What if I told you that your local business can show up higher than a national business in Google search results?
That may seem crazy, but for local businesses, one of the best ways to compete in Google search engine results is to show up in the Google Local 3-Pack.
Being local gives your business an advantage over larger companies that have no local presence.
If you can get your business into the Google Local 3-Pack, it’s a shortcut to Page 1 of Google search engine results. We’ll show you the first steps to take.
What is the Google Local 3-Pack?
If you type ‘restaurants’ into Google right now, you will get a list of restaurants in your area of town….the restaurants most relevant to you geographically. These listings are at the top of the page in a special list accompanied by a map.
When does the Local 3-Pack show up?
Any time that Google determines a search has ‘local intent’, it will show a Local 3-Pack at the top of the results page.
How does Google determine if a search has local intent?
Google hasn’t published a definitive list, but generally speaking, the following types of searches have local intent:
- Search phrases that contain a geographic reference such as a city name or zip code (like “Web Design in Alpharetta”)
- Search terms that contain the phrase “near me” or similar
- Searches for services that are typically fulfilled by a local business (like “bakery” or “yoga studio”)
Google Local 3-Pack SEO can Yield Results Faster Than Organic Alone
When trying to prioritize a digital marketing budget, it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts.
SEO is a long game, but for local businesses, getting your Google My Business (GMB) profile can be low-hanging fruit.
1. Do this first: Claim or Create Your Google My Business Profile
Before you can show up in the 3-Pack, you have to have a Google My Business profile. If you aren’t sure if you do or don’t, it’s easy to check if one already exists.
The following 2 videos explain 1) how to claim or create your Google My Business profile and 2) How to Verify Your Business with Google.
Don’t wait to do this….sometimes the verification process can take a while. As soon as you have the permanent local phone number and address for your business, proceed.
2. Optimize Your GMB Profile
Just claiming your profile won’t be enough to make your business start appearing in the 3-Pack. We recommend improving your business information as much as possible:
- Enter complete and accurate data on your profile.
- Verify your business.
- Keep your hours accurate.
- Add Photos.
- Manage and respond to reviews.
3. Start Asking for Reviews on Your GMB Profile
I love this one because for most local businesses it has HUGE impact and you don’t need any technical help or advice to get it done.
In the recent study of 2016 Local Ranking Factors by Local SEO Guide, of the “ordinal variables”, Reviews had the highest positive correlation with Google Local Pack rankings.
Our Local Resources Page includes some links to resources to help you in your quest to ask for reviews.
2017 Update: Google 3-Pack listings now show stars starting with just 1 review instead of 5.
Prior to February 2017, a minimum of 5 reviews on your Google My Business page were required for your listing to display with the number of stars instead of a link that says “1 Review” or “3 Reviews”.
Google also now calculates ratings using a straight average instead of a Bayesian average. This means that a company with a single 5 star review can have a higher rank than a company with 9 5-Star reviews and a single 4-Star review. However, a straight average is better understood by both consumers and business owners.
What to do if Your Market or Vertical is Really Competitive
Certain markets and verticals are highly competitive… where the 3-pack is already full of heavily reviewed local businesses. In these cases, just publishing and optimizing your Google My Business profile will likely not be enough to get your business in the 3-pack for competitive search terms.
There is no easy fix for this situation except to really step up your organic SEO game.
Local SEO works hand-in-hand with Organic SEO. You will get the best results by having a website that ranks well.
In the same Local SEO Guide study of Local SEO Ranking Signals, the “categorical” variables show that the Organic Ranking of a website has the highest correlation to Local 3-Pack rankings.
Some Final Thoughts to Consider (from the experts)
When it comes to Local SEO in 2016, if you are not invested in links and your website, and instead focus predominantly on traditional Local SEO areas like Google My Business and citations then you are going to be at a competitive disadvantage.
Now don’t misunderstand, in markets and verticals with less competition you can likely do fine with just the basics… For now. However, given this study it seems like Google is working on expanding the scope of what it takes to rank in local search. – Local SEO Guide