Digital marketing and advertising offer excellent opportunities to expand your company’s reach around the globe. But they can also help you build up your audience in local communities and open your business up to potential customer in your area. Google reports that about 46% of all online searches have a local intent behind them, meaning their users are seeking services, information, or other content specific to a location.
To help connect those users with the localized search results they’re seeking, Google has made changes to its algorithm to account for location in its search engine results page (SERP) listings. Another important search tool is Google’s Local Pack, which aims to connect users to specific local businesses they might be trying to discover.
If you’re a business owner or marketer targeting a local audience, Google’s Local Pack is an important tool to incorporate into your SEO strategy. Here’s a detailed guide on what the Local Pack is, why it matters, and how you can use it to build or expand your own business.
What is Google’s Local Pack?
Any Google search user is likely familiar with the Google Local Pack, although they might not know it by name. The Local Pack is a SERP feature that appears on the first page of results for any search query with a local intent. It features a map of business locations along with listings for three businesses relevant to a particular search.
Originally showing seven results, the Local Pack has since been pared down to three, with an option for users to click over to a longer page of results in Google Maps. Google creates these Local Pack results through its Google My Business listings, based on what the algorithm thinks are the most relevant results for a given search.
Why you should care about Google’s Local Pack
Although the Local Pack has a greater impact for certain businesses and industries than others, it’s valuable to any business looking to strengthen its visibility and engage with a local audience. Because the Local Pack appears at the top of the first SERP, it offers local businesses a boosted online presence as a shortcut to the top of the SERP listings that your company might not be able to reach through SEO alone.
The Local Pack also makes it easy for search users to find your business’s website, hours, address, and phone number. If you’re targeting click-to-call referrals through Google, the Local Pack is a crucial referral channel that needs to be targeted (we’ll break down how to do this below).
For restaurants; service companies ranging from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning to dentistry; local retail shops; or any business with a brick-and-mortar presence that’s looking to increase awareness, in-store traffic, and sales at the local level, Google’s Local Pack can be a great asset, offering a handful of features that benefit both search users and local businesses.
Features of the Local Pack
The Local Pack appears as a widget at the top of the SERP, providing key information that can help users decide whether those local results are relevant to their needs. The largest of these features is a map, which helps users determine the business’s location.
Because proximity to the user’s location plays such a large role in purchasing decisions — they typically show a preference, for example, for a nearby dentist rather than one who is 10 minutes further away — the map is important to the value of the Local Pack. The three businesses appearing in the Local Pack are listed beside the map, with key information for each: a physical address; a phone number; a link to the business’s website and directions to its location, if applicable; and information about whether it’s open — or when its location will be open next. The average review rating is also displayed, helping you narrow down your options based on the public consensus on each business.
At the bottom of the listing, a link to “more places” is available if you’d like to see more than the three selected options. On mobile devices, each listing will also offer a click-to-call button that will open your phone app and call the business directly. All of these features help customers quickly find the information they’re seeking, and they simplify the decision-making process by quickly providing essential information.
Pros and cons of Google’s Local Pack
Like any digital marketing tool, Google’s Local Pack offers advantages and disadvantages when targeting local listings via search. The positives are fairly obvious and, in general, outweigh the negatives of this search feature. For example, the opportunity to earn increased visibility can be significant, depending on your location and the competitiveness of your market, as well as the potential value of Local Pack visibility to companies in your particular niche.
Similarly, the Local Pack makes it easy to generate referrals to your website, via phone, and to your physical location. Plus, this premium SERP space doesn’t cost you anything, unlike paid search campaigns.
But there are some disadvantages to watch out for. If your market is competitive and you’re struggling to get visibility in the Local Pack, for example, the existence of this search feature doesn’t do you much good. In fact, it can hurt you if you’re ranking high in local SEO, only to see other businesses undercut your SEO success by claiming territory in the Local Pack.
Meanwhile, Local Pack visibility isn’t as helpful if your Google My Business information isn’t up to date. Fortunately, this disadvantage is one that you can control by taking greater ownership of your company’s search profile.
Optimizing your site for Google’s Local Pack
There’s no extra work required to sign up for your business to appear in Google’s Local Pack. These search results are generated through the information in Google’s business listings, so if you’ve set up your business account or your business is already listed in this database, then you should be eligible to appear in the Local Pack.
If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing yet, visit the Google My Business website and complete the steps to claim ownership. Once you own your Google My Business listing, the best thing you can do is to make sure your profile is optimized for maximum visibility. Google offers a handful of tips to improve your odds of appearing in the Local Pack:
- Enter as much information about your business as possible. The more complete your business profile is, the more Google’s algorithm is likely to favor you. Make sure your information is accurate and up to date, including your physical address, your business category, and key attributes of your business. This information is used by Google to determine if your business is relevant to a particular search.
- Verify your location. Google offers a verification process to ensure the accuracy of location information. This affects not just your Local Pack results, but also your organic search ranking and your visibility in products such as Google Maps. Visit your Google My Business page to check your verification status and complete the process, if needed.
- Add photos to your business listing. Pictures of the storefront, interior, menu, and other elements are used by search users to determine whether they would like to visit a business location. Provide these photos to expand on the information available about your business through the Local Pack.
- Update information as it changes. If you extend or change your hours, make sure you update your profile. This is true for official holidays: Google lets business owners verify their holiday hours, which can boost their visibility around these holidays by giving users more reliable results in the Local Pack.
- Respond to online reviews to demonstrate customer service and engage with your customers. Google’s algorithm values businesses that respond to customer reviews, and the company reports that doing so can result in greater visibility.
Integrating Google My Business with CallRail
If you carefully manage your business listing and increase appearances in the Local Pack, this search feature can lead to increased local brand awareness and more revenue for your business.
Want more insight into the call you get from your Google My Business listing? Learn more about the new integration with CallRail here.