How many times have you searched for something on Google and used the words “near me,” “local,” or the name of your city? If you’re like me, you’ve probably done it more than your fair share of times. In fact, 46% of all Google searches are for local information.
These searches have what’s known as local intent, which means the searcher is purposefully looking for something nearby. When that happens, Google’s search results generate Google’s local pack, which consists of the top 3 local listings that most closely match the user’s search query.
Appearing at the top of Google’s local pack is a golden opportunity to get your business in front of consumers who are looking for what you offer and are ready to buy. But you have to get there first! We’ll go over what Google’s looking for and show you some ways to help you reach the top of the pack.
How does Google choose businesses for the local pack?
Let’s look at the 3 factors Google considers to determine which businesses to include in its local pack.
- Relevance – This refers to how well the user’s search matches your business listing content. The closer the match, the better the chance you’ll be at the top of the pack.
- Distance – If a user’s search query specifies a location, Google looks at how far a business’s location is from the query location. If the search doesn’t specify location, Google uses the searcher’s physical location to show local results.
- Prominence – How well known is your business? Google wants to see lots of positive reviews and citations in local business listings sites. Your website position in organic search results also comes into play here.
Unfortunately, you can’t pay to get into Google’s local pack. However, there are 3 steps you can take to boost your ranking and get to the top.
1. Claim your Google My Business listing.
You can’t get to the top of Google’s local pack without a Google My Business (GMB) listing. If you haven’t claimed or created your GMB listing, this should be your first order of business. And it’s free, so you have no reason not to do it.
Once you’ve claimed your GMB listing, optimize it by filling it out as thoroughly as possible. Aside from your business name, address and phone number, add:
- Business hours
- Website URL
- Photos of your business in action
- Business categories
- Regular posts (like special events or offers)
- A business description
Pro Tip: The map above the local pack displays physical locations for the 3 businesses in the local pack. If you want to increase the likelihood of showing up there and having an accurate map pin location, verify your business with Google. Google likes verified businesses and prioritizes them for local pack decisions.
2. Optimize your website for local search.
Your website is crucial to making it to the top of Google’s local pack. But it’s not just about having a fancy website with special bells and whistles.
Your website also needs quality search engine optimization (SEO). When your website ranks higher in organic search results, it helps your local ranking and chances of appearing in the local pack, too.
Improve your website’s local SEO rank:
- Ensure your website has correct title tags, meta descriptions, and a site map. These elements make it easy for Google to crawl your website.
- Include your city or the geographic area you serve in your tags, meta descriptions, and web copy. This helps Google match your location with those in user searches.
- Make your website mobile friendly. 57% of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices, and Google likes mobile friendliness. Google’s mobile-friendly test can help you test your website’s mobile readiness.
- If your website uses images, make sure those images have appropriate alt text. Write your alt text to be as descriptive as possible, while still relevant to your images.
- Make sure the URL of each page on your website indicates what’s on the page. Say you’re looking at a URL like www.womensclothes.com/dresses/casualdresses. It’s fairly easy to see the hierarchy of the website and what it’s about.
Pro Tip: Build inbound links to your website from local online listings sites. In addition to general sites like Yelp and Yahoo! Local, there are industry-specific sites (like findlaw.com and tripadvisor.com) you can link your website to. We’ll go over online listings sites in the next section.
3. Improve your online listings and reviews.
Online listings sites give your business’s credibility a boost by creating citations, which are online mentions of your business information. Your citations should be consistent with one another, your website, and your GMB listing.
Positive online reviews (and lots of them) also hold clout with Google. If you’ve got plenty of them already, congratulations! You’re ahead of the game. But if you’ve got a lot of bad reviews, you’ll need to do a little damage control.
A few tips to get your online listings and reviews ready for the top of Google’s local pack:
- Claim your listings on other online listings sites, or consumers will do it for you. If your information is incorrect, it hurts your local ranking with Google. Once you claim your listings, fix any inaccuracies ASAP.
- Make sure your listings’ business name, address, and phone number match your GMB listing and your website. If you use abbreviations in your business name or address, do so consistently on each listings site.
- Need more online reviews? Ask happy customers to leave some for you (without bribing them). If you have any negative reviews, getting more positive reviews will boost your star ratings on average.