No matter how many “common rules” and “universal laws” of SEO have been invented over the years, certain tasks require a unique approach. At Click Creative, we use your feedback as the main source of insights and ideas for our future tools. We thoroughly analyse our customers’ workflow so that the tools we build are of maximum value to their users. These days, as SERP features are gaining more and more traction and starting to dominate search results, local SEOs are facing a new challenge: how to get into the Local Pack.
What is local pack and why bother?
Search engines use location to provide a better user experience. Gone are the days when you searched for “Emergency Plumber” and got a selection of results ranging across the country. Now, search engines use location based data (IP addresses and geo location) to provide a better search result.By optimising for local you can take advantage of search engines’ local intent for better visibility for the business within the search results.Searching for a specific business or service in a location triggers what is called a Local Pack. This is a list of businesses that provide a service or product within the local area and adds an additional layer to the search results.
here are several types of local pack, but they mostly contain the same blocks of information and do not differ substantially. We’ll be talking about two types: Local Teaser and Local Pack (or Local Finder). Their main difference is that Local Teaser does not have links, which complicates tracking your presence in them. We’ll discuss tracking your results in the last chapter.
Types of local packs
Local Snack Pack
This is a local 3-pack for dining, hospitality, and entertainment businesses. Results have a photo, no phone number, and no links to the website, but if you click on one of the results, you will see a map featuring more businesses and an extended card of the selected business, with a link to their site.
This is the most commonly used type of Local Pack: a list of three (can be also two or four) businesses with their contact details and other valuable informationBeneath or beside the map, which is displayed on the Google search page, is the Name of Business, Address of Business, Phone Number of Business (NAP), unless marked as a Service Area Business (SAB), in which case only town and county (state) are displayed. Other information may be included, such as business hours, star rating, etc.
How to get into the Local Pack
In Local Packs, Google shows business listings, not websites, so to be featured in a Local Pack, you need to get a Google My Business page. Also, it is assumed by many SEO pros that to get into the Local Pack you should be ranked within the top 10 results for your local search query, which implies a good share of website optimisation.
Manage your business listings
Create your Google My Business Page
Claim your Google My Business listing
Optimise your listing – Fill in business info- Select correct category- Add pictures
Optimize your website
Perform site audit
Optimise for local- Integrate NAP into the website- Obtain locally relevant backlinks- Add structured data markup
Track your results
Create a rank tracking campaign.
Track for keywords with local modifiers
Add local areas and different devices
Track locally for keywords with no local modifiers
Creating and managing your business listings
Create, claim and verify your Google My Business listing
The Google business page is what appears within the Local Pack in organic searches and in Google Maps. Without a Google My Business page your business will not have a presence in Local Pack or Local Maps results. Check to see if you have an unclaimed business listing. If you do, then claim it and verify it.
If you do not have a Google Business listing, then create a Google Business page — https://www.google.com/business/ If you are a service area business, then make sure you select “I serve customers at their location”. Then select your service area and/or a service area radius. In both cases make sure that your NAP (Name of Business, Address of Business, Phone number of Business) are correct. It will be crucial when you start optimising for local search. https://www.google.com/business/
Optimise your business listing
Once your business listing is verified, you can optimise it and start taking advantage of its benefits. Log into your Dashboard here: https://business.google.com/manage/ Select the Business and click Manage Location.
A proper and detailed business description is key to being a match to the relevant user search queries.
Refine the category if available. This is one of the most important business descriptions, and allows Google to match your business to a search query.
Add business hours, making sure that these match the hours listed on your website. Pay special attention if you have several locations with different working hours.
View and respond to reviews. Some businesses have a special review management policy, which allows them to control their online reputation.
Depending on the type of business you have selected, there will either be a single element for your website’s URL or multiple offerings such as Menu URL, Order ahead URL and Reservation URL.
A picture is worth a thousand words and images play a very important part in the decision-making process by customers. Again this section needs to be monitored as users are able to add images to your listing via Maps.
The Insights section provides some information on where customers found your listing and what action they took
These may not be immediately available to you, but as data is built up about your business they will become available. You should regularly check these, as they are crowd sourced via Google Maps and do have the tendency to be incorrect.
Creating a post allows you to publish events, products and services directly and instantly in search and Maps.
Managing Business Citations
A citation is essentially a business profile of some description on a website other than your own. Typically you will find citations on business directory type websites, such listings as Yelp or Localeze, but your business info can also be present in maps, apps, search engines, voice assistants, and other intelligent services. They may be paid citations or free ones. Each citation will consist of, at a minimum, the business name, address, contact details and, more often than not, a link to the official business website. Some directories will allow a short business description, additional information like business hours, and some of the better ones have calling functionality.
Important When Building Citations
Citations are a local search ranking factor, so it is critical that you keep your citations correct and up-to-date across all business listings. To rank well, it is crucial that you have your NAP consistent across all citations (Name of Business, Address of Business, Phone Number of Business). Many of the maps, apps, and directories are constantly crawling for the most up-to-date information, which means you might find the listings you’ve just updated have changed back to incorrect information.Since citations are external links pointing to your website, they fall within Google webmaster guidelines. Concentrate on relevant high authority sites rather than several of low quality citations which could harm your site.
