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  • How to Optimize Your Site to Rank in the Local 3 Pack in Google

    How to Optimize Your Site to Rank in the Local 3-Pack on Google

    When you land in a new city and you get a hankering for tacos, what do you do?

    If you’re like most people, you get out your phone and Google something like: “tacos near me” or “tacos near [current city].”

    Then, if you’re like most people, you look at the top few featured restaurants in the area and start deciding where you want to eat.

    Taquerias that break through this threshold and get featured as a top restaurant in the city get more web traffic, visits, and brand visibility.

    Competitors that can’t punch through get way, way less.

    So, what does it take to make sure your business is in the top three entries of Google search results?

    How do you optimize your site to rank in the Local 3 Pack in Google?

    What Is the Local 3 Pack in Google?

    Google 3 Pack

    The Local 3 Pack is a selection of three business entries in a local search in Google, found at the top of a given SERP.

    If you want to see what it looks like, conduct a search for any type of business with a phrase that triggers Google’s local search function, such as “near me” or “near [area].”

    On a desktop, at the top of the SERP, you’ll see three “Locations,” with some basic information, including the name and address of each option, as well as links to both the website and directions associated with this business. Users can click a button to see More Locations. All of these entries exist above standard organic search results.

    On mobile, which most users prefer for local searches, you’ll see something very similar – but with a few filtering options and no links to websites or directions until you click an entry.

    The Local Pack used to have different numbers of entries (it was a Local 10 Pack back in 2009), and it may change again in the future, but for now, we’ve got a solid and stable three.

    These three businesses are the best, most relevant businesses for the given category, according to Google. And as you might expect, it comes with potentially lucrative rewards, such as more brand visibility, more traffic, and more conversions.

    What Does It Take to Rank in the Local 3 Pack in Google? The Basics

    Local SEO Yield Higher Quality Leads

    How do you get to this valuable SEO position?

    In many respects, you’ll follow the same local SEO strategies and methods that you would in any SEO campaign by focusing on:

    • Relevance. How do you increase your relevance for target keyword searches? In other words, how do you show Google that your business should show up for a specific type of search?
    • Authority. How do you demonstrate to Google that your business is authoritative and trustworthy? Why should your business be featured above others?

    There are many individual strategies that come together to help you accomplish both of these abstract goals.

    How to Rank in the Local 3 Pack: Key Strategies

    These are the most important strategies for ranking in Google’s Local 3 Pack.

    Choose Target Keywords and Phrases

    Begin with a “seed” keyword

    First, do your keyword research so you have a strategic foundation for your campaign. If you sell propane and propane accessories, you don’t really care about being in the Local 3 Pack for “tacos near me” or “skydiving facilities near me.”

    But what keywords should you be targeting?

    For the most part, you’ll follow the same methodology here that you would for a normal SEO campaign, keeping in mind that local keywords are an essential part of each search string for a 3 Pack to be generated.

    Use a keyword research tool to generate ideas based on keywords and phrases that are topically related to your brand. Then, evaluate each entry in terms of:

    • Relevance and value. First, you’ll need to consider the relevance or value of each potential keyword. Is this phrase directly related to your business? Is it the type of thing your customers would search for? How much conversion potential does it have?
    • Search volume. How many people are searching for this local phrase? Generally, higher search volume is better since it means you’ll get more eyes on your entry, but high search volume is usually correlated with high competition (for obvious reasons).
    • Competition. What does the 3 Pack for this keyword or phrase look like? Are there many businesses fiercely fighting for a slot? Or are there opportunities without much competition that could easily put you in a dominant position?

    Evaluate Your Current Position

    Next, take a moment to evaluate your current position.

    If you’ve never done any work for a local SEO before, or if you have minimal experience with search optimization in general, don’t be surprised if your business isn’t featured anywhere. If this is the case, take this opportunity to see who your biggest competitors are.

    Otherwise, figure out where your business stands among the competition. If you rank in the top 20 organic search results, that’s a very promising sign; it means you have significant baseline authority, and a good chance of getting into the Local 3 Pack after a few weeks of dedicated work.

    If you’re not in the top 20 search results, that doesn’t mean the 3 Pack is outside the realm of possibility. It just means you’ll probably need to be prepared to spend more time, money, and effort getting there.

    Complete Your Google Business Profile Page

    Google My Business

    One of the most important things to do for your business when optimizing for the Local 3 Pack is to fill out your Google Business Profile page.

    Google Business Profile is free and easy to start, and it’s designed to make it easy for business owners to index their businesses accurately within Google. You can start filling out your profile in just a few minutes.

    Your goal here is to make sure your information is as thorough and accurate as possible. Fill out every field that applies to your business. Make sure every piece of information you provide is accurate. You’ll need to include information such as your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, products and services you sell, and more.

    This form is fairly intuitive, though it is exhaustive. You should be able to finish it within an hour if you know all the answers to the prompts on your profile. Once completed, make a note to come back and update this profile if any details change for your business.

    It’s also not a bad idea to check back periodically to see if new fields have been added. We all know how Google likes to change things.

    Once your Google Business Profile page is complete, Google will have an official and reliable source of indexed information it can use to put you in the 3 Pack. After that, it’s all about establishing your relevance and authority.

