Google Snack Pack: What is it? And how do you Rank 1st?

Dec 29, 2021
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Table of Contents

What is the Google Snack Pack?
What are Local Justifications in the Snack Pack?
How to Dominate the Local Google Snack Pack?
Step 1: Claim or Optimize Your GMB Listing
Step 2: Get Genuine Customer Reviews
Step 3: Optimize your Website for Local Search
Step 4: Acquire Good Links and Remove Bad Ones
Conclusion

Marketing a local business is a lot of work. Google, the top search engine in the world employs so many different methods in ranking websites: organic search results, paid advertisements, and most importantly the Google Local Pack also known as the Google Snack Pack.

The Google Snack Pack appears in 93% of searches with local intent. So, it is important to do everything you can to improve your Local Search Engine Optimization or Local SEO.

Local SEO helps businesses advertise their products and services to local customers based on geography. Signals such as local content, social profile pages, links, and citations (listings with local directories) assist search engines in gathering information and give the most reliable results to each user. 

Google Snack Pack

What is the Google Snack Pack?

The Google Snack Pack is the result of the top three local businesses that appear in response to searches for products or services provided by local businesses. 

The Snack Pack hasn’t always had three items, however. 

In 2006, Google rolled out a feature called the "plus box" or the "one box", which allowed users to see a map of local businesses in their search results. As time passed though, it was clear that Google wasn't finished fine-tuning this feature.

Then in 2008, Google released what was known as the Google Local 10 pack, which displayed 10 businesses whenever you were searching for information or keywords on a specific topic. It also displayed the website and phone number of these businesses, as well as easy-to-access reviews.

Just as business owners were adjusting to the 10 pack, Google changed the algorithm again - this time cutting down the number to 7 instead of 10 - making each spot on the list more valuable. Not only did they shorten the list, but the amount of information given within the 7 pack is expanded, now including relevant links, a description, and other information.

And this wasn't the last time that Google changed up their game. In 2015, Google unveiled what we now know as the Snack Pack or the Local 3-Pack.

From 10 to 7, and now to 3, Google has continued to make the spots that local businesses compete for more and more scarce, while their algorithm for earning one of these slots becomes increasingly more complex. 

Here is the information displayed in the Google snack pack for the following query “restaurants in Boston MA”:

  • Directory tabs (New)
  • Business name
  • Google review star rating
  • Number of reviews
  • Type of dining in terms of $$
  • Address
  • Hours of operation
  • Service options: Dine-in, Delivery, Takeout

Restaurants in Boston

When you click on the listing, the box expands to show the following information – this feature was highly expanded in the last couple of years:

  • Website
  • Phone
  • Google Maps directions
  • Reservations and ordering
  • Landmark near location
  • Business images
  • Health and safety
  • Questions & answers
  • Popular times (New)
  • Amount of time spent
  • Review summary
  • Detailed reviews
  • Images 

The following images show some of the information in the Google Maps for a restaurant:

The Capital Grille Boston

The Capital Grille quick links

Popular Times Capital Grille

Reviews for The Capital Grille

The amount of information Google gathers for the local pack is overwhelming! The Newest Google Maps features as a continued effort to improve the local shopping experience include:

  • Popular times - shows busy times
  • Directory Tab - shows which stores are in a building 
  • Grocery shopping - allows customers to order groceries for pickup 
  • More information on restaurants - shows price ranges, and amenities: outdoor seating, delivery, curbside pickup

What are Local Justifications in the Snack Pack?

Features overlooked by many digital marketers are Google justifications. The justifications are extra snippets of text that Google displays on GMB listings in the local pack, and also on Google Maps. They are used to signal users of features that matched their intent when searching.  These could be found in Google posts, reviews, menus and websites. 

Here is an example of local pack justification when searching for “vegetarian dishes Boston”:

Vegetarian dished Boston

Here is an example of a review justification when searching for the same phrase “vegetarian dishes Boston”:

Vegetarian Dishes Review Justification

Although they are not ranking factors per se, the snippets and attributes displayed through local justifications may be that one little factor that influences a potential client to reach out to you instead of a competitor. 

How to Dominate the Local Google Snack Pack?

As mentioned before, Google My Business, reviews, on-page optimization for local SEO, and local links are the top four Local SEO techniques in helping your business come up first in the Google Snack Pack.

Here is a comprehensive list:

  • Google My Business
  • Reviews
  • On-page
  • Links
  • Behavioral
  • Citations
  • Personalization
  • Social Media

This study from Whitespark shows the top importance of the Google My Business ranking signals and their importance in showing up in the Google Snack Pack.

Local Pack Finder Whitespark

As you can see Google My Business (GMB) gives the strongest ranking signals for the local pack by far at 33%. The importance of these factors has changed over time the priority being placed on GMB. 

The most important changes are the growth of GMB and reviews, and the decline of citations. The on-page and links signals stay about the same and account for about 15% of the Google Snack pack ranking factors.

Local SEO changes over time

We will discuss in more detail the most important four steps you can take to achieve the best possible results in the Snack Pack through effective Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) techniques.

Step 1: Claim or Optimize Your Listing on Google My Business

It is of the utmost importance to claim and optimize your GMB listing or now known as Google Business Profile.

