Local SEO: The Ultimate Guide to Google 3 Pack
According to the real-time intelligence data gathered by GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications), over 5.22 billion people use smartphones. It means roughly 67 percent of the world’s population carries mobile devices. Moreover, almost all smartphone users utilize Google search engines to perform a preliminary search for local services.
About two decades ago, if you needed an ax or saw, you’d probably search your phonebook to find a hardware store close to your home. If the store happened to be out of axes or saws, you might search for another store to start the process all over again.
Now the scenario is entirely different because you walk around with super-fast and technologically advanced tiny computers in your pocket. In this day and age, if you need an ax, you simply search on Google “hardware store near me,” and three nearby hardware stores pop up within seconds. These first three results are displayed because of the method that Google uses known as Google 3-pack.
Considering the same scenario another way around where you own a local hardware store. Securing any of those top three Google search results would be essential for business. Due to the fierce competition, ranking your business at the top Google search results is becoming very daunting. You have to absolutely nail your local SEO to be seen by your online customers.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the various methods and techniques to optimize your web portal in order to boost your online presence and increase traffic to you website. Local SEO also helps you to increase your brand awareness, leads, and conversion rate from local search. The most common local SEO practices include optimization of your business profile on Google My Business, local keywords, and building NAP (Name, Address, Phone) citation.
Why is Local SEO Important?
The following fascinating facts and figures regarding local SEO are self-explanatory why it is important for your business.
· According to ThinkWithGoogle statistics, the local-bases Google searches containing the “near me” keyword have grown about 150 percent. It is faster than the traditional searches that do not contain “near me.”
According to another ThinkWithGoogle report, about 74 percent of the people who search for local services through their smartphones visit the nearby stores that day.
These stats clarify that in the SEO world, local Google searches form a huge chunk. It simply means that getting your local business appears against Google searches is imperative to increase the number of walk-in customers.
Website Analytics is Not Enough!
If you think that local SEO is all about website analytics, then you are undoubtedly missing out on the power of local SEO. You should pay attention to your website analytics, but you should never forget that local online Google searches also include local business listings.
According to the research, about 67 percent of the customers search for a local business online before even stepping into any stores. Other research suggests that 87 percent of customers consider local business listings before purchasing anything. That’s why, in order to understand how your local business ranking affects customers and how to utilize the local SEO for real-time traffic, going beyond website analytics is essential.
A Sparktoro study reports that in 62 percent of the local searches carried out from mobile devices, consumers don’t tap the Google search results to visit the business’ web portal. Moreover, RIO SEO data suggests that only one person out of 60 Google 3-pack results visit the business’ website. It seems that people search for local businesses just to gather information from the local Listing in order to visit the store in person. In either case, if your business is not at the top three results, it might as well be invisible.
Let’s discuss the Google Local Pack or Google 3-Pack in detail.
What is Google 3-Pack?
In order to feature the brick and mortar stores alongside the top local business searches, Google gave local business owners a local pack. At first, it used to show seven relevant search results for the local businesses. Later in 2015, Google decided to cut down the local pack search results to three from seven. There were many reasons behind this decision, such as showing more and better information like photos, prices, and photos.
It was a beneficial decision for the businesses already ranking on the top three results and having multiple branches across many locations. But the businesses ranked below the first three local pack results faced plenty of disadvantages because their organic traffic suddenly vanished.
That’s where the local SEO techniques and efforts came into play, which helps businesses to regain and retain their position in the first three local pack results.
Importance of the Local 3-Pack
The first step to understanding the gravity and importance of a local 3-pack is to perform a simple search on Google with the services that your business provides. If your business appears in the top three nearby results that are shown in a box with Google Maps, as shown in the image below, then kudos!
If your business does not appear in the top three results, then it needs some SEO work, and it’s worth the effort. Because 93 percent of the time, the local pack results appear on the Google search results page. If your business is listed there, it will increase the chances of your sales. Moreover, according to the Advanced Web Ranking Report, the top three local pack results receive 34, 15, and 9 percent of the total clicks, respectively.
