AdWords is Transforming Search: Ranking First on Local Search Just Got Easier

Last May, Google revealed a significant number of changes coming to AdWords during the Google Performance Summit; most of which revolved around mobile and local realities.

One of those declared changes, that has to do with a so-called local three-pack, flew under the radar until it was recently fleshed out in greater detail.

Did you notice when searching for a local business on Google a map on top of the search results listing three local businesses relevant to your search query?

This list of three local businesses is informally called the three-pack, and sometimes referred to as the map-pack.

Up until August 2015, it used to list up to seven local businesses but then its size shrank to the three listings presentation to create a consistent experience across desktop and mobile devices. 

Related Article: Clicks to Cash: 6 Ways Your Business Can Benefit From Using Google AdWords

3-pack - Google local search  

What About the Three-Pack?

This so-called three-pack is where many of us go when looking for a restaurant, an accountant, or a hair salon. It is also where local small businesses get many of their leads and customers. This three-pack is what the customer looks at when searching for anything local; this three-pack is what the business relies on to drive more leads to the website and more customers to their business. In short, we all rely on the three-pack, whether customers or businesses.

In an interesting experiment run by Moz last August, 2015, right after the seven-pack became officially a three-pack the selected users who were instructed to click on the search result of their chosing, 44 percent of them clicked on a local business listed in the three-pack-, 19 percent of the users clicked on one of the three pay-per-click ads on the very top of the search results, and 29 percent of them clicked on an organic result located below the three-pack.

Related Article: Google Adwords gets a Material Design Makeover

Granted, the users who participated in the experiment are not an accurate representation of all Internet users, and neither was their behavior as they were instructed to search for a particular query that they did not necessarily intend to look for before being asked to. Despite the fact that the results are not conclusive, the experiment further supports how important it is for businesses in general, and for small businesses in particular, to be present in both AdWords (pay-per-click) on the very top, and in the local search below, also known as the three-pack.

Competition Is Fierce

As imperative as it is for a small business to be listed in this three-pack, it is also equally difficult to make that happen. There are only three spots, and depending on the degree of competition, it can take months and a lot of marketing dollars to finally rank enough to get there. They need to optimize the elements in their page (meta tags, NAP) as well as the elements outside their page (links, listings in local directories). Not the easiest of tasks for most small businesses given their lack of time and marketing know-how.

Certainly the degree of competition can make this harder or easier. For example, a restaurant in a mid-to-big metro area will likely face steep competition from equivalent restaurants in the same area, which will make it hard to secure one of these coveted three spots in this 3-pack. For a flower shop in a rural town or a business in a niche industry however, it will be somewhat easier to rank in the top three of the three-pack as the degree of competition will be lower.

How the Rules Have Changed

The rules have changed, however, and it is now possible for any business, regardless of competition or how optimized the business’ online presence is, to secure the first spot in this three-pack. Google has made it possible by allowing businesses advertising in AdWords to easily create an ad that will show up in the very first position.

The requirements to be eligible for this coveted first position through AdWords are easy to meet – namely, by connecting a Google My Business account to an AdWords account and adding a local search extension. Further details on the official roll out date and implementation are yet to be announced, however. We will update as soon as details come.

This makes AdWords even more important for businesses in general and small businesses in particular. Google’s pay-per-click has become instrumental in driving more leads to a website, and more customers to a business. Optimizing an AdWords account with extensions, whether the local extension for the three-pack that will be available shortly, the call extension, or the location extension, is of paramount importance to outclick other advertisers in the same space and metro area.

Related Article: How Small Businesses Can Generate New Customers from Google Ads

The pay-per-click on Google’s platform was recently revamped for our mobile-first and local world, including updates to the layout, creative, and management features that either have been released or will roll out later this year. Mobility and locality have been a major theme in the latest Google keynote presentations and announcements. This means that businesses in general, and small businesses in particular, need to adapt to the mobile and local realities by leveraging the power that AdWords bestows upon them.

The year to do it is 2016. The time is now.

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