Someone once joked that if you ever wanted to hide something well enough that no one will ever find, put it on Page 2 of your Google search results. Between Google’s ever-evolving algorithms and new competition emerging, competing for online visibility within your community is a fierce, relentless race to the top.

The top of the search results page, that is.

It’s a daunting climb, but with the right equipment, support, and an abundance of patience, you can send your client straight to Google’s Local 3-Pack and get them the attention they deserve.

Local SEO: How to clinch a top position in local search results

Play by Google’s rules

Local SEO isn’t a one-trick pony. Depending on the type of business will ultimately guide your local SEO strategy. In short, you first need to tailor your SEO efforts to the business.

Start by identifying the business model: is it a single or multiple brick-and-mortar company? Is it a service-type business that sends employees out to serve customers (think plumbers, pest control, etc.) or a home-based business?

Google has guidelines for each type of business. Single locations and home-based companies can have one Google My Business (GMB) listings, while multi-locations can each have their own GMB listing, provided each one has a unique phone number and address.

Google has created four “packs” that each caters to a different type of business. For the most part, each pack displays much of the same information, but with a slightly different look and feel. Understanding how each one functions can ensure you have all the information you need to earn your client a spot in the top three.

Local Pack

This pack is your typical trio that appears at the top of your local SERP, usually accompanied by a map pinpointing their locations.

Local ABC pack

This pack is reserved for branded companies or ones that have multiple locations in the area (think gas stations or chains like McDonald’s). The top 3 appear in an ABC order, with no star ratings or reviews displayed. If you have a multi-location client that customers can visit, make sure you add a GMB listing for each one.

Local snack pack

This pack appears for local restaurants and hospitality businesses. Users can see a photo, star rating, and address beside each listing, but no phone number or website button. In these cases, you should focus on increasing reviews and ratings, as well as use a quality anchor image.

Local sponsored pack

This pack isn’t widely available just yet. Right now Google is testing sponsored ads within the local 3-packs for locksmiths and plumbers in San Diego, and home services in the San Francisco area. Google will hopefully make the feature accessible to other businesses and areas, so stay tuned. This option can give your clients the competitive SEO edge, even if they rank lower in organic recommendations.

Complete your NAP

Your clients need more than a giant sign outside of their location for customers to find them. One of the easiest (and cheapest) methods to boost visibility is sharing their NAP (name, address, and phone number) everywhere possible:

  • The NAP should be on every page of their website;
  • Each NAP should be displayed consistently, spelled correctly, and 100% accurate – no PO Boxes or virtual offices;
  • Make use of free online directories like Manta, GMB, Bing! for Business, Yelp! and other sites;
  • If any NAP information changes, it should be updated as soon as possible on the customer’s website and other external listings;
  • The more complete the NAP and online directory listings, the better chance they stand of ranking high.

Make friends with Google Maps

You can easily add a business directly to Google maps. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Google Maps, and click the Menu button next to the search bar.
  2. Click the Add a Missing Place option on the menu.
  3. Fill out the form, taking care to select the appropriate category for the business.
  4. Your addition will go through an approval process before it’s added to the map, at which point you will receive a confirmation email from Google.

Build your backlink army

Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factor findings indicate that the quality and authority of inbound links to a domain is the #1 influencer in top local organic search results and the #4 influencer in top local pack finder factors.

When crafting a content strategy, it pays (literally) to build backlinks into your overall schema. One of your best opportunities for this is to guest blog on industry-related sites and direct traffic to your client’s main domain.

Ideally, you are also creating epic content that people will want to link to organically. This is why value should stand front and center in every piece of content you craft.

You can also work with other bloggers or professional content writers to craft pieces that point back at your site, ask your friends or business partners to link to your site, or push your content to news outlets.

As simple as this all sounds, there’s actually a deeper strategy involved. It’s not enough to simply link back to your site. You need to consider the anchor text that leads back to you. Rather than randomly selecting it, try to link to terms or phrases that could rank high as a keyword or keyphrase. For example, if you link to this blog post using “backlinking for SEO,” this post would rank higher for that particular search term then if you linked to “www.oncrawl.com.”

***Caution: Only this use tactic sparingly, as too many of the same exact match anchor text links that direct to the same page can negatively impact your SEO, even if it’s from your own site. Shoot for around 1%-2%, tops.

You should also be picky in who is linking back to you, if you can help it. You only want to partner with trusted, authoritative sources. Otherwise, you’re better off not having backlinks at all.

One more point on backlinking: make sure you are linking your content to more of your own content. Yes, you can link to yourself, it’s not cheating. Each blog post, infographic or ebook you publish should direct the reader to more of your awesome content, either in CTAs spread throughout the piece or as anchor text that makes sense to your content.

Summary

Remember, search rankings are not set in stone. If your business has already managed to snag one of the top three spots in local searches, you need to be proactive to maintain it. If your company has yet to break into the Local 3-pack, it’s never too late to get there – keep going.