Why Does Ranking on Google Maps Matter for Your Business?
Even if you’re a small to medium business working on improving your marketing strategy for the challenging year ahead with some experience behind you, the title for this article might still leave you scratching your head. That’s because while businesses have largely focused on sales funnels and SEO and big picture marketing strategy, Google user behavior has slowly been shifting the importance to local search strategies.
While it might feel as if local SEO snuck in the back door, studies show that the growing importance of your Google My Business (GMB) page and local search has been making power moves right under our noses to become one of the most powerful drivers of business traffic for SMB’s. In 2018, the Think With Google page, which shares consumer insights and provides marketers with guidance and strategy, reported that it had tracked a nearly 900% increase in mobile searches using the “near me today/tonight” from 2016 to 2018. The trend in local searches continued, with a 2019 study finding that 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information.
This timeline and the rise of local SEO makes sense when viewed in context with the fact that Google rolled out a small but in hindsight extremely influential update in 2016. In the middle of the third quarter, when seeking out local services or businesses, search users were met on the front search page with a box Googled dubbed the Local 3 Pack.
How We Can Help Boost Your GMB Map Pack Visibility in Boston
The GoingClear team has been helping our Boston-based clientele improve their local SEO for years, and today we wanted to share some of our insight into our success. We hope that you’ll find value in our discussion below of how the Local Pack works, trends, and insights to improve your chances to be listed in the 3 Pack for your industry locally, including how to tag and manage your GMB listing, and finally how our team can help you accomplish your local SEO goals.
What is Google Local Pack
Long-time Google users, especially if you’ve been working in marketing over the last decade, have a sense of how often the front page of Google has been updated. Maps paired with search results have evolved, and we’ve seen the emergence of the Google Answer Box in the top right of some search result pages. But when the Local 3 Pack supplanted the previous iteration of showing searchers seven top options for a given business search, Google changed the game and created a need for local businesses to become extremely competitive in their local SEO listings.
The Local 3 pack appears as a detailed listing of the top 3 results for a local business search paired with images from the business and a map pinpointing the three locations. If you know even a little bit about Google user behaviors, you have an idea of just how influential this placement can be to your web traffic, but let’s give it some statistical backup anyway.
Previous iterations of this type of mapping of the top results didn’t always appear when a user performed a search, but when the 3 Pack was launched, researchers found that it showed up at the top of search results an incredible 93% of the time. Due to the configuration and placement of the 3 Pack, this means that 93% of the time, users only see the 3 Pack unless they scroll. The impact this has had on user on-page behavior has been massive. Moz has an amazing breakdown using heat-mapping to show user behaviors in different configurations of this page that shows 44% of users click within the Local Pack.
Trends Marketers Are Seeing Around the Local 3 Pack
One thing that marketers respect is the value that our colleagues bring to the table. Without the research and reporting being performed throughout the year to provide their peers with insight into the massively complicated world of SEO, we couldn’t provide that valuable insight to our clients. There are few massive players in the marketing world that we all turn to fairly regularly – HubSpot, Moz, SEMRush to name a few of the big players. But there’s also value that comes out of the summits and events held yearly, and one of those that we found especially useful for this discussion was a session held by Darren Shaw during the September 2020 Whitespark Local Search Summit. In Darren’s presentation, he presented the results of the latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey, a poll created 10 years ago by David Mihm and last published in 2018 on Moz.
In the latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey, Shaw found that SEO professionals had a fairly strong grasp on google maps ranking factors, which are the main drivers of ranking in the Local 3 Pack.
In terms of ranking on Google Map Pack, the survey revealed the following 3 ranking factors had the most influence:
- Primary Category: The structure and format of your Google My Business page, with Primary Category impacting your ranking the most within the Local 3 Pack. Keyword Usage in your GMB Title is the second most influential factor in our in-Pack ranking.
- Proximity: How close your business is to the user searching will impact the Map Pack results.
- Reviews: The review count and the number of positive reviews are highly important in gaining the trust of Google Maps users. The sentiment and reviews on your GMB listing carry a lot of weight in determining your ranking on the Google Map Pack.
Track Inbound Web Traffic from Your GMB to Gauge Impact
Your journey to the Local 3 Pack isn’t going to be instantaneous after you set up and format your Google My Business page. In your journey to establishing and improving your GMB to help your chances for placement into the Local 3 Pack listing, you must track the impact on your inbound traffic due to changes and improvements you make.
The most effective method for tracking traffic from your GMB page is to embed a UTM tag within the listing. UTM, or urchin tracking modules, are methods used in formatting a website URL to track the impact or effectiveness of various marketing campaigns. In this case, the UTM would be a snippet of code added to the end of your GMB’s URL that you could create with Google’s free Campaign URL Builder in the Developer Tools suite. Once the URL has been created, you can list that URL in your GMB’s “website” field. Tracking clicks on that specific iteration of your URL can then be accomplished through Google’s Search Console.
Get in Touch With One of Boston’s Leading Local Pack Marketing Teams at GoingClear
Don’t try to tackle the local SEO scene by yourself. Boston is an extremely competitive city, and with more organizations branching outside of the local markets, the fight for search engine rankings is only getting more intense. GoingClear can help your business focus its efforts on achieving a top spot in Google’s Local 3 Pack, or achieve any of your other marketing goals in 2021.