When we are talking about search engines, the first one that come to mind is Google. Google is the biggest and the most recognizable search engine on the whole Internet. What could be better for your website's marketing than ranking in the top of the Google's local business search results? How much marketing and traffic does it bring to your website, to be in the top of Google local pack search? Well, it doesn't get much better than that.
A major change happened in Google's local search, that took effect last month. There is a new way on how google lists all of the local businesses in Google's search results page. This change means that from the previous "local businesses 7-pack", Google narrowed it down for a notch to "local businesses 3-pack" view.
This is a major game changer in the SEO industry. This change shaken up a lot of SEO companies and their potential users. We have yet to see how will this change affect the visibility and traffic of local businesses. With that being said, we have written a short and simple guide, so you can understand this update better.
What are the biggest changes in Google local pack search engine results?
This update that has simultaneously rolled out all over the world, changed things drastically. The whole look and feel of Google local pack seems simpler and more essential. Let's have a better look at that.
As you can see, there are some critical changes that happened. Lets go in depth on each of them.
Number of businesses displayed
Before this update took place, local listings could be seen in different size packs: 3, 5 or 7. This means that more local businesses could be seen among the first results in the search results page. They could squeeze in there, even if those particular businesses didn't have an amazing organic results.
With this change coming into play, there are only 3-pack listings. This makes the competition for the first search results page even harder. Your business needs to be exceptionally good to get up there.
The removal of phone numbers and business addresses
One more thing that Google has removed from Google local pack is the addresses and phone numbers of businesses. The only thing that you can see is the name of the street where that particular business is located. This makes it even harder for potential customers to find your business - they need to search more. They are only given the street name, which means that you need to have a good website that the potential customers can easily find. After they see you on Google local pack, your potential customers need to do one more search, to find your local website. If you have a common business name, this will make it even harder.
No more "Google my business" site links - all visits will lead to the list of your competitors.
Not only did Google remove all contact info from Google local pack view, but Google also disabled any 1-click features and way to access your business. The previous links that lead to My Business Google pages were all removed. Even going one step further, all of the local cards that were previously shown when the users scrolled through the old pack listing got hidden. When you click on the listings now, it opens a brand new search view, that includes a map, a complete list of 20 of your closest competitors, and a preview version of the outdated local card.
How will this affect your local business?
There is no doubt that this change will affect a bunch of local businesses. What particular effect will it have on your business, though?
If your business ranked in the positions 4 to 7 before the change, there are slim chances that you will see your business listed for a certain keywords set. Several businesses have already feel the impact of this change directly - they are experiencing reduced traffic to their website and a smaller number of calls to their telephones. This is due to the fact that most potential customers can't find them in a few simple web searches.
The interesting thing is that other business said that, even though they experienced reduced traffic, their inquiries and leads had better quality and conversion rates. This can be assigned to Google's change that removed the direct contact of the 7 pack on the Google local pack. This way, the users that want to contact the particular business need to expand the option "More Places", which will display the list of the telephone numbers. But this lists consists of 20 local companies, which means that this change isn't bad news for every local business.
Adjusting your local business's SEO strategy
Now that we fully understand what these changes on Google local pack brought us, how can we use this to our advantage? Here are some tips on improving your ranking on Google local pack results.
Make sure your Google My Business page has correct information
The information that your potential customers will see on Google local pack results page, is mostly taken from your My Business Google page. So, in order for your users to get the correct information about your company, you need to claim your My Business Google listing, and try to fill out all of the information that might be useful. You should also try to include following details, that are crucial for your business:
- Add a unique, preferably long, description. It should be correctly formatted and it should include working links
- Choosing the proper categories that your business belongs to, is crucial
- Upload the best, high-resolution picture for your business that you have. You need to have profile and cover image
- Upload a bunch of photos of your company. Don't upload irrelevant photos
- Your listing should have your business's local phone number
- Add the correct address of your local company. It needs to be consistent with any other address you might have on your company's website
- Ask your employees and staff members if you can use their pictures on your business's website. When users choose a local company, they want to see people they can trust. Trust is a major factor in local businesses.
Earning Google Reviews that are positive
This change on Google local pack results didn't remove the star ratings. You can use this information to your advantage - businesses that are looking to get to the top 3 are depending on high number of great reviews. All of these reviews don't have to be only on Google, all of the reviews count. Make sure you have good reviews on your local directory pages, pages like Yelp and others.
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. And these are not only Google reviews, but also reviews on local directory pages like Yelp (currently used by Apple maps).
Pay extra attention to the work hours of your business
Each local company information now includes the exact working hours. When your potential customer start searching for your local business, he can see the exact time when your business is open, soon to be open, closed, or closing soon. Double check that you got your business's opening and closing hours correct. Don't try to use the incorrect information - your customers won't like it. If your business isn't open 24/7, don't leave it like that. The potential customer might want your services, and if you don't respond at the given time, it will only damage your brand.
Narrow it down
When the users are searching for a specific service, they will search using a specific set of keywords. If you want to rise above your competitors, try to be more specific about your business. Don't try to rang in top 3 for generic keywords like "restaurant", make sure that you describe your business well. Try ranking for keywords like "Chinese restaurant" or "local Chinese food". Your goal here is to describe your business's niche as detailed as possible.
Improving your on page SEO
We have talked about avoiding on page SEO mistakes. Considering that you implemented all of those tips, when it comes to local business's on page SEO, there are a few more you should use. Try to add your business's city or regions with another relevant keyword, within elements of your main landing page. The best elements where you should add these are Title tag, H1 tag, H2 tag, Page URL, Page content and Image ALT attributes.
One more useful trick that you can implement is embedding the Google map with your companies marker, into your main landing page.
These new changes on Google local pack search are huge. They will surely make difference on how SEO companies function, and how they implement their SEO services. That doesn't mean that these changes are an obstacle that your business can't overcome. With a lot of hard work, effort and dedication, you will figure out new ways to improve your rankings and sky rocket your business on Google.