What is the Local Pack?
The Google Local Pack, or 3-Pack, as some affectionately call it, is Google's idea of the ultimate refined answer to a searcher's query. You do a search on Google for a local service or product, and you get THREE results on top, mapped, reviewed, and linked to the business' site for more info. These highly coveted spots are listed after sponsored ads are listed, but they show the consumer that you are one of the best possible choices for his or her need.
Why does this matter to a small business?
The average person performing a web search is not likely to keep pursuing an answer to their questions much past the top 3 answers. Google knows as well as consumers that the first 3 options are typically all a person searching the web will need to make their final decision.
Once upon a time, a user would receive a list of the top seven results for their search; this would include a company name, e-mail address, the star rating, a list of reviews for the company, and a name, address, and phone number box to the right. Now, with the changes Google has made, the user is presented with a map on which the businesses are located with a red pin, and the top three candidates for the query are presented with their star rating, an address, whether or not the business is open or closed, and the clickable options to navigate to the business' website or get driving directions.
These changes are all about getting the audience to click or visit in person rather than weighing their options. Customers want more instant gratification to their search results. Instead of telling the consumer here are a few businesses that might serve your needs, and giving details about the company to aid in a decision, the new style pushes the user to make a quick decision and act. There is also more focus on the local small business rather than a big chain store when the person searching asks for a business "near me".
How can the Local Pack help?
It's important to any business to have a recommendation from the 3 pack, because consumers know that anyone listed in the 3 pack are the best results tailored to their needs, based on their search. The key to local pack searches now is the use of tech with an assistant AI like SIRI and Alexa. Consumers now ask, for example, to locate a store or eatery "near me." Since October 4 2011, when Apple first introduced Siri, the key phrase near me has been on the rise. This advancement has caused Google to change their algorithms for ranking sites to help consumers find the best possible results with a local intent.
Thanks to the ease of a Google search from a mobile device, a consumer can have an idea of an item they wish to purchase, and execute a trip to the store to procure the item, almost instantaneously. A consumer now only has a few simple steps from search, to store, to get what they want. If a local business has what the consumer wants, but they don't have the web presence to get them there, then they are missing out. That's why being in Google's 3 pack is so important to the growing businesses out there.
How to get into the 3-pack.
Businesses that are optimized for a Google local search stand a better chance of ranking in the top three of the search result almost every time. The following six suggestions are ways to keep Google's algorithm happy with your business and keep your name at or near the top of the list.
1. Make sure your Google+ Local page is completely filled in and up-to-date.
2. It's also important to cultivate your reviews. Receiving multiple positive reviews is highly beneficial when it comes to visibility.
3. Be sure that your listings throughout the web are all current and accurate; consistency is one of the main things the ranking algorithms look for. Think about consistency in phone numbers, hours of operation, address, website, etc.
4. Cultivate locally relevant links to boost your visibility. This is achievable by sponsoring local nonprofits and events or joining the chamber of commerce.
5. Build standard back links; this raises your organic rank. (Organic means naturally- occurring, non-paid rankings.)
6. Build a strong presence on social media and other platforms; this helps to establish that yours is a business with followers.
A strong presence on social media boosts your rankings because it shows the Google algorithms that your site is like-able and has high visibility in the local community. A small business that is listed on a few local listings without much traffic can beat out a big chain location in the area, thanks to the Local Pack algorithm. Google wants to give their searchers a good experience by emphasizing the local result rather than the big chain, because that is what their searchers typically want. As many as 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases; this means that a local search in your area is likely to bring in new customers and revenue.
The power of the review.
If your business' web presence is already optimized for Google's local search, another logical approach to increasing your standings in the 3 pack is by focusing on reviews. Google's ranking algorithm is more likely to give top rankings to a business with multiple reviews. The more positive reviews, the higher the algorithm is likely to rank the listing. Businesses with more positive reviews are ranked higher in the top three listings 63% of the time. A listing in the top three local results typically have an average of 7-8 reviews. Consumers who search locally are ready to buy and are positively influenced by reviews in their decision-making process. The algorithm takes into account the quantity of reviews, and the diversity of the reviews. Reviews written by Google + users give a higher impact than reviews written on other sites like Yelp.
Now that your business has achieved the goal of being in the coveted Local Pack, you have one last reason to love reviews. Not only does the higher quantity of reviews generated for your business help your ranking, but they help the consumer make their final decision. You are still competing with the other top two businesses in the 3-pack with similar products and services. Reviews help define your image for your customers; reading reviews can help speed up the decision making process. The more positive reviews you have, the more likely your site is to attract clicks. So be sure to optimize your chances of generating business by ranking your reviews.
As a consumer, you have likely been using the Google Local Pack for some time. And now, as a business owner, you are aware of its usefulness. It's time to create and implement your own Local Pack strategy so that your business can benefit from the perks of being a top-ranked listing. Take advantage of Google's algorithms and make the Local Pack work for you and transform your small business. Beat out the big guys and use the local listing favoring algorithms that Google's Local Pack has created to help consumers find the best fit for them.