How Google Chooses the Local Pack
When a search is performed that Google interprets to be requesting results that have locations, Google almost always returns a Local Pack. It is important to note that the algorithm Google uses to select Local Pack results is different from the one it uses to return typical search results.
The biggest difference between the two algorithms is that the one used to select a Local Pack is based more heavily upon the location of the result, and the confidence Google has that the location is correct. Google places great value in being confident that the location listed actually exists at the place specified. Google desperately wants to prevent sending someone to a location that is incorrect, and having them arrive at a park when they expected a bank! Conversely, the algorithm for typical search results uses website authority as the most important factor. Website authority is still a significant factor in the determination of Local Pack results, but it is no longer the primary factor.
In practice, this means that a smaller church with inferior website authority can be displayed ahead of a larger more authoritative church if they are closer geographically to the searcher and Google is confident that the church exists at the location it claims.
Google gains confidence that a church exists at the location it claims based mostly upon the following factors:
- That the church has a Google My Business entry that has been verified and populated with data that is as specific as possible.
- That the NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information in the Google My Business entry is consistent with the NAP information located on the church website’s landing page.
- That the NAP information in the Google My Business entry is consistent with the NAP information located in other authoritative online directories (known as “citations”).
Claiming Google My Business
Typical time commitment: 1 hour per campus
- You need to claim or establish a Google My Business for each campus.
- Sometimes this can be done electronically by having Google Analytics set up and then adding Google Search Console. Once Google Search Console is added you may be able to claim Google My Business with a click of a button.
- If you can’t claim it using Google Search Console, you might have to to resort to claiming it using email, on the phone, or through a postcard.
- Each Google My Business entry should be completed as thoroughly as possible, and the information included should be as specific to the campus/location in question whenever possible. This includes both category selection (ie. “Non-denominational Church” is a better primary category than “Church”) and also in terms of NAP information (ie. you should use a phone number that connects directly to the specific location and has a local area code rather than central phone hub).
Placing NAP Info on Your Website
Typical time commitment: 1 hour per campus
The NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information on your website should be entirely consistent with that of your Google My Business entry. If you have multiple campuses, the landing page set in each campus’ Google My Business entry should be a page on your website that is specific to that campus, and contains the NAP information for that specific location only.
In order to help Google understand the NAP information provided on your website, it should be implemented as structured data whenever possible. This can be done using schema.org Microdata (see: http://schema.org/docs/gs.html) or Google’s preference, JSON-LD (see: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data). You can verify that your structured data is functioning correctly using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool (https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool).
Claiming and Correcting Directory Citations
Typical time commitment: 8 hours per campus
This is the most time consuming task by far. First, you must determine which online directories are authoritative in your area. Many directories provide high-value citations across the entire United States (ie, Yelp, Bing Business, etc.) while others will have specific ranges of geographic relevance.
Second, you will want to determine in which directories your church already has existing citations, and correct any inconsistent NAP information that you have found. This is critical because Google wants most of all to be confident that they are sending people to the correct physical location, and consistency of citations is key in building that trust.
Finally, you will want to submit new citations to the directories which have value that do not already contain an existing citation. Note that for many of the higher value directories, email/phone/postcard verification will be required to add/update a citation.
That's it. You've completed the 3 steps that should be taken to help your site rank in Google's Local Pack!
Our History with Rock
We have contributed SEO content to the Rock Developers Guide and to their blog.
Content we added to Developer's Guide
SEO Best Practices: Avoid Multiple Page Routes for Indexed Pages
Having multiple routes present for a page that you wish to be indexed by search engines can be significantly damaging to that page's ranking. This is because the search engine is unable to detect that each individual route is pointing to the same page, and instead interprets them as duplicate pages, with identical content. The result is that a page with multiple routes will essentially be competing with itself, diluting its page ranking in the process.
SEO Best Practices: Using Images in Themes
When using images in your theme design, they will typically be implemented as an IMG tag or a CSS background. Use of an IMG tag, with accompanying ALT attribute text, is optimal if the image is part of the page content or has semantic meaning. This will allow search engines as well as screen readers to interpret the image.
Blogs we wrote: