For owners of brick-and-mortar businesses, Google’s local 3-pack is the Holy Grail of search engine traffic. Found at the top of Google’s search results — typically between organic and paid listings, when paid listings are present — it consists of just three local business listings.
In the past, Google displayed seven results in its local pack. It later reduced this number to five and then to three, with the current local pack showing three listings. With Google displaying fewer local listings here, the competition is greater than ever. But if you’re able to get your business listed in the 3-pack, you’ll reap the benefits of increased exposure and brand visibility, which usually means more sales.
Google Search vs Local 3-Pack Listings: What’s the Difference?
Google’s organic search results differ from its local 3-pack results in several ways. First, these 3-pack listings aren’t websites but rather Google My Business (GMB) listings for local businesses. So, instead of showing the website’s title, description and URL, 3-pack listings show the local business’s name, city, phone number, customer reviews, and clickable buttons to access its website and directions to the business.
The format is slightly different when viewing 3-pack listings on mobile devices, which replace the website button with a click-to-call button and adds the user’s proximity to the business.
Google also uses different algorithms to determine which local businesses are displayed in its 3-pack and which websites are displayed in its organic search results. Even if you’re able to able to achieve a top search ranking for your website, you may struggle to get your business listed in the 3-pack.
Claim and Verify Your Google My Business Listing
To get listed in Google’s 3-pack, you’ll need to claim and verify your GMB listing. Visit Business.Google.com while logged in to your primary Google account and click “Start Now” in the upper-right corner.
Next, enter your business’s information in the requested fields and click “Continue” when you are finished. You’ll need to complete a few more fields, such as verifying that you deliver goods or service to the specified location and agreeing to Google’s Terms of Service, after which Google will create your GMB listing.
In order to edit and manage your business’s information, you’ll need to verify your newly created GMB listing by visiting Business.Google.com, selecting your business, and clicking the “Verify now” button. Google supports several verification methods, including postcard, phone and email.
Alternatively, you are able to verify your business instantly if your business’s website has already been added to Google’s Search Console. This is done by logging in to your GMB account using the same email addresses associated with your Search Console account. Instant verification is only available to select businesses.
Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
After claiming and verifying your GMB listing, you should update it with your business’s information. Your business’s name and address on GMB should appear exactly as it does offline. Using a different format for either of these elements can hinder your ability to get ranked in Google’s 3-pack.
Check to make sure your business’s phone number on GMB is correct. This is arguably one of the most important elements, as customers may attempt to call you using this number. For local search optimization purposes, you should use a landline number with a local area code. This allows Google to make a connection between your business and its physical location.
Also, choose the most relevant GMB category for your business. If you run a Chinese takeout restaurant, for instance, choose “Chinese takeout” for its primary category. The more relevant your category, the greater your chances of getting listed in the 3-pack.
Here’s some other information to include in your GMB listing:
• Business website URL (check your Search Console for penalties or crawling problems)
• Hours of operation, including breaks and holiday periods
• For restaurant businesses, a menu URL
• Attributes such as free WiFi or outdoor dining
Enhance Your GMB Listing with Photos
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This holds true when optimizing your business’s GMB listing. Local businesses with a gallery of relevant high-quality photos are more likely to rank in Google’s 3-pack than businesses with only a few, low-quality photos.
There are several different photos that you can use on GMB, including a profile photo, cover photo, logo and “additional photos.” Your logo should be square, while your cover photo should feature a rectangular 16:9 ratio. Google supports both JPG and PNG image formats for photos.
If you really want to leave a lasting impression on customers and prospects, however, you should consider hiring a Google-certified professional photographer to create a virtual tour of your business. While optional, most business owners will agree that it’s well worth the investment. The photographer will visit your business to take high-quality photos, later using those photos to create a 360-degree virtual tour of your business. Customers and prospects who access your GMB listing can then “tour” your business from their computer or device.
According to a study conducted by an independent market research firm, GMB listings with photos and a virtual tour receive 200% more interest. You can learn more about virtual tours by visiting Google.com/Streetview/Hire.
Encourage Customer Reviews
Customer reviews play a critical role in local search optimization. If a GMB listing has lots of positive reviews, users will likely click it. So, encourage customers to leave honest reviews about your business on your GMB listing.
And when a customer leaves a review about your business, take a few minutes to respond. Thanking customers for leaving a review shows that you are listening and care about what they say. Furthermore, it encourages others to leave reviews, helping you build even more reviews on your GMB listing.
Finally, you should increase your business’s prominence. Basically, this means letting the world know what your business is, what it does, and where it’s located. Hopefully, you have an official website for your business, in which case you can optimize your site to include detailed information about your business.
Another way to build prominence is through local citations. Local citations are online listings of local business information, such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, Superpages, Yahoo Local, Kudzu, Yellowbook, Citysearch, Manta, Local.com, Spoke.com, etc.
Not Ranking in Google’s Local 3-Pack? Don’t Worry!
If your business isn’t ranking in Google’s 3-pack, try not to panic. Assuming you’ve followed the tips listed here, customers should still be able to find your business by clicking the “More places” link under the 3-pack. You won’t get as much as visibility listed here, but some exposure is better than none.
In the meantime, continue to optimize your GMB listing, encourage customer reviews, and increase the prominence of your business.
P.S. Wondering where to get started on your Digital Marketing campaign? Click here for the SEO report tool and see how you score.