How to Get Your Website in the Google Maps Local Pack

Your business can gain more visibility in Google Maps search results by following the basic strategies of local pack optimization.

Getting your company featured in Google’s local 3-pack, Google Snack Pack, or Google Maps Pack may improve the number of your store visits, sales, increase foot traffic and ultimately revenue. If you are looking to learn which Google Maps Pack strategies can help you rank better in location-based search results, this article is for you.

Google’s Local 3-pack and Local Finder are top ways to get your business information at the top of search engine results. Google’s search algorithms are no longer limited to exact search term and now do a great job of matching search intent.

Google My Business is being more and more integrated with other datasets available on the web. This includes user-generated data submitted to GMB listings, along with the content you provide. Google chooses from data it trusts to populate its Map Pack and Local Finder.

Although Google can certainly pull information from your web pages and reformat it for search engine result pages (SERPs), there are ways help search engines if you pre-format and optimize your content with the intention of it qualifying for a chance at gaining a Featured Snippet. Read the tips below to learn what you can try to increase your positioning in local search.

What is the Google Local 3-Pack?

The 3-pack displays in local Google searches. If a local search serves up a 3-pack, it will always appear at the top of the page. Essentially, the 3-pack is just a new way for Google to display their local search results on page 1 of the SERP. When you search for a type of local business or service, Google gives you a “Top Results” panel.

The Google Local 3-Pack refers to the SERP feature that functions as a map and displays physical places matched to a search query. It includes a 3-point list of businesses as well as their NAP data (name address phone number). While additional features come and go, commonly review rate data, office hours, and a call button is included. Each one of these elements needs to be properly optimized and offer an opportunity for Digital Marketers to ensure that client information is correct.

In the past it was once called the Local 5 or 7-Pack as the number of business listings displayed has been trimmed to 3 for some time. The more it trims, the harder it is to be listed – and the more valuable for the businesses that gain those local pack positions. Google’s updates to its search algorithms can sometimes seem like a rollercoaster.

Consumers want current, accurate and updated information. So that both compels Google to keep evolving and is why your business needs to keep its NAP up to date and provide fresh and relevant answer-rich content for local customers.

Google Local Search Pack Prominence

In order to get in the local search pack, it helps to start with the purpose it serves and why its huge presence in SERPs continues to grow. Here are a few thoughts.

1. Google may be intending that a greater share of local marketing happens on Google.

2. The search giant wants to make it easy for local businesses.

3. As it currently is ad spend driven UX, this may boost revenue.

For the sake of a few readers who may feel relatively new to the topic, let’s recap the core components it contains.

What Elements May Present in the Local Stack

Formerly there were complaints that it offers the user NO significant information to the viewer. Today that has changed; Google has made its local maps stack more information rich. With the rapidly expanding importance of mobile search, being observant of new Google Local Pack features helps us better understand Google’s eye on mobile phone browsers.

By expanding the local pack in the search results, maps users can see more details and Google Local Guides can see a business’s most important keywords for competitive analysis. How to Gain Google Local Pack SERP Features

Optomizing for the Local Pack

Many buyers use Google Maps to find brick-and-mortar businesses that offer the products or services that they want and that are nearby. These organic searches are generally location-based and hyper-localized in competitive city areas. It typically responds to search queries that have a high commercial intent.

How to get listed in the Google Local Pack:

  • An accurate and prominent Google Business Listing
  • Be recognizable in your top business category
  • Have a trusted overall online presence
  • Adhere to Google Quality Rater Guidelines
  • Produce content that answers local search queries related to your niche
  • Have accurate NAP in local Citations, Listings and Directories
  • Use a local phone number
  • Include Yelp and Google reviews, photos, and prices
  • Include hours or Google will tell people that you are closed
  • Make it clear what you do and who you serve
  • Optimize your website’s local pages for your target local audience
  • Keep your social media channels updated and apparent with structured data integration

Notice the “top rated” in the answer filter bubble in the image above. This is how real people have rated your business. Google lets anyone contribute a review, images, or ask a question. Not only do your critical business NAP details matter, but it draws in data about your opening hours, review rating and count, contact info, and service and product details provided in Google Posts.

