzy. How were they going to maintain their competitive edge when the rules keep changing?
Rather than panic, let’s examine some of the most significant changes in the local search arena:
- Instead of displaying a business’s phone number automatically, Google now shows the hours that the business is open. This way, search users will know if the business is going to be open when they want to go.
- The business’s address will still be visible, and the user can get the full name, address, and phone number to come up by clicking on the business listing.
- Where Google used to link to a business’s Google+ page, now they promote the business’s own website, which is preferable for the business anyway.
- Because customer reviews are tied to Google Maps, they are still prominently featured.
So what is most important in local search in the wake of the changes? Trying to compete for a place in the 3-pack is futile because the listings in the 3-pack are determined by the user’s location. Users will want to research their options.
How do you win, then? The best way to win at local search is by playing Google’s game and providing as much information about your business as possible so that users and Google will both be happy.
There are several ways of providing this information, including:
- Google Maps
- Offline marketing
- Your website’s on-page content
- Your website’s off-page information
- Local reviews
- Local backlinks
If you have more than one location, you will want to have separate pages for each city/location where you do business. All of the content on each pages should be unique and distinct from the others. Make sure that each page has Google Maps embedded and has Schema markups on the address, business name, and phone number.
Note: if you need to know how to include Schema markup, visit www.Schema.org/organization. To check if your Schema markup is validating properly, you can use the Structured Data Testing Tool.
- In terms of off-page signals, you should not ignore local directories like Yelp, YP.com, etc. SEO PowerSuite can show you which directories matter most in your industry.
- When you’re making sure your directory listings are correct, you also need to be certain that each of the listings matches so that Google knows exactly where your business is located. In addition, you will want to try to get your business ranked on your top 10 industry directories – yo can monitor this using SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker. (Go to Preferences —> Alternative URLS and enter all of your URLs for your listings.)
- Google Maps will already have your address and phone number if you’ve already registered for your Google Maps listing.
- You’ll need to get some favorable reviews from your happy customers – you have to ask most of the time, but it is well worth the effort.
- If you come across a customer who doesn’t want to leave a review, find out if you’ve disappointed them somehow and then make it right before they leave you a bad review.
- Users can filter their results by the number of stars a business has received, so ignore the customer reviews at your peril.
- Your store hours can possibly give you a leg up on the competition, but you have to make sure that your Schema markup is in place in order for this to work.
Local Review Sites
- Local review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. have become even more important than ever in terms of coming up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Many businesses solicit reviews from their customers on these sites as well.
- Even though obviously your business’s online reputation is incredibly important, your offline marketing shouldn’t be neglected either.
- One way to bolster your online reputation using offline tactics is to sponsor something like a scholarship, career fair, etc. at a local college or university, which can get you a valuable .edu link, a link type that Google sees as especially credible. At the same time, don’t sponsor something purely for the .edu link – you need to be truly invested in what you’re doing.
- Other offline marketing ideas could include joining a local Chamber of Commerce, supporting local charities and nonprofits, and more. These will help your SEO and your business’s offline reputation.
- Lastly, you should use something like SEO Spyglass to see what kind of backlinks your competition has. Then you can get ideas for how to improve your own online presence.
Ultimately, your presence in the 3-pack is important, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of your SEO – you also need to evaluate how your business compares to the competition. Local review sites are going to be an essential part of your SEO strategy as they now receive greater weight on the SERPs. Our industry is one of constant change, but with diligence and a lot of research, you can continue to grow your business’s online presence.