As service providers, you're on the lookout for IT-related news like the latest virus to plague Androids or the newest product release announcement from Apple. You may not necessarily be following the latest changes to Google's search results rankings, but this is one you'll want to bookmark. It could reduce visibility for your company if you're not proactive enough with your web marketing strategy...
Google's 7-Pack Becomes a 3-Pack
And then there were three. Do you remember when you used to search for the best restaurants in your local area? The desktop Search Engine Results Page (SERP) would return a selection of seven eateries for you to choose from. This 7-pack, as it was called, was the menu of options that would appear at the top and contained at minimum the business's name, address, phone number and Google map.
Now, that 7-pack has shrunk, and local companies in all industries are competing for the gold, silver, and bronze medals of local SEO rankings.
This new Google roll-out has the potential to generate or deter new business for your company. When your prospects turn to Google to search for the "best IT provider in [city], [state]," you want to get found. Now, it's going to be a bit harder. This is what appears for Boston now:
Those three businesses are not the only IT providers in the great city of Boston, but their brands have the greatest visibility to prospects looking to switch from their current provider or to find a new one. Notice how the second, social services listing isn't even in your industry, but has made it harder for your company to get found. Perhaps you'll want to target a keyword other than "IT provider," like "IT services." Remember to use the words you're prospects will be familiar with and search. Do they know what managed IT services are?
New Desktop "Snack Pack" Modeled After Mobile SERP
Look familiar? You may have noticed that the condensed listing for desktop searches now aligns with the look and feel of Google's mobile results. Note: mobile SERP results don't always match those on desktops.
How Can I Check if I'm in the Top 3?
If you have not checked where or if you rank in searches for your local area, follow the thought process above and search "best IT provider in [your city], [your state]." You may have to scroll down past the top three Google Ads to see the 3-pack. Even if you don't see your business's name, make note of the top three rankings. Those are your competitors, and they're obviously doing something right. Browse their websites to see which keywords they're targeting in their content and on-page SEO elements - more on this later.
What if I'm Not in the Top 3?
Depending on how many MSPs are in your area, that kind of Google SERP real estate may be hard to come by! While it should be a wake-up call that you need to up your SEO game, it remains to be seen how users will respond to the new layout. For instance, they may click the map that results, in which they will see the full list of providers on the left bar of their screen:
Still, there's no guarantee your prospects will click around until they find you. Remember that as is the case with all other listings on your Google SERP, the 3-pack listings are subject to change. Just because you're not there yet doesn't mean you can't be!
3 To-Dos in Light of the 3-Pack:
1. Include your location in your website page title.
Refer back to the top three rankings for "best it provider in boston" - what do they all have in common? Their page titles are geo-targeted! For SEO novices, the page title is the first element Google looks at when it crawls your website. That's why it's commonly known as "the single most important on-page SEO element." It is the text that appears:
- as the title of listings on SERPs
- in browser windows and tabs
Here's a breakdown of the two relevant page titles in the 3-pack:
- Boston IT ® IT Services | IT Support | Managed Services Company Boston, MA
- IT Services Boston Massachusetts - CMIT Solutions
All IT is local, and these two companies recognize that they have to optimize their web content not only with industry-related keywords like "IT services," but with their location as well.
- Keep your page title between 50-60 characters.
- If your company name doesn't include any keywords, position it at the end of the page title, like CMIT did.
- Use a unique, relevant page title for each page.
2. Get on Google My Business.
Google favors Google. Always remember that. Look at the 3-pack above, and you'll see that each business has its own Google Maps location. If you haven't set this up yet, this one simple step will boost your SERP visibility astronomically. Best part - if you have multiple offices, you can set up each with their own local page.
- Make sure your Google My Business information - address, phone number, website URL - is consistent with your website's.
- Having a phone number is especially important for mobile searchers because they can just tap to call.
3. Adjust your meta description to provide prospects the information they're looking for.
While meta descriptions are no longer crawled by Google, they are still a crucial on-page SEO element because they either encourage or discourage click-throughs from the SERP to your website. What do prospects want to know? Where you're located, what services you offer, and why they should pick you over others (your value proposition). The trick is not just vomiting this information at them. Rely on your Google My Business listing to provide your contact information, and write your meta description to convince prospects to click on your website. If you offer email security and they're looking for that, including "we offer fully managed email security so you don't have to worry about it" in your meta could be the extra incentive they need to check you out.
- Each page's meta description should be around 155 characters.
- Each page's meta description should be unique.
- Each page's meta description should accurately represent the content the website visitor will find on that page.
Ultimately, improving how you fare in local search all boils down to SEO. These are just 3 actions you can take, but the list certainly doesn't end there! As any seasoned SEO will tell you, it's vital that your website is mobile-friendly and contains high authority backlinks, for example. For more implications of Google's roll-out and how you can respond, check out Moz's original blog post about the 3-pack change here!
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