The GMB-specific most important local ranking factors include:

  • Primary GMB category
  • Keywords in GMB business title
  • The proximity of address of the point of search
  • Physical address in the city of search
  • Additional GMB category
  • Removal of spam listings
  • Completeness of GMB listing

The primary GMB category is the most important factor, so make sure the business category is correct and best describes your business.

Keywords in business titles are the second import ranking factor. However, this has to reflect the actual business name. Stuffing keywords in the business title might result in your business listing being suspended by Google.

The proximity of the address of the point of search is the third factor.  A business generally could only rank in about 10 miles of the business's physical location.

Physical address in the city of search is also a strong ranking signal but businesses cannot affect this unless they are willing to open other physical locations.

Additional GMB categories of search are added when the main category does not match the business service. In this case, Google allows the addition of department and category-specific features. For example, food and drink businesses are able to add URLs to their profiles for online orders, reservations, and their menu or add menus directly.

Removal of spam listings through spam fighting – Google has strict guidelines for GMB listings submission and is continuing to develop new algorithms in trying to eliminate:

  • Keyword stuffing in business title
  • Businesses that are not eligible to be on Google Maps
  • Businesses with duplicate listings
  • Listing for businesses without a physical location

Getting involved in any of the above practices might result in your business listing suspension by Google. Removal of spam factor was introduced in 2020 and it is already considered very important in Google Snack Pack ranking.

Completeness of GMB listing

Another important factor in determining rankings in Snack Pack results involved the completeness of the Google Business Profile. This includes the following:

  • Verifying GMB listing
  • Setting the correct hours of operation
  • Enabling GMB messaging feature
  • Posting - Frequency of GMB posts
  • Adding business Q&A, including owner-seeded Q&A

Step 2: Get Genuine Customer Reviews

Another extremely important factor in ranking high on Google local search results and the Snack Pack is the presence of customer reviews.  A recent study found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations by their friends. 

Google, Yelp, and Facebook are the three major review platforms and each has its own guidelines concerning asking for reviews.  Yelp doesn’t want businesses to ask customers for reviews. Google, on the other hand, is fine with this as long as gifts or money are not offered in exchange for positive reviews.

Google Reviews

Reviews are public conversations and interactions between you and your customers. It is important that you respond in a timely and considerate manner to both positive and negative reviews. 

These interactions will set the tone and define the culture of your business.  The positive comments are a confirmation that your products and services are great, while the negative reviews serve as opportunities for improvement.

There are several ways you can encourage reviews:

  • Provide Opt-in email subscription at the time of service and request feedback shortly after
  • Have a “Review Us” button to major review sites on your website
  • Asking personally for feedback or reviews at the end of a transaction

Step 3: Optimize your Website for Local Search

Your website needs to be optimized for local search by associating your website with a certain location. The website content is also important in Local SEO – because of justifications.

In addition, all on-page SEO strategies should also be implemented as follows:

  • Create a catchy and on-topic title
  • Write a URL containing target keywords 
  • Write a meta description short and informative
  • Make sure the headers are hierarchical and you have only one H1 header
  • Use local business schema
  • Use related keywords and enrich your text with internal linking
  • Make sure the pages crawlable by search engines
  • Make your website is mobile-friendly and fast loading
  • Use target keywords or phrases within the first 100 words and also use related keywords – this also helps with Google justifications.
  • Make content more engaging with images and videos
  • Create easy to read content
  • Use conversational language in your content and add Q&A
  • Provide social media links

Step 4: Acquire Good Links and Remove Bad Ones

Another way to improve your Local SEO and your chances of getting into your local Snack Pack is by building a diverse link portfolio. Quality local links have become one of the most important difference-makers in competitive local search results.

Here are some of the ways a local business can acquire links:

Submit to general citations & industry-specific directories

Submit your local business listing information - name, address, phone number and website (NAPW) into general directories such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, and others and also industry-specific directories such as OpenTable, Zagat, Zomato, and others. Some of these directories will create valuable links to your business’ website.

Santa Monica Yellow Pages

Sponsor Local Organizations

Get involved in local organizations. You can support a local food pantry, a town basketball or soccer team or give discounts to groups such as students or veterans. In exchange for support, your sponsors will create links to your local business site.

Join high authority local networking organizations

Another way to get links to your website is by joining your local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau or Alignable network. Besides relationships and connections, these networking sites will probably link to your website.

Advertise in Your Local Community Pages

Another great way to generate high-quality links in your community is accomplished by adding events to Patch.com, Community Kangaroo, and other community pages. You can create links in your local community by means of:

  • Business associations
  • Existing partnerships
  • Donations & Sponsorships

Links need to be relevant to your type of business and also need to come from trusted and high authority websites. Not every link is created equal, and if you've already done your due diligence and have been striving to build links, there is a good chance you have acquired some bad links. 

In order to remove bad links, you can use backlink analysis software such as Ahrefs or Screaming Frog. Once you identify them, you can get in touch with the owners of the sites and ask for them to remove the spammy links. If you are not successful you can use the Google Disavow tool.

Conclusion

SEO changes very fast and you never know when Google will introduce new features on its local searches. 

Rising to the top of the search results, and subsequently, the Snack Pack, is no easy feat for the business owner.  So, you need to focus on writing great content, building local links, getting good reviews, and most importantly optimizing your Google Business Profile which is perhaps the most effective way to rank high on the Google Snack Pack.

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