How to Rank #0 in Google with Local Packs – the Ultimate Local SEO Guide

2019-07-08T06:17:12+00:00

Local SEO is a must-have for any brick-and-mortar, local business! It’s the most effective online marketing strategy to attract nearby customers in your area.

With local SEO you won’t just get a ton of organic traffic to your site, you’ll also drive eager visitors to your place of business. The best part is these people are actually ready to buy your stuff.

Now, I know this might appear overwhelming and challenging. But if you want to put your small business on the map, you need local SEO.

And thanks to a few new Google’s features (Pigeon update and Local 3-Pack), your small business has the chance to outrank even national or global giants for local-related searches!

Using this simple, step-by-step local SEO guide, you’ll be able to harness the full power of Google and dominate your local area.

Local SEO 101

First things first: Let’s make sure you have a complete understanding of what local SEO means.

Local SEO (search engine optimization) means optimizing your website with the goal of ranking high in the search engine results page (SERP) for location related searches.

Put simply, it’s a set of tweaks and optimizations on your site which help Google perceive it as a high-quality site and your offerings as high-value services or products.

It’s similar to regular SEO with the added element of geographic location.

For example, let’s imagine you’re running an Italian restaurant in Toronto.

When someone searches for “Italian restaurants in Toronto” or “Nearby Italian restaurants,” you want your site to come up in the search results above others in your area. Preferably within the top 3 rankings on SERP, which now looks like this:

Screenshot of a Google results page for local search showing a local 3-pack

Google results for local search

 

This is what’s called a Local 3-Pack, and these cards are displayed above the regular organic listings in Google SERP.

 

What exactly is a Local 3-Pack?

A Local 3-Pack is a collection of the top 3 most relevant results for your local search.

If you go to Google and enter queries like: “car dealership near me,” “pizza restaurant in [your location],” or even something like “dentist,” Google understands that you’re looking for a local business and it’s going to provide a Local 3-Pack card at the top position in search results.

Based on your geo-location, Google is going to surface the most relevant dentists in your area. The first thing that you see in your results is going to look something like this:

Google results page for a search term "dentist" showing local related results in the top spots

Local Search in Google

 

As you can see, the Local 3-Pack is displayed above other organic listings and it takes up a lot of real estate on Google’s results page.

Most people won’t bother scrolling down to check out other pages since this card already contains enough details to help decide which place is right for them.

The Local Packs were introduced alongside Google’s algorithm update in 2014, dubbed “Pigeon.” The aim was to provide more relevant search results for queries that included localized keywords.

Initially, Local Packs featured 10 results, later they were cut down to 7 and finally were reduced to only 3. This was done to better optimize the SERP for the small screens on mobile devices.

Thanks to these updates, even your small business can outrank global or national companies, which only appear in regular organic results.

I would seize this opportunity if I were you.

 

Anatomy of Local Packs

For most local businesses, a typical Local Pack includes the following:

  • Location on the map
  • Ratings (based on Google My Business, which we’ll talk about later)
  • Phone number
  • Open hours
  • Website link
  • Directions
A screenshot showing the anatomy of Google's local 3-pack. The main elements are location on the map, ratings, phone number, website link and directions, and opening hours

Anatomy of a local 3-pack

 

The standard Local 3-pack displays the most important details that someone searching for this type of business would want to know.

All this is meant to help users find exactly what they’re looking for without scrolling or searching very far.

Local Packs show up for all sorts of local businesses:

  • Hair salons
  • Car dealerships
  • Car rentals
  • Swimming pools
  • Gyms
  • Photography shops
  • Auto repair shops
  • And many others…

But for some industries, like restaurants and hotels, you might see a Local Teaser Pack in your SERP.

 

Local Teaser Pack vs Local Pack

Besides the regular Local 3-pack, some local-intent searches might yield another type of local result called Local Teaser Pack.

Let’s say you search for something like “luxury hotels near me,” your results would look like this:

Screenshot showing a local teaser pack with some of the main elements: booking options, pricing, testimonials, amenities and images

Local Teaser Pack

 

The results look similar to the Local Pack mentioned earlier, but with a few more elements added. Local Teaser Pack also includes:

  • Booking options
  • Pricing
  • Testimonials
  • Amenities
  • Images

And, just like with regular Local Packs, you can see a map as well as reviews.

