Category Archives: Local Marketing

Google Reduces 7-Pack in Search to 3-Pack: What This Means for Local Businesses

Google's 3 Pack Algorithm Update

Among all the changes happening at Google, the tech giant made a significant shakeup in local search earlier this month that kind of went under the radar.

For starters, the company separated Google+ from YouTube, meaning you no longer have to have a G+ account to log in to YouTube. Then, Google+ Photos starting shutting down on August 1 in favor of the standalone service known as just Google Photos. After that, of course, Google announced a new parent company, Alphabet, had been created.

Lost in the midst of all of that was a potentially major change to local search results on Google. Last week, Google shrank its traditional 7-pack in local searches to a 3-pack.

What’s Changed in Google Local Search

Not only do companies with a local focus have to do everything they can to optimize their websites and end up on the first page of Google’s search results, but, until recently, a select seven businesses got an extra-special, front-and-center placement.

The Google 7-Pack Is Now the 3-Pack

When conducting a search for a local service, Google used to feature seven businesses between the paid spots at the top of the first page and the rest of the organic search results below. Those seven businesses had verified Google+ pages that were tied in to their websites, and they presumably had put the best local SEO practices in place.

However, the 7-pack has now been truncated to a 3-pack, and some of the features thereof have been simplified, if not stripped down. Let’s look at a couple of examples. If I search for a “Phoenix AC company” in Google, this is what I immediately see:
Screenshot - Google Phoenix AC Search

On the first results page, you can see the pay per click spots at the top (along with some other paid ads on the right sidebar) and then a small map and the 3-pack immediately below. There’s a slight variation to this format depending on what you search for, what device you’re using, and where you’re located.

If I’m looking for somewhere to eat and I type in “Phoenix restaurant,” I’ll get a page that has just one paid ad at the top with the first organic result appearing just above the 3-pack.
Screenshot - Google Phoenix Restaurant Search

If I wanted to be a little more specific in my search, I could type in “Italian restaurant Phoenix” and see the 3-pack at the very top with some ads on the right-hand side.
Screenshot - Google Italian Restaurant Search

Google actually used to have a 10-pack on the first page of search results at one point, so the search engine’s recent move to a 3-pack marks its second truncation of the feature. As you can see, the 3-pack’s placement on the page differs by search, as does the number of ads you see on the sidebar, and this format could change slightly as time goes on. You could search the same term in the morning and again at night and possibly see a variance of the format. Google never lets all of its secrets and rationale out of the bag.

With the change to a 3-pack, Google also brought back the “More (search term)” link right below the last business in the spotlight, as you can see in the three examples above. If you click on that link, it will take you to a map of businesses in that industry in the geographic area you searched. Each page on the map lists 20 results, with the first three listings on page one corresponding to the 3-pack.

Other Features Removed: Addresses, Phone Numbers, Google+ Links

The new 3-pack has a sleeker look than the 7-pack, but some of the information that used to be listed for each business is no longer present. Most notably missing are the full addresses and phone numbers of each business. Presumably, you could have done a search before and dialed up a business of your choosing without having to visit any individual websites. Now, the Google 3-pack encourages you to either visit the websites of the featured businesses or get directions (if applicable) to their location.

Also noticeable in the move from a 7-pack to a 3-pack is the lack of a Google+ link for each business. There’s now no easy way to get to the Google+ page of any of the three in the spotlight. In fact, if you click directly on the name of one of the three companies, it will take you to the aforementioned map.

A Couple of Features Added: Ratings, Business Hours

Google used to only show how many reviews each business in the 7-pack has received (formerly seen as “Google reviews,” now just called “reviews”), but you can now see the rating for each company out of five stars, if there are any reviews. You can also now see the business hours of some in the 3-pack, which will basically tell you what time the company opens up next or, if it’s currently open, what time it closes.

The 3-pack is also more visual than the 7-pack. Besides the snappy symbols that link to the websites of and directions to each business, you might see a photo for some of the companies on the right-hand side of the spotlight. Also, as seen in the first search example, a map might appear above the 3-pack, depending on your search. When Google had a 7-pack, a map usually appeared in the right half of the page, but it wasn’t as visually connected to the spotlight as it is with the new 3-pack.

What the Google 3-Pack Means for Local Businesses

You can bet more companies will be fighting tooth and nail to get slotted in the 3-pack, but all hope shouldn’t be lost if your business can’t quite make it in there.

First-Page Organic Search Results Expanded

When Google produced a 7-pack on page one of your search results, the number of organic, non-7-pack results shrank to 6 or 7, and all were generally below the fold. However, the number of organic results outside of the new 3-pack has been expanded to 10. It’s uncertain at this time if Google simply dropped four from the 7-pack into the organic list immediately below, but this shift may mean that there’s more room for your business to work its way onto page one. If you do make it onto the first page, a strong meta title and description is going to be key.

