How to Get Into Google’s 3-pack Map Listings
Internet marketing continues to be increasingly competitive and securing organic exposure in Google search results 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?
Before I just list some strategies and tactics, it will help to have a base understanding to take these ideas to the next level.
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 My Business (GMB) profile. In most cases, Google created your initial profile and you had to go out and claim it. The good news is that your GMB is a Google asset, and Google loves its own stuff. It is like having another web page that you didn’t have to pay for and has instant Google credibility. Another way to look at GMB is that Google shut down its social media platform (Google+) in 2019, but still places great value in its users’ interests, behaviors and engagements.
Thus, it makes sense to optimize your GMB profile targeting your highest-quality, local prospects.
How to Optimize Your Google Business Profile
1– Set Up Your Google My Business Account – After you have claimed or set up your Google My Business profile, you need to get familiar with your Google My Business 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 and Gmail account, use this to set up your account at Google.com/business.
2– Complete Every Section Thoroughly– 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, but not stuffing in other location names and keywords that can be considered spam.
3- Selecting A Category – Your category appears towards the top of your GMB 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.
4- 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 GMB profiles perform better when business incorporate photos – https://searchengineland.com/new-research-shows-strong-link-between-google-my-business-photo-quantity-and-search-performance-320199
5– “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 and carry more weight. Try to include keywords your prospects use to find you.
6- Invest in A Virtual Tour – In addition to photos, it probably makes sense to also invest in a virtual tour of your practice by a Google-certified photographer in highly competitive local markets. This is different and 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 My Business.”
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 GMB profile from the competition. The following are ongoing strategies that send the right signals to Google and consumers.
7- Consistently Post on Your GMB – 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.
8– 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 GMB 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 GMB, it jeopardizes the credibility and trust of your information and will lower your rankings.
9– 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 GMB 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”.
10– Questions and Answers – Google also provides a section on GMB for “Questions and answers”. Keep in mind that anyone can answer these questions, not just the owner of the profile! Thus it is important to make sure you set up alerts to notify you, respond in a timely manner and manage it (including removing those that violate Google’s guidelines). Also, you cannot turn off this feature, but you can leverage it. In fact, you can use this like your own FAQ section. Knowing patients most common questions allows you to seed this section with popular queries (and keywords) and allow you to provide useful insights (this does not violate Google’s guidelines).
These are just 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, practices and agencies that invest more time and resources will get you better results.
If you would like a FREE GMB assessment, call (202) 779-0588, or send a request to Bill@MedSharkDigital.com