With the drastic increase in mobile usage, Google has been striving to deliver a friendlier mobile experience to its users. The shift from “local 7-pack” to “local 3-pack” is an attempt from the search engine giant to cater to the mobile screens.
This new focus on mobile is urging local businesses to make changes to the way they are conducting their online listing to stay on top of the search. Some small changes in SEO technique could prevent a business from taking a hit on their online visibility due to drops in their search rankings.
What is Google’s “Local 3-pack”?
Simply put, Google used to show the company information, or “cards”, for seven local companies in the search results on the first page; now they’ve trimmed that down to three.
As a result, Google changed the information that users see when they conduct searches for a specific type of business or service. For example, the local cards for the top seven results used to be prominently displayed at the top of the search results; now, the name, reviews and the type of business are displayed for the top three business on mobile. If a user wants more information, they must click on one of the businesses, which leads the user to that business’s local card. If searching from a computer, the local card for the selected business will still be shown but a map will also be displayed along with the contact information and location of 20 other similar businesses.
Google local 3-pack
Map and list of 20 businesses after clicking on the first result of the 3-pack. Contact information for the business appears here
Why it matters?
What Factors Affect Search Results?
The proximity of the user conducting the search is the number one factor in the local three pack rankings. If a user is standing directly outside of a business and searches for what it specializes in, then it’s likely that the business will be the first to show up in the search results. Since users are often at a distant physical location when they do a search on Google where more factors are taken into consideration, we want to explore some of the other factors that affect the search rankings .
Here are 4 tips that you can easily implement to enhance your local ranking on Google:
I. Having up-to-date information about the business on the Google My Business
This means that there should be a good description, as many high-quality photos as possible, the correct telephone number, address and business hours.
Note: For businesses with multiple locations, in the Google My Business listings, the correct phone number for each location should be listed and the name of location should not be included with the name of the business.
Example: A pizza shop located in the town of Carlisle would be called “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop” as opposed to “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop-Carlisle”
Google will check these against local directories and the company’s website to make sure that everything matches. If a discrepancy is found, this could hurt the business’ position in the local rankings. Make sure that this information is correct and up-to-date.
II. Increase your reviews on Google and other directories, such as Yelp.
How to encourage customers to review your business online:
1. Don’t post fake reviews. Google and other websites do have ways to weed out fake reviews and if they find these, your company could drop in the rankings.
2. Actively encourage patrons to review your business. A little bit of tact could be helpful here. If customers feel like you are begging for good reviews, this could hurt your chance of getting a review and paint the business in a bad light in the customer’s eyes.
3. Respond to any negative reviews promptly. It’s important for the business to acknowledge the customer’s complaint and to inquire as to what may be done to fix the problem. If appropriate, the business can work with the reviewer to find a remedy to the situation (and hopefully receive a better review after retaining the relationship).
4. Don’t neglect the positive reviews! Write a quick thank-you note to show your audiences that you appreciate their support.
III. Categorize your company appropriately.
If a company find that it is not doing well in a certain category, one option is to try to specialize the category that your business is under. An example would be changing the category of a grocery store that specializes in selling natural or organic items from “grocery store” to “health food store”.
IV. Have a mobile responsive site.
Google recently started giving preferential treatment to businesses with mobile responsive sites to provide for a better experience when people are browsing the web from their phone.
Getting a top spot in the Google search results takes ongoing efforts on the part of the business. Any changes to business products and services, location, telephone number, or operating hours should be updated immediately to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available. If a company finds that it’s no longer ranking well under a certain category, experiment with different categories and track the results to find out if there is a category that receives a better response. Finally, monitor your online reviews regularly, and quickly respond to any negative reviews.
With some time and effort, businesses can increase their chances in landing one of the top three spots.
What’s your favorite local SEO tip? Please share in the comments below!
Qinghua Lao & ERC team