Help your local business clients dominate Google's Snack Pack and move up in search engine rank.
A heads up... (2016/03/24)
This post has been updated for 2016, so head over to our brand new Snack Pack blog post for 2016 - top 8 methods to Dominate the Google Snack Pack (including a hot new video!)
This article is written with the promise of providing insightful knowledge to those agencies and local businesses struggling with the Google Snack Pack release, as well as to promote Vendasta’s suite of local off-site SEO software.
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 lucky (for some, anyway) number seven. Many local SEO professionals saw this as a challenge, and 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. After a long, strong run, the 7 pack that local SEO professionals had grown to love and become masters of was to be replaced by what is now known as the “Google Snack Pack.”
The Google Snack Pack
On August 7, 2015, what we once called the Local 7 (at Vendasta we called it the Magic 7. Nice ring, right?) changed to what we now call the Snack Pack. Businesses that appear on the Snack Pack may be rejoicing, while others are beginning to see the financial 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/or begin the implementation of a local pay to play platform.
Don’t Panic, There's a Solution
According to the latest Moz Local Listing Study, your Local SERP ranking can be factored into eight different segments: Business Signals, External Location Signals, On Page Signals, Link Signals, Review Signals, Social Signals, Behavioural & Mobile Signals and Personalization.
Let's review each of these factors in detail and show you how you can improve your clients’ rankings and propel them back to the top of that lucrative local search machine.
According to Moz, 14.7% of local SERP ranking is determined by business signals. These include appropriate business categories, keywords in the business title, the proximity of a business location with its audience and the category a business is identified in.
- 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 Jim’s Plumbing & Heating.
- Ensure the listed address is correct and not 100 kilometres or more from the target audience.
External Location Signals
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.
- 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
Approximately 20.3% of local SERP position is determined by the presence of the business name, address and phone number, the relevant keywords in page titles, and domain authority.
- Did you know that the title of your webpage, also know as your title tag, is probably one of the single most important elements of on-page SEO? A title tag describes web page and helps differentiate it from all your other pages, as well as those of other websites. Make sure the title is descriptive and relevant to advance in Google's Snack Pack.
- Include business name, address, phone number and links to social websites on all pages
- 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.
Link Signals make up 20% of a business’ local SERP position on Google. Link Signals include the inbound anchor text, linking domain authority and the quantity of linking domains.
Get Rid Of Bad Links
- Getting rid of bad links to a website can be fairly simple. 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 site, as well as the quality of those links.
- If you find inappropriate, irrelevant or bad links to a site, 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.
Acquire Good Links
- We could literally write a 100 page article on how to create high-quality links, but ain't nobody got time for that. To sum it up: the best and most effective way to achieve high-quality backlinks is to write high quality, unique content that people love to read and love to share.
Here are a few guides on how to write high-quality content
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.
- Having the website listed with accurate information on pages that have review options is the most crucial step to ensuring a business can get reviews online.
- 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 blast to current customers asking them to leave reviews on pages important to the business’ industry.
- Another option that usually has great results is to hold a competition for reviews. Remember, you are not buying reviews for the business, but instead giving incentives for people to leave a review. The difference is simple: leave a review and get 50% off, versus leave a review and a random winner will be chosen monthly. The latter is great, the former can get you into some trouble.
- 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.
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.
- When it comes to all social channels, what matters most is being 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.
Mobile and Behavioural Signals
Moz asserts that 9.5% of local SERP position is governed by a user's behavioural and mobile signals. 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.
- Google is the king of tracking data, and it likes to promote what it knows people are most likely to call, click on and potentially share.
- How can you get people to do all of the above? Create high-quality content relevant to your industry, and Google will reward you with business.
Great News For The Few
Although it is too early to come to any factual conclusions on the effects of Google’s newest local search update and what impact it has had on the pocket books of local small businesses owners, we do know that those in the top three are rejoicing. Of course, many others are likely seeing a major decrease in search results and clicks on their calls to action.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to visit the Vendasta website to request a demo. Mention this article and let us know what you thought, or comment below. If you have any revision requests based on your own research, please comment below and in the next revision your input will be credited.