Google Local 3-Pack 2019

We’ve said for several years that capitalizing on every Google My Business feature available is the single most important online marketing priority for most local fitness, wellness and medical businesses.

Alas, a quick scan of the listings in every major city reveals that most of your peers are still missing out on most of these features.

If your marketing team emphasizes Facebook business page posts and Instagram posts over optimizing your Google My Business presence, make them show you the data connecting those posts to actual new customers for all three channels. (If they don’t have the data, that’s on them. Give us a call and we’ll fix that for you in a jiffy.)

Our money’s on Google My Business, every single time.

Here’s a list of all the free marketing you could have had in 2019, delivered on the spot to people who were actively looking to buy services like yours!

Google Q&A in the Local 3-Pack

The Local 3-Pack is by far the most valuable real estate on the Google search results page (SERP). It’s instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever looked for a business on Google.

You can’t (currently) buy your way into it. You have to earn your way into it, based on Google’s assessment of your relevance to the person who’s searching for information.

We’ve been telling wellness businesses for over two years to actively add owner-submitted and answered Q&As to their profiles.

Guess what? This year, Google starting displaying those in the free local 3-pack, the premier location for local business listings.

Google Reviews in the Local 3-Pack

You’ve no doubt seen us emphasize the importance of encouraging your members and patients to submit Google Reviews.

Guess what? Late in 2019, Google Reviews also began appearing in Local 3-Pack results. See the review excerpt shown under Texas Family Fitness above? Notice that’s it’s a substantive review that says more than just “Great!”

(And we’ve got another Google Reviews tidbit below.)

Short names

You can designate a “short name” for your business in your GMB profile. While Google isn’t actively using short names yet, this is another example of a feature that you ought to go ahead and implement. No downside to doing it — and you’ll be ready if and when it becomes more important.

Google Posts

Yes, you can and should make sure your health club or fitness center always has an active Google My Business post on your profile. In general, dated posts for offers and events will show during the dates you provide. Undated posts show for only 7 days.

In both cases, it’s important to keep posting fresh material. No, posting an offer with a far-distant expiration date is not a good workaround. Google’s not dumb, ya know.

(Wanna bet that Google tests Google Posts in the Local 3-Pack, too?)

Multiple services

If you’re multidisciplinary — say you offer weight loss counseling and diabetes self-care and couch to 5K fitness programs — make sure you’ve added all of your major service lines to your profile. You’re not limited to just one category, and Google uses all of these to help establish relevancy.

Attributes

Google allows businesses to specify attributes that may be important to some prospects, including availability of unisex restrooms, wheelchair-accessible entrances, elevators and restrooms, LGBTQ-friendly, and so on.

Appointment link

Do you have online scheduling? Would you like to show a direct Appointments link in your business listing? Of course you would!

Look for the Appointments field in your Google My Business profile and add it there. You can also simply add a link to your Contacts page if you don’t have online calendaring.

Cross-channel visibility

Have you added UTM parameters to the website link listed in your Google My Business profile?

This information allows you to analyze the behavior of prospects who find you through Google My Business. Want to know how many people clicked on an ad, then clicked on your GMB profile, then called or visited? UTM parameters are a key step in getting that information.

Updated hours

If you’ve updated and/or confirmed your holiday and regular business hours, Google shows them normally.

If not, Google says “hours may vary, check with business.” Not exactly the message you want your potential clients and members to get, right?

The interface for doing this has also been streamlined.

Integration with MindBody

Want to list classes and events right in your Google My Business profile? Of course you do!

If you don’t use MindBody, ask your scheduling platform if they support GMB integration.

Enabling direct messaging

Yep, another great feature: the ability for prospects to send your business a text message via Google My Business. You don’t need a special text number, either.

Just remember that you need to respond within 24 hours, or Google may disable this feature on your profile.

That said, the hard truth is that you need to respond within minutes, not hours, and definitely not 24 hours. A GMB direct message is one of the strongest buying signals you’ll ever see. That person is actively trying to buy what you sell! Dilly-dally and they’ll move on to the next guy, as they should.

New service area business features

Service area businesses — like mobile personal trainers, for example — visit clients only in their homes or offices. They don’t maintain an office where customers can visit them.

If you have a Google My Business listing with your home address, or the address of a mailbox rental store, you’ve set up your profile wrong. You need to change it to a service area business.

Google has improved your ability to specify the markets you serve and added a few other features that benefit service area businesses as well.

Better review management tools

Among the best of these are the ability to bulk manage reviews, even across multiple locations. Which means you no longer have any excuse for not responding to reviews right away.

By the way, research shows that responding to many reviews — particularly negative ones — increases the likelihood that potential members will click on your GMB profile. Just make sure that your responses are substantive and not boilerplate.