Google+ Business Pages De-Emphasized for Local Search?

If you didn’t have a business Google+ page before or couldn’t get it verified that it corresponds with your website, Google may no longer be holding your website hostage in the search rankings, as it looks like the company is slowly backing off holding its own social network over users’ heads. This notion still hasn’t been confirmed, so, at this time, we’d recommend keeping your Google+ business page active and continually updated. However, if it’s true that a Google+ business page no longer has any bearing on one’s search rankings, then the field would be leveled for more businesses to contend for a spot on page one, which generates around 90 percent of the search traffic.

Closing Speculation

This major local search change has got many marketers speculating what the future will hold for local businesses. By shrinking the local pack to 3 spots instead of 7, the first page of results shows only Google-approved products above the fold. Could local rankings eventually become ad placements since Google+ didn’t work out?

Share your thoughts on the future of Google local placement in the comments below! If you’d like to learn more about how Eminent SEO can boost your local marketing efforts, including optimizing your website for Google, click here.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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How to Dominate Local Search

This entry was posted in Local Marketing and tagged on by .

local search

When a local business depends heavily on their website for business, it’s no secret that local SEO is the best approach to their marketing plan. Since Google has done some vast algorithm updates to local search results, local businesses need to use all local resources online in order to get the best exposure in the organic search results. It’s time to get more creative with the local push. Below are some ideas to get found better on a local level:

Fix Your Local Listings with NAP Consistency

Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) Audit

The first thing any business with history online should perform is a local NAP audit. This will pull in all of the current business listings that are indexed in Google and exactly what the name, address, and phone numbers are included in each listing. In order for your Google+ page to rank high, your NAP needs to be consistent across all platforms.

Fix Listing Inconsistencies

Once the audit is complete, you can manually go to each listing that you have access to and correct the information that is inconsistent. If there are a lot of inconsistencies, these adjustments will help move up your Google+ listing in the search results.

Claim and Create Missing Directory Listings

If your business isn’t listed on all of the major directory and citation sites, this would be the time to create those listings. There are tools you can use that will help you determine what those websites are, such as Moz Local.

Push for Reviews

Now that your listings are consistent and showing up in the search results, you need to make sure that there are good reviews to support them. Reviews build trust to both users as well as the search engines. Push for more reviews on your top directory listing referral source such as Yelp, Google+, or both.

Don’t Only Focus on NAPs

Write Quality Website Content

NAP work should be a core strategy for receiving local visibility, but not the only strategy you implement in order to obtain a strong local presence on Google. High quality website content is another primary ranking factor with local search results. According to Moz, the on-page SEO signals account for about 21% of local rankings. Your content should be optimized with key phrases that are going to produce a return on investment. Don’t waste time writing thin content that is meaningless for users; focus on high quality content that users will see value in.

Earn Quality Backlinks

Link earning is another ideal way to gain organic rankings in Google. Since the local pack results are constantly changing, you want to make sure your business does well organically as well. Earning high quality backlinks from partnerships, sponsorships, etc. is a great way to boost up organic visibility.

Social Signals

Social is going to continue playing a key role in local search signals. Social signals currently account for about 5.8% of ranking factors. In order to increase social signals, your website should be producing high quality content with a blog or another form of content that is socially shared on a regular basis. The more social signals your content receives, the more authoritative your domain will become. The result will be increased organic visibility.

Be Creative with Your Keyword Strategy

Each local business is going to have city based keywords as part of their strategy. In order to compete with all of the other local businesses trying to rank for the same exact terms, think about what makes your business unique from the others. Incorporate that into your keyword research and content development. If your major city is overly competitive, start by targeting specific neighborhoods or smaller suburbs.

Closing Thoughts

Local search is constantly changing. In order for your website to maintain its presence in local search, your website must have a strategy that incorporates all of the above methods. Each industry is different which means the local search algorithm may be specific to your unique industry trends. Make sure you have the right local SEO strategy that is most effective for your industry.

Are you having trouble gaining or maintaining local visibility in Google? We have an entire staff dedicated to local SEO who can help develop a strategy that’s effective for your business. Call today: 800.871.4130

Lacey Chic

Account Manager at Eminent SEO - Passionate About Digital Marketing. I love music, pitbulls, traveling, hiking, yoga, and learning.

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Why Your Local Business Needs a Google+ Place Page

This entry was posted in Google+, Local Marketing and tagged , on by .

Google Plus Local Place Pages

Even though Google+ is the second largest social network (still way behind Facebook), that’s not the main reason your business should be active on the platform. Users spend less than 7 minutes per month on the social network.

So why even get active on Google+ if millions of people sign up for it but never actually use it? 

