Brick-and-mortar shops face stiff competition in this modern world.
It’s not just about competing with other stores in the same town anymore.
This means that the competition is fierce, and brick-and-mortars are competing directly with more prominent and established businesses.
When customers search for something to buy online, brick-and-mortars have to try to steal them away from Amazon and the like.
Meanwhile, ranking at the top of search engine results continues to become even more difficult. This makes it very hard to get in front of customers online.
How can a simple mom-and-pop shop hope to compete?
What Is Google’s Local Pack?
Years ago, Google gave a hand to brick-and-mortar shops by featuring them alongside the top local search results.
Known as the “local pack,” this space showcased seven local businesses relevant to the search query they entered. Through the local pack, local stores were given a fighting chance to reach their local audience effectively despite fierce competition from established online brands.
However, Google decided to cut the local pack results from seven to three back in in 2015. It wanted to provide users with better information about the top local search results such as photos, reviews and prices. More information, but fewer options in the results.
This change was beneficial for local businesses with multiple stores located across the globe—and especially for the businesses that were already ranking in the first three spots. However, this news put local businesses ranking lower than the third spot in the local pack at a disadvantage.
The organic traffic they were getting from the previous iteration of the local pack was suddenly gone.
But it wasn’t the end of the world, either. The only thing they needed to do was boost their local SEO efforts so they could reenter the local pack and recover the traffic they previously lost.
And that brings us to today.
The Value of Ranking in the Google 3 Pack
Go to Google.
Type in the names of key items or services you sell locally and search.
Does your business appear in the box showing Google Maps and three nearby options?
If so, kudos!
If not, you’ve got some work to do.
But if your business isn’t currently ranking in Google 3 Pack right now, know that it’s worth the effort to score a place in this box.
Since the local pack appears on top of search results 93% of the time, you can maximize your visibility by getting your store featured there.
The first, second and third results receive 33.55%, 14.96% and 9.3% of clicks respectively as of this writing, according to Advanced Web Ranking.
The goal is to ensure that, when local people are searching Google for the products or services you provide, they see you—not the competition, be they online or off.
You’ll want to be ranking for all of the most relevant keywords for your business. Keywords, if you’re not already acquainted, are the terms people are searching for online. Some are “high volume,” meaning that they’re searched for very frequently. Others are “high conversion,” meaning that people who search for them are looking to buy.
Even better, sometimes there’s overlap between high-volume and high-conversion keywords.
Imagine the number of clicks to your website—and the number of potential walk-ins and sales!—that you might see if you rank your local shop for well-chosen keywords like these.
Sounds good? We’ll help you get there.
If you want to get an online audience to visit your site or brick-and-mortar shop, then you can shift gears and focus on ranking in Google 3 Pack by following the tips below.
Local SEO Mojo: How to Start Ranking in Google 3 Pack ASAP
1. Sign Up to Google My Business
Creating a website for your local shop is almost a no-brainer, right?
With a website, you can attract an online audience to your business and provide them with the best information. Doing so allows you to convert website visitors into walk-in clients.
However, if you don’t have a site or an online brand yet, it’s fine. In fact, you can manage all these things using Google My Business.
Upon signing up for a free account, you can edit the information that will appear about your business once you start ranking in Google 3 Pack.
It lets you manage your address, telephone number, open hours and other details in one place.
Google My Business automatically generates a website for your business using the information you provide, too. This feature is perfect for business owners who have no time to build a website but want to get themselves online and ranking quickly.
This Google service also lets you gather and feature customer reviews. They appear on the local pack and help users get a quick idea about the quality and reputation of your business. The higher the rating that customers give your store, the higher the chance that users will convert into clients.
2. Get Lots of Positive Reviews
The value of reviews and recommendations can never be overstated. As a business owner, I bet you’re already sold on the value of word-of-mouth marketing and rave reviews from local community members.
Now, let’s take this to the web to get you ranking in the Google 3 Pack.
User reviews are a form of user-generated content, which has major effects on the bottom line of your business. If you want to convert more people online into customers, then you need to generate as many positive reviews as possible.
However, gathering positive reviews isn’t always easy. Some customers come and go even before you get a chance to ask them for a review. Aside from asking, there are other ways to encourage people to leave a review about your store.
Get an email list going and leave a request in the footer, send newsletters requesting reviews online, reach out to happy customers on social media or even stick a poster on the wall of your store with a barcode people can scan into their smartphones to be taken to your online business profiles.
The main goal is to make it easier for customers to leave reviews by offering multiple means of doing so.
Most importantly, it will be easier to generate positive reviews if you offer excellent customer support. People return the favor to your business based on how you and your staff treat them. If you provide them with a seamless customer experience, then expect people to create a positive buzz about your business.
Running an outstanding business that locals love might just get the reviews flowing in without any requests at all!
3. Get in the Know About SEO
The foundation of ranking at the top of a Google search is SEO (search engine optimization)—and this applies to local search rankings too.
It all starts with optimizing your business website for the best keywords possible.
Keyword research is a crucial component of SEO in general. The challenge is finding keywords with relatively high monthly search volume and low competition.
You can manually find them using Google Keyword Planner and analyzing the sites that appear on the SERPs for your chosen keywords.
