Optimize and Rank For Google 3-Packs

Local SEO: How to Optimize and Rank For Google 3-Packs

For small businesses, appearing in the SERPs for local searches is crucial to success. This could be the difference between getting a customer or that customer going to a competitor—it’s that simple.

One way to take your local SEO strategy to the next level is with a Google 3-pack.

Optimizing your website for a Google local 3-pack significantly boosts your brand awareness and increases the chances that you’ll get business from local customers.

What’s a Google 3-pack, and how do you rank for it? This in-depth guide will answer all of your questions about Google 3-packs and how to appear in those results.

What is Local SEO?

Before we dive into Google 3-packs, let’s start with the basics—SEO (search engine optimization).

SEO is a marketing strategy designed to drive organic traffic to your website. You can accomplish this through effective keyword research, blogging, on-page optimization, backlinks, domain authority, and a wide range of other SEO tactics.

But not every SEO strategy is designed for local businesses. Let’s say you have a small dry-cleaning business in Arizona. You could publish blog posts about cleaning clothes that get viewed by people all over the world. But readers in New York and Florida aren’t going to drop their suits off at your establishment.

Local SEO tactics are specifically designed to ensure you’re ranking for searches in your geographic area.

Why is this so important? According to a recent study by WebFX, 80% of local searches lead to a conversion.

recent study by WebFX

That’s not all. The study also revealed that 76% of people who conduct a local search on a smartphone visit that business within one day. Roughly one-third of consumers search for local businesses at least once per week.

For small businesses—local SEO can make or break your company.

What is a Google 3-Pack?

Google is constantly coming up with ways to enhance its user experience. They want to make things as easy as possible for people when they’re conducting searches. Searching for businesses is no exception.

One of the ways Google accomplishes this is through relevancy. Google always wants to show the most relevant results for a given search.

So when a user turns to Google for “dentists near me” or “pizza near me,” the search engine wants to give them exactly what they’re looking for. This means that the top three results will appear immediately in the SERPs—known as a “Google 3-Pack.”

Here’s an example of a “coffee shops near me” search:

coffee shops near me search result

As you can see from the screenshot above, the top three results are all local. This user isn’t looking for coffee shops in another city or state. So the results are tailored specifically to the user’s location.

But relevancy is still important.

Google isn’t just showing them the nearest coffee shop. It shows them local coffee shops with high ratings, images, and other information about the business. This ensures that the user can make an informed decision and be happy with the results.

A coffee shop with zero reviews, no updated hours, no website link, no address, and no phone number won’t appear here. Even if the place has the best coffee in the area, Google has no way of knowing this if the business hasn’t optimized itself for local searches.

So why three?

Three is the perfect number of choices that fit on a screen, especially for mobile devices. The user doesn’t have to do any scrolling or searching. Google shows them exactly what they’re looking for.

Google 2-Packs Spotted

It’s been sporadically reported that Google is displaying 2-packs on some mobile devices. But it seems to depend on the search query and location. The user’s device and OS might be playing a role here as well.

I ran about a dozen different local search queries on an iPhone running on iOS 15.0 using Safari, and I didn’t see any 2-packs.

Stephanie Newton from BrightLocal in the UK blogged about some example 2-packs she discovered last year. Here’s an example from one of her mobile searches:

Google is displaying 2-packs

Other people in the SEO and marketing industry have blogged about this discovery as well. But the lack of consistency makes me think it could just be a test run by Google rather than a long-term change.

With that said, the appearance of 2-packs makes local SEO that much more important. If Google plans to cut out one of the results on mobile searches, your chances of appearing will only get harder. So you need to focus on your local SEO optimization strategy ASAP.

How to Rank Higher and Optimize For Local Google 3-Pack

Google’s exact algorithm for different ranking factors is always somewhat of a mystery. Local SEO and 3-packs are no exception. With that said, Google tends to offer some transparency and guidance for what they take into consideration for certain SERPs.

According to a Google Business Profile help resource, there are three main factors that contribute to local SEO rankings:

Google Business Profile help resource

Here’s a quick summary of those factors:

  • Relevance — How well a Google Business Profile matches the search intent of the user.
  • Distance — How far the user is from a business based on what Google knows about their location.
  • Prominence — How well known the company is. Landmarks and famous locations are more likely to appear in a local search result. Google also uses information on the web to determine how prominent a business is.

You cannot pay to increase your local ranking on Google. Requesting a higher ranking won’t change your position either. So you must learn how to optimize your business effectively, which is what we’ll cover below:

Update and Optimize Your Google Business Profile

You need a Google Business Profile if you want a shot to rank in a local 3-Pack. This will ultimately become Google’s primary source of information about your company. Then they’ll use this information to match your company with relevant searches in the area.

How do you optimize your Google Business Profile?

  • Claim and verify your location on Google maps
  • Keep your hours up to date (and update your hours with Google regularly)
  • Add a description about what you do
  • Link your business website
  • Add photos
  • Respond to reviews

Something simple like updating your store hours on holidays from your Google Business Profile can go a long way. As a local business, you should live inside of your Google Business Profile at least a few times per week.

Get More Reviews

Reviews go a long way to show social proof. Not only do reviews impact a customer’s buying decision, but they also influence Google’s local algorithm.

Businesses with more reviews and more positive reviews will have a better chance of ranking in a Google 3-pack. This is especially true if a business is constantly getting new reviews.

How do you get more reviews on Google? Just ask.

Start by providing an excellent product or service. Then politely remind your customers to leave a review about their experience. It’s that simple. For local businesses connecting with customers on a personal level, lots of people will be happy to leave you a review if you ask.

Make Sure Your Website is Highly Responsive

In addition to optimizing your Google Business profile, you also need to make sure your website is performing at a high level.

Responsiveness is a key part of the user experience, and it has a significant impact on SERPs. This is especially true for mobile devices.

Responsive websites load quickly, don’t lag, and it’s easy to navigate from screen to screen. There’s no delay when a user clicks on a button or tries to scroll down the page.

If your website is having problems with this, you’ll need to fix them ASAP.

Not sure if your site is responsive? Just run a quick Mobile-Friendly Test to see:

Mobile-Friendly Test

I just entered my website URL and waited about a minute for Google to give me the results. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will tell you what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed.

Leverage Local Backlinks

Getting high-quality backlinks for your site has always been a great way to build domain authority and improve your search ranking. But beyond backlinks from high-authority sites, you should look for ways to earn backlinks with local relevancy.

An easy way to do this is by joining clubs or memberships. Your local Chamber of Commerce might display a link to your homepage on its business directory.

If you sponsor a local little league team or 5k charity event, they’ll likely have a link to your website somewhere online. All of this helps you build more relevant local backlinks and also drives local traffic to your website, since only people in your area will be viewing these sites.

Final Thoughts

Effective SEO is one of the most important marketing strategies for every business in the digital era. But for small businesses, local SEO needs to take priority.

Getting traffic to your website is awesome. But people from across the country probably aren’t going to visit your local establishment.

You need to optimize your Google Business Profile for local searches and ensure local customers are seeing your business shown in Google 3-Packs.

I hope you found this guide useful. Let us know if you need assistance applying any of the local SEO strategies above!

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