But what if you’re not running a hotel? Well, Local Teaser Packs appear for other reservation-driven businesses as well.

For instance, if you own a pizza place, this might be what people see when they search for your type of restaurant:

Screenshot of a local teaser pack for restaurants showing information such as the price range hinted with dollar signs and a catchy venue description

Local Teaser Pack for restaurants

 

Not only that, for reservation-based local businesses you can check out a short description as well as the price range.

All of this is intended to allow people to search less and to get the information they need right off the bat. But why should you care about this so much?

 

Why are Local 3-Packs so important for your business?

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business operating in a localized area, then you need to utilize these new features in your daily life. It’s critical that you get familiar with Google’s local space.

Actually, local searches, especially “[business] near me” are becoming increasingly popular!

A graphic showing a huge 500% increase in "near me" searches on mobile, along with variations such as "can I buy" or "to buy"

500% increase in “near me” related searches

 

According to Nick Wilsdon (Vodafone), 46% of all Google searches have local intent. These are some staggering numbers.

And knowing that 78% of all local mobile searches end up with a purchase, you have the power to reach locals when they’re ready to buy!

The Pigeon update and new Google SERP features (local packs) have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for you. Google’s 3-pack appears in 93% of the time for local related searches.

When people search for services in your area, you want your site to be the first thing that comes up.

Right? Right!

To run a successful business in your local space, it’s essential for your site to appear in the Local 3-Pack. It’s the most prominent feature in SERP and takes up so much screen space.

People actually have to scroll down to see the #1 organic ranking!

This means if you can put your business among the top three results in local packs, you’ll dominate the Google search results page.

 

Rank #0 with Local Packs

Local Packs appear on top of search results, even above the #1 organic ranking. That’s why ranking your site in the local 3-pack means ranking #0 in Google!

And there are many reasons why you’d want to rank #0…

Since Local Packs provide so much useful information, most people won’t even bother scrolling down to check other rankings.

If for some reason they want to see more places, they’re more likely to expand the list of local businesses.

Screenshot of a local 3-pack focusing on the option "more places" which expands the list of local businesses

Expand the list of local businesses in local 3-pack

 

No wonder people don’t want to scroll down, it’s basic human psychology. People want something convenient, that’s going to save them time and effort.

Another major reason for the Local Pack comes from the fact that 4 in 5 consumers use their smartphones to look for local businesses (over any other device).

Just look at how convenient the Local Pack is for mobile users:

Screenshot of a local 3-pack on mobile devices, hinting convenience. You have the option to click the phone to make a call or get the directions

Local 3-pack on mobile devices

 

It’s super convenient, you don’t even have to visit any of the listed sites! Simply make a call to book a service straight from SERP or add it to your navigation app if you want to drive there directly.

And perhaps the most compelling reason to get your business on the Local Pack is that people searching for local services are ready to buy them!

It’s very simple. If you’re searching for a restaurant or a car wash near you, you are probably looking to utilize their services immediately.

Local SEO can potentially bring you higher ROI (return on investment) than any other marketing strategy. It reaches the largest market of likely customers.

With that out of the way, let me show you how Google determines local rankings.

 

How Google ranks sites for local searches

To do local SEO right, you need to understand how Google ranks sites for location related queries.

When deciding who to rank in the Local 3-Pack, Google takes 3 major factors into consideration:

  • Relevance – This represents how well the results match the term that a user searched.
  • Distance – How close the user is to the location of your business. This is determined by the search term if it contains a location. If not, then Google will consider the last known location of the user.
  • Prominence – This factor is determined by how well-known your place is. Google tries to reflect the true popularity of a business, both in the offline and online world.

Based on these factors, Google is using all sorts of signals to determine which businesses deserve to rank in the Local 3-Pack.