While local search engine marketers may be on the alert to Google changes with these already very crowded boxes, influence in what displays is limited. Google is focused on the end user, so what populates its local pack content box is based on the search term. Expect that the extra elements that show up in the Local Pack will continue to evolve. The best local search strategy is to include everything possible from subjective attributes to Google Q&A rich content.

Entity Aspects of Local Map Pack Optimization

Since a lot has already been written about the obvious basic task of optimizing your Google Business Listing, let’s look deeper.

* How GMB categories influence what shows up in the Local 3 Pack:

If the concept of entities feels new to you, consider that when filing for a registered busines ID, it refers to the identification number assigned to your business entity by the Secretary of State’s Office. Microsoft says, that in search “the one or more entities may include a person, a product, a company, a location, a combination thereof, or the like”.

Selecting the most relevant categories will help boost your entity signals to the Google algorithm. It turn, this will help you show up better in local searches for keyword phrases related to these categories. The local pack populates a known search entity that responds to the searcher’s query.

The categories you select for your GMB listing should closely align with optimized structured content on your website and within all owned assets online. While many predict that in the future most business will be conducted off websites, today you site is still your key opportunity to increase brand visibility within Google’s search results. Your chance to show up in immediate Google hosted featured search results can include both a well-optimized website and a well-optimized Google Business Listing.

Depending on the domain authority level, taxonomy expansion that includes “service + city” web pages can both boost and hurt sites. A site with a low domain score isn’t going to be helped by adding more thin URLs to it. Every page should have unique value to users that fits your business services and goals while avoiding “topical overlap.”

* How geo-location influences who shows up in the Local 3 Pack:

Geo-location can be expressed as “location services.” It starts when a search engine leverages data provided by the user’s device which may include data drawn from a GPS, cell towers, Wi-Fi nodes, and IP addresses. Combined they make accessible relevant, local information without the user doing a manually modify their search. This applies across most device type, whether the searcher is using a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop PC.

Since geo-location occurs spontaneously when location services are active, with no intentional intervention by the searcher, it is not, on its own, a strong signal of the user’s intent to visit a physical business location. Geo-modification, on the other hand, is taken as a super strong signal of a searcher’s local intent to buy.

local SEO expert Joy Hawkins, helps us learn that Google seeks to provide the best answer and yet some diversity. So along with the closet geo responses, it may include popular, more well-known, or a more trusted business due to review ratings that is miles further away. Where a search is conducted within close proximity to the location indicated in the query, Google 3 Pack results are fast and display highly relevant and proximal results.

* Build a dynamic “About” section: In case you are unaware, it is possible to create or edit the about section of your GMB listing. Start by typing aboutme.google.com/ in a browser and then appending your GMB and Google Maps ID to the end of the forward slash. If needed, find your GMB ID by visiting your listing in Google Maps where you can nab the long numbered portion of the URL only. Then add that page ID to the end of the about URL.

* Local Pack Ownership:

Make sure that any freelance marketing consultant or third-party help that manages your brand on Google does so at the source. This ensures that you maintain ownership of your business. All set-up should be in your name and with your direct email. Then you can add people and set their access level.

* Tracking Numbers: We prefer using the business own number as it can be an issue to use phone tracking numbers, even though you can use them on GMB. Know if it is appropriate for a Google Listing. If you change vendors, then you have to go back through and update phone numbers. Avoid the unnecessary work unless you are sure of the manpower to keep up with it. So, if you want to proceed, below are the steps to do so.

How to use a Call Tracking Number in a GMB Listing

  • Add the call tracking number for the ‘Primary phone’ field
  • Place the real business phone number in the first ‘Additional phone’ field
  • Connect all of your business listings to this GMB listing

* Duplicate Business Listings: More than one listing for the same business can cause issues. Audit and reduce any duplicate listings, such as you may have on Google, Yelp, or any directory. You may have a new person jump in and think that they are helping, but now it is necessary for someone to resolve duplicates.

* Q and A:

Questions and Answers can now be included in map listings. Right now some are seeing reviews show up in the local pack, which makes one wonder if short and concise answers will follow. If someone asks your business a question from your Knowledge Graph, try to respond immediately or another person in the Local Guides community may answer it first. It is important to be watching in order to hold on to your authoritative place to manage your own online presence.

