Google’s algorithm can identify searches that have geographical intent and produce results that are in close proximity to the searcher. This happens without the need for a search that explicitly includes the instruction ‘near me’ or a ‘place name as the algorithm can identify the general location of the device on which the search is conducted. If the search has local intent (e.g. restaurants, cab companies, maintenance services, etc) the results returned will include the Local Pack.
The Local Pack is a search engine results page (SERP) feature that includes a map and local businesses, which appears on the first page for any searches that have local intent. Originally the Local Pack contained seven relevant results but because of the more limited display area available on mobile phones and the increasing number of searches taking place on them, this number was reduced to three.
Businesses that feature in the Local Pack gain a considerable advantage over competitors since the box appears in the No. 1 spot in 93% of local searches. With 46% of all Google searches having a local element, getting into the local pack can deliver significant traffic for a local business.
Google’s reasoning for introducing local algorithms and the Local Pack function, in particular, is that it improves and refines the user experience, the maintenance of which is fundamental to Google’s business model.
Google My Business and the Local Pack
Once a business creates a Google My Business (GMB) account it is possible to post all the information necessary for a chance to appear in the Local Pack just through GMB. This includes the basics like business name, address, contact details and opening hours, as well as a description of the business’s products or services, including keywords, links to the main website, other locally relevant sites and social media, as well as a facility for customer reviews and links to review sites. More often than not though, local SEO is required in order to rank the website in the local pack for local search of relevant keywords.
The basic qualifications for inclusion in the Local Pack are relevance, distance and prominence. Vigorous promotion of all three aspects through Google My Business as well as conventional SEO techniques can optimise a business’s chances of inclusion.