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Google snack pack: How to dominate Google 3 pack (Updated 2022)

Original post by Andrew Potter and updated in 2022 by Domenica Martinello.

Do you want to help local businesses get the most out of the Google snack pack and move up to those top three spots in Google local search? Sure you do!

Download “How to conquer local search engine optimization (SEO)” to become your clients’ go-to expert right now.

Unless you think that a Google snack is a delicious treat you get after you’ve been Googling for too long, or that a “snack ranking” is a definitive list of snacks from best (chips) to worst (celery sticks).

Don’t worry, we’re here to fill you in on everything Google snack pack.

What is Google 3 pack?

You can’t dominate the Google 3 pack without knowing what it is.

Let’s say you Google “Mexican restaurants.” You might notice that three local business results appear at the top of the page, prominently displayed with images and all the relevant information alongside a map of the results. It’s a coveted location that gets a lot of attention; this is the Google snack pack.

The Google snack pack (also known as the Google maps 3 pack, the local 3 pack, or the Google snack page) is the way that Google displays three top local business results that have a Google Business Profile listing to querying users. The Google snack results will be relevant to the search query and nearby the user’s location.

Getting displayed on the Google snack page is a big visibility and engagement differentiator: data shows that businesses in the local 3 pack receive five times as many views and twice as many actions (MomentFeed).

So what gets you a coveted spot in the Google 3 pack? More on that in a moment.

Google snack: the history of the first local 3 pack

In 2006, Google launched One Box (Google). In terms of listings, this was also known as the very first local 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 also a godsend to many SEO professionals offering local listing management 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 digital agencies and 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 and their online presences 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.

But what is Google 3 pack? Basically, a more curated version of previous spotlighting (the 10 pack and 7 pack were more so meals than snacks).

Some think the Google 3 pack is just as satisfying and effective… but not everyone.

The new Google snack pack

On August 7, 2015, what marketers once lovingly called the “Local 7” changed to what we now call the Google snack pack (marketers are a fan of snappy names).

The latest iteration of the Google pack is a top-three listing of what Google considers the most relevant local businesses to a user's search.

A screen capture of Google 3 pack results for the search

An example of what Google 3 pack results look like.

Good or bad? Of course the businesses that appear in the Google 3 pack are rejoicing. However, the reality is that there was suddenly less room for everyone else. Certain businesses that enjoyed a moment in the sun when the Google local pack included 7 “snacks” have definitely felt the effects of their recent lack of online exposure.

Some experts at the time were even going as far as accusing Google's decision to introduce the Google snack pack as a ploy to get more advertising revenue from Google Ads and begin the process of implementing a local pay-to-play platform (TheHoth).

In other words, folks were divided over Google snacks. But one thing is clear: your business can definitely benefit from being included in the snack ranking.

How to dominate Google 3-pack

It’s a well-known gripe amongst digital marketers, agencies, business owners —heck, even SEO specialists themselves. Not only does Google’s local search algorithm frequently change; it’s also not 100 percent knowable. 

The truth is, dominating the Google 3-pack is not an exact recipe for anyone. Unless you have insider info or a secret source at Google’s headquarters (in which case, please share your access to these mysterious inner workings with the rest of the class!), you’re going off of expert research, trends, analysis over time, and trial and error like the rest of us.

However, that does not mean things are left up to intuition or chance.

There are clear signals that Google uses ranks businesses, and a method of optimizing these signals based on how significantly they can push you into the coveted Google pack.

Through these proven processes, experts have narrowed down which steps to take to improve your clients’ snack ranking and impact results most significantly. Arming yourself with as much information and understanding as possible is the best place to start.

Google local pack vs. local organic search

Though they are related, let’s untangle the Google snack ranking from local organic search ranking. Both are important, but both should be treated separately and require separate strategies. Our mission here is to zero in on how to dominate Google maps 3 pack in particular. 

