Help local businesses dominate the Google Snack Pack and move up to those top three spots in Google Local Search.
A Little History: Three, Ten, Seven, Three
In 2006, Google launched the One Box. In terms of local listings, this was also known as the very first “3-Pack.” This box was a blessing to many wishing to receive local business information quickly
In January 2008, Google began to unveil its new 10 pack. The 10 pack was a godsend to many SEO professionals offering local listing services to their clients, as they could prove real ROI (“Look, you’re being highlighted by the Google Gods!”).
By October 2009, the 10 Pack was cut to the lucky 7 pack (Lucky for some, anyway!). Many local SEO professionals saw this as a challenge, but not one that was too difficult to master. Google has been very straightforward from the beginning, explaining what was expected of local businesses in their online presence in order to appear on the new 7 pack.
In 2015, after a long, strong run, the 7 pack that local SEO professionals have grown to love and master was replaced by what is now known as the Google Snack Pack.
The Google Snack Pack
On August 7, 2015, what marketers once lovingly called the Local 7 (or Lucky 7 to us here at Vendasta) changed to what we now call the Snack Pack - a top three listing of what Google considers the most relevant local businesses to a user's search.
Good or bad? Businesses that appear on Google's Snack Pack may be rejoicing, while everyone else might be beginning to see the effects from the lack of online exposure they once received in the 7 pack.
Some experts are even going as far as accusing Google's decision to introduce the Snack Pack as a way to get more advertising revenue from AdWords, and begin the implementation of a local pay-to-play platform.
Don’t Panic: You Can Still Dominate Google's Snack Pack
According to this 2015 Moz Local Listing Study, your Local SERP ranking can be factored into eight different segments, each with a unique importance, weighted by percentage. These all affect a business's ranking in Google's Snack Pack.
• Business Signals
• External Location Signals
• On Page Signals
• Link Signals
• Review Signals
• Social Signals
• Behavioural & Mobile Signals
I'm going to review each of these factors in detail and show you how you can improve your clients’ search rankings and propel them back to the top of that lucrative local search machine.
1. Business Signals (14.7%)
According to Moz, 14.7% of local SERP ranking is determined by business signals. These include
• Keywords in the business title
• Appropriate business categories
• The proximity of a business location with its audience and the category a business is identified in
How To Dominate:
- Ensure the business is listed in the appropriate categories on listing directories.
- If possible, include the services offered by the business in the business name. For example, Andrew’s Computer Repair or Joe’s Plumbing & Heating.
- Ensure the listed address is correct and service area is accurate to only the customers the business is targeting, not more.
2. External Location Signals (13.6%)
Moz has determined that 13.6% of local search ranking is determined by what they refer to as external location signals. External location signals are citations and listings across online business directories.
Google is looking for name, address and phone number consistency, as well as citation volume across these directories to place in its Snack Pack.
How To Dominate:
- Create as many citations for the business as possible, all with the same *accurate* information (name, address, phone number, website).
- If time is an issue—as it always is—use a syndication service, such as Vendasta’s Listing Distribution, to organically disseminate the listing to hundreds of online directories.
Below is a list of places we recommend you start listing your clients’ businesses, along with links to the website or guides on how to complete the process:
- Google (Google My Business)
- Zomato (formerly urbanspoon.com)
- Yahoo Local
- Apple Maps
3. On-Page Signals (20.3%)
Approximately 20.3% of local SERP position is determined by the presence of the business name, address and phone number, the relevant keywords on the business website.
How To Dominate:
- Did you know that the title of your webpage (title tag) is probably one of the single most important elements of on-page SEO for snack pack ranking? A title tag describes web page and helps differentiate it from all your other pages, as well as those of other websites. To advance in Google's Snack Pack, make sure your website page titles are descriptive and relevant.
- Include location info on all pages of your website - business name, address, phone number and links to social media.
- If your clients don’t have a webpage, you can provide them with a Vendasta Location Page free of charge. It’s mobile-responsive and made to schema.org standards, meaning Google and other search engines have an easy time finding the required information.
4. Link Signals (20%)
Link Signals make up 20% of a business’ local SERP position on Google. Link Signals include the quality and volume of inbound links (other websites linking to you) and outbound links (links you place in your website text and articles).
