If you run a business that operates within a local area like Witney, then local SEO can be a great way to get yourself on the map, literally. Certain Google searches will return a map with links to local businesses. This search feature is known as the local pack and it looks like this.
The local pack above appears at top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) when searching for “Accountants Witney”, followed by a number of organic search results. Different searches will trigger different search features (i.e. ads, videos, shopping results) which may change where the local pack is displayed. In the majority of cases it is displayed above the organic search results meaning it occupies prime SERP real estate..
How to get into the local pack
The local pack can contain up to three different listings, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the local 3-pack. In areas where there is a lot of competition, such as “accountancy in Witney”, your business may be listed under more places, as illustrated in the image above. To maximise your chances of getting into the local pack you should do the following;
- Set up a Google My Business account – Google My Business is Google’s answer to Yell, or the Yellow Pages, which helps Google to understand your business and show it for relevant searches. Bright Local reports that 75% of businesses’ GMB listing views are on Search, so the importance of getting set up on Google My Business cannot be understated.
- Optimise your website – You can help search engines understand further attributes about your business by schema.org markup. There are many different types of schema.org markup, but to get your business listed locally you should be using Local Business markup. This can can help Google, and other search engines understand the location of your business.
- Directories – Business directories are a great way to spread your name across the web and gain citations. Most directories use nofollow links so they won’t help you build links, but they will help Google to understand where your business is located. You should also ensure that your NAP (Name Address Postcode) is consistent across these directories, and your website, to help search engines verify your location. If you want to find out more then read my posts on the best UK directories and what you need to think about before adding your site to a directory.
- Local links – Links from other websites that are local to your business can help you get into the local pack. Be mindful that just because a business is local to you doesn’t mean that a link will be valuable to your SEO. In some cases links from disreputable, low quality sources can actually have a negative impact on your SEO.
But wait… there’s more. If you’ve done all of the above and you’re still not appearing in the local pack then consider the following;
- More places – Just because your website isn’t in the local pack doesn’t mean you’re not listed. Your website could be hiding away under “more places”.
- Search relevance – If Google believes that your listing doesn’t match a particular search query then you won’t appear. Try adding more schema.org markup or changing your Google My Business category to more closely match the query.
- Distance from the searcher or location – Google uses the distance of the searcher from the business as a local SEO ranking factor, so unless you plan on moving your business elsewhere, you’re not going to be able to change this one, sorry!
- Prominence of the place listed– Some places are prominent offline and online, such as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Google understands this by using a number of signals to determine prominence such as;
- Links from other websites
- Reviews on Google and other local directories
- Organic SEO ranking
The benefits of being in the local pack
The main benefit of being in the local pack is the visibility it gives your business. However, there are many ways you can customise your listing to include;
- Contact information – Local pack positioning means you can reach relevant, local customers when they’re searching for your products and services. Searchers have the opportunity to reach out to you without even visiting your website, which can increase conversion rates drastically. It’s also a big plus if your website has poor usability or needs a redesign, which might put people off contacting you.
- Reviews – You can show how well respected your business is by getting customers to leave reviews. The only caveat to this is that people may leave negative reviews and these can’t be deleted. However, it is possible to respond to them and show your side of the story.
- Opening hours – Opening hours can be shown meaning that your customers know when to contact you or visit your business. You can even set your opening hours for special holidays such as Christmas.
- Directions – Local address information allows Google Maps to provide directions to your business, which is especially helpful if your business has a physical shop front i.e. a restaurant or supermarket.