Google Maps is a free online directories that provide users with mapping information. It includes turn-by-turn directions, panoramic views of intersections, businesses, and public places, as well as user-submitted ratings and reviews of businesses. All of this data is used by Google algorithms to improve the user experience and also provides a valuable SEO tool for local companies.
The top three results shown on Google Maps are referred to as the “local 3-pack” or “snack pack.” This is the first thing that potential customers see when they search for businesses like yours. So how do you make sure your company appears in the coveted 3-pack? And even better, how can you ensure that your Google Business Profile (GBP) dominates the map results? Let’s dive into all the details below.
What Is Google Maps 3-Pack?
When a searcher types in a keyword that seems to be searching to buy a particular product or service, Google’s search engine has created a way to help the viewer find that item or service locally. Rather than just popping up website results, a Google Maps inset map pops up at the top of the screen. On it, there are three identified businesses based on the location of the searcher, all of whom (hopefully) offer the product or service locally. These three coveted spots, known as the “Google Maps 3-Pack”, are a place where you want your business to be.
For one thing, it appears at the top of the screen, above online providers who may have national name recognition. People who want to support local businesses but haven’t heard of yours will be excited to see that their first options are close to home. The 3-Pack is also organized to give them a bunch of valuable information right at their fingertips, from your company’s name to its address and phone number. They make it easy to click over to your website or make a call right then and there.
What Helps You Rank in the 3-Pack?
So, of course, the 3-Pack is a valuable place for your business, but how can you make sure your business pops up for the searchers who are near you and want a local business to visit? Here are some of the factors that help you build your local SEO enough to rank on google maps.
Google My Business Optimization
Part of how Google “knows” you are a local business in your particular area is to use Google My Business. Signing up is free, and it offers you a platform where you can give Google good information about the details of your business. Thus, Google cannot make choices about what information to display based on its search engine algorithms.
Optimizing Google My Business may start with just signing up and inputting the relevant, correct information, but you can go far beyond that. Adding high-resolution images, picking the best category to describe your business, adding a description, and connecting to your website are all very good ways to appear to be a reputable, easy-to-access choice for the 3-Pack.
Connected to your Google Business profile are your reviews. If possible, encourage as many satisfied customers as possible to review your business using specific information about what they like and, of course, encouraging happy customers to give 5 stars. Reviews on social media and aggregate review sites like Yelp all add to your amount of local citations, or online places that indicate that your business is relevant to a particular geographical area. Google cares a lot about these citations since they help make sure that they show businesses that are both really in the area, and really connected to the particular keyword.
Optimize your website for local SEO
Speaking of keywords, if you want to show up in the Google 3-Pack for a particular kind of business or service, you’ll need to ensure your website also includes optimized content. Make sure your website contains relevant keyword phrases that potential customers would use when searching for businesses like yours.
You don’t want to “keyword stuff”, with dozens of references to each keyword. Instead, follow the local SEO best practices for both mentioning your town or city and for mentioning your services and products. A well-versed SEO professional from Direction can help with that!
Online Business Profiles, Local Directories, Citations
A citation is simply an online mention of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). The more high-quality citations you have from reputable websites, the better chance you have of ranking in the local 3-pack. There are a number of ways to build citations, such as directory listings, being mentioned in news articles or blog posts, etc.
Citations, also referred to as directories and online business profiles, are one of the most important ways in which Google ranks local businesses. Online directories contain information which helps Google to verify the accuracy of business information such as Name, Address, and Phone number.
Local directory sites (also sometimes referred to as citations) act as online directories for local businesses. Some examples of local directory sites include Yellow Pages, Yelp, Nextdoor and Foursquare.
It’s always a good thing to be listed in a wide variety of online directories, but it’s even better if you’re listed on industry-specific directories.
When a business is listed on a local directory site, it helps Google to verify that the business is legitimate. This in turn helps to improve the business’s ranking on Google Maps.
So if you’re looking to improve your local map ranking, one thing you can do is to make sure you’re listed on as many relevant local directory sites as possible.
Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) Consistency
It may seem insignificant, but one of the major issues that confuse Google and other search engines is inconsistency in the all-important NAP: name, address, and phone number. Imagine a business that changes its name, relocates, or simply switches phone numbers. Having multiple options for these three key stats makes it harder to trust that the business is still operating. Not wanting to show bad information, Google tends to use inconsistent NAP businesses less in the 3-Pack.
The solution may be a bit manual. However, keeping an organized spreadsheet or another document of all the places where you’re listed online, from social media to delivery services or directories, allows you to go through and update everything universally whenever your NAP details change. Also, it might persuade you to keep that old phone number if possible when you switch providers. You’d hate to lose business just because locals were confused about where to call.
One of the ways that Google verifies that you’re a trusted and well-respected business is through backlinks, or links to other websites. The assumption is that you are more interesting, important, and connected if others are referencing your products and services and directing traffic toward your site. You can get new backlinks by asking to be featured on other sites, both journalistic sites in your area and the sites of other local businesses that work as complements to your business rather than competitors. In turn, your own blog and site can reference valued partners and create backlinks for them. An experienced local SEO professional can also help you think of other creative ways to improve your backlinks and boost your business into the 3-Pack.
Social media is another great way to connect with potential customers and market your business at the same time. Use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to post engaging content that will promote brand awareness and drive traffic back to your website or GMB listing.
While you can control less of this, part of how you get into the 3-Pack for particular searchers is through their physical location, as determined by Google’s reading of their IP address location. You can help them find you, however, by carefully and clearly marking your “service area” in Google My Business. This feature doesn’t have sneaky loopholes, like setting your service area as the whole country, but it does help Google recognize that you are local to all of the searchers who look for your keywords in a certain city or town. It’s worthwhile to also make sure keywords related to that local area, such as town or county names, are optimized on your website.
By following these tips, you can give yourself a much better chance of dominating rankings the local 3-pack on Google Maps—and driving more customers to your business as a result! Ready to expand your online presence and gather new business traffic using local SEO? Want to rank on Google Maps? Schedule a discovery call with Direction today!