According to MOZ, the most important local ranking signals are:

  1. Google My Business signals
  2. Link signals
  3. On page signals
  4. Citation signals
  5. Review signals
  6. Behavioral signals
  7. Personalization
  8. Social signals

 

A pie chart showing the most important ranking signals for local searches. It shows the 8 most relevant one's: my business signals, link signals, on-page signals, citation signals, review signals, behavioral signals, personalization and social signals

Most important ranking signals for local searches

 

Luckily, you can influence all of these signals, and have them work in your favor. With a little help of local optimization, you can get that coveted #0 spot in Google.

Stick around and learn how to rank in Google’s 3-Pack.

 

How To Rank in Local 3-Packs – Ultimate local SEO guide

Since it’s super important that you rank in Local Packs, we devised a step-by-step guide on how to conduct local SEO to increase your chances of ranking.

Taking into account Google’s most important ranking signals for local-intent search, we compiled a list of steps you need to take to optimize your site.

This ultimate local SEO guide contains 6 main steps:

  1. Conduct on-page optimization
  2. Optimize your Google My Business page
  3. Claim your other internet profiles
  4. Manage your NAP consistency and citations
  5. Get more reviews for your business
  6. Create local content

And don’t worry if you’re not familiar with web development, coding, web design, etc., you can use WordPress to build and optimize your site without any of those skills!

Simply follow all the steps from this guide, and you’ll appear in Local 3-Pack in no-time.

 

Step 1. On-page optimization – optimize your website

If you want to get noticed by Google and other search engines, the first thing you have to do is conduct on-page SEO.

There are a few things that are especially important for local SEO if you want to be ranked in Google’s Local 3-Pack.

Here’s a list of things that you need to take care of right now:

  1. Boost your site’s loading speed
  2. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
  3. Have a contact page
  4. Make phone numbers clickable to get more calls
  5. Insert a map of your location
  6. Bolster user confidence with testimonials
  7. Add schema markup to your site

 

1. Boost your site’s loading speed

Page loading speed is a major ranking factor for Google.

Previously, loading time was only considered for desktop rankings, but as of the latest “speed update” (July 2018), Google is using loading speed as a vital signal for ranking on mobile devices as well.

It’s critical for your site to be as fast as possible!

To check your site loading speed, you can use a free tool provided by Google called Page Speed Insights.

Screenshot of Google page speed insights tool with the most important elementes

Page Speed Insights tool

 

Just plug in your website URL and you’ll see how fast your site is loading on both desktop and mobile.

To improve your site speed, one of the first steps is to leverage browser caching.

Browsers typically cache a lot of information (stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, and more) so that when a visitor comes back to your site, the browser doesn’t have to reload the entire page.

If you’re using a WordPress website, then you can install a simple plug-in like WP Super Cache.

Don’t forget to enable caching in WordPress dashboard as well as CDN support.

Screenshot showing how to enable caching in WordPress using WP Super Cache plugin

Enable caching in WordPress

Screenshot displaying how to enable CDN in WordPress using WP Super Cache plugin

Enable CDN in WordPress

 

Other speed improvements that you might need are:

You can read our step-by-step WordPress speed optimization guide and learn how to make your site load in less than a seconds!

Once you’ve optimized your page speed, check Page Speed Insights again to confirm everything is optimal and ready for Google.

 

2. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly

The other decisive factor for ranking in Local Packs is mobile-friendliness.

Back in 2015, Google rolled out an update called the “mobile-friendly update” which was supposed to prioritize responsive and mobile-friendly websites. This means sites that looked and performed well on both desktop and mobile devices, were given a huge boost in rankings, especially for mobile search.

Soon after the update, there was a big fear of Mobilegeddon in the SEO community, since even some of the biggest companies and organizations were not ready for mobile devices yet.

But this update by Google made perfect sense. In 2017, more than 57% of traffic came from mobile devices.

Coupled with the fact that over 88% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a related store within a week, you can see why it’s essential for your site to be mobile-friendly.

Graphic showing that 88% of people who conduct a local search on their mobile device visit a store within a week

Local searches drive visitors to your place of business

 

“Good Guy” Google has again provided you with a free tool to check how optimized your site is for mobile.

Head on over to Mobile-Friendly Test and analyze your site.

Screenshot of Google's mobile-friendly test tool

Google Mobile-Friendly Test

 

Even if you do get a positive result, make sure to check for any page loading issues that you might need to take care of.

