How to Get to the Top of the Local 3-Pack Listings

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CEO Approved Content

Google’s made the search rankings even more challenging for local SMBs. But you can still get to the top. Learn what to do in 2016 and beyond.

You may remember that Google’s moved to this new way of displaying the search results:


Theoretically, the move was to “improve the search experience.” Cynics, however, think Google’s doing it to increase organic SEO competition. And they believe the net effect of that will be more SMBs move to PPC. Oh, and PPC just happens to be Google’s largest revenue maker by far.

You can be the judge of the real motivation. But the fact is, everyone plays by the same rules – Google’s.

So, how do you get to the top of this newer local 3-pack search result?

Some tips:

  1. First, Remember How the Local 3-Pack Works

Unsurprisingly, the local 3-pack takes your location into consideration. So when you search from a certain location, you’re going to get results near to that.

You can’t optimize for all locations in your neck of the woods (although you can for many). And Google won’t rank you for certain locations no matter how hard you try.

  1. So, Focus on Giving Google as Much Information about Your Business as Possible

The fundamentals of SEO do not change for the local 3-pack. You still need to optimize your Google Places listing and build local backlinks. Your on-page content needs optimization. You need to be present on local directory websites like and other popular ones appropriate for your niche. And you need to have consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) information.

What could be one of the most powerful differentiators? Did you notice the 5-star reviews for “Nelson Tax Accounting?”

Even though they’re #3, they have these bright gold stars showing. That’s easy for searchers to see. And it makes them feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in clicking on that company’s search result.

And they have a perfect rating – with 13 total reviews. SMBs struggle to get local search reviews, so these represent a huge win for Nelson Tax Accounting.

  1. What Holds Companies Back from Doing Well in Local Search?

One local search agency, Inside Local, did some research to find the common mistakes local companies make that hamper their search rankings. They found this, according to Neil Patel:

Want to know a major negative ranking factor? It’s mismatched NAP citations. Inside Local found that it accounted for 41% of the total ranking issues.


Now if you’re a local SEO consultant, these aren’t hard things to understand. They may be time-consuming. Possibly even complex to pull off.

But they shouldn’t happen with an SEO consultant worth their fee.

  1. Can You Get to the Top of the Local 3-Pack Listings?

Finally, you still can’t control what Google does. It makes the rules all websites live by. Generally, what they want you to do is simple to understand.

But in practice, it’s often not easy to pull off. However, if you continue working on optimizing the fundamentals mentioned in step #2, and avoid any of the killer mistakes in the above graphic, you give yourself an excellent shot at dominating the local search rankings for months and years to come.

Joshua Cabe Johnson

Joshua Cabe Johnson

Joshua Cabe Johnson has been an SEO since 2008. He has personally helped over 1000 clients with online visibility and brand strategy for SEO growth.

Visual rankings has been helping small business owners online since 2002.

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