Nearly every business niche has overlooked leads sitting in their Google Business Profiles — from questions about the cost of a dental implant, to whether a product is in stock, to queries about handicapped parking. Every time someone asks a question it represents a potential online lead that you should follow-up with.

A quick way for Google My Business listing owners and managers to receive notice of new questions is by using the Google Maps App. These notifications have yet to become a feature of the main GMB dashboard. Similar to reviews, you want to catch questions as they are posted. The faster a business responds to incoming queries, the higher their probability is of winning the foot traffic.

* Non-Branded Content:

Today, fewer brand searches are coming due to voice triggered searches. This means that you should integrate more non-brand content on your site so that Google can pull from it. Answers real user questions where ever possible and put a good plan in place that includes pre-scheduled time to maintain your local pack presence.

* Think of Entity-First Indexing for Mobile Users:

Mobile-First Indexing or Entity-First Indexing is influencing search results to varying degrees within different business niches. It tallies the location of the searcher, which influences what is included in mobile search results if the query has local intent.

A local map pack is a type of Hosted Inclusions in search results, and a powerfully visible one. It is immediate, visual, and interactive and is hosted directly on Google’s space. And Google is adding new features to it at a faster pace than we’ve seen in previous years. When displayed, it pushes organic results down lower and takes clicks from those more traditional blue links.

With this kind of thing happening more and more in search, how one assesses organic ranking position and values those results are changing. With reviews, ratings, hours, posts, and core details of the business or place, Google seems to be collecting content from the web and presenting it directly in its own hosted platform to fill out an Answer, a map pack, or its Knowledge Graph.

What you see as on your screen is not what others see on theirs. Even search results for you will change by time of day or other location influenced results.

The Hummingbird algorithm prompted a lot of changes, particularly within local searches. Google Map Packs are winnowing data from your website and Google Business Listing to provide details that formerly a user had to click through to a website to see. Even if the user-interface stays largely consistent, how the map pack information is generated and selected has changed.

* Target Multiple Geo Locations

If your business services multiple locations, create unique and high-value landing pages on your site for each neighborhood. While it takes added effort, you could create a page per city. However, a load of then pages with just the city names switch out won’t work. First, know which search phrases people use and whether you need content about different services, and how you can serve content to value to those residents.

You will need Location-Specific Content created to make each of these pages meaningful to your readers. For example, your Burnsville, MN page might have photos of your Burnsville office. Or your Plymouth, MN page may include testimonials from your Plymouth customers. Or a Google Map showcasing your Minneapolis location. What you don’t want to end up with are ‘search and replace’ pages or nearly identical pages with only name switching for differences. These will generate duplicate content issues and will not rank.

Google Local Pack Featured Snippets Per Niche

Local search professionals can track SERP features by using SERP Analysis Tools that provide day-by-day insights on your competitors and the ways SERP features change. One of our favorites is the SEMrush Sensor Report.

  • See how volatile the SERP features per niche are for your top search queries.
  • See if your site or your competition gains or loses a SERP feature.
  • Find and select the most stable local pack features to optimize for.
  • Observe how any website shows up and in local SERP features, and how its rankings adjust over time.

“Local Pack consists of a map with pins indicating the business’ location and the three search results – some of which can be ads”, according to SEMrush.com

Google gives priority to its local pack in SERP real estate by most often placing it right above the first organic results in SERP. The volume and nature of local search changes quite often and are more challenging to predict. For businesses that keep an eye on their Position Tracking results, higher levels of fluctuations are common.

Local Map Pack surveillance is uniquely important for Local SEO in niche industries like travel, home remodeling, local auto repair shops, and other local service providers, but less important for business industries like books and Literature publications. Run at least monthly Technical SEO Audits to catch needed fixes.

Some niches have more local pack SERP features available to them than others have.

If you are in the hotel business, there are actually even more opportunities for a hotel chain to leverage additional SERP real estate. Check out the numerous categories that you can land in, such as “Top Choices”, “Budget”, “Guest Favorites” and “Luxury Stays”.

Therefore, make sure you have copy on your website that will speak to each category that fits your niche and remember that you needn’t cringe from the “budget” terminology if that’s what you offer. Note the full-page-width carousel of reviews from multiple review platforms and quick price comparisons.