The goal of local SEO is to ensure that your services appear against the relevant searches performed by local community members, whether you’re online or offline. Your business must be ranking in the local pack results against all the relevant keywords. Keywords, if you are not already familiar, are the words or the combination of words people search online for services and products. Different types of keywords are used for different purposes, such as “high conversion keywords” means that people are buying against them, and “high volume keywords” mean that people are searching for them very frequently. Sometimes the “high conversion keywords” are overlapped with “high volume keywords,” and optimizing your business for such keywords provides even better results. The goals or your local SEO efforts are to rank your business in the first three results of the local pack, and we will help you to get there.
How to Rank in Google 3-Pack
It is essential to observe and understand the bigger picture of all the SEO techniques and their purposes. Not only do they play a critical role in enhancing your business’ ranking and reputation, but they also increase your revenue.
Sign Up to Google My Business
We are assuming that you have a well-developed website for your local business because it is a no-brainer in this era of technology. Your business website allows you to attract more online visitors to inform them about your services in an efficient way. It helps your potential customers to understand your business better and increases the chances to convert them into walk-in customers.
What If You Don’t Have a Business Website?
If you don’t have a website for your business, it doesn’t mean that you cannot rank your business in local pack results. In fact, GMB (Google My Business) allows you to manage all these things regarding your business and generates a website for your business automatically.
When you sign up to your GMB free account, you can edit and manage all the information about your business, such as an address, open hours, contact number, and more. All of this information will appear with your business in one place once it starts ranking in Google’s local pack.
On behalf of your provided information, Google My Business will generate a website for your business. This feature is very useful for those people who do not have a website for their business and cannot make one either because of busyness.
Google My Business services also allow you to feature the reviews and ratings of your customers with the search results. It helps other people to know about the customer experience and quality of the services that you provide. The higher the ratings with positive reviews, the higher the probability that potential customers will convert to real ones.
This leads us to the importance of gathering customer reviews. Let’s talk about it.
Gather Positive Reviews
The value of recommendation and positive reviews can never be overstated. If you are running a business, you must have already sold your services because of the word-of-mouth strategy and gathered some reviews from local people. Taking such positive reviews to the web in order to rank your business in the local pack can work wonders.
Customer reviews actually serve as user-generated content that affects your business rankings positively. You need as many positive customer reviews as possible if you want to improve your rankings and conversion rate. However, it isn’t always easy to gather user-generated content because many customers leave before you ask them to provide a review for your business.
How to Gather Customer Reviews
There are many other methods to generate customer reviews if you don’t get the chance to ask them directly. Some options are:
· Contact happy and satisfied customers through social media
· Generate an email address list to send emails asking for reviews
· Place posters on your website that customers can scan to write reviews
· Reward your own team members who gather positive customer reviews
· Reward your customers who provide reviews with an incentive to encourage other people
· Send newsletters on a regular interval requesting online reviews
You have to make it easier for your customers to provide you with their thoughts, and you have to strive for that by utilizing all the possible means. Most importantly, the key to getting more positive reviews is to provide exceptional customer care and support. If your customers feel happy with your services, they will return the favor in the form of some excellent reviews. That’s why providing a seamless customer experience is essential, and you have to train your sales staff and other team members accordingly. It might help you to generate excellent customer reviews without going into the hassle of directly requesting.
SEO for Local Searches
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the foundation and by far the most important aspect of ranking your business at the first three local pack results. As discussed earlier, SEO starts with the optimization of the best and most relevant keywords. You cannot start with your SEO optimization without doing thorough keyword research, and it can be a little daunting.
The most valuable keywords are the ones that have a higher ratio of monthly searches but lower competition. In order to find these keywords, you can utilize online tools such as Google Keyword Planner. Once you have created the list of keywords, you can look up the search engine result pages against those keywords for better analysis.
