If someone in your community Googles products you sell, where does your store show up in their search results?
Do you dominate the top spot? Or are you somewhere further down on the page? Is your store listed in the coveted Map Pack? Wait, what’s a Map Pack?
Whether you’re selling online or looking for walk-in traffic, being included and staying at the top of the Google Local Map Pack should be a keystone of your search marketing strategy. It’s as important as it is challenging.
If you’re struggling to distinguish yourself in this highly competitive arena, we’ve got a few tips (and tricks) to help elevate your rankings and secure heightened visibility.
Google Local Map Pack – why it’s important to your business
As consumers, we take Google Maps for granted. It helps us find everything from a new restaurant in town to a local electrician to directions to everywhere we want to go when we’re traveling. As a business, ranking in the Google Local Map Pack is prime real estate.
A Google Local Map Pack is the search results feature that appears on the first page of any search query with a local intent (“near me”). It can appear above or below organic results and it features a map that lists a number of businesses relevant to the query. Whether you show up on Google Local Map Pack depends a lot on your Google Business Profile, website and associated third-party websites (such as social media).
For almost a decade, Google has been very clear about why their “near me” intent is a “near you” opportunity. Thanks to a 2023 survey by brightlocal, we know that nearly one in three mobile searches are geo-specific and the No. 1 spot gets the highest click-through rate.
If managed well — with a steady flow of Google reviews — you’ll reap higher organic traffic to your website, more phone calls and more walk-in traffic. Talk about a competitive advantage.
Ready to claim your advantage? Read on!
- Claim and verify your GBP
Begin by claiming your Google Business Profile (yes, it’s free) and filling out every section (no, it doesn’t replace your website). How you rank will depend on factors like the strength of your website, social media channels and customer reviews.
If your business has been around for a few years, you likely have one already and you just need to claim it, verify it and ensure the information being shared is correct. The verification process can take up to a week and you may be asked to authenticate your information in a variety of ways.
Tip: Your GBP isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. Anytime store hours are changed (holidays, storms, etc.) make note of them here. And remember that your social media channels send signals to Google so post consistently. If you can’t manage a multitude of social channels, choose one and do it well.
- Ask customers to review your store on Google
Reviews facilitate two-way conversations between consumers and stores and can influence local ranking factors. According to a moz.com survey in 2022, 96% of shoppers read reviews, making them an integral element of your store’s brand reputation. Take a look at these findings:
- Only 11% said they trust brand messaging over consumer reviews.
- 50% said they lose trust if it looks like owners/employees are writing reviews.
- If asked, more than half said they would write a review — less than 40% have been asked to write a review in the past year.
- 63% said they update negative reviews once a complaint has been resolved.
It goes against Google’s guidelines to ask for (or incentivize) a “positive” review. But you can ask for a review and any review your business receives is beneficial.
Asking the right questions will improve your search marketing strategy. When asking for a review, keywords are less important than honesty and photos will help reviews be “sticky” and stay closer to the top. Here are a few prompts to help your staff begin the review conversation at the point of purchase.
- Would you consider leaving a review describing the product or service you just purchased and your experience? We want it all — good and bad — so we know where we can improve.
- If you’re not sure what to write, just explain how you were treated and if any issues/problems were resolved.
- Feel free to name the employee(s) who worked with you.
- Please post photos as it will help other shoppers decide if they’d like to shop here, too.
Tip: Review recency matters. You might have a lot of reviews already on Google but if the frequency of those reviews drops off, so will your traffic. You can’t incentivize customers but you can incentivize your staff to ask for reviews. Hold weekly lotteries for staff members who generate the most reviews.
- Add video to your GBP
Video has been hot on Google’s radar for a while and, thanks to our fascination with TikTok, YouTube Shorts will help you improve your GBP. According to Google, it’s easy to upload your short videos (less than 60 seconds) to your GBP. It was built to encourage creators to shoot, edit and upload easily within the tool — no fancy equipment needed.
Tip: When it comes to video, ditch the idea of perfection and go for authentic. Consumers are looking for footage of product you have in stock or services you offer.
- Walk through your store with your smartphone and pan over the layout and key areas you feel are important.
- Create short videos on new products, walking around them while describing key features and uses.
- Interview staff or vendors or even customers during a delivery (with their permission, of course).
- Keep your videos short and informative and do them regularly as product moves through your inventory.
- Optimize for voice search
We all know it’s easier to ask Google to find something near us than to type it into our phones. But as businesses, we need to understand how optimizing for voice search differs and how focusing on it can help the overall ranking of your site in all areas.
Search engines reward sites optimized for voice search by placing them in the top three results for any given query. But to land that top spot, you’ll need a top-notch voice search engine optimization expert. A few key points to remember:
- Target question keywords and longtail keywords because voice searches tend to be longer than text searches.
- Use conversational language in your content — more authentic, less formal and easier to read.
- Prioritize local SEO — yes, this all helps you rank higher in the Google Map Pack.
- Optimize for mobile and ensure your website loads quickly.
Tip: Voice search is a major project and should be handled by an expert. To ensure your digital agency of choice can deliver, visit my favorite resource, hubspot.com, to educate yourself and learn the right questions to ask.
- Engage in regular competitive analysis
Understanding how your competitors rank in their Google Local Pack can help you improve yours. Simply searching their names and products will take you to their GBP, which can help you learn how to improve yours.
Tip: If your GBP includes an “often searched together” section, consider yourself lucky — and use it. This insider information will tell you what Google knows about customers in your area and how they’re searching for your products. If you click on this section, you’ll be taken to the local finder with a “people also search for” heading.