By selecting the entity AC Hotel by Marriott Bloomington Mall of America, we found the most built-out local pack that Hill Web Marketing has seen to date. Check out the additional information that Google provides by clicking on the information button in the top right-hand corner called “About these results”. Then we learn that “Hotel prices come from Google’s partners”.

This is an example of where Google Search is headed. Your business needs to be prepared for reaching consumers who are less inclined to click through to a website.

Place the same value on Internet transparency that your prospective customers and search engines do for better results. In the long term, these rich details in hosted Google SERPs can work to set the right consumer expectations. It is one form of bad review management which if left unattended can have a direct effect on your web rankings.

If you are still lacking a purpose for going after your appearance in the maps pack, consider how its new features may gain valuable visibility for you.

New Google Local Pack Features

1. Google Posts Showing up in the Local Finder

Some businesses benefit from a “website mentions” feature. If not in the 3 pack, the local finder displays a lot of queries if they are not too generic or don’t already match a GMB category. There is more than one way to show up and it is helpful to understand the value of each result. A keen understanding of how Google Search works and evolves can lead your digital marketing efforts. Then you can assess what may be more relevant than a Google Post.

Posts remain a resource even after they have been published and exceeded the 7-day window of showing up in your Google Knowledge Panel. Various types, such as an “Offers” Post, seem to gain more immediate visibility in the local pack.

Being present here surely has CTR benefits, also it’s great to gain the added exposure of having your Post featured at the top of your Google My Business Listing as a related search result. In our trials, no Google Posts show up in local packs if the user has opted to use an incognito browser.

2. Google Tests Slideshow Images Within Local Pack Results

The Minneapolis Local Search Landscape evolves continually but the one thing that we can count on being the same is that everyone wants their local businesses to rank higher in Google Maps. Google continues to make local search more prominent and focuses on people who use mobile devices when you searching for a service, such as “Dentist nearby”, “movie theaters nearby”, “best seafood in Minneapolis” or “Auto repair near me”.

This focus on quality and visual results is now showing up directly in the snack pack making a quick scroll through brands easy to perform. Use the correct image size for JSON markup to help get your pages and images included. Have at least 5 positive reviews is needed as online consumer reviews are an increasingly important way that small businesses can compete. No one knows exactly what weight reviews take in SERP rankings, but it seems significant.

3. CTA’s in a Marketplace for Services

People ask just where and how the Google 3 Pack links to their website. It requires several clicks through. If the Internet user clicks on the business link after searching on a product and then clicks on a product link in the results, they will come to the “VISIT SITE” link, which currently is all in capital letters, which makes it really stand out.

News has leaked that someone on the Google Maps Reserve team they were or are testing different CTA messaging alike ‘Find A Table’ at a nearby restaurant.

Reserve with Google (RwG) helps consumers find and book personalized appointments, classes and event tickets for local businesses without the need to leave Google Search, Google Assistant, or Google Map results. While more common to the Google Knowledge Panel, these quick to use Booking buttons also show up in the 3-Pack SERP results.

New features could be based on the industry category chosen in your Google Business Listing. Consider ones with scheduling or booking: like a restaurant reservation, purchasing travel tickets, hair salons, or to book a show.

Google’s Reserve service allows Internet users to search and browse through nearby service providers, compare and book an appointment from Google search, Google Maps or the Reserve with Google website. These appointments are automatically, and instantly integrated into your booking software.

If you are a small business (SMB), go to your Google My Business portal and connect your individual listing to a RwG partner solution. Google provides well-documented support pages that help explain your options.

The Local Teaser pack is a “SERP feature is similar to Local Pack. But, there are features in Local Teaser Pack that are not found in Local Pack. In Local Teaser, a short description of the business is shown instead of the business address and contact number. Likewise, by clicking the business photo you will know the products or services they offer”, according to LA SEO*.

Just now Google Maps is rolling out the ability for users to create public events at a specific business or location. As some new features in maps have previously followed suit in the Google Local Pack or Finder, we’ll watch and see if this one is added, too.

3 Local SEO Foundational Pillars: Relevance, Prominence, and Proximity

By starting your local SEO on these foundational pillars, you’ll have a solid approach and can reach a higher level of success in local search results. When a person is looking for a service that you offer, this will help your business show up in local packs so that you can take a lead.