Screenshot of Google mobile-friendly test focusing on the area where you can check for issues

Check for issues

 

If you’re using WordPress, one of the easiest ways to make your site ready for mobile is by installing a responsive theme.

There are many to choose from: free, freemium, and paid. It really comes down to your preference, how much you’re willing to spend, and how adept you are at optimizing your site once you install it.

If you don’t want to pay a premium, there are tons of free themes in the WordPress repository.

Screenshot of WordPress theme repository

WordPress Theme respository

 

There’s a plethora of theme available, ranging from free to freemium.

Free themes are a solid start and some may be packed with features. However, you have to play around for some time until you set your theme to look right and to perform properly.

If you’re looking for something premium, you can find cool, responsive themes from popular marketplaces such as Thrive Themes or Theme Forest.

 

3. Have a contact page

Having a contact page is not only good for Google but also your potential customers. It’s going to enhance the user experience of your visitors.

Just imagine yourself in their shoes:  You’ve visited a restaurant website, you were amazed by the home page, the menu items look delicious, and you’re delighted with the images of the venue.

The next thing you want to do is check out the restaurant contact info. You want to see the address, and a phone number to book a table.

A contact page is critical for your local business site. With it, potential customers can find you and call you if they need to.

For example, Chiado, a restaurant in Toronto, has a very detailed contact page.

Screenshot of a well optimized contact page for local business with address, opening hours, phone numbers and other relevant info

Contact Page

 

All the important stuff is clearly displayed; phone numbers, address, emails, opening hours, dress code, etc. Everything an eager diner needs to make a reservation and find the place is laid out here.

NOTE: If you have multiple locations, make sure to list all of the addresses, phone numbers, and emails for each location!

 

4.  Make phone numbers clickable to get more calls

Did you know that 76% of all mobile searches end with a phone call?!

Knowing this, if you don’t make your phone number clickable on your site, you’re really missing out on a huge opportunity.

Today’s technology is so convenient that people have become somewhat spoiled. They expect an intuitive experience when they visit your site. This means that if they see your phone number listed on your page, they want to be able to click on it and immediately be routed to their phone dialer.

Take Sunny Dental for example. When you visit their site, one of the first things you’ll see is their phone number teasing you to click and make a call.

Screenshot of a convenient clickable phone number on a local business website, displayed on a mobile device

Clickable phone number

 

To make your phone number clickable you need to add syntax to your page’s HTML editor, like this:

HTML syntax showing the tag you need to insert to your code to make phone numbers clickable on mobile devices

HTML syntax for clickable phone numbers

 

A minor improvement like this can lead to a huge rise in calls as well as visits to your local business.

 

5. Insert a map of your location

In the previous example of Chiada restaurant Toronto, you saw that on their contact page they display a map to help people navigate to their venue easier.

And that’s the whole point! You want to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to visit your business.

Luckily, you don’t need to be a seasoned web developer to add a map to your site. With Google Maps and WordPress, it’s a pretty easy and straightforward process.

Go to Google Maps and type in the exact location of your business.

Screenshot on how to share Google Maps location

Share Google Maps location

 

Click on the “share” button, and copy the HTML code.

Screenshot on how to copy the embed code for Google Maps location in order to add it to your site

Copy Google Maps location embed code

 

Next, go to your WordPress dashboard, navigate to the desired page (preferably the contact page), switch to the “text editor,” and paste the HTML code from Google Maps.

Screenshot on how to paste the Google Maps embed code in WordPress HTML editor

Paste Google Maps embed code in WordPress

 

Finally, publish your page.

Simple as that!

 

6. Bolster user confidence with testimonials

Testimonials serve as “word of mouth” recommendations that can convince your potential customers that your products or services are right for them.

According to LocalSEOguide.com, testimonials are also a signal to Google that your business is trustworthy. They’ve become a very important conversion optimization tactic.

Either way, if done right, testimonials can entice people to book a reservation, schedule an appointment, or straight-up visit your business.

Testimonials can come in all shapes and sizes.

They can be a part of your home page:

Screenshot of a local business website with testimonials on their home page

Home Page testimonials

 

Or be dedicated a page of their own:

Screenshot of a dedicated testimonials page on a local business website

Dedicated Testimonials Page

 

Collect as many testimonials as you can on social media, review sites, or even talking in-person with your customers.