Because Google+ has actually replaced what most people think of as Google Maps or Google Local or Google Place Pages… and anyone trying to drive local traffic, both to their website and their actual brick and mortar locations, needs to have a Google+ Place Page.

When you are active on Google+, your Google+ Place Pages gets better organic rankings in Google. In fact, for many searches that Google deems “local searches,” businesses with Place Pages get listed at the top of the page – above the normal organic results.

For example, look at what we get when we search Google for “phoenix accountant”:

Google Plus Place Page Organic Results

The usage of the term “Phoenix” implies we are searching for a local result, so Google displays accordingly.

You see that area highlighted in the red rectangle on the left?  What do you see below almost every single company name?  “Google+ page,” right? Those are the Place Pages.

Now up in the right, you see the map? That actually comes with you as you scroll down the page. Remember how the maps used to appear just to the right of the search result? Not anymore. Clearly Google wants you to click on a map!

When users click the map on the upper right before visiting a website they are provided with the opportunity to read and write reviews, see images and videos about the location and get the phone number or driving instructions – all without ever having to visit the actual business website.

How You Can Increase Your Local Organic Visibility

Like it or not, this is what Google is serving up for local organic searches right now.

So how do you get your map listed at the top of the local organic searches?

Unfortunately, that Google Places listing in the left red rectangle is a whole different thing than your Google+ Local Business Page (which is where all your social features can be found) – very confusing!

How can you sort out this mess and optimize both for the best search rankings and traffic?

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Fill out your Google+ Place Page completely. This is the information that shows up on a Google Map. Make sure to pay extra special attention for the categories in which you list your business. The name, address, and phone number must match the info on your website.
  2. Get links and citations. What are citations? Generally they are mentions of your business name, address, and phone number – hosted on a 3rd party site (sometimes with a link back to your map or site). This builds your domain’s authority, boosts your map visibility and pushes your site and map up the SERPs.
  3. Encourage people to give you online reviews on your Google Place Page. Google knows searchers look at the these reviews and use them to determine the value of a service, product, etc. Generally more reviews show popularity for the place and therefore add value to the listing – especially when the reviews are highly rated.
  4. Fill out your Google+ Local Business Page.  When Google moved Maps to Google + Local Pages at lot of companies lost their maps. Even though it’s been quite some time, many local companies haven’t claimed their new page and filled out the information correctly. If you’re not sure how to do it, here’s a guide.
  5. Keep your Google+ Business Page updated with posts. This page has all your social features. Share articles, images and connect with others so that your platform is always up to date when people visit. No one wants to follow an inactive account! And when people do visit, they’ll be more likely to add you to their circles, +1 and share your content, which helps boost your rankings.

Confused? You’re not alone. Having separate accounts for Google+ Places and your Local Business page was intended to make things easier, but instead many are still lost and frustrated with the transition.

It’s actually a time-consuming process just to set it up properly, and if you want to boost your rankings too that actually requires a large amount of on-going work… so remember you can always hire Eminent SEO to help. We can sort out the mess and get you up and running in no time.

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing work in 2005. I'm a {very} busy mom of 4 and I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I love coffee, wine, food and other people who enjoy the adventure of seeking out the best places to eat and drink. In my free time (what's that?) you'll most likely find me studying philosophy and spirituality, cooking for my family or relaxing with a nice glass of wine, a funny movie and the people I love.

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Alert For Fake Reviews on Yelp

This entry was posted in Local Marketing and tagged , , on by .

In an effort to crack down on fake reviews, Yelp announced a new consumer alert label in their blog last year that would appear on pages of businesses who were caught buying reviews (as shown below). “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews…” Consumers also had the ability to click on the alert and see the fake reviews.

Consumer Alert

Looks like Yelp has rolled out yet another review filter, “Consumer Alert: Something’s Fishy  Here…” The warning reads as follows:

“A number of positive reviews for this business originated from the same IP address, which may mean that someone was trying to artificially inflate this business’s rating. Our review filter wasn’t fooled, but this apparent effort to mislead consumers was serious enough that we wanted to call it out.”

Yelp Fake Review Alert

The value of Yelp for business owners has proven itself over time. Businesses are finally understanding the power of word of mouth and how online reviews effect business. There’s a great Info-graphic from Nielsen, Yelp Drives Local Purchases – that breaks down everything from who uses Yelp, what do Yelp users search for, to how often Yelp leads to local purchases.

Yelp’s states in their support center, that businesses should not “solicit” Yelp reviews. Be careful how you go about encouraging your clientele or customers to review your company. Most definitely stay away from “Online Review Computers” at your place of business, for fear of instantly being flagged with the new IP address filter currently in motion.

Are you currently represented on Yelp? How do you feel about this new “Fishy” filter being put in place?

 

Team Eminent SEO

Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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