Internet marketing continues to be increasingly competitive, and getting organic exposure is getting tougher and tougher.
In fact, Google’s 3-pack map listings in search results has pushed down the traditional organic listings, and captures more of clicks and activities. Not only are they placed higher on the page, but the added visual elements (map, pins, star-ratings, graphic links) and information (hours, address, phone number, etc.) may keep users from viewing your traditional organic listing below, even if you are on the first page!
So how does your practice get into the 3-pack map listings?
Well, before we get into strategies, let us make sure we start with some foundational information.
First, the 3-pack are intended to give searchers high-quality, local business results. Google recognizes the importance users put on convenience, whether they use geo-targeted keywords in their search (city, state, town, suburb, etc.) or not (including “near me” searches). Thus, getting 3-pack listings are heavily “local” focused. Although it is not impossible, it is very difficult to show up in the map listings if your business is not located in the same vicinity. The more local, the better.
Second, the 3-pack results are based not on your website, but on your Google Business Profile (GBP) profile. In most cases, Google created your initial profile and you had to go out and claim it. The good news with that is your GBP is a Google asset, and Google loves its own stuff. It’s like having another web page that you didn’t have to pay for, and has instant Google credibility.
Thus, it makes sense to optimize your GBP profile targeting your highest-quality, local prospects.
How to Optimize Your Google Business Profile
- Set Up Your Google Business Profile Account – A Google Business Profile is separate from a Google Business Profile account, which is required to make optimization changes and updates to your profile. If you have a business-related Google account (as opposed to your personal Google/Gmail account), use this to set up your account (Google.com/business).
- Thoroughly Complete Every Section – By having a more complete profile, it gives users and Google more information and it creates more opportunities for user engagement. You probably already know the importance of having accurate Name, Address, Phone, Website, and Hours. But you need to be very consistent. For instance, your business name should be identical to what is on your practice signage, business cards, business license, etc. This includes the use of abbreviations, suite number, and not stuffing in other location names and keywords that can be considered spam.
- “From the Business” Description – Google allows you to provide a description in your own words. Be thoughtful and write appropriate for this platform and users. Use as much of the 750 characters, but put emphasis on the first third, as that will be more visible. Try to include keywords prospects use to find you.
- Selecting A Category – Your category appears towards the top of your GBP profile and Google offers a defined set of categories. The more specific you can be, the better. For instance, some profiles use “Doctor” as part of their description as opposed to “Plastic Surgeon”. Also, since most profiles use “Plastic Surgeon”, it may make strategic sense to use “Plastic Surgery Clinic,” if that is a more accurate description of your business.
- Add Images – By adding photos to your profile, you demonstrate that your profile is active and managed. It also provides more assets for users to engage. Keep in mind, we live in a social media world where visuals dominate, and potential prospects want to learn more about you, long before they call. Studies have shown that GBP profiles perform better when business incorporate photos.
- Invest in A Virtual Tour – In addition to photos, in highly competitive local markets, it probably makes sense to also invest in a virtual tour of your practice by a Google-certified photographer. This is different and much more valuable than just having a “street view.” Google even mentions using a certified 360 virtual tour pro “supports business owners by verifying listings with Google Business Profile.”
Ongoing Local Optimization Strategies
Much like optimizing your website, setting up a highly optimized profile is the foundation for getting better local positioning. However, in more competitive situations, ongoing efforts are required to separate your GBP profile from the competition. The following are ongoing strategies that send the right signals to Google and consumers.
- Leverage Google Reviews – Google recognizes that consumers have gravitated and rely on reviews to judge the quality and service of businesses and providers. So, even though more reviews do not guarantee a top 3-pack listing, reviews are part of Google’s local ranking factors. Also, be sure to respond to reviews. This not only stimulates more reviews; it also engages your most likely referrers for your practice. Google also published GBP recommendations and said, “responding to reviews shows that you value your customers” and that “high-quality, positive reviews from you customers will improve your business’s visibility”.
- Consistently Post on Your GBP – You may recall the Google had a social media platform (G+) that they suspended. Google may not have a social media platform per se, but they do recognize the need to be timely and engaged with your local online community. Thus, Google allows you to update your profile with information, news, announcements, events and even promotions/products. Post regularly as posts are not permanent and some types expire in about a week.
- Ask and Respond to Questions – Google also provides a section on GBP for “Questions and answers”. Keep in mind that anyone can answer these questions, not just the owner of the profile, so it is important to make sure you set up alerts to notify you and respond in a timely manner. Also, you can’t turn off this feature, but you can leverage it. Knowing patients most common questions allows you to seed this section with popular queries (and keywords) and allow you to provide useful insights.
- Business Citation Listings – Not only is it important to make sure your business information is accurate on Google; you need to make sure it is consistent on other business and directory websites as well. We refer to these as business listing citations. As mentioned earlier, Google historically created GBP profiles all on its own; you had to claim it. But how did Google know your business even existed? Google crawlers use information from hundreds of other websites to identify and gauge the accuracy of a business information. If your listings on these websites are inconsistent with your GBP, it jeopardizes the credibility and trust of your information and will lower your rankings.
These are some of the basics of getting listed in the Google 3-pack, but there are other strategies. The main thing to keep in mind is that it is not a set it and forget it process. Much like traditional SEO, Google Local optimization, agencies that invest more time and resources will get you better results.