The Local Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
Have you noticed a change in your Google desktop search results lately? It seems that with the rise in popularity of mobile device driven search, Google has changed all of its search results to appear similar to what was standard for mobile screens. This means that the 7-packs of local results ( via a PC or MAC ) may be a thing of the past; now it appears all search results will show what was typical from a mobile device with a local results 3-pack top center of the search results page.
This move makes sense, as it fits with Google’s ultimate commitment to user experience and their repeated warnings about getting content ready for mobile devices. This move also raises the competitive bar! And while implications will vary by types and location of business the change can present an advantage for those with a fully optimized Google Plus page.
Why You Need Google Plus To Compete In Local SEO
Reviews are going to play a huge part in who gets into the coveted local 3-pack. Good feedback has always been important, but now it is essential for good local SEO and Google certainly favors live reviews on a Google Plus listing. While you will need the good live reviews to rank locally, you should still see the Google Plus page (in its entirety) as a means for driving consumers inbound to where you sell the best. Your website remains brand ground zero! It’s where you can offer a depth of unique & authoritative information and it’s always going to be where the unique tools needed to truly differentiate (without any distraction) lie.
Most users are going to click through to a search result with reviews ( first ), particularly that are four stars or higher. The move towards favoring good review content was inevitable, and so it is a very good idea to welcome the opportunity as a means to get ahead of the competition. Getting good reviews requires a plan, not only because every business needs them to be more visible but to hedge against any negative feedback too!
Of course the place you want to be getting these reviews is on your verified and fully optimized Google Plus page. At this point in time and short of possibly Yelp, these are likely the only reviews Google will show in the local 3-pack search results. Having your page optimized with an option for visitors to give voluntary reviews is obvious. A link from the business website or any social media page may also be good practice. For consumers, offer a path of least resistance to leave their review.
See ‘ What If You Ever Get A Negative Review? ‘ to support your plan for getting good voluntary feedback!
Now that the seas have changed, and ranking for local top spots has become suddenly much more competitive, businesses that were once complacent in their SEO efforts should be ramping it up. You cannot afford to be complacent! Maintain that Google Plus page, keep it updated with fresh news & information as well as those new 4 star or higher reviews, and continue working on the other SEO marketing efforts.
How To Compete Harder For Rank In The Google Local 3-Pack
In addition to having a fully optimized Google plus page you still need to have a well rounded SEO plan for both local and organic search results. Here are some other SEO musts to keep in mind while dealing with these local Google changes.
Don’t Abandon Organic SEO
SEO is like a living organism, it never stops moving and on any given day you may find yourself in a different place than the last. Focusing on ongoing organic SEO ( both offsite and onsite ) will boost your rank naturally, even if you can’t get in the top 3 spot. A good organic rank for lots of long tail searches can even trump a local 3- pack ranking, especially on desktop results. It will only support the local effort!
Get Those Back Links!
Links, even no-follow links are still very important to local SEO and organic ranking. While at one time you may have felt your competition was not competitive enough to bother, that has certainly changed. The more quality back links from trusted established sites, especially with similarities in purpose or geography, the better. Search & listing directory links can count too!
You Need Accurate Citations
Just like with links, many businesses may have never felt the pressure to worry about search & directory listing citations when their competition was low. But again, that has changed. Citations must be accurate in the big search & listing directories and using what back links to a website there are can count a great deal! It makes sense that if you are trying to rank locally, accurate and useful information about your location should be distributed as widely as possible. Google cross references this data and uses it as a strong signal. If your information is incorrect, it will hurt your SEO efforts.