How Local Businesses Get Found on Google

The Different Ways You Can Show up on Google

Compass resting on an old map

Do you operate a local service or business?

Are you confused about the different ways you can potentially be found on Google?

If you answered yes to those two questions, keep reading.

How Can People Find You on Google?

Let's cut to the chase.

For local search queries, e.g. “plumber,” Google typically delivers a search results page with three distinct sections on it.

These three sections are where you can potentially appear in.

They are:

  1. The local map
  2. The organic results
  3. The ads

Let's look at them in more detail:

The Local Map (“Map Pack”)

If I search for "plumber" in Google, I get this result:

Example of local map search result

Local search results will often include a map.

In my example, Google shows me a map with those specific businesses listed due to my location and their location overlapping at the time I made the search.

In other words, the local map along with the businesses shown on it are local to the searcher at the time the search was made.

Aside: The map section is known by a few names:

  • The “map pack”
  • The “local pack”
  • The “3 pack” (if there are 3 businesses listed…)

Getting on the "map pack" is one of the best ways to reach your potential customers.

Tip #1: To appear on the map (and manage HOW your business is presented) you need to have a Google My Business profile. This is a free service provided by Google.

Too busy running your business? Ask me to manage this for you. Dastardly Daring will optimise your GMB for results.

Tip #2: To appear above your competition on the map, you need to employ local SEO services →

Important:

To state the obvious, if you want your business to be shown to me (for example) on the “map pack,” you would need to have your business located in MY area.

You can not use this feature to reliably be found by searchers outside of the radius of the map that Google determines is relevant for the searcher.

This is by design.

That said:

  1. The searcher CAN expand the map area and see a wider area if they choose to;
  2. If there are no businesses listed in town A or town B, then Google may show town C results for town A searchers…

In general, though, the businesses listed in the immediate area of the searcher will hold the advantage (and those who show in the top 3 positions, even more so!)

By the way, this is perhaps the most personalised type of search result that Google delivers.

As you move around, the results change accordingly.

Aside: Google may tweak the results it shows you based on your previous activity (they track everything.) That means what YOU see may not be the same as what someone standing next to you may see.

So that's the local "map pack."

Pros:

People in town A will see business listings from town A. If you are in town A, then why wouldn't you want to be listed there?

The “map pack” is an eye-catching part of the search results page.

Cons:

If you have a service business based in town A, and you are happy to travel to town B and town C to deliver that service, companies in those respective towns will have more visibility than you will.

You can't show up on the map where you are not located! Though if the searcher chooses to expand the area shown on the map enough to include your business location, then you will have visibility.

Psst: When you set up your Google My Business profile, you can add the areas you service (town A, town B, and so on.) This is indirectly useful. Which I will not discuss right now…

OK.

But what about the rest of the results page?

Let’s look at what comes after the map:

Local Organic Results

Using the example search I did above, here are the results that came after the "map pack":

Example of local organic search results

This part of the SERP (search engine results page) is commonly known as the organic search results.

In this case, we get a local-biased set of results as Google treated my query "plumber" as having local intent.

Now, while there can be non-local results shown here, Google will try to serve web pages that they believe to be most relevant to the query + the searchers’ location.

With the organic results section, web pages essentially earn their spot through SEO (search engine optimisation.)

If you wanted your business to show up here, you would need a web page that targets the query + location that is more relevant/stronger than the competition.

The stronger your page, the higher up it will go.

However, you can not go above the "map pack."

Pros:

It's another spot to be found.

It is a way for businesses to be found when they are not located within the proximity of the searcher.

Cons:

You are buried deeper on the page. The "map pack" listings will be seen first.

But then again, both the local map AND the organic results are treated as 2nd class citizens by Google, because…

Money Talks: Google Ads

Above EVERYTHING including the "map pack" is where the paid ads go.

This is the prime location.

You can leap-frog everyone if you just throw money at Google 🙂

Note: At the time I did my search, no one was buying ads. So there were no ads. If you wanted to beat everyone on that page, paying Google to display your ad would put you at the top of the page.

This service is called Google Ads (previously known as Adwords.)

Here is a search for “plumber” when in Warminster:

Google Ads Search Result

Google Ads is a pay-per-click service.

See the paid ad?

Pros:

You can jump to the top of the page as soon as you open your wallet.

Cons:

It is pay-to-display. So you need to ensure your margins can accommodate the ad spend. You also need to keep in mind that if you stop paying, you stop displaying!

What Does This Mean for You?

To simplify —

1. If you do not show up on the map, you will lose out to those who do.

You should be on the map!

How? By creating a Google My Business profile. Need help? Ask me to fill it out for you. I optimise GMB’s for results.

Remember though: if you are on the map, you may not be easily found by those searching from different towns/cities to you. This is why it is a good idea to also appear in the organic results as well…

2. If you can’t be found on the map, you should consider competing for a spot in the organic results.

When you can’t be found in the organic results, your competitors get your business. Whether they are on the map or in the organic results (or both!)

Tip #3: To show up in the organic results, you need a website with at least one page that is optimised for the location + service you want to rank for. Why not ask me to create you an optimised location page?

Are you already ranking? If you have a webpage already ranking (e.g “Plumber in Shaftesbury”) but you are not appearing high enough in the results, then you need SEO services to power up your website.

Finally:

3. If you do not show up in the paid ads, you lose out to those who do.

Spotting a theme yet?…

The “big deal” with paid ads is that Google always gives them preference over the local map and the organic section.

Ask me to manage your Google Ads.

Conclusion

Ideally, you will have visibility in all three locations on the search results page because the less visibility you have, the less business you will get.

However, it may not be practical, budget or time-wise.

The question then is: by how much will you lose by not showing in each one?

And how much business do you want?

One way or another:

If the "map pack" is competitive, you will need local SEO services to show higher on the map.

And if the organic results are competitive, it is the same story.

Lastly, Google Ads costs you both in ad spend and for the expert to manage it all for you (if you do not wish to do it yourself.)

Just be sure the web page you send your prospects to, whether from the “map pack,” the organic results, or the paid ads, is a conversion-focused website to get the most out of your efforts.