Display them prominently to show what they have to say about you and your services.

Testimonials signal trustworthiness and will boost the confidence of potential customers leading to more visits and sales.

 

7. Add schema markup to your site

Have you ever wondered how you can see those star ratings for some websites in Google search?

Or how, for some sites, you can see a knowledge graph like this:

Screenshot of a knowledge graph for a local business with ratings, reviews, opening hours, busy hours and other valuable information

Knowledge Graph for a local business

 

Or similar results like this:

Screenshot of Google showing similar local business related to users search

Similar results in Google local search

 

These and many other features like them are called “rich snippets.”

The way you can add them to your site is by using something called schema markup.

Rich snippets are prominently displayed in Google SERP and can potentially drive more visitors to your site or your business.

Another benefit is that with schema, your site can be discovered by voice assistants!

Your website can also get a boost in the Google rankings thanks to a locally optimized schema.

So, how do you use schema for your site?

This is the part where it gets quite a bit technical. You can use this Google’s guide for local rich snippets.

Or you can use this free schema markup generator tool by Joe Hall.

Screenshot of schema markup generator tool with three step setup highlighted. First step select the type of local business, second step set information for your business and third step get your schema code.

Schema Markup Generator tool

 

After you’ve added schema markup to your site, you can test it using the structured data testing tool provided by Google.

Screenshot of Google's structured data testing tool

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

 

Rich snippets will propel your business to the top rankings. Your site may appear in many Google SERP new features like the knowledge graph and Local 3-Pack.

If installing the schema markup is not up your alley, perhaps consider getting help from a developer.

 

Step 2. Optimize your Google My Business page

Google My Business (GMB) is a must-use tool for all local businesses that want to be discovered in SERP, Google Maps, and other Google services.

It’s become the go-to source for Google to get all the details about your business (your address, phone number, images, street view, etc.). Which makes sense, because it’s Google’s own in-house tool.

Google can rely on GMB data to be accurate since they can verify all the information and content posted there.

This makes it important for you too! You want to put your information on the most reliable source for Google.

The added benefit of using GMB is your site will show up on Google Maps.

Screenshot of a local search in google maps showing the top 3 businesses in the selected area

Local search in Google Maps

 

So, how do you optimize your GMB page?

  1. Create and claim your local business in GMB
  2. Verify your business
  3. Enter your complete info
  4. Add photos
  5. Download the GMB app
  6. Create and claim your local business in GMB

 

1. Create and claim your local business in GMB

Go to the GMB website, create your account, and enter your business name.

Screenshot of Google My Business setup where you need to enter your business name

Name your business in GMB

 

Next, enter your correct street address:

Screenshot of Google My Business setup where you need to add your address and location information

Enter your street address in GMB

 

After that, set your business category.

Select the most accurate category available. This way, you’re telling Google which type of customers should see your business listing.

Start typing a term related to your business and choose the best option from the drop-down menu.

Screenshot of Google My Business setup where you need to set your business category

Set your business category in GMB

 

To finish creating your Google My Business page you need to add is your phone number and website URL.

Screenshot of Google My Business setup where you need to add your contact details

Add your contact details in GMB

 

2. Verify your business on Google

To claim your business on Google, you need to verify that it’s yours.

The default option is to verify your business by sending a postcard with a verification code to your business location (there may be other methods available depending on your region).

Screenshot of Google My Business setup where you need to verify the ownership of your business by receiving a code by mail

Verify you own the business in GMB

 

And you’re done with creating and claiming your business on GMB.

 

3. Enter complete info about your business

Once your page is created and verified, you need to customize your page with information. When you go to the GMB dashboard it will look something like this:

Screenshot of Google My Business page where you can add details about your local business

Add details to your GMB page

 

To complete your listing information, select “Info” from the left-hand menu or enter your details into the widget on the right.

You want to enter as many details as possible, as this will help Google understand your business and surface your listing for the right search terms.

Screenshot of Google My Business page where you can add your business information

Enter all the details in GMB

 

Pay special attention to the description – it’s your chance to describe your business to your potential customers, so make sure it includes all the relevant details.

