SEO on Google continually changes, and at the same time, it gets harder rather than easier. Over the last 2-3 years, local SEO has taken on a new meaning.
The Possum update Google search implemented pushed the onus on companies delivering location-based results, compared to national searches when users were online. This opened up a lot of opportunities for websites to rank well in the local SEO space.
For many SEO professionals, it led to the optimisation of the map snack pack.
History of the Google Snack Pack
Back in 2006, One Box was launched by Google, and this was known as the first 3-Pack. For users wanting local info quick, this was the answer.
Jump forward to 2008 and Google unveiled the new 10-pack. For SEO pros this was a blessing because they could now offer local listings to clients. Proving ROI in the process was easier because they could show clients were being highlighted by Google.
Later the 10-pack was cut back to the 7-pack, or the lucky-7 as some called it. This posed a challenge, and many SEO’s got their head around it. Next, in 2015, this 7-pack was replaced by what we know as the snack pack.
Here the top 3 local business search listings are what Google sees as being the most relevant to what users are searching for.
A company who is in this top three will be grinning ear to ear while the remainder of the businesses can now see the lack of exposure they currently have is hurting them.
Dominating Google’s Snack Pack
A company’s local SERP rankings can be broken into eight segments, and each has separate importance. The combination of these affects a company to show in the snack pack.
Business Signals (14.7%) Includes:
1. Keywords in business Title
2. Appropriate categories of business
3. Location of business to its audience and category
These external listings are citations and listings which are located in online business directories. Accurate information must be found such as name, address, phone number and website etc. A Google search map inclusion can also make a difference to your site being referenced.
On Page Signals (20.3%)
This contains business name, address and phone number to be on the company website. Titles of web pages are the top element for snack pack rankings (title tag), these should be relevant and descriptive. Location info should be included on all pages as well as links pointing to social media.
Link Signals (20%)
This includes quality and volume of backlinks as well as outbound links. These are the links you place in your web pages to lead to others. Links which are irrelevant should be removed as should bad links which point at your site. Try to replace all these bad links with good links.
Good quality content which is informative and attracts readers is crucial at this point.
Review Signals (8.4%)
This includes the all-important customer reviews and how many any company has. To increase these, asking customers is the most cost-effective, or by placing a review widget on your site.
This includes FB likes, Twitter followers and Google+ authority, plus other social platforms. Instagram. LinkedIn and Pinterest all have a bearing which can accumulate against your rankings.
Active social media is crucial even if the percentage appears small. Two-way communication can quickly build a following.
Signals Behavior (9.5%)
This is based on click-through, mobile click to calls and check-ins along with promotions and current offers. Online offers, great content and promotions do no harm because Google local search rewards companies as it actively promotes what people are sharing.
Being unique for your site and your business is the final signal to Google. This is good marketing, good copywriting and great designs. Standing out is crucial because there is tons of opposition.
Near Me Searches
These were seen as a thing of the past, but adding a modifier “near me” as a base to optimise your page based on your keywords. This can help you appear in the local Google map search.
It is hard for any organic ranking to surpass paid search results. If you struggle to make it into the Google 3 pack organically, then it might be time to turn to paid search.
Research shows around 35% of popular keywords are all based on Google pack ads. In some categories, over 90% of the local pack results show an ad.
The Possum algorithm update changed a lot in local SEO, and many results became filtered out of the local snack pack results. Some of this can be because of the proximity of one business to another, this is where positive reviews can be the make or break of your snack pack rankings.
While a focus should still be on Google local listings using the above, it can still be wise to place some emphasis in other areas.