Getting ranked in the Google 3-pack of local businesses has never been more important.  With the big shift from desktop to mobile in the past couple of years, it has become easier for local businesses to get featured based on proximity to the mobile user.  That opens huge opportunities for local businesses to compete with both national brands and locals that are spending money on paid search.

Click-through-rates and conversion rates are higher for business listed in the Google 3-Pack than even most organic listings.  They’re higher on the page to start.  The 3-pack appears below paid search, but above organic results.   That means even if you have invested blood and sweat into getting your business the #1 organic position on Google, you will be featured below paid search and location search.  So, being #1 organically may mean position #8 on the page.

The 3-pack shows proximity to the customer.  The maps show how far they are and provides an easy click for directions.

There’s also an “implied endorsement” from being featured there.  If Google puts you at the top, you must be a quality business.

How important is the Google 3-pack?

93% of searches with local intent – searching “Restaurants near me” or “Dentist in Mason City” – will show the 3-pack at the top of the search results.  50% of the folks that do such a local search on mobile will visit the store on the same day.  34% using a desktop will also take action.  These are motivated, in-the-market-for-what-you-do-right-now consumers

Just under half of all searches on Google are local, according to Search Engine Land.  18% of local searches lead to a sale within 24 hours.   Think of it as your last – and best – chance to get business when someone’s ready to buy.

So, what do you need to go to get your business listed in the Google 3-pack?

Key factors in ranking in the Google 3-pack for Local Businesses

  1. Proximity to search – how close you are to the person searching
  2. Physical address in the city of the search
  3. Proper category listings
  4. Domain Authority of inbound links to your website
  5. Citation Consistency – your name, address, and phone number across various listing sites.
  6. Domain Authority of your website

Claim and Optimize Your Google Listing

Claim your “Google My Business” Profile. and make sure it’s right.  That means making sure the information is current and accurate.  Double check your address – it’s critical for the Google local 3-pack. No detail is too small here.  So check spelling, punctuation, and phone numbers.

Optimize your Listings

Google doesn’t like conflicting signals.  If your address, business name, and/or phone number are different across different websites, listing services, and local directories, you’ll likely get punished in Google’s ranking algorithm.  These so-called “citations” in directories like Yelp, for example, have high domain authority.  If your info there is inconsistent with what else is out on the web, it’s going to hurt.

Make sure the links to your website points to the same place, typically your home page.  The higher a site’s Domain Authority, the more it will help.  It’s another of the signals Google uses to decide which businesses to feature prominently.

In addition, aggregator sites grab the information from key sites and spread it.  That means if you’re information is different on one of the key sites, it will be wrong in lots of other places.

The importance of Directory listings may vary by industry.  If you are a Doctor, for example, is an important citation.  For flooring companies, is a place you need your information.  For all businesses, though, you need to make sure you’ve hit the major aggregator sites.

Major listing sites for Online Directories
SOURCE:  Hubspot

  1. Google
  2. Bing
  3. Yahoo!
  4. Yelp
  5. Facebook
  6. BBB
  7. Angie’s List
  8. Merchant Circle
  9. LinkedIn

Bottom Line:  Make sure your listing information is correct, and consistent, in as many places as possible.  Even the smallest variance can cause problems.  Don’t assume you’re OK.  It’s not unusual to find 50% of more of the listings incorrect, outdates, or incomplete for local businesses, according to Pulse Local Marketing.  Something as simple as “Ltd” on one listing versus “Limited” on another will send a mixed message.

Positive and Recent Reviews

One of the things that makes your listing stand-out (or not) is reviews (or lack thereof).  Google features number of reviews and star ratings for local businesses.

Reviews are often ignored by local businesses, but not by consumers.  A study by Search Engine Land shows that 88% of online consumers have read reviews in an effort to determine quality of local businesses.  72% say positive reviews impact their decisions and inspire trust.

What are you doing to solicit reviews?  If you’re not, start now.  Often, it’s as simple as asking for reviews.  One of the best strategies is to use your existing email database of customers and ask them for a positive review.  Many of your loyal customers will do so.  The ones they don’t may provide you with a learning opportunity to find out why they aren’t satisfied.  If you don’t’ have a mailing list, ask at point-of-sale.

SEO and Marketing

Potential customers will click on multiple organic search results when comparison shopping.  Conversions come more frequently from paid search.  When your light fixture stops working, you’re not comparison shopping, you’re trying to find n electrician.  Those in-the-market-right-now customers aren’t going to click multiple electricians; they’ll click the ones at the top of the list or the one they have heard of previously.

“Higher click-through rates come from organic search,” said Candy Ballenger of Pulse Local, a digital services agency.  “But higher conversion rates come from paid search.”

That means you’re directly in competition with the paid search results, both at the top of the page and within the expanded Google Map Pack as well.  A mistake many digital-only marketers make is assuming if you’re high on the page, you’ll get that click.  Just as important are location, the trust factor, and name recognition.

That means not only taking care of your listings, location, and reviews, but also making sure your offline branding efforts are strong.  When confronted by a sea of choices in unfamiliar territory, consumers are most likely to choose the one place they’ve heard of before.  In this case, it’s not really any different than the old yellow pages.  When they look up your listing, being a name they already know and associated with a positive attribute will be the difference between getting a click, a conversion, or being ignored.