See How The Google 3 Pack Shake Up Works: 5 Ways to Adjust Local SEO
In early August, Google made some major changes to its “Local Pack” search results by opting to show three results instead of seven. Here are some ways to adjust strategy in order to stay on top of local search.
Google’s decision to show fewer listings seems to be motivated by mobile. “Three-pack” search results make desktop searches mirror those on mobile with more space for map results and reviews, but less contenders for top rankings. However, search results are hyper-localized, meaning that the three-pack changes pretty often.
Plus, there’s an opinion that the top 20 sites listed in the map view seems to be unaffected by the upgrade. This leaves some opportunity for businesses that don’t make the top three, though some opposite cases have also been reported.
So what should you do if you find yourself slipping out of view in light of the update? Contact Virtual Focused Marketing to get your footing back.
1. Don’t Panic
If you were No. 4 before the update, chances are your traffic hasn’t been affected much, according to Andrew Shotland, president at Local SEO Guide, Inc.
“While there certainly will be a loss in visibility and phone calls from those businesses that were in positions four through seven in the previous local packs, the truth is, those listings weren’t generating much activity anyhow. It is likely that this is one reason why Google removed them,” Shotland says. “In the near term, SEO consultants are going to have a challenge in explaining to the client who used to rank number four in a local pack why it’s no big deal that they are not on page one anymore, when last week they were touting how awesome it was to be ranked number four.”
2. Reviews Matter
Google has removed phone numbers and exact addresses from search results, but starred reviews remain. Therefore, businesses hoping to both crack the top three and see traffic from that ranking need to make sure they’ve got a high volume of good reviews, according to Shotland.
“Based on the current display, particularly the local finder, it does appear that ratings and reviews are much more prominent in the UI,” Shotland says. “So focusing on making sure your business has a high rating with a decent amount of reviews should be a priority.”
To make sure you’re turning up in relevant local searches above your competitors, you should make search terms as specific as possible, according to Phil Rozek, owner of Local Visibility System.
“If you just got bumped off of page one because you haven’t made the top three, my first suggestion is to position yourself as more of a specialist, if possible,” Rozek says. “Dominate a niche, in other words. Try to rank for ’emergency dentist’ rather than ‘dentist’, or for ‘kitchen remodeling’ rather than ‘remodeling.”
4. Double Down on Link-Earning
Once you break into that hyper-specialized top three, Rozek says, you’re going to want to stay there. And increasing link-earning efforts is one of the best ways to stay on top of local search results.
“Even if you inhabit a smaller pond, you’ll still want to become a bigger fish. So to that end, I’d suggest doubling down on your link-earning efforts,” Rozek says. “Start with easy links, like joining at least one local Chamber of Commerce, joining an industry or professional organization, and maybe getting accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Of course, there’s an infinite number of other good links you can get, but those are a solid start and often overlooked.”
You can also monitor competitors’ link-building strategy using the SEO PowerSuite SEO Spyglass tool.
5. Make Sure Local Efforts Fit Into Overall Strategy
Changes like the three-pack updates are a given, and the best defense is a good offense, according to Mike Blumenthal, owner and local expert at Blumenthals. Local search efforts have to be integrated with a strong overall strategy to make an impact.
“I have long been a proponent of a mixed approach to local search that involves a strong website, a strong local presence, and strong locally-focused marketing campaign that keeps the brand prominence of your business high,” Blumenthal says. “If you follow this tactic consistently, you will have the best on-going position to deal with the constant change.”
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