Since the debut of Google's Local Pack in 2015, the art of searching the web has changed. Now that Google has altered their algorithms and switched to the top 3 style of search results for searches, it's a whole new ball game. Now businesses ranked in spots lower than the top three will see a much lower volume of calls and sales than those in the top three. The local pack not only shows fewer listings, but was redesigned to better fit with mobile user interfaces.
Local search engine experts are now left with half as many listings to deal with, and it is now harder than ever to stay competitive. Google also removed the phone numbers from the listings, replacing them with store hours. These changes are better for the user, but they aren't necessarily doing any favors for the businesses. The way a consumer will search for a business or service has changed, and search results have been narrowed to the point where consumers are offered only three top options for their search. This is great news if your business is in the top three, but how does a business manage to get into the top three? Here are a few tricks and tips on how to keep up with the pack.
Know thy competition
Businesses now have to contend with closer search results which offer the consumer three nearly identical products. Thanks to Google's ranking algorithm, you are paired with two others that share many of the same characteristics as your business. This makes it easier for the consumer to get distracted by your competitors' links, so adjust as necessary to stay competitive.
Search results are based on location of the user
Search results are not only ranked by relevancy, but by locality. Trying to get into the top 3 isn't going to be as simple as just having the best site and the most citations. The local three pack results can and will likely change from search to search based on the location of the user. Want more search results? Consider opening more locations or opening your market to a wider area with unique products and services that differ from your competitors. You could also try creating a separate page on your site for each area or location that your business services. You need to establish the proximity of your business location to the audiences you want to serve. Make sure that the address is correct and that it is clear which areas your business serves. Each of your locations probably has its own unique style or a special employee who stands out in the community. Highlight these details. Don't forget to keep important information the same throughout your website, social sites, and links– including name, address, and phone number. Google My Business has a tool you can use to achieve this. Including location information is crucial because Google's search results are now ranked more heavily based on locality. Remember that the closer a business is to the user, the higher it will rank.
Google's top picks are now more likely to rank a site that is mobile responsive over an older site. Mobile traffic now makes up a huge percentage of local searches and Google knows this. Tailoring the search results to give the user mobile responsive sites is now a priority because Google's goal is to give their users the best results they can. The best shot you have of being picked to be in the top three is to feed Google the information it wants to see, especially a mobile site. Having a mobile responsive page is vital because Google ranks mobile responsive pages higher than non-mobile responsive alternatives.
Use your business title and online content
While catchy titles are fun and easy to remember, use key words in your business title that tells consumers what you do, such as Joe's Orthodontics or Joe's Heating and Air. Google likes this. Make sure that your business is listed in all appropriate categories on listing directories. If a listing for a dentist office is placed on a directory for plumbing services, it's not likely to reach your target audience. Consider your content and directory listings throughout all websites, Google maps, and reviews. Be sure to keep your content varied and unique to avoid being flagged for duplicate content.
The presence of your business name, address and phone number, and relevant keywords on your business website helps determine ranking position. The title of your web page is one of the most important elements of your page for SEO ranking. A descriptive and relevant title will help Google differentiate between your page and your competitor. A title with key words that have a higher frequency in search will get your page ranked higher in the local three pack.
Create and maintain as many citations and listings as you can with appropriate online directories. Google looks for the name, address and phone number consistency as well as citation volume across directories. Create as many citations as possible for your business or use a paid service to organically spread the listing to online directories. In short, this is accomplished by listing your business with directories like Yelp, Google My Business, or Facebook.
The quality and volume of websites that link to you, and the number of outbound links you place in your website matters. But not just any link will do. Bad or poor links are useless and hurt your rankings, so you'll want to remove any irrelevant links on your site. If a link isn't going to lead the consumer to a site that is about your service or product, get rid of it because it's hurting your ranking.
You can use back link analysis software to determine the number of links to the business website and the quality of those links. Software like this can tell you easily if there are any negative or spam-like links associated with your site; you can rank the links in a way that help identify which ones to keep. Once you've identified inappropriate or irrelevant links, contact the webmaster of the site and ask for the link to be removed. This is typically the easier way to have them removed; but if you are unable to reach the webmaster and still want to remove spam links, you can use the Google disavow tool.
If your domain has become penalized by Google beyond a chance of repair, you should definitely rebuild with a new domain to have a chance at ranking in Google's snack pack. The best way to get high quality back links is to write high-quality, unique content that makes the people who read it want to share.
When push comes to shove, a few extra reviews can put your rankings over the top and place you above a competitor. Google takes into account how many reviews a business has and the velocity of the reviews, as well as diversity. How do you dominate on reviews? To get more reviews, you need to ask your customers what they think. You could get reviews by e-mailing customers or having a sign in your store asking customers to tell you what they liked. If you're savvy, you could even place a review widget on your website. You could also bribe customers with the idea of a monthly winner in a drawing or some similar reward for writing reviews. Once you've received the reviews, use them to your advantage and promote your business by sharing the reviews on social media platforms.
It may not count for much where Google's ranking algorithms are concerned, but being active on social media is a must. Accounts with few followers or low activity aren't going to rank well, but they also aren't doing you any favors. Be unique and approachable. People love sharing, so create a positive image for your company. Social media is also a great outlet for running promotions and competitions. Asking viewers for likes and shares increases your web presence as well as consumer awareness. Paid ads are a great way to gain initial interest, but after you've gained enough followers, ads may likely no longer be necessary.
Behavioral and mobile signals
This is where Google looks at the data related to your site's click-through and click-to-call rates. You can boost your rankings by increasing interactions with your business through promotions and other content. Creating high-quality, interesting and diverse content will be rewarded with increased traffic and higher rankings. Just be sure that content is on topic and relevant to your industry.
How unique is the content on your website? Original, well-written copy with an interesting graphic make your site stand out and catch the attention of your audience. Your content says a lot about your business and why consumers should choose you over your competition.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of leading the snack pack, and underwhelmed by your ability to adequately accomplish it, you’re in luck. We at OnYourMarketing can guide you through any step of the marketing journey. The consultation is free, so give us a ring.