Adjust Your Local SEO Strategy - Google Local 3 Pack Shake Up
In early August, Google made some major changes to its "Local Pack" search results by opting to show three results instead of seven. Here are some ways to adjust strategy in order to stay on top of local search.
Google's decision to show fewer listings seems to be motivated by mobile. "Three-pack" search results make desktop searches mirror those on mobile with more space for map results and reviews, but less contenders for top rankings. However, search results are hyper-localized, meaning that the three-pack changes pretty often.
Plus, there's an opinion that the top 20 sites listed in the map view seems to be unaffected by the upgrade. This leaves some opportunity for businesses that don't make the top three, though some opposite cases have also been reported.
Have a Strong Presence on Local Platforms
Local searches are optimized based on the user’s location, so that users see the highest ranked businesses in their areas. The first step to gaining this local search ranking is having a strong presence in local search platforms or relevant review websites. A few of the top ones to consider include;
Google My Business: Google My Business, previously known as Google Places, used to be the first stop for anyone looking to make a dent in local search. One thing that is hugely popular on Google My Business is Google Click to Call, which generates about 30 million calls a month.
Yelp: Yelp is a popular review site that allows your customers to leave reviews of your business for everyone else to see. Not only will Yelp give you an opportunity to get great feedback from your customers, it will also allow you to set keywords for your local area.
Trip Advisor: Trip Advisor is relevant to those in the travel or hospitality industry. It allows users to review your business, upload photos and give you a rating out of five. It also gives you the ability to address any negative reviews.
The list of local search platforms is ever-expanding, and is specific your industry and what is popular with your target market. To get the best out of your local SEO campaign, you should use local search outlets as much as you use global sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. When it comes to local search, 45% of all searches are specifically goal oriented; meaning these users are ready and willing to buy.
Localize Your InformationOn your website itself, and on your social media platforms, your content should be localized. The first step in doing this is ensuring your business address appears in a searchable part of the page (for example: not as an image). Your content should be locally specific as well, with the location of your business occasionally referenced in the text.
Make Sure You Go MobileAnother thing to consider isn’t just how heavy your local presence is, but how your site looks when you get those users there. About 61% of mobile searches result in a purchase. If these highly motivated leads can’t easily navigate your site, those purchases are going to your competitors instead. As up to 25% of all internet traffic originates from a mobile device, it is imperative that your website accommodates these users.
Fully integrating local search into your campaign requires three important steps. Your site and your social media sites should include some local information. You should have a strong presence on local search platforms. Finally, you need to have a site that is easily accessible on a mobile device. Those businesses that embrace local and mobile search as part of their campaign are the ones who will manage to stay competitive in the constantly evolving digital marketplace.
Reviews MatterGoogle has removed phone numbers and exact addresses from search results, but starred reviews remain. Therefore, businesses hoping to both crack the top three and see traffic from that ranking need to make sure they've got a high volume of good reviews, according to Shotland.
"Based on the current display, particularly the local finder, it does appear that ratings and reviews are much more prominent in the UI," Shotland says. "So focusing on making sure your business has a high rating with a decent amount of reviews should be a priority."
Double Down on Link-EarningOnce you break into that hyper-specialized top three, Rozek says, you're going to want to stay there. And increasing link-earning efforts is one of the best ways to stay on top of local search results.
"Even if you inhabit a smaller pond, you'll still want to become a bigger fish. So to that end, I'd suggest doubling down on your link-earning efforts," Rozek says. "Start with easy links, like joining at least one local Chamber of Commerce, joining an industry or professional organization, and maybe getting accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Of course, there's an infinite number of other good links you can get, but those are a solid start and often overlooked."
Make Sure Local Efforts Fit Into Overall StrategyChanges like the three-pack updates are a given, and the best defense is a good offense, according to Mike Blumenthal, owner and local expert at Blumenthals. Local search efforts have to be integrated with a strong overall strategy to make an impact.
"I have long been a proponent of a mixed approach to local search that involves a strong website, a strong local presence, and strong locally-focused marketing campaign that keeps the brand prominence of your business high," Blumenthal says. "If you follow this tactic consistently, you will have the best on-going position to deal with the constant change."
For more about how to prepare your local business for the three pack upgrade, read our full Local 3-Pack SEO Guide.