Google’s Local 3-Pack is an incredibly valuable piece of real estate for local businesses, especially in competitive local markets. Displayed prominently at or near the top of the search results page, the Local Pack contains all of the information a motivated mobile consumer needs to take action and fulfill their immediate need.
At a glance, the searcher can see the name, address, map location, phone number, open or closed status (and closing time, if applicable), number of reviews and overall rating for each of the three businesses Google has deemed best able to solve the searcher’s problem. With a single click, the searcher can get driving directions, call one of the locations, or visit a business website.
The convenience and enhanced visibility of Local 3-Pack listings mean that conversions are now happening right in the search results. Far more consumers will see your listings than will click through to your website—a 60:1 ratio, in fact. And from the Local 3-Pack, consumers can phone, get driving directions and otherwise convert without ever having visited the location’s website.
In this post, you’ll learn what Google is looking for in local listings worthy of the 3-pack right now, which ranking factors impact Local Pack listings most, and how you can help all of your locations improve their local visibility.
What is the Local Pack?
In Google’s search engine results, the Local 3-Pack is a colorful, prominent map listing that presents to consumers the three businesses Google considers most relevant to the query and searcher’s location, and of the highest quality.
Take this desktop query for a “residential electrician,” for example. Google has picked up on the searcher’s location without any geographic context; the search engine assumes that these types of queries are likely local. As you can see, there is no opportunity for a local business to appear organically on the front page at all, outside of the Local 3-Pack:
In this example, the top organic listings are not those of individual businesses, but informational articles and job listings by larger publishers. If your service area-based local business were to appear on the front page, you would need to either outbid all other advertisers or own a Local 3-Pack listing.
On in another example on mobile, the Local Pack is the top result. There are no ads between the searcher and what Google considers the best answer for their immediate need. The listing is designed to immediately convert the searcher to an in-store customer.
If your locations are not appearing in the Local 3-Pack, you are leaving valuable business on the table.
Which Ranking Factors Impact Google’s 3-Pack Listings?
Traditional SEO best practices are still impactful. In 2017, we analyzed the local performance of over 50,000 major brand business locations and found that locations positioned well organically did well locally, as well.
This is in keeping with Moz’s findings in the more recent 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey. Links, on-page SEO, citations, personalization and behavioral signals make up the bulk of Local 3-Pack ranking factors. Simply put, traditional SEO is table stakes; getting your corporate and local sites’ SEO in order is the bare minimum it takes to appear.
Where the real opportunity lies is in the 40% of Local 3-Pack signals made up by Google My Business optimizations and Reviews.
Image source: Announcing the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, Moz.com
Moz confirmed what many local SEOs had theorized: that Google is now giving much greater weight to GMB ranking signals. This is where your locations have the opportunity to shine—and to outperform the local competition.
How Does Google My Business Impact 3-Pack Rankings?
About 25% of the weight of your local 3-Pack ranking signals belongs to GMB—more than any other signals category. If Google My Business management isn’t already a part of your brand’s local marketing strategy, it needs to be in 2019.
Inside the GMB dashboard, you can control:
- Critical business information including business name and category, location and/or service area, hours of operation (with special hours for holidays), phone number, website URL, business description, and more. Having consistent and accurate NAP information across various directories is a positive SEO metric.
- Advanced information such as store code, labels, or Google Ads location extension phone.
- Opening, removing or permanently closing a location.
- Google Posts including Events, Offers, and What’s New, which can dramatically increase the visibility and interactivity of your business listing in search.
- Reviews, which you can respond to within the GMB dashboard.
- Messaging, which allows searchers to contact the location via direct message right from the listing.
- Photos, which can appear on the listing and also in Google Images.
- Users, with different permissions for Owners, Managers, and Site Managers, enabling brands to involve local managers and franchisees in permissions-based content publishing.
As with all other types of local listings management, information accuracy across all of your brand’s locations is critical. Google’s trust in your brand is an important ranking signal, and inaccurate information can result in negative consumer experiences (such as driving to a closed store).
- Fill out every available section in the GMB dashboard for each location and make good use of your ability to incorporate photos and video. Up to 4x as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it!
- If you do not yet have consumers interacting with your location via the Q&A function in GMB, populate this space with frequently asked questions and answers from other areas of your business.
- Use this guide to improve your GMB performance by optimizing local listings and reviews.
- Get the Google Posts Playbook and learn how to outpace the competition using this engaging local content feature.
How Do Local Reviews Impact Local Pack Rankings?
Both the volume of Google reviews and their overall ratings impact both organic and local search results. Reviews account for about 15% of the weighting in Google’s evaluation of your local listing for the 3-Pack.
Reviews can have an even more significant impact when incorporated into your local landing pages. They provide essential social proof for consumers and help others understand the experience you offer, in addition to products and services.
Your reviews strategy needs to close the loop for consumers in each location. Respond thoughtfully to all reviews, whether positive or negative, to show that consumer and every other one who sees the review what they can expect in doing business with you.
- Monitor reviews across the brand within a single dashboard. Real-time listening and engagement help grow and protect the brand while highlighting opportunities for improvement in specific locations.
- Follow Google’s best practices for review responses: Be nice and don’t get personal; keep it short and sweet; thank your reviewers; and be a friend, not a salesperson.
- Work your way through these 10 steps to a smarter and more effective local reviews strategy.
Not sure where to start? Take advantage of a free local audit and see where your locations stand, across the brand. Rio SEO’s local search experts will determine your greatest opportunities and help prioritize your local listings, local rankings, and local reviews optimizations for maximum impact.