Business Listing Management
As stated before, you have to regularly check if your business info stays correct and updated. Checking this manually can be tricky, especially if your business has more than one location. For the US based businesses, SEMrush offers a solution that can save countless hours checking and updating your business details. All you have to do is input the data and find the location:
Optimising your website for local search
After you make sure your business listings are in order, the next big step is to optimise your website for local search queries.To do that, you need to understand how Google ranks websites in the local SERPs (and listings in the Local Pack).
Google Local Ranking Factors:
Relevance, or how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for. Adding complete and detailed business information can help the user better understand your business and will match your website to relevant search results. A large part of this cannot be influenced because Google knows where your business is located (as you’ve stated your address in the listing), but this can be overcome with properly optimised service area pages or business location within the website and structured data markup.
Distance, or, just like it sounds, how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search. If you don’t specify a location in your search, Google will calculate the distance based on what they know about your location.
Prominence, or how well-known or prominent a business is. This is based on the information Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and Google tries to reflect this online as well.
When chasing local ranks don’t forget about the general SEO requirements: the website’s health, optimised content, and quality backlinks. In this chapter, we collected the essential steps that you should take to optimise your website for local search.
Ensuring your website’s health
You have to perform a site audit to find and fix site issues, some of which are particularly serious for local websites. Click Creative Audit has 120+ checks to your website’s health, sorted by severity (errors, warnings and notices), and grouped in thematic reports. We provide them in a prioritised list, putting the most crucial ones first.These are the issues that require your attention first.
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Nothing drives the search engines’ bots and users away from a website like broken links and 404 pages. Needless to say, a broken home page can cost you a good share of your profits.
Local searches have better conversions because users that search locally generally have more interest in making a purchase or using a service. One could even say that local searchers are more impatient about getting a result. Spending extra time waiting while the website is loading is not what they want.
Local searchers are very keen on images of a business. In fact, recent, high-quality images of a business or a product quite often sway a user’s opinion, even when another place may have more in its favour.
Internal and External links
Broken links are annoying, and they can also harm your site rankings.
Watch out for the following issues:
- Broken internal links
- Broken external links
- Links with no-follow attributes
- Too many on-page links
Duplicate titles and descriptions
Remember relevancy? Duplicate titles and descriptions tell Google that two or more of your website’s pages are not unique, that is, they provide no additional value to the user.
If your clients can make purchases on your website, having an HTTPS version of your website is crucial.
Optimising on-page and off-page elements
Fixing errors that are making your site unusable is the most urgent thing. Once this is done, you can start thinking about optimising it specifically for local search. Relevance, distance and prominence – remember? This is what we are going to be working on.
City and County in Landing Page Title
The City and County (State in US) should be in the landing page that you want to position in the search results. By including your city and county in your landing page title tag, you will be letting both search engines and human visitors know that your business serves and is located in a specific geographic location
Quality and Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
We have already touched on this regarding citations. The quality and authority of a link pointing to your domain plays a part in your visibility in search results. The old adage ‘quality over quantity’ is very relevant in earning links that point to your domain. A local business can earn links from a variety of sources: local and national media, local charity sites, local business citations, business associations, chambers of commerce, local high profile bloggers. Our Backlink Audit tool allows you to check the toxicity of a group of backlinks. This is very convenient as you can take a look at a particular page’s backlinks, not just the whole domain, and analyse different parameters of the page backlink portfolio: the domains that refer to it, how many backlinks were lost and gained etc.
Physical Address in City of Search
A physical address in an area, city or county will greatly boost the relevance of that page for a search query. Add the address to page or site and mark up with LocalBusiness schema markup (See Structured Data section). Local citations will also be using the address, creating a strong signal for that business and its locality. For a single location business we recommend having all the contact details within the footer; this can include up to two locations. For a brand with nationwide stores you would have your locations page in the top navigation line and a footer link to the locations page.
Product and Service Keywords in Website URL
The URL for the product and service landing page should contain keywords (e.g. www.yoursite.com/your-keywords-here). Try to be consistent with the structure of your URLs.
City and County in Landing Page H1/H2 Tags
Ideally your main page H1 should include your name and overall service and the H2 would include your town and county. On a product-specific page the H1 would be the actual product / service and the H2 would ideally contain the area again.
City and County in Most/All Website Title Tags
By including your city and county (state) in your landing page title tag, you will be letting both search engines and human visitors know that your business serves and is located in a specific geographic location.
Tracking your results
Local packs, just like other Google SERP features (and Google SERPs in general) are highly volatile. Ranking algorithms change, ranks drop, positions get lost, so it is important to monitor your website (and listing!) performance regularly in order to take action when necessary.
In local SEO, organic and Local Pack positions are equally important and work hand in hand for a local business. If you are a hyperlocal business you can select to track in a specific area by ZIP code or track both nationally and locally.