What is Local SEO and the 3-pack?
What is Local SEO?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization and it refers to both the structure of your website as well as the focus on content around critical keywords and phrases as it is part of what search engines examine when ranking you in search results. As the algorithms try to improve, they start to take in a lot more factors and it makes it harder to rank well in a world where more and more websites are created and added to the global results for searches. That is why Local SEO, can be so important for small businesses.
Local SEO refers to the search results applied to a "near me" or local search. These take advantage of a geo location or reference to a city or region to restrict results specifically to that area. In so doing, the key indicators for ranking well change quite a bit. So understanding what goes in to those factors and improving on them is what Local SEO services are all about.
What is the "3-pack"?
When we mention the "3-pack", we are referring to the maps aspect that google displays under ads and above the natural search rankings. Because so many local searches are conducted on mobile and because directions to a place often accompany the need to find a place, the prominence of the maps result reflect that. It used to be that these results contained 5-7 business results where the Company was not only listed with shortcuts to the site and phone, but also pinned on a map embed on the results page. Now, Google restricts those results for the most part to only 3 businesses. This is the Local 3-Pack. Being shown here, above natural rankings and pinned for easy directions, phone and more, lead to a huge increase in walk-in/call-in traffic.
So how do you get there? Well lets start by examining what Google provides for some quick insight.
It all starts with getting listed. So setting up a proper Google My Business account with complete data including quality images and full Name Address and Phone Number (NAP) is a great start. However, it's never that simple. You need other listings as well on sites that carry prominence or "weight" with Google. If you have it in the right format across many different sources, then you will rank higher because Google can be sure that it is listing the right contact info for your business. In addition, becoming active on local listings sites might be the most important single factor for performing well in local search. These include one-off sites like churches or community bulletin boards as well as listings that are more common across different areas, like the website for the local Chamber of Commerce. The more you can appear in these listings, the more Google trusts your business.
When you look at the results, you also see a star/rating system displayed. So it makes it obvious that getting quality reviews helps factor in to being listed as it's always Google's intent to provide the best results possible. Not only do you need positive reviews, but having a quantity of quality reviews looks even better as it shows engagement with the local community as well as gives you the "street cred" to go along with your listing credentials.
One other factor that may be obvious is social presence. Being active and present on key social media platforms build on your credentials. Especially when the data is consistent with other listings (NAP type stuff). Don't forget, you can also get reviews in Social like with Facebook. Having high engagement whether through social or reviews, lends well to being engaged in the community or area you are hoping to show up for. Just like with normal SEO, there are no such things as overnight success. It takes consistency, time, and patience to build up your presence, collect backlinks and listings, and build your community presence. But also similar to normal SEO efforts, your benefits increase exponentially over time as you build up momentum.
The only thing you can do wrong, is to do nothing. Whatever you can afford to do now with your own time, or hiring someone like us to provide the service, it all works towards the end goal of making that 3-Pack. Get your foundation in place with your GMB listing, then work through the rest and eventually you will see the results in search and feel those results in your business growth.