  • Relevance: How can you increase your relevance?
  • Prominence: Does your brand stand out online?
  • Proximity: Is your GMB listing and content optimized so that a local searcher can find you?

Non-Geo Modified, Geo-Modified, and Near Me Searches

Geo Proximity is the distance between the person searching and the service or product that they want. Google, Bing and Yahoo algorithms continuously updated to ensure that search results provide the most relevant searches for a user. Immediacy and proximity matter to the searcher, so they matter to the search engine trying to help them.

People have 3 options when performing a local search; non-geo-modified, geo-modified, and “near me.” Know the difference between each one and optimize for all three.

1. Non-Geo Modified Searches

This is a search action taken by a user that is seeking something around them. For example, while living in the Twin Cities and shopping downtown, a local search for “best Mexican restaurants”, the local search results returned several relevant places to eat all within a few miles. Search engines are aware of location details to determine my proximity (one aspect along with prominence and relevance).

2. Geo-Modified Searches

People often plan ahead. For example, before traveling to Bethesda, MD, I perform a local search for “popular music events.” The local search results served up were current music festivals in that area, even before I arrived to Maryland. These responses were different after refreshing my query for “music events” while physically being in MD. Geo-modified search results draw heavier on the other two pillars (relevance and prominence) over proximity once they assess that searcher isn’t within the city used in the search query.

“30% of mobile searches are related to a location,” Google stated in 2016.

3.“Near Me ” Searches

Google reported that the popularity of “near me” searches are growing. This is when a person performs a search like “a dentist near me.” Remember that only if your business is geographically relevant to a searcher query will you show up in a maps pack.

Keeping up with Changes in the Local Pack

Avid participants in the local SEO community continue to watch and alert follow members of spotted snippets. Google seems to test and evolve these results quite aggressively. With the huge role that personalized search plays in local results, a bigger picture emerges when sharing what one sees in search engine result pages.

For example, brightlocal.com asked, “Why Is Content from Google Posts Appearing in Local Pack Listings?” and, “what could it mean for the value of Google Posts?” The comments are really helpful to know how many are seeing Google Posts show up, not only in the 3-pack but in the Local Finder as well.

Currently, the Local Pack is in the top three localized results in a Google search. It often displays on desktop, mobile and in maps. One notable difference is that on Google Maps users are given more than three results. Those top three positions are highly coveted and readily serve up relevant clicks. Often people don’t select “more places” or like to scroll a lot on mobile devices, so nabbing position one for your business listing is a huge accomplishment.

Comparing Local Finder Ranking Factors over Time

No longer is structured data markup in code to inform Google and other search engines the only thing needed.

The Local Search Landscape is much about efforts for your local businesses to rank higher in Google Maps on both desktop and mobile, but especially mobile. We recognixe
that Google’s algorithm is a mystery, which is why this becomes such a study.

We’ve drawn from two pie charts for a comparison of what has changed in factors that contribute to getting in the Google local pack. The 2018 pie chart is from Dana DiTomaso, president and partner at ickpoint.ca for her presentation on the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey produced by MOZ.

And so, what are the influncers that Google Ads has on getting into the Google Maps Pack?

Top changes in local maps ranking factors:

* A Google My Business Listing now comprises 25% of its content population.

* The importance of domain-level linkes has renduced from to 20.94% to 16%

* Socail metrics have reduced from 7.24% to 3%.

* Reviews have jumped to the chart and take a commanding 15%.

A look at Paid Ads displayed in Local Pack Map Listings

These ad formats are nearly identical to organic local pack results, meaning that a casual observer may not notice the difference and click on results from Google Ads. They are also notably similar to what we see in location-related mobile ad formats that require location extensions to be enabled in paid search campaigns. Those mobile ads pop up when a person searches for services or a product near their location.

Local pack ads are one of the best ways to get the most of your Ad Words budget, expand your local reach, and ultimately drive more business.

When Google’s local 3-pack of organic listings shows ads for certain searches, this brings the number of organic listings down to only two. That’s good news for advertisers but could make it more challenging for local businesses who have put in the extra effort to earn a spot in the 3-pack. Overall, map optimization is a very effective aspect of SEO.