Don’t forget to add attributes!

Attributes in Google My Business represent amenities like Wi-Fi, or accessibility details such as wheelchair options, or highlights like rooftop seating and live music.

They act as tags and help your business show up for the right searches.

Bear in mind that anyone can suggest an edit for your listing if the information is not accurate.

Screenshot of Google Maps area where users can suggest an edit to your local business page

Suggest an edit to your local business page

 

Keep all your business information neat and correct!

 

4. Add photos

Once you have all your info down, it’s time to enhance your listing with images.

According to Google, “Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for directions and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.

Images can tell a story or describe a place better than any text can, so make sure to take the full advantage of this feature.

To add images to your GMB page, select “Photos” from the left-hand menu and you’ll see this:

Screenshot of different photo categories you can fill in with images in Google My Business

Enhance your GMB page with photos

 

In Google My Business you can set a variety of photos for different purposes:

  • Profile – This is your listing’s identity, and it’s a perfect place for your logo.
  • Cover – This is the storefront of your listing, so you want to make sure it represents your business well and displays a bit of personality. It shows up next to your business in SERP and Maps.
  • Interior – Show potential customers the exact experience they’ll meet inside your facilities. Make sure the photos are bright enough for all the decorations and atmosphere to come to life. Google recommends posting at least 3 photos of your business’ interior.
  • Exterior – Include images in both daytime and nighttime to give people a perspective of what your business looks like. This can also help them find your place while navigating—so make sure to take at least 3 images from different angles.
  • Food and drinks – Connect to your inner Instagram photographer and snap some photos of your best meals, cocktails, or salads. You might consider hiring a professional food photographer.
  • Menus – Showcase what you have to offer, along with ingredients and prices. This helps potential customers decide between your business and others.
  • Videos – You can also add videos to tell stories about your business.

Different types of businesses will have different options here. For example, some might have options to show employees at work, team members, common areas, rooms, etc.

Make sure to use all the photo options that are available for your industry.

 

5. Download the GMB app to control your business page on the go

To manage your listing on the go, you can install an app for your iOS or Android device.

Once you’re done optimizing your GMB listing, don’t forget to always keep it up to date. Especially pay attention to your:

  • Business hours
  • Address (If you change your address, you’ll need to complete the verification process again to confirm the new address.)
  • Phone number
  • Website URL
  • Industry category

 

Step 3. Claim your other internet profiles

GMB and your website are not the only places where your potential customers might find you.

Review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, and even social media like Facebook will often appear as top rankings below Local 3-Pack.

Sometimes, these are accompanied by local guide and review sites.

Screenshot of a Google search with review sites displayed below the local 3-pack

Review sites in Google search results

 

These are all tools you can utilize to bring in more customers to your business.

To find websites that you need to claim your business on, you can Google something like: “best [industry/niche] in [location]”.

Screenshot of a local Google search for best car rental

Local search

 

Inspect the results and identify which sites come up in the first few pages.

Now claim your business as your own to take full control of each listing.

Screenshot of a page where you can claim your local business on Yelp

Claim your business on Yelp

 

Claiming your profiles usually involves creating an account. However, some platforms may require additional steps to verify that you are the owner.

For local business indexes, the process of claiming may be completely different and it really depends on the platform.

By claiming your business on review sites, you’ll also be able to respond to reviews from your customers. This is very important for getting more reviews and managing your online reputation.

Don’t forget about social media!

Make sure to create a Facebook business page. It’s the biggest social network and it appears in search results even for local-related searches.

Screenshot of Facebook page creation process where you can select the type of page you want to create

Create a Facebook page for your local business

 

Besides, people often look up businesses on Facebook and other social media sites.

To manage your online reputation effectively, having detailed profiles across all major social networks is a must.

 

Step 4. Manage your NAP consistency and citations

NAP stands for “name, address, and phone number.” You need to include this information in the contact page of your website — but the work doesn’t end there.

The name of the game is consistency. You need to make sure that NAP information stays consistent and up-to-date across all of your internet profiles.

This is important for two reasons:

  • It makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you
  • Google takes it as a ranking signal (as mentioned earlier)

For these reasons, you need to claim all of your online profiles and manage citations, so you can set and update your NAP information.

