We covered updates about changes to how the ‘local pack’ is displayed in Google search a couple of years ago now, and competition for this space has increased since. As always with algorithm updates, Google’s intention was to enhance the experience people have when using Google (sometimes with a sidetone of enhancing the likelihood of paid searches), and providing answers to users questions when locality is a factor meant the ‘local pack’ has been a huge improvement.
However, as we mentioned, competition is increasing and we wanted to share some insight into what factors Google seem to be taking into account, alongside what you can do to improve your visibility.
Perhaps frustratingly, businesses that have been actively trying to improve their chances of appearing in the local pack now face a further obstacle. Proximity to the searcher is now the most important factor in choosing businesses to display in the pack, outweighing links and reviews.
As an example, type ‘plumbers’ into your search bar. You’ll generally see some paid ads, followed by the local pack featuring a blue dot that’s then surrounded by local results. Now that proximity rules the roost for these searches, even businesses without a website are appearing solely down to location. This is in response to Google rolling out paid listings in local search, which are particularly prevalent when searching on mobile.
The simple answer is that now you need to do more to appear in the local pack. Keep creating content, optimising your site and generating links that refer to your location as much as possible, alongside ensuring your Google My Business page is updated.
One of the best tactics for increasing exposure outside of the confines of Google, is making sure you use high profile directory and reviewing sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Not only will these sites provide backup to your efforts on Google, they’ll also create traffic & interest themselves as they regenerate a huge amount of direct traffic. These are also more inclusive for the general public, with ease of access for both viewing & leaving reviews improving sentiment surrounding your brand.
Without making a significant improvement in your citations and linkbuilding, there are two other outlets for your efforts:
- Organic search - The listings following the local pack are still heavily influenced by locality, but take into consideration the performance of your site in a more traditional way, including optimised on-page & technical factors.
Paid search - Taking advantage of the ads that Google provide means you get access to data surrounding your business, and also have a relative degree of control around appearing on Google. As always, there’s a trade off between exposure and return on investment, therefore caution is always needed when expanding into paid search.
Many of our clients have a local customer base, and although it seems like this update is another stumbling block, it actually puts many businesses on a level playing field. With this change, we should see more of a shift towards users looking at traditional local organic results, as this will provide the most value to the searcher. An example would be looking for a professional service, such as a surveyor - you wouldn’t hire a surveyor because they’re the closest one to you. Proximity might impact the scope of your research, but you’re much more likely to look into reviews, recommendations and other more qualitative factors before making a decision.
We take a content-led approach to digital marketing, and work with our clients to improve both visibility and results. You can see examples of our work here, or feel free to get in touch with our MD Steve for more information.