    Attract More (and Better) Reviews on Google and Other Sources

    Increased Local Reviews

    Google wants to provide users with the best possible experience, which means showing them the best possible businesses.

    And what makes for the best possible business?

    Good reviews, and lots of them, are a great place to start. Do whatever you can to attract more reviews and better reviews from your customers; Google reviews are arguably the best, but any local reviews could be valuable.

    • Provide excellent products and services. If you provide awesome products and services, the good reviews should flow naturally. Make sure you’ve optimized your business to make your customers happy and that every customer leaves your business eager to refer other people to your brand.
    • Ask for reviews directly. For most local review sites, it’s against the terms of service to bribe customers to leave reviews or otherwise pressure customers to leave better reviews than they otherwise would. But there’s nothing wrong with asking your customers to leave a review if they were happy with their experience. Use a combination of follow-up communications and marketing tactics to ask your best customers to review your business.
    • Respond to reviews. You can encourage more reviews by responding to reviews that already exist. It shows that you care what your customers think and, in some cases, can push your average reviews higher (since you’ll have an opportunity to make up for unpleasant experiences).
    • Take action when necessary. Reviews aren’t just about helping you rank; they’re also an excellent opportunity to improve your business. Read customer reviews carefully and take the feedback and criticism they include to heart. What do customers want from you? How can you give it to them?

    Audit and Correct Your Local Citations

    A local citation is an entry on the web that references the existence of your business in a local capacity. There are hundreds of directories and similar local websites designed to connect people to the businesses and services they need.

    The more local citations you have, assuming all those local citations are accurate, the better; you can think of local citations as evidence of prominence in the community. These can help build your company reputation so you can rank higher in local searches.

    Your first step is to audit your existing roster of local citations and make any corrections that are necessary. The most important information to correct is your NAP – Name, Address, and Phone number. Oftentimes, simply reaching out to the Webmaster is all it takes to fix the information.

    Earn More Local Citations

    Once you’re confident that all your existing local citations are accurate, it’s time to start building new ones. Reach out to new local directories to get your business featured. This is a process you can repeat indefinitely, continuing to accumulate new citations from new external parties.

    Publish Locally Relevant Content

    You’ve likely heard the expression that “content is king” in SEO, and perhaps throughout all of digital marketing.

    In SEO, your onsite content serves several purposes simultaneously, allowing you to build your authoritativeness while simultaneously giving you a platform where you can optimize your website for specific keywords and phrases.

    This is also important in local SEO.

    In addition to any content, you might be developing for your overall SEO campaign, it’s important to develop high-quality, well-researched, longform content pieces that are relevant to your local audience. This could include things like press releases, coverage of local events, or tips and recommendations for your local customers specifically.

    Content quality should be your highest priority. Additionally, you should make sure the title of each of your posts includes at least one local keyword, like the name of your city.

    Build Locally Relevant Links

    Backlinks are a vote of trust and confidence on the web, at least in the eyes of search engine algorithms. The more backlinks you have, and the more authoritative the sources providing those backlinks are, the higher your site is going to rank. This mostly holds true for the Local 3 Pack as well – so start building links!

    Guest posting is still the best strategy for building backlinks in SEO. The idea here is to write a guest post for an external source – and one that provides genuine value to the people reading it. If the publisher allows, you can include a link pointing back to your website within this article.

    Over time, you can develop your reputation as an author and start reaching out to bigger and higher profile publishers, earning more valuable links in the process. But if your main goal is ranking in the Local 3 Pack, locally relevant links are the best place to start. Try to earn some links from publishers specifically active in your target area.

    Get Active on Social Media

    Right Social Media Channels

    Finally, get active on social media. It’s a good idea to claim your business’s name and profile on each major social media platform (and fill out your profiles with accurate information related to your business).

    While social media marketing isn’t necessary for local SEO, and posting on social media won’t affect your rankings directly, it’s a powerful tool for building an audience, distributing your content, earning backlinks, and building a better reputation. In other words, it’s an excellent support platform for the rest of your SEO strategy.

    Monitor Your Competitors

    Maybe you’re lucky and there aren’t many (if any) businesses in the Local 3 Pack currently. If so, you should be able to rank there in a couple of weeks. There’s a blue ocean in front of you, so take full advantage of it.

    Otherwise, it’s a good idea to monitor your existing competitors; what links and local citations are they building? How formidable are these backlink profiles? What would it take to dethrone these top competitors? Can you mimic their existing local citation and backlink profile – and then improve upon it?

    The better you understand your competition, the better you can trounce them! Just remember they’re going to actively compete against you the moment they recognize you as a competitor.

    Start Your Local 3 Pack Ranking Campaign

    Do you have a local business?

    Do you wish your business was dominating the competition on local SERPs?

    We can help you. We’ve already helped hundreds of businesses like yours break into the Local 3 Pack and get the organic traffic they’ve always wanted.

    Ready to find out more? Contact us for a free consultation today!

    Chief Revenue Officer at SEO Company
    Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization) services - including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing, assisting in everything from SEO for lawyers to complex technical SEO for Fortune 500 clients like Wiley, Box.com, Qualtrics and HP.

    Tim holds expertise in building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams.

    When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.

    Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin & Twitter.
    Timothy Carter