What are citations?

Citations are online mentions of your business and NAP information. They can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms.

The more citations you have, the better for you. They’re another signal telling Google that your business is relevant and they build up your authority. If the information is accurate and consistent, Google will trust the validity of the data and increase your chance of ranking in Local Packs.

On the other hand, if NAP details are not consistent, they might mislead customers and lead to loss of revenue and reputation. Google takes this seriously. In fact, this problem is going to be a big minus in the eyes of Google.

Surprisingly, citation inconsistencies are the #1 issue affecting local rankings.

Bar graph showing most common ranking issues for local businesses emphasizing that 41% have a problem with citation inconsistencies

Most common ranking issues – #1 citation inconsistency

 

That’s why you have to take an active approach. Find these citations, make sure they’re accurate, and reach out to make the necessary changes. You also want to check for duplicated listings and remove them.

You can Google terms like:

  • “[your industry] directory”
    Screenshot of Google search for car wash directory. Searching for local business directories
  • “Top [your industry] blogs + [location]”
    Google search for local blogs

 

Some of the top local citation sites in Canada are:

 

Step 5. Get more reviews to boost your local rankings

Reviews are essential to your local business.

85% of customers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations and 73% of people form an opinion about your business after reading between one and six online reviews.

Your goal is to get as many positive reviews as possible because 73% of consumers have more trust in a local business with positive reviews.

Reviews are featured in Local Packs as well as other organic results in Google.

Screenshot of ratings in Google search results for local searches

Ratings in Google search results

 

Review signals equate to 13% of ranking signals in Google.

If you amaze and delight your customers with outstanding services and products, many of them will want to share their elation with the rest of the world.

However, most customers won’t leave any review unless you give them a little nudge. You basically need to ask your customers to leave a review after they’ve experienced your services or products.

You can use some of the following tactics to encourage more reviews:

1. Create a “Review Us” page on your website and link to your Google Reviews URL. To get the review URL, click on your own listing in Google SERP:
Screenshot of Knowledge Graph in Google encouraging users to write a review of the local business

 

Copy the URL from the browser and paste at your desired location.

Screenshot on how to copy a URL for a local review page

Copy the URL of your review page

 

2. Offer printed material (receipts, handouts, cards, etc.) at the time of delivery of the service/product that asks for a review

3. Ask people personally at the end of the transaction

4. Gather customers’ information and send reminders to review your listing

5. Include a QR code on a decal or postcard that links back to your Google Review page. You can create a QR code using this free tool.

6. Have a laptop or a tablet waiting at the exit of your business to get feedback

7. And finally, perhaps one of the most powerful tactics is to respond to existing comments and reviews.

When people see you are open to feedback and criticism, they’ll trust you even more and know that their voices are being heard.

Respond to both positive and negative reviews.

For positive reviews, express your gratitude for the feedback and their visit.

As for negative reviews, apologize and accept responsibility. Express empathy and commitment to fixing the issue. Show that you care and you wish to regain their trust.

Don’t forget about other review sites as well. Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, and others are also important sources of foot traffic to your business. And reviews on these sites are also signals which Google takes into account.

But before you go asking people for reviews, consider that each platform has their own review guidelines. Make sure to get familiar with them before you take any action in order to avoid being penalized or banned.

You can see a list of most common review sites and their policies here.

 

Step 6. Create local content

No matter if you’re a small business or a big corporation, you need some content on your site.

Your content is what gets you discovered in Google when people search terms related to your industry, niche, products, and services, etc.

That’s why you’ll see a blog section on every website that knows their SEO.

Screenshot of a blog page on a local business website

Blog page on a local business website

 

Not only that but with quality content, you can build trust with your potential customers. Reading your blog, they can see you know what you’re doing and that you can genuinely provide the best product or service.

But wait. There’s more.

Your content is what’s going to build your authority in the eyes of Google.

Again, if your content is high quality, other websites will link back to your content. These are called backlinks. They are the source of your site’s authority.

Authority is the biggest ranking factor for Google, accounting for almost 24% of the total.

