In general, Google places a tremendous emphasis on local searches, and for good reason. Take, for example, folks searching for a doctor or hospital. What good is it for Google to come back with results in a city 5 hours away?
Rather, they do what they can to emphasize and promote the top tier of local searches, which is what the Local 3-Pack (or map pack) is all about.
Understanding Google’s 3-Pack approach to Local SEO
Until very recently, Google would feature up to seven local businesses atop its results pages, in a layout that differed from traditional results page entries. These featured businesses would have additional information associated with the entry, such as reviews. In addition, the featured businesses would have their addresses prominently displayed – with a link directly to Google Maps for user convenience.
In the summer of 2016, Google made a change, reducing that “pack” to a 3-pack. Now, only three local businesses are prominently displayed on results pages (with a dropdown menu option giving folks the chance to see more results). And while it’s unfortunate that Google has made it harder for local businesses – like your healthcare practice – to get included, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your hardest to get in on that pack.
What you can do to get your practice ranking in that coveted 3-pack
First thing’s first: you won’t appear in the Local 3-Pack if your practice isn’t local to a specific search. There’s just no two ways around it. Results in the local pack are ranked according to proximity of the searcher.
However, there are five specific areas where you can feed information to Google to help increase your chances of topping the featured listing area for a wider local audience.
1. On-page content
Does your organization have multiple practice locations? If so, we strongly encourage you to create individual pages for each location.
Even if you don’t have multiple locations, chances are your practice serves populations from a variety of towns or cities. To increase your chances of ranking in the local 3-Pack, create individual pages for each city where you serve patients.
For example, your practice might be housed in Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean you don’t serve patients in neighboring Decatur. You should create pages for each of your target locations, but while doing so, make sure your content is unique across each of your pages.
Also, make sure that each of your location-targeted pages include embedded Google maps and Schema markup on your address, company name, and telephone number.
We know, that sounds scary, but it’s not too bad. There are two helpful resources you can turn to:
2. Off-page signals
Your practice’s own website can help you rank high on local searches, but it’s not going to be enough. You need some outside help, in the form of directories.
The healthcare industry has its fair share of reputable directories like Healthgrades, Vitals, and Zocdoc you should consider building a presence on. If you don’t know any directories you can be a part of, and aren’t working with a marketing agency to help build your local presence, then you can turn to a tool like SEO PowerSuite and their Rank Tracker. Rank Tracker will help you find 10 high ranking directories in your niche, based on target keywords you submit.
In order for these directory listings to work in your favor, you need to practice consistency with your NAP information (Name, Address, Phone Number).
Best practices also include closely monitoring your listings to see how each listing is performing.
3. Google Maps
When it comes to local SEO, your Maps listing is huge. Therefore, you must, above all else, submit your Google Maps listing, including your address and phone number.
But that’s not the only thing your prospects see when they’re comparing your practice with one of your competitors. They also see review stars, which are extremely influential in click-through rate.
Review management and nurturing is a constant strategy you and your staff should employ on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and show your patients how they can leave a review for you on Google.
Pro tip: Google now allows users to filter their Maps results based on review scores, meaning it’s now more important than ever to build up the number of reviews your practice receives.
4. Local reviews
Speaking of reviews, Google’s latest change (from a 7-pack to a 3-pack) turned out to be great for local review sites like Yelp. Their reviews seem to be ranking pretty high on Google these days. So, while you construct your review strategies for Google, you might as well do the same for Yelp.
One good tip is to either encourage your patients to submit multiple reviews across two or three platforms or alternate which review platforms you recommend your patients submit to. That way, you can improve your presence across each site.
5. Build local backlinks
The more good quality local backlinks pointed at your site, the higher ranking your site will have on Google. You can improve your backlinks a number of ways. We suggest you actually test out some offline tactics.
For example, join your local Chamber of Commerce. You’ll almost certainly get a backlink from that heavily trafficked, local site. But don’t just stop there. Your Chamber of Commerce is a great place to meet other local business owners who, if prompted, might throw some weight toward your website.
Overall, being active in your community is sure to bring you local backlinks. If you host or sponsor a charity event, your local newspaper will likely link to your site in an article they write. If you support a local organization or sports team, they, too, will likely link back to you.
Of course, you can still resort to digital means to fine-tune your backlinks.
A tool like SEO SpyGlass allows you to see where some of your competitors are getting their backlinks from, which you can then use to create your own link-building strategy.
Ranking in Google’s Local 3-Pack is Actually About Ranking for Local. Period.
Ranking in Google’s coveted 3-Pack is a great coup, however, your real goal is to maximize your Local SEO strategy, as a whole, with a benefit of that being increased appearances in the 3-Pack.
Follow the advice above and you should start seeing greater traffic and, hopefully, conversions from prospective patients in each area you service or have a location in.