You make this happen by setting up a location extension in your Google Ads. Our preference is to do so on the campaign level. Establishing it on this level will keep it apparent which ad you are pointing to. You can also eliminate the tendency to make errors if you’ve labeled your listings in Google My Business.

“They (local pack ads) are really based on keywords. So, you definitely have to have the keywords in your account. But the one thing that I found is, like, let’s say you’re in Minneapolis and your business is in Minneapolis. You could actually show up for, like, “auto insurance Minneapolis” or “auto insurance St. Paul.” It doesn’t matter if the search term actually has “St. Paul” in it. If the person searching is close to you in Minneapolis, they’ll still see your ad.” – Joy Hawkins on Whitespark

So, remember that showing up for these ads are less about your location keywords and more about the location of the searcher. When someone’ clicks on an ad, rather than linking to the business’s website, the link takes the person to the Knowledge Panel for that business.

So now you know that both earned and paid search show up in Local Packs. But “how often?”, you may be asking. That’s a fair question. It is always important to prioritize SEO tasks and techniques that are most likely to engage users.

Percentage of Page One SERPs Featured Snippets Displaying in Local Packs

Mordy Oberstein of RankRanger shares his premise that Google seeks to meet multiple user intents by showing both a Local Pack showing alongside another SERP Featured Snippet. Google gives itself and the person searching the chance of better matches when the intent is too varied to be certain of. This is especially true when someone seeks to find a local establishment.

His July 11, 2018 article titled Google Bumps Up Appearance of Local Packs & Featured Snippets says: “we tracked an 870% increase in the number of keywords within the dataset that now produce a page one SERP with both a Local Pack and Featured Snippet. Over the past six months (i.e., since February 2018) we’re showing a 303% increase!”

Your can increase your chances of showing up in imagea packs as well.

How are Spammy Sites Getting in Google’s Local Snack Pack?

There are plenty of reports of sites in the Local Pack SERPs that aren’t even real.

You may be wondering just how they got there. Google says that they take spam seriously, but this surely has them tasked. In a recent Webmasters session, John Mueller alluded to ranking factors that may cause spammers to rank. Google uses a “bigger picture” approach; which seems to apply to the local pack just like it does to reviews and backlinks.

“…when it comes to competitive areas, what we’ll often see is that some sites do some things really well and some sites do some things really bad.

We try to take the overall picture and use that for ranking.”

“A lot of times what will happen is also that our algorithms will recognize these kinds of bad states and try to ignore them.

So we do that specifically with regards to links… where if we can recognize that they’re doing something really weird with links… then we can kind of ignore that and just focus on the good parts where we have reasonable signals that we can use for ranking.”

…we try to look at the bigger picture when it comes to search, to try to understand the relevance a little bit better.”

Google algorithms are improving all the time. Just because some businesses seem to be getting away with shady practices doesn’t make it a good idea to try replicating then. The best advice is to adhere to Google’s quality rater guidelines. As the search giant says little about its local pack, read up from trusted sources. Your efforts to help people needing your services to find you should result in producing qualified online leads.

“Over the past year, Google My Business has become a bigger ranking factor for Local Businesses, especially for the Local Pack. Google My Business signals, like proximity, categories, keywords in business titles, etc. are now making up as much as a quarter of the ranking signals for the Local Pack. Which means that while other things like backlinks and website structure are still important, a businesses’ Google My Business listing (and Local Pack SERP features) is almost as important if not MORE important than all other ranking factors.” – Moz **

“when Google knows more about what you do and sell, they can help match you with other types of search queries; the most valuable of these is Google’s 3-Pack.” – Impact

Summary

Hill Web Marketing seeks to sort out what is a limited test from what search results are triggered consistently, and then whats adopted into the core of Google local search. It is quite a job for most search engine marketers and we love it.

If you are going to implement even basic SEO (Seach Engine Optimization), you must know some best practices to assure visibility in tight markets. Hill Web Marketing reduces confusion as to what needs to be done to get your business to show up higher in the Maps Pack on a local search result.

We know that to get your business website into Google’s local Maps 3-Pack is vital to local SEO efforts.

We’d love to hear from you! Call 651-205-2410 for Personalize Local Search Marketing Services

 

 

* https://www.laseoexperts.com/serp-features-2019
** https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors