How to Get Your Business Displayed in Google’s Local 3-Pack
Getting your business to show up in Google’s local 3-pack map listings is more difficult than ever, thanks in part to their decision to reduce the number of listings displayed, from the previous seven to now just three. It has caused the local competition to shoot through the roof, as businesses are fighting for those few organic positions.
Let’s not try to think too much into why Google decided to make this change. It’s doesn’t require much thought to figure out why. Less local businesses showing up in the maps listings translates into more local businesses spending money on AdWords to occupy that top real estate above the fold.
Google is a business. They exist to make money. Local business owners need to remember that Google exists for the same exact reason they exist -- to make money. Local SEO is always going to have a purpose, but the ‘pay to play’ business model is how Google is going to continue to make billions of dollars. If your business is currently sitting in the top three local map positions (or has in the past) then you know how powerful those spots are. They drive website traffic, phone calls and location visits. That top real estate is so powerful that paying for it makes sense for most businesses. Sure, organic traffic is preferred, but if it came down to not having a presence or paying for visibility, most businesses would take out their checkbooks.
Just a few random notes about the state of local search and Google’s 3-pack…
- Phone numbers aren’t as prominent as before, but they are still visible. If your marketing goal is to drive phone calls, then I would highly suggest running an AdWords call-only PPC campaign.
- Google+ is almost irrelevant now. Everyone was so concerned that having an active Google+ page was so important if you wanted to rank high in local search. Google+ is useless, and in fact, deleting our Google+ page is on our to-do list. Seriously, when is the last time you used Google+? It’s dead, yet everyone hands on because they are afraid of what will happen to their local rankings. The way I see it, Google+ is just wasted time that could be applied to social networks that actually matter, and can help your business grow, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- Google reviews and stars haven’t changed. You should still implement creative ways to get your customer base to leave reviews. A local listing with several high-star reviews will always pull a higher click-through rate than a listing without reviews. Fact.
Stop over thinking local SEO…
The majority of local searches are being performed on mobile devices, and that number is going to continue to increase. Whether or not your website is shown to someone is related to their search query, their current location and the on-page and off-page optimization of your website.
There are five things you need to worry about in order to be competitive in the local 3-pack these days:
- Perfect On-Page Optimization
- Relevant Directory Listings
- Optimized Google Maps
- Local Reviews
Perfect On-Page Optimization
Google needs to know exactly where your business is located, so it can return your website for searches around your local physical location. If you have multiple locations, whether in the same city or in multiple cities, you need to make sure that each one has a dedicated page. This way, when Google crawls these pages it’s clear what location each page represents.
One of the biggest mistakes I see revolves around the text and copy for each separate location page. You don’t want to use the same content and simply change the location and address. Write unique content for every single location page, and take this as an opportunity to optimize these pages for multiple location-based search terms. In addition, you will want to include an embedded Google map on each page, and Schema markup on your NAP (name address and phone number).
Relevant Directory Listings
There are a lot of directory submission services out there that will automatically submit your NAP data across hundreds of business directories. While it sounds good, it’s a horrible idea. The last thing you want is your business information tied to spammy low quality directories.
Spend some time and manually submit your business to relevant directories. There are mainstream directories like YP.com and Yelp that will apply to everyone, and then there is also a good chance that there are a handful of industry specific directories that you can also add your business to. If your budget allows for it and if your business qualifies, becoming accredited by the Better Business Bureau is another great listing (and link) to go after.
When you are submitting your business NAP to all of these directories it’s important that you enter your business name, complete address and phone number exactly as it appears on your website. Writing out “Suite” on your website and then abbreviating “Ste.” on your listing can cause problems. Being consistent will help you avoid multiple listings and issues down the road.
There are several ways to audit and monitor your local listings, as well as give you some suggestions of other directory listings to secure. Moz Local is a good affordable solution, as it’s currently just $84 a year per location. If you are new to local SEO and want an easy way to help you audit your listings this is a great option.
Optimized Google Maps
There are four pieces of data that is shown on Google Maps -- your business address, your hours, your phone number and review stars. When you first create your Google Maps listing you are asked for your phone number and the physical address of your business. This information is entered in manually, so you have full control over it.
The ratings are pulled over, so as long as you have some clever systems in place to get your customers to leave reviews this information will populate and help your business stand out in Maps. You will need to use Schema markup on your website if you want your business hours to display on your Google Maps listing.
There is a benefit to submitting your business across all of the large review websites, and that is additional free exposure. Go ahead and do a quick Google search for local businesses in your area. I am willing to bet that you will see some Yelp reviews show at the top of the search results. That particular website is favored heavily in the search results, so by having your listing included on that website, it gives you an opportunity for increased exposure.
Not only do you need to make sure that your listing is properly optimized on these review websites, but you also need to set up systems that will encourage your loyal customer base to leave feedback on these websites. A local business that has 100+ Yelp reviews on their profile is going to be displayed over a business with none. While you don’t want to ever tell your customers to flat out leave you a positive review (that’s against Yelp’s terms of service), there are ways to let them know that you value their input while also directing them to a page on your website that provides them to links to all of your review profiles.
Links are still the number one Google ranking signal, and they will continue to be important. The term “content marketing” is the hot buzzword, but it’s important to know why content marketing is so important. One of the reasons is because it’s a great way to earn links. You aren’t going to gain much ground just posting content. You need compelling content that triggers social shares and helps it spread across the web. The bigger your reach, the bigger your chance of scoring some links form your content marketing effort.
So, you want links? Here are some ways to secure some high quality links…
- Competition Spying: If you aren’t anywhere near the top of the Google 3-pack then you will want to analyze the link profile of the websites that are sitting in those top positions. There are several tools that you can use to download the link profiles of your competition and then attempt to strategize a way to replicate those links for your own website.
- Local Partnerships: An easy way to get some links is to write down a list of all the companies you do business with. Look to see if they have a testimonial section on their website or a partner page. If you don’t see this, ask them if they would like you to write up a testimonial. I don’t know many businesses that would turn this offer down.
- Educational Sponsorships: Take a look at the websites of local schools and universities in your area. See if they have any scholarship opportunities that you can participate in or any funding requests. Making a small donation to a good cause will often times reward you with a link, as they tend to highlight the local businesses that support these efforts.
- Nonprofit Partnerships: This is the same basic strategy outlined above, but instead of approaching local educational institutions you will want to find all of the local charities and nonprofits. If you don’t see a donation program listed publicly on their website don’t be afraid to ask if they have any opportunities or if they would be interested in some creative arrangement.
Competition for visibility in Google’s local pack is only going to get more intense. Start now, and make sure your business is taking all of the steps necessary to give you the best chance of that priceless organic exposure.