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Until a few years ago, if a person ran a Google search for office equipment, a Mexican restaurant or a dry cleaners in their area, they’d be served a results page with 7 business names and their contact info. And ads to the right side of the page.
But in 2015, Google made several changes to how they returned search results for local business. Not only did they reduce the quantity on the page, they decided to highlight 3 that seemed to be especially useful to the searcher. And that trio of results, in its special format, is what we now call the “Local 3-Pack.”
At first blush, this may seem like a negative to many local businesses because it appears to limit their chances for visibility. But in truth, the change to the local 3-pack presents even greater opportunity for businesses to take advantage of what Google has to offer.
You may be wondering why Google would change the format when it appears it could be harmful to local businesses. Google’s focus, remember, is on the user population — in the case, the person doing the searching.
The 3-pack is just one of the changes Google has made to its search algorithms to accommodate the rise in mobile search. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, over half of organic searches were executed on mobile.
Changes to local business search accommodated this rise in a couple of ways. First, the layout of the search results was changed to be more mobile friendly. And secondly, the searches now are truly local — the results you get when searching from your house are different than those you would get searching from only a few miles away.
These changes do up the stakes for your business. Following best practices for search optimization for local businesses is key to making sure your business stands out to customers searching for you.
First, be sure that you have claimed or included your business with Google My Business. This makes it possible for you to be found in Google searches and allows you to manage your business’s information.
Once you’ve claimed your business, make sure that the information is correct, such as your business category. One important piece of information to check is your business hours. In searches, Google reports if a business is open at the time the search is done. If, let’s say, you’re a restaurant that’s open from noon to 10 PM, but your Google business page reports that you are closed from 2 PM to 5 PM, you could be losing business.
Next, add a description of your business to your Google listing. Be sure to let potential customers know what you do – are you an authentic Italian restaurant? A dry cleaner that specializes in wedding dress preservation? A shop with locally-sourced artisan products? Be as specific and unique as you can. This will help to drive the right customers to your door.
A frequently overlooked but important way to optimize your business listing is by posting pictures on your Google My Business page. To ensure you show your business in its best light, spend the time to create professional-looking photos of your business and its products, like special displays or beautiful presentations of your food. If you leave the photo-taking up to customers, your business may not look as attractive as you’d like.
Whenever possible, request and encourage your patrons to review you on Google. Place signage within your establishment, provide quick tips on how to add a review, or request that your newsletter subscribers submit a review and provide a handy link to do so. You can also ask patrons as they are checking out to please take the time to review you on Google. Lots of competitors have 0-5 reviews. To stand out (and catch Google’s attention), shoot for 20 or more reviews.
Lastly, consider adding an embedded Google map to your business on your website. This helps Google to validate your business location, and it’s easy to do.
These are just a few suggestions to help you improve your 3-pack placement success in local Google searches. To fine tune your results even further, consult with an SEO expert. They can help your business be found more easily when your customers are looking for you.
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