Many other online tools offer more convenient and easier methods to research keywords. These tools offer statistics about the keywords that you can’t find with manual keyword research. Ideally, the keywords that will work best for your business should have the following properties:
· Must be closely related to your services
· Must have high search volume
· Must have low competition
Keywords with these properties are like low hanging fruit, and they provide you with a head start with your local SEO. Once you have selected such keywords, you have to mention them in your website content, meta descriptions tags, title tags, and URLs. But you have to make sure that the usage of keywords in the content must appear human and natural. It must not feel that you are jamming in keywords in order to rank your business.
Using the most valuable and relevant keyword on your website, assiduously increases the chances of getting your business ranked in the first three local pack results. The best way to optimize the different elements of your website pages you can use tried and trusted SEO tools. These SEO tools allow you to mention the keywords on the right allocated places with the required character count so that you don’t break the character limit rules for different tags.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing)
Another important concept about keywords is LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), which is semantically-related to your targeted keywords. It means that your website pages should be optimized for all the different variations of the words’ combinations. Not only does it increase your website traffic, but it also keeps your content from appearing to be spam. Many LSI tools can help you to diversify your keywords to maintain the readability of your content as much as possible.
Perform Online Marketing
Online marketing is essential for all the local businesses, and it can make or break your online presence. Many businesses still use offline publicity methods such as local newspaper advertising, yellow pages inclusion, telemarketing, brochures and coupons printing, local radio and TV advertising, etcetera. All of these methods are still viable, and they can increase the rate of your walk-in customers. But the internet or online marketing has changed the game. Not only due to the fact that many Brick-and-mortar shops have become optional but also, if your services cannot be found online, it’s just like that your business doesn’t even exist. You can start your online marketing in the following ways:
· Create a social media presence
· Create media relationships by following journalists who cover your industry on social media and share their posts
· Pay attention to your business website analytics
· Provide your targeted audience with the content they desire
· Start a business blog about your services and products
· Start guest blogging
Sign Up for Directories, Listings, and Citations
Signing up for the websites for local citation allows you to enhance and improve your business’ digital presence. Google My Business is a type of local citation, but because of its impact and scale on Google 3-pack ranking, it truly deserves a spot of its own. Other than that, for core structured citations, you can find a vast array of websites that offer local citations. These websites also allow your customers to review your services and products, which can be an excellent way to start building a digital presence for your business.
You also have to keep in mind that your business needs more than just positive customer reviews. That’s why you want to acquire local citations from a specific region or area. Moreover, you can also find online platforms that help local businesses related to a specific industry in creating local citations. The reach of your online citations determines the probability of the ranking of your business in Google 3-pack.
The process of acquiring the best local citations for your business can be grueling because the sign-up process to input business information must be carried out manually. So, if you make any changes to your local business, you will have to go back to your citation sites one by one in order to update them with the latest information. Of course it’s worth the effort because it works, but it must stand your business out from the competition by getting one of the first three results in the Google 3-pack.
Make Sure that Your Business Information is Consistent Everywhere Online
If the information about your business is not consistent online, it will have negative impacts on your business. Moreover, you have to make it easy for search engines and online visitors to find the right information about your services. In order to ensure it, you have to set up a NAP (Name, Address, Phone) as crawlable HTML text on your GMB page and website.
You also have to make sure that your NAP information is provided in the form of texts and not only within the images so that Google crawlers can read it. Placing NAP in the header or the footer is the best practice but whatever your format is, make sure that your NAP information is consistent in all the online places your business exists.
Backlinks are the URLs on different websites that lead the online users to your landing page. One of the most common ways of building your backlinks is acquiring local citation websites for local Listing. Not only does it drive more online traffic to your web portal, but the backlinks also work as third-party recommendations for your business.
Additionally, if some other website recommends your services to online visitors, it is always perceived more reliable because people don’t link out to the services they don’t trust. The higher the rate of your backlinks, the higher your business will rank in the local pack results.
