Ever do a Google search for local businesses, and notice the three pack Google Map at the top of the page?
Most of the time, you’ll see the three results. On desktop, each Google Maps result has a link to their website, and a link to directions.
On mobile, there’s simply a link to call, and the title is a link to their Google My Business profile.
But every so often, you’ll see a business in the map, and there’s no link to their website, because they don’t have a website!
Where does Google get their information? And why does Google include these results in the three-pack map?
Google is Curating Information
Google is trying to organize and curate all the information that exists, including about local businesses. To do this, Google gathers information about companies from many different sources: city records, articles of incorporation, social media profiles, leasing information, Chamber sites, industry guides, and “internet yellow pages” that list about your business. These are all places that provide information about your local business, even if you don’t have a website.
Your business is what’s known as an entity in Google’s Knowledge Graph. Think of entities as anything that could potentially be a Wikipedia article: businesses, places, people, institutions, ideas, and things. Google’s entity-based Knowledge Graph gathers information about these things, and seeks to understand how they are interrelated to one another.
When you do a Google search for a thing, a person, or a business, if it exists as an entity in Google, a summary of that entity appears on the right-hand side of the desktop screen. This is what’s known as the “Knowledge Graph” or “Entity Graph” for that person, place, or thing. Open up Google, and search for your own business and address, and you see the Knowledge Graph for your business.
The Search Engine as an Information Hub
Because Google is trying to be the best destination for people looking for information, they try to match searcher intent with search results. That means what appears on the first page of search results (minus paid ads) is what Google thinks you most want to find for a given search query.
If you do a Google search for “[your city] HVAC company”, you’ll more than likely see the three closest results to your current location in the 3-pack map, even if one of those businesses doesn’t have a website.
Naturally, the three pack map is the only place a business without a website will appear. If you don’t have a website, there’s nothing to click in the list of organic search results. This leads to the most compelling argument for having a website for local SEO.
You Still Need a Website For Local SEO
Remember how we said a few paragraphs ago that location was a huge factor in what shows up in the 3 pack map? That’s going to be true no matter what sort of service business you run.
The Google 3 pack tries to cluster similar types of businesses together, and gives heavy preference to whatever businesses are close to you. This means, if your customers are Googling from the suburbs, the chances are lower that the 3-pack will only show businesses from epicenter of Downtown.
The businesses that are close to you are more likely to show up in the 3 pack Google map.
Likewise, if you drive a half a mile down the road, and do another search, you might get entirely different results in the 3-pack map.
This is why you need a website: to give yourself a fighting chance to show up for searches in a large market. You really don’t want to leave it up to Google to put you in the 3-pack map. The odds are against you if you take this route.
That said, there are the rare businesses that do well without a website at all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ More power to them.
Wrapping it Up
Google and other search engines use many sources to create their local maps. Even if you don’t have a website, it’s possible to show up in the Google 3-pack map, though in most cases, that’s going to depend on how many similar businesses are near the individual searcher. How much the business matches the search, and the strength of the brand are the other factors that play a role in what shows up in the 3-pack map.