Written by Antony George on December 7, 2016
Does the following sound familiar:
You’ve spent time and money on a website for your business. But your website is not generating you the footfall it should from local customers.
You are not alone.
There are thousands of businesses across the country in the same situation.
Today, I am going to discuss one simple detail that will help you generate more local customers.
But first, take a look at this image:
It shows a search results page when a local search is conducted. A local search is a search for a type of business, service or product that is either located in a certain area or near to the searcher's location.
Take another look at the image and see how the results are split up into 3 distinct areas.
At the top of the page are the paid adverts. At the bottom of the page are the local organic search results for the local search query entered. The middle of the page contains a map and 3 business results.
This middle area is known as the google 3-pack or google snack-pack. It is unique to local search queries. You will not see it on any other type of search. And Google have deemed it so important that it has been placed above the local organic results in the prime location on page 1!
Why would they do that?
Because people's search habits are changing. People now perform more searches from their mobile devices than from a desktop or laptop computer.
And the majority of searches from mobile devices are local based searches for local business, local services or local products.
The trend of searching for local services, products and businesses is increasing.
Want to know the best bit?
The Google 3-pack gives local businesses the edge over national companies for local searches.
Because the Google 3-pack only contains businesses with a physical location within the local area.
And you need to take advantage of this.
So, today I am going to share with you one essential detail you need to improve your 3-pack rankings.
This important detail is central to 5 important ranking factors that Google uses to determine whether your business should be in the local search 3-pack results.
- Is the business physical address within the town/city of search
- The Google My Business (GMB) listing
- Authority of the business citation source
- Business citation consistency
And the most important piece of information for all of these factors is…
That’s right. Your NAP. This isn’t a quick 40 winks in the afternoon!
Your NAP is your Name, Address & Phone number.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? And it is, when done correctly!
Now, let’s find out how to define NAP correctly and then how it applies to those 5 local ranking factors.
What’s your NAP?
You now know that NAP simply means:
Your NAP will appear all over the internet - on your website, your social media accounts and various directory listings. And using the same correct NAP consistently is the key to success.
I am going to say this one more time:
You must use the same NAP everywhere.
With this in mind, let’s go ahead and define your NAP.
"Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your shop front, website, stationery and as known to customers.”
With this in mind here is an example:
Let’s imagine that you are a florist and your name is Jo.
Acceptable possible business names:
- Jo’s Florist
- Jo’s Flowers
- Jo’s Florist specialists in exotic plants
I prefer the descriptive names Jo’s Florist & Jo’s Flowers. If you’re setting up a new business you should ideally conduct some keyword research to determine which has the highest chance of producing results for your business in the online world. But that is not part of today’s discussion.
“Use a precise, accurate address to describe your business location. PO Boxes or post boxes located at remote locations are not acceptable.”
Typically for your business address there will be 2 lines for street address, one for town/city and one for post code:
- Address Line 1
- Address Line 2
- Town / City
Address Line 2 is optional.
But what is your actual official business address?
For the UK, I always use the business address as listed by the Royal Mail.
Now, if you’re a business located in a small satellite town next to a larger town or city, this can be particularly beneficial.
Here’s the reason why...
Because the smaller town is often listed on the second address line. eg:
- 1 The High Street
- Royal Wootton Bassett
Now remember, consistency is key. Decide whether you are going to use St or Street, Rd or Road, Ln or Lane etc and stick to that form.
Because a search engine will read St and Street as two different addresses.
My preference is to use the longer form ie Street.
Business telephone number
“Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible, and provide one website that represents your individual business location.
- Use a local phone number instead of central, call centre helpline number whenever possible.
Your business telephone number should be a standard local number. Within the UK this will be in the format:
“area code” “ local number”
This is the format used on Google My Business. Stick to this format wherever possible.
Do not list an 0845 or 0800 number as your main telephone number. Use your local telephone number with the local dialling code as your primary number. All other numbers can be added as additional numbers where appropriate.