The search engine results page (SERP) is where the Google snack lives.As previously mentioned, the Google local pack is prime real estate as it appears at the very top of Google above the organic search listings. Think of it as a billboard: not only do you show up first if you appear in the snack ranking, you show up in a visually engaging way. 

That’s because the local 3 pack is tied to a business’s Google Business Profile and will show its location on Google maps, display review star-ratings, and include all the relevant information such as address and business hours. There will also be two buttons to direct customers to the business’s website, and to immediately get directions from Google Maps.

Local organic search results will appear below the Google snack page. These results are unpaid (not pay-per-click), and do not contain any visual cues. 

The algorithm looks for similar things when ranking websites for the Google local pack and in local organic search, but priorities are weighted differently.

The local 3-pack ranking factors, in order from what’s weighted most significantly (Whitespark) is as follows:

  • Google Business Profile (GBP)
  • Reviews
  • On-page
  • Links
  • Behavioral
  • Citations
  • Personalization

I'm going to review each of these Google pack ranking factors and describe what falls under their umbrella. 

Reviewing these details will help you understand how each snack ranking factor is weighted. It will also show you how you can improve your clients’ search rankings and propel them into the local 3 pack. 

1. Google 3 pack: Google Business Profile signals (36%)

According to Whitespark, 36 percent of Google local pack ranking is currently determined by your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). This makes sense, as I mentioned above how the Google snack pack is highly visual and directly tied to a business’s GBP.

In fact, over the last several years GBP has only grown in importance, when it comes to influencing the snack ranking.

Here’s some of the information that you should add to your GBP, as a best practice:

  • Business name
  • Primary category 
  • Accurate business address
  • Accurate business hours
    • Hours for appointment-based businesses
  • Phone numbers
  • Description
  • Products and services

Bottom line: GBP management is key. But that doesn’t mean it’s a heavy lift or huge time commitment. There are two main things to focus on to impact the Google snack page most acutely.

How to dominate Google maps 3-pack:

  1. Be clear and precise with your primary category. There are over 4000 primary categories to choose from, so be thoughtful and intentional. Select a category that matches your business goals and what you want to rank for, as it will be published publicly. And remember to always follow the guidelines Google provides for representing your business (Google). Example: “car dealer” is less effective than “Buick dealer,” if that’s your niche.
  2. To complement the primary category, you will want to add any additional categories to optimize your GBP and add context. To help be strategic, you can think about additional categories as keywords that you can rank for. Leverage them liberally and check back often, as category options are frequently updated.

Google local pack tip: Take a peek at your competitor’s categories with these steps from Whitespark.

  • Click on their GBP in Google Maps
  • Right-click and ‘view source’
  • Ctrl-F for and search for the primary category (enter the category name that is listed on their GBP). All the phrases  after the primary category indicate the additional categories added
  • Take some keyword-related inspiration!

2. Google 3 pack: Review signals (17%)

Review signals account for 17 percent of local snack ranking. Having a diversity of reviews—hopefully all positive!—is a key factor in the health of your clients’ business. On top of that, it highly impacts Google 3 pack ranking and continues to trend higher in significance year over year.

Factors included in review signals:

  • Number of reviews - how many reviews do you have?
  • Velocity of reviews - how often are you getting reviews?
  • First and third party reviews - reviews on your own website vs. on third party websites such as Google
  • Review diversity - number of sites reviewed on

How to dominate Google maps 3-pack:

  1. Get more reviews to boost your snack ranking! 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 placing a sticker in the window of the business that says “Review Us On Facebook” or a similar CTA in your email signature. You can also be more direct, like sending out an email request to current customers asking them to leave reviews on pages important to the business’s industry.
  2. Place a review widget on your website to make it quick and easy to capture feedback and testimonials.
  3. 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.
  4. Review monitoring tools can help improve your Google local pack position by requesting reviews in bulk from previous customers or selecting customers on an automated, customizable basis. Once a business receives good reviews, it is beneficial to amplify by sharing and promoting on social platforms.