How to Get Local Backlinks
As we have already discussed, one of the most common and effective ways to get the local backlinks is to sign up for local citation websites. Adding the URL to the services page of your website as a part of your local citation can help you to rank higher in Google 3-pack.
Bear in mind that not all the backlinks are regarded as good backlinks, and not all the citation websites allow backlinks to your websites. There are some backlinks that can work negatively and hurt your website as well. All the backlinks which are coming from spammy, low quality, or irrelevant websites are regarded as bad backlinks.
Follow the best practices to find the most relevant and authoritative websites in order to acquire more backlinks. Such practices are not only impactful for online businesses, but they are also very helpful for brick and mortar stores. In fact, owning a brick and mortar store is a distinct advantage for all the local businesses. You can practice the following link building tactics to increase your conversion rate.
· Building good relationships with influencing local community members
· Incentivizing the repeat customers
· Offering discounts to students
· Participating and hosting community projects and offer donations
· Sponsoring the local clubs and institutes
These easy methods help your business to stand out from the competition and also increase the chances of your business ranking higher in Google 3-pack. But this is not something that is regarded as one and done, and you have to monitor your local backlinks consistently.
How to Monitor Local Backlinks
Once your backlink profile is built by using all the techniques that we have discussed, you’ll have to regularly track all of your backlinks. It will allow you to monitor what’s working best for you. Moreover, you’ll also have to monitor when your competitors are beating your business and when your website is getting higher ranks in the Google 3-pack.
In order to monitor your backlinks effectively, you can use any of the backlink monitoring tools. These tools are developed especially for beginners, and they are very easy to use. They come with built-in dashboards that tell you pretty much everything about your traffic, backlinks, rankings, targeted keywords, and more. Using them will also allow you to comprehensively review all of the information about bad backlinks that are affecting your website rankings negatively.
Another very unique feature that these tools offer is to spy the good backlinks of your competitors, which you can utilize to replenish your backlinks. In simple words, these tools allow you to clearly observe which keywords and backlinks are serving your competitors with better rankings. You can then devise a better plan in order to create better content and acquire better backlinks to snatch their rankings.
Create More Local Content!
As Google continues to learn to get smarter, it leads the content creators to write more naturally for the users and not for the Google search engine. Now the main purpose of the content is not about playing with the search engine and Google crawler for better rankings. Now the content writers try to make such content that grabs the attention of a wide online crowd.
For that matter, you need to aim for being the local authority regarding your industry. You can achieve it by promoting your local industry news, gatherings, employees, and other informative content on your website or blog.
Keep top of the funnel marketing techniques in your mind that go far beyond what your business sells while creating content for your website or blog. For example, if your business offers local security and surveillance services, and you want to attract new to the area business, then your content should help those businesses to understand your area and society better.
Make Sure Your Website is Responsive and Mobile-Friendly
According to the stats that we have mentioned already, most of the people now use smartphones for searching local businesses and services. If your website is not mobile-friendly, people will not be able to learn about your services and reviews. It will increase your bounce rate and the website analytics will become muddled and more complex.
Make it easy for the mobile users to find the content they need and directions to your bricks and mortar store. A mobile-friendly website provides your business with the following important advantages:
· Better SEO
· Decreases bounce rate
· Easier maintenance
· Improved loading time
· Improves the user experience
· Increases conversion rate
· Increases mobile traffic
· Minimizes the chances of duplicate content penalty
· Simple website analytics
All of these aspects, directly and indirectly, affect your business to get a higher rank on google search results and also helps to get one of the first three positions in the local results pack.
You need to rank your business on the top three results in a Google 3-pack to maximize your business’ online reach. Optimizing the targeted keywords, online marketing, signing up for citations with consistent information, local backlinking, and local content are some of the most significant ways to get there.
Arguably, following these steps is the easiest and most cost and time effective way to snag the top position in the local search results pack with an improved conversion rate. Optimizing your local business isn’t a piece of cake, but we hope this comprehensive guide will help you to rank your business in Google 3-pack.