That’s your NAP taken care of. Now, let's take a look at the 5 main Google ranking factors and see where NAP fits in…
Is the business physical address within the town/city of search
Your business needs to be located within the vicinity of the searched area. If it isn’t then you are going to find it extremely difficult to get within the 3-pack.
This is where using the Royal Mail address comes into play if you live in a satellite town.
And there’s more..
Google often used to give a preference to businesses closer to the geographical centre of a major town compared to those in the satellite towns.
Since a Google update in September 2016, labelled the Possum update, there appears to have been a levelling of the playing field. Many businesses within the satellite towns and on the outskirts of towns have moved up into the 3-pack.
Google My Business (GMB)
Google My Business is owned by Google. This is your one opportunity to directly tell Google your business details.
Claim the listing for your business and fill it in fully and correctly.
Some tips for GMB:
- Correct NAP
- Ensure you select the correct business categories. If you can, try to select 4 categories that describe your business.
My preference is to get my NAP set up on GMB and then make sure my website NAP exactly matches it.
Authority of the business citation source
Google wants to see details of your business depicted on other websites other than your own site or GMB. These other sites are typically directory sites.
Try to get a mix of the 3 main types of directory:
- National directories
- Local directories
There are hundreds of directories on the internet. You only want your business to be listed only in the quality directories. Avoid the directories that are full of spam listings. You will already know some of the quality directories - yell, 192, thomson local, etc
This is important:
Quality over quantity
It is far better to have 1 citation from a quality source than 100 citations from spammy low DA sites.
Fortunately, there is a free handy way of discerning the perceived quality of a website. Download the MozBar for free. Sign up for a free account. When activated, the MozBar will give you the domain authority DA of a site. DA is an exponential measure from 0 to 100 with 100 being high.
The MozBar also contains a spam score from 0 to 17. My rule of thumb is to automatically rule out a directory site if its spam score is above 4. Then check out the sites that are left to determine if they are suitable or not.
I have compiled a spreadsheet of my top 30 UK national directories. This spreadsheet will also enable you to track all of your citations. Get your copy here.
Business citation consistency
You must maintain consistency with your NAP across your citation sources. But what if you or someone else has listed your business on different sites and you have no idea what the sites are or if the NAP is correct?
Never fear. There is a handy command to search the internet to find incorrect citations. Unfortunately it is a manual process and may take a bit of time.
First, make a list of all the variations of your business name.
Then all the variations of your postcode and telephone numbers.
If you have moved premises in the past, make a note of the old postcodes and telephone numbers as well.
The command you want to type into the google search bar is:
"your business name" OR "your business postcode" -site:"your website url"
eg: "highthrive" OR "SN4 8JB" -site:"highthrive.co.uk"
Any listings that are incorrect or duplicates need to be removed. If you cannot do this yourself then write a nice email to the relevant citation site customer services department. In this email specify the listing, how it is incorrect, how it should be corrected or alternatively that you would like it removed from their directory. Do not forget to also request a confirmation email from them to confirm that this has happened.
The distance of the business location from the search location
The entries in the 3-pack and the order of the 3-pack are also affected by the distance of the business from the searchers current location.
A correctly completed NAP will give you the best chance of showing up in the 3-pack when a user searches based on their current location.
As you can see in the below diagrams, the various types of local searches can produce different 3-pack results:
Search term: florist
Search term: florist near me
Search term: florist swindon
If you want your website to work for you and attract more customers from your local geographic area then you need to sort out your NAP.
Define your NAP and make sure you use this version only. Be consistent. If needs be, perform a tidy up of all the inconsistent and duplicate versions of your NAP that you can find on the world wide web.
Your NAP is the foundation of your 3-pack campaign to make your website and online presence work for your local business.
NAP consistency is key.
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Do you want to know my top 30 UK citation sources? Click here to get the info.