What is Google Pack Mean for Local SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | May 14, 2016

Google is now known for periodically releasing useful free tools to help small businesses achieve better online marketing results. Google Local Pack (not to be confused with the recently retired Google Pack) is one such tool that has been helping local businesses connect with customers online. Last year, Google updated Local Pack offerings, with the result that local businesses must now compete harder to display in the top results.

In this post, learn what these changes to Google Local Pack mean for local search engine optimization (SEO).

Google Local Pack Defined
Imagine you are a customer looking for a business similar to yours online. You open your Google browser and type in some keywords. When you hit “enter,” a short list of possible businesses pops up. This is what Google defines as a “pack.”

Up until summer 2015, Google would display up to seven local businesses in its local search results, which was called a 7-pack. But starting in August 2015, Google trimmed that number down to a 3-pack.

There were also other noticeable changes. Most importantly, the new compact size of the 3-pack box is achieved by omitting the businesses’ addresses and phone numbers. Other changes include the absence of one-click hyperlinks to the business website and local business cards.

Implications for Your Local Business
Not surprisingly, the initial reaction to changes on this level was largely negative. But by studying the new 3-packs in more detail, you may notice the following:

Browsers display better geo-results. Google rotates which three businesses show up in the 3-pack depending on where you are geographically when you begin your search. This means customers will be directed to the business closest to them, raising the likelihood they will actually stop in.

20+ business listings are one click away. With the removal of the one-click hyperlink, the next best option is to click on the Google Maps thumbnail, which pulls up the closest 20 businesses, complete with map numbers and detailed business information that displays along the left-hand sidebar of the screen.

Organic inbound traffic probability is increased. The new 3-pack display looks much more “organic” (i.e. less sales-y) than its predecessor. This means that even businesses with poor SEO optimization may perform better in the new 3-pack search results.

How to SEO-Optimize Your Business Online for the New 3-Pack Displays
The first thing to keep in mind with this change is that everything revolves around the searcher’s IP address. This is what drives which businesses are displayed in the initial 3-pack and in the Google Maps 20-pack. So this part is something you cannot control.

What you can control is how well you optimize your Google My Business page for local SEO. By filling out your Google My Business page completely, being sure you match your phone, address and legal business name precisely with what is displayed elsewhere online, adding photos and crafting a compelling Introduction, your listing in browser results will look more enticing to customers than your competitors’ will.

You can also control how customers respond to Google browser results by being strategic about populating your Google My Business page with positive reviews and ratings. Finally, be sure you backlink your Google My Business page to your main website, your social media network feeds and everywhere else your business appears online so you can create a seamless and trustworthy online presentation.

With these tips completed, you may just find the shift in Google’s Local Pack listings begin to deliver higher quality customers to your local business’s door.