How To Dominate:
1. Get Rid Of Bad Links
- Remove irrelevant links on your business's website.
- Remove external bad links pointing to your website. One of the best places to start is by using a backlink analysis software such as Ahrefs or Majestic SEO. This software will help determine the number of links to the business website, as well as the quality of those links.
- If you find inappropriate, irrelevant or bad links on a 3rd party website, try contacting the webmaster of the website directly and ask politely for her/him to remove the links. Nine out of ten times this is very effective and will be the easiest way to have the link removed.
- If you are unable to contact the webmaster and you're in need of removing spammy links, you can use the Google disavow tool.
- If a domain has become penalized by Google beyond repair, consider rebuilding with a new domain to have a chance to rank in Google's Snack Pack.
2. Acquire Good Links
- The best and most effective way to achieve high-quality backlinks is to write high quality, unique content that people will read and want to share.
- Use Brian Dean's WASP Method to reach out to content sharers, and get quality back links to your great content.
Here are a few guides on how to write high-quality content
5. Review Signals (8.4%)
Review Signals account for 8.4% of local search ranking. These signals include how many reviews a business has, the velocity of the reviews and the review diversity.
How To Dominate:
- Get more reviews! Asking customers is likely the easiest and most cost-effective way to get reviews online. There are many ways to ask for these reviews. You can be as subtle as to place a sticker in the window of the business that says “Review Us On Facebook,” or more direct, like sending out an email request to current customers asking them to leave reviews on pages important to the business’ industry.
- Place a review widget on your website.
- Hold a contest for reviews. Be careful though, you are not buying reviews for the business. This can get a business into trouble with the review site. Instead, give incentives. (Bad example: "Leave a review and get 50% off." Good Example: "Leave a review and a random winner will be chosen monthly.")
- The Vendasta Review Generation tool can help improve your SERP position by requesting reviews in bulk from previous customers or selecting customers on a customized basis. Once a business receives good reviews, it is beneficial to amplify that review by sharing and promoting on social platforms.
6. Social Signals (5.0%)
Although it may sound small, the 5.0% of local search ranking that Social Signals makes up can be significant. These social signals include Facebook likes, Twitter Followers, Google+ Authority and various other signals from social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
How To Dominate the Snack Pack:
- Be active on social media. Google doesn't like accounts with few followers or activity.
- Be unique, approachable and genuine. People love to share things that make them feel good, so create and share something positive and it can go a long way.
- Consider running a competition or giveaway. When starting out with most social channels, we recommend running a paid ad campaign to gain that initial traction, then focus on content to further attract potential followers. Linkedin, on the other hand, is a little more difficult when it comes to getting people to follow you. Email blasts tend to work well for this platform, as most active Linkedin users also check their email very regularly.
- The Vendasta Digital Agency can respond to reviews, claim important listings and manage the social channels of your clients to vastly improve their Social Signals.
7. Mobile and Behavioural Signals (9.5%)
Moz asserts that 9.5% of local SERP position is governed by a user's behavioural and mobile signals on the Google Snack Pack. These can include the average click-through rate of a listing, mobile click to calls, check-ins at a location, current offers and promotions available.
How To Dominate:
- Increase interactions with your business online by creating promotions, offers and great content. Google is the king of tracking data, and it likes to promote what it knows people are already sharing and interacting with.
- Create high-quality content relevant to your industry, and Google will reward your increased traffic with higher rankings.
8. Personalization (8.5%)
Finally, Moz asserts that 8.5% of local SERP position comes from personalization - the uniqueness of your website and business.
How To Dominate:
- Really this comes down to good marketing. Good copywriting, good graphic design, some money spent on web design - making sure the business website stands out among the local competition.
Great News For The Few Chosen Ones
We're interested in what impact the Google Snack Pack / 3 Pack has had on the pocket books of local small businesses owners in 2016. Certainly, business owners in the top three are rejoicing. In comments below, let me know if you got dropped, or if you are dominating a top 3 spot in the Snack Pack!
If you're interested in seeing how Vendasta can help you automate many of these factors, and help businesses dominate those top 3 spots, be sure to request a demo.