If you want a more convenient way to research keywords, then use any of the tools featured in this list here. They usually show data that aren’t readily available through manual research, which should help you unearth better keywords.
Ideally, you’ll want to find keywords that are most closely related to your business, have high search volume (lots of people searching for them) and low competition. Those are your low-hanging fruit, to start with.
Once you’ve chosen low-hanging fruit keywords for your business, you need to use these keywords on specific pages of your site. Search spiders put a lot of weight on mentioning your keywords in the titles, meta descriptions and the URLs of pages. The trick is to do this while still writing in a way that sounds natural and human—not like you’re just jamming in keywords so you’ll rank.
By diligently using the best keywords for the right pages in your site, you’ll increase your chances of ranking in Google 3 Pack.
To help you take care of optimizing these page elements, use the snippet optimization tool by SEO Mofo.
This lets you mention the keyword within the allotted character count, so you don’t go over the limit.
Also, mention the target keyword and its latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords in your content. These are keywords that are very closely related to your chosen keywords, so you don’t end up pumping one page full of the same exact keywords—that tends to look spammy.
While you want to feature the keyword in your content as much as possible, you might compromise its readability if you overdo things in order to optimize it. LSI keywords, therefore, allow you to use phrases related to your target keyword. Use LSIGraph to diversify the keywords to use in the content.
4. Sign Up for Citations, Listings and Directories
In your attempt to increase your online visibility, you’ll find yourself signing up to sites that offer local citation.
Google My Business is a form of local citation, but it deserves a spot of its own due to its impact on ranking in Google 3 Pack.
Other sites let you create core structured citations for your local store. One of the most popular citation sites is Yelp, a review site for restaurants, apartments, dentists and more.
Yelp is similar to Google My Business, in a way: It lets customers leave reviews about your business. It’s a great place to start creating an online presence.
Beyond Yelp and similar business review sites, you’ll want to focus on acquiring citations from a specific country or region. For example, here’s an extensive list of best citation sources for U.S. cities. For local businesses in Canada, Australia and the UK, here’s a list of sites to sign up for.
Then there are platforms that help local businesses create citations based on a specific industry. Your chances of ranking in Google 3 Pack depends on how far you reach for online citations. On this list are over 1,000+ citation sites from 40+ business categories. Start reaching!
The process of gathering the best citations for your local business is grueling. You’ll have to manually sign up and input the latest information about your business. For any changes you make to your local store, you’ll need to go back and apply the changes on each citation site, one by one.
Sure, it’s work, but the effort you put into acquiring and maintaining citations should edge out your competition for that coveted spot in the Google 3 Pack.
5. Earn Local Backlinks
Getting listed on local citation sites is a way of building backlinks to your local business.
Backlinks are links on other websites that lead to your website.
This drives online traffic towards you, and these backlinks serve as recommendations all on their own—people don’t link out to businesses they don’t like (usually). Plus, backlinks are an important element of SEO in general.
The more backlinks you have, the higher you’ll rank in Google search results.
How to earn local backlinks
One perfect place to add backlinks is in the citation websites and local listings noted earlier.
Since links to your site play a crucial role in your search ranking in Google 3 Pack, entering your website URL as part of your citation can help increase your position. Make sure that’s part of your plan.
However, not all citation sites ask for a link to your website. And not all backlinks are good backlinks. There are bad backlinks that hurt your site, too—most of which come from websites that are irrelevant, low-quality or full of spam.
You need to find ways to acquire more backlinks from authoritative websites.
The best link building practices common to all websites apply to local shops as well.
However, local businesses have a distinct advantage by merely owning a physical store. Link building tactics such as giving discounts to students, sponsoring local clubs, donations and other community projects help set your business apart from your competition. Read this excellent post for more ideas on how to approach link building for local businesses.
The more backlinks you’ve got, the more likely you’ll rank—but this is not a one-and-done kind of task.
How to monitor your local backlinks
Once you’ve built a link profile by using different techniques, you’ll need to keep track of your backlinks to see what’s working and what’s not.
Beyond that, you’ll want to see when your site is ranking in Google, when competitors are beating you in specific areas and when new backlinks pop up (or disappear).
Monitor Backlinks is the best tool for beginners to the backlink and SEO world. It’s designed for ease of use, and your dashboard will tell you everything you need to know about your rankings, backlinks, traffic and more.
You’ll get a full, comprehensive overview of all of your tracked keywords and backlinks. It will even let you do more advanced things like remove bad links that are killing your rankings and spy on your competitor’s good links.
The competitor spying allows you to replenish your links based on the link building activities of the sites in your niche. You’ll be able to easily see which backlinks are giving them power in their own search results rankings, so you can then make a plan to create better content and snatch their rankings.
If this sounds like just the right tool to get you in the SEO and backlink game—and to make sure you’re finally ranking in the Google 3 Pack!—we invite you to take it for a spin. Click here to try Monitor Backlinks for free!
Final Thoughts on Google’s 3 Pack
To fully maximize the online reach of your local business, you need to rank on top of search results for your target keywords.
This process is arguably the easiest and most cost-efficient way to attract more customers to your shop.
As mentioned, optimizing your local business amidst tough competition is an uphill battle.
However, observing the best tips for ranking in Google 3 Pack discussed above should help you slowly but surely climb your way to success.