Pie chart showing components of Google's ranking algorithm

Components of Google’s ranking algorithm

 

Now that you realize how important it is to have content on your site, let’s talk about what kind of content you need.

The answer is simple! For your small local business, you need to write local content.

What I mean by this is that you want to write content that is somehow related to your region, city, area or even neighborhood.

Make sure to infuse your content with words that are associated with something local.

But don’t forget about mentioning some of your neighboring towns, local institutions, and even specific slang that is used by locals in your area.

A great way to do this is by talking about happenings, local news, community events, etc. that are somehow connected to what you do. You can also give your own perspective about these matters.

But don’t write about your business explicitly! That’s a huge turn-off.

As David Meerman Scott, influential digital marketing strategist said: “Stop talking about your products and services. People don’t care about products and services; they care about themselves.”

Screenshot of a Tweet by David Meerman Scott saying: "stop talking about your products and services. People don't care about products and services; they care about themselves."

 

So, don’t write about your business and your products and services. Don’t try to sell in your blog posts. That’s not what blogging is for!

Instead, help people.

Write content that offers them some value—that answers their questions, informs them, teaches them, or helps them solve a problem.

That’s what people are looking for. And that’s how you build trust and loyalty with them.

Now, it might seem tricky to come up with topics to write about. Your industry or services and products are a great source of inspiration:

  • A pizza place can have recipes for amazing pizzas.
  • An auto detailing shop might write about methods to get a car squeaky clean.
  • A chiropractor can blog about correct sitting posture, make a list of stretching exercises, etc.

Use your content to provide genuine help to your visitors, and they will begin to trust you.

You get the point!

To help you find topics that people are actually searching for, you need to conduct keyword research. You can use a free tool like Ubersuggest.

Enter a keyword or phrase connected to your niche, products, or services.

Screenshot of Ubersuggest search box

Ubersuggest

 

You will get a list like this, showing you related keywords that people are actually typing into Google.

Screenshot of Ubersuggest results page with keyword ideas, search volume and other elements

Ubersuggest results page

 

Find a keyword that has a high search volume.

Be wary of keywords with high competition, as they might be too difficult for you to rank for if you’re just starting out.

Once you’ve found your target keyword, you can start writing content around that topic. If you want something more advanced, you can use a paid tool like Ahrefs.

Learn how to find the most profitable keywords using our Keyword Research guide.

Other than your blog page, there are two more pages I would recommend your local business website to have:

  • FAQ page
  • About Us page

 

FAQ page

It’s a great opportunity to add local content.

FAQ pages should answer questions that your real local customers ask about your company, products, or services. Talk to your customer service employees who answer the phone or your sales representatives in order to uncover questions people commonly ask.

Screenshot of Answer The Public results page

Answer The Public

If you don’t have any data yet, you can use the tool Answer the Public. You will get all the questions people ask in Google about your keyword.

 

About Us page

This page is your opportunity to tell potential customers a story about your business and even your team members.

Besides that, it’s a great place to add geo-targeted keywords you’re trying to rank for.

For instance, a local law office can write something like: “Our law firm was founded in 2007 by Mike Spenser. Our initial office was at 181 University Ave #1765, but in 2015 we moved to a bigger office downtown at 79 Wellington St W #3460.”

That’s essentially how you can create content for your local audience. For a detailed guide on how to optimize your content read our On-page Yoast SEO guide.

And that concludes our 6-step guide to local SEO that’s going to get you ranked in Google’s Local Packs.

 

Conclusion

It used to be that small businesses had to fight an uphill battle against big companies to rank in the top pages of Google.  But with the latest Pigeon update and new SERP, your small business has the opportunity to fight back and dominate the #1 page of Google.

Local Packs are packed with information, they’re convenient and most importantly, they take up so much screen space that they demand attention. Most people will simply have a look at them and decide where to navigate to immediately.

That’s why it’s imperative that you take advantage of this feature to its fullest!

It does take a bit of work, as well as a bit of know-how, but following this guide is going to get you results fast!

Now it’s your turn.

Take action, perform local SEO, and get your site to the top with Local 3-Pack!

Let me know down in the comments if you learned something new from this local SEO guide. Or maybe you have a question for me. Either way, feel free to leave a comment!

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