3. Google 3 pack: On-page signals (16%)

Following close behind reviews are on-page signals. Approximately 16 percent of snack ranking is determined by the presence of:

  • Business name, address, and phone number (NAP)
  • Relevant keywords on the business website
  • Domain authority (Ahrefs)

How to dominate Google maps 3 pack:

  1. 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 Google snack pack ranking? A title tag describes a web page and helps differentiate it from all your other pages, as well as those of other websites. To advance in Google's snack ranking, make sure your website page titles are descriptive and relevant.
  2. Include location info on all pages of your website: business name, address, phone number, and links to social media.

4. Google 3 pack: Link signals (13%)

Link signals factor into a business’s Google snack pack ranking at about 13 percent. Link signals include:

  • Quality and volume of inbound links (other websites linking to you)
  • Outbound links (links you place in your website text and blog articles)
  • Linking domain authority

How to dominate Google 3 pack:

  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. The 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 third party website, try contacting the webmaster of the website directly and ask politely to have the links 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 (Google).
  • If a domain has become penalized by Google beyond repair, consider rebuilding with a new domain to have a chance to rank in the local 3-pack. 
  1. Acquire good links
  • The best and most effective way for getting backlinks is to write high-quality, unique content that people will read and want to share.
  • Use Brian Dean's WASP Method (YouTube) to reach out to content sharers and get quality backlinks to your great content.

5. Google 3 pack: Behavioral (7%)

7 percent of Google’s local 3 pack is determined by behavioral signals which include:

  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page
  • Mobile clicks–to-call

How to dominate Google 3 pack:

  1. Improve your CTR by crafting stronger, more specific title tags and meta descriptions to set yourself apart.
  2. Implement content marketing best practices to not only draw audiences to your website and resources, but to prompt them to stay longer (time on page), take action, and build industry-specific expertise. 
  3. Improve the accessibility of your website so that it is easy to read and engage with by all.
  4. 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.

6. Google 3 pack: Citations (7%)

Tied with behavioral signals are citations at 7 percent. External location signals such as when customers "check in" to a location or tag a business in a photo, as well as listings featured accurately across online business directories, help build citations. 

Citation factors include:

  • Location data and geo-tagging
  • Business name, address, and phone number (NAP)
  • Consistency across sources
  • Citation volume

How to dominate Google maps 3-pack:

  1. Name, address, and phone number consistency, as well as citation volume across directories with high domain authority, are key if you want a place in the Google snack pack.
  2. Upload photos of the business wherever possible and include alternative text optimized with keywords (Moz).
  3. Encourage customers to interact with and tag your clients' business in pictures and posts on Instagram, Facebook, and more.
  4. Reach out to credible local blogs to get featured.
  5. If time is an issue—as it always is—use a syndication or listing distribution service to organically disseminate the listings.

7. Google 3 pack: 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 Google 3 pack:

  • Really this comes down to good marketing. Good SEO copywriting, good graphic design, some money spent on web design—making sure the business website stands out among the local competition.

If you need help in your Google snack pack quest…

We're interested in what impact the Google snack pack has had on the pocket books of local business owners in 2022, after everyone has had time to acclimatize (and strategize). Certainly, business owners showing up in the local 3 pack top are rejoicing. 

But no one can rest on their laurels. Remaining abreast of developing trends, research, and experimentation is always necessary.

If you're interested in seeing how Vendasta can help you automate many of these factors, and help local business clients dominate those top 3 spots, be sure to request a demo.

About the Author

Domenica Martinello is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta and her diverse career has revolved around an appreciation for storytelling, education, mentorship, and facilitation. She has taught English Literature to college students, published a book, worked in EdTech, and cut her teeth at an inbound marketing agency. Off hours, you can find her reading, writing poems, and playing with makeup (not all at once).

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