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Optimize local SEO with 9 Google Justifications. Boost mentions, reviews, GBP posts, and more to reach the local 3-pack pinnacle.

9 Types of Google Local Justifications That Are Totally Worth Your Attention


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When I asked a friend of mine for a recommendation on Fast & Furious 6, he said “Great flick. Why haven’t you watched it yet?” I was like “Sure. Thanks.” Then he added  “Watch out for the scene where they chase an armored tank on the highway. It’s insane.” That’s what got me! We all love such extra bits of info that make us go for it, don’t we? Google Local Justifications are similar. 

They are tiny snippets of information gathered from various online sources and presented in the Local Pack - the top three businesses along with their name, address, and other useful information. It’s Google’s way of ‘justifying’ why they think these businesses are relevant to the user vis-à-vis the local search query. 

Why does Google have to justify itself? Isn’t it the world’s largest search engine by a country mile commanding close to 84% of the market? Although I have my opinion about its choice of word,  the reason behind it is crystal clear: to provide its users with all the information to enhance their search experience, just like my friend gave me that additional piece of info I found enticing. 

Depending on the source, there are nine types of local justifications:

  • Website mentions
  • Reviews
  • GBP Posts
  • Sold here
  • Seen by shoppers
  • Provides
  • In stock
  • Menu highlight
  • On the menu

So, how can you justify (oops … sorry) that you got what it takes to thrive in the realm of local SEO? Read on.

There’s More to Local Justifications Than Meets the Eye

“My business doesn’t even show up on the local 3-pack. So why bother?”  You are not alone if you are asking this question. Absolutely valid.  

In the realm of local SEO, the local 3-pack is the holy grail and justifications can and will put you right up there.  In the process of setting up your GBP and generally creating  content around the notion that Google will use it in justifications, you take additional steps that your competitors might overlook. It’s like thinking several steps ahead in a game of chess. 

Like I said, when Google includes these tiny snippets of info in the local 3-pack, they are not making them up. It’s based on content that exists already … somewhere in the digital landscape. It’s like Google telling its users “Hey, here’s what we found about them online and we think that’s the reason why you should go to them.”  In short, if your content is good enough for local justifications, it’s damn good for your local SEO. 

Let’s say you’re thinking about a cup of coffee in an outdoor setting and search for ‘coffee shop with outdoor tables’. My search result looks like this: 

Now, let’s see what a normal ‘coffee shop near me’ search looks like for the same location:

Notice the difference? 

Yes! The justifications. The first example includes those related to the search query, sourced in this case from reviews. Observe how the terms related to ‘outdoor tables’ are in bold indicating those are the words  in the scanned content that made the difference. 

Two coffee shops made their way into the local 3-pack just because they have reviews that reference ‘outdoor tables’. The result for Bluestone Lane even includes a picture of an outdoor table. Maybe the file name or alt tag contains the search term. That’s the power of optimizing your content presuming that Google will use it to justify. 

Let’s explore all the nine justification types, how to identify them, and more importantly, how you can influence the textual content that appears. 

Website Mentions

Charity begins at home, and justifications on the home page. If Google is scouring the entire world wide web for content to promote your business locally, what better place to start than your website? Especially the page that links back from your GBP, usually the local landing page.  

How to identify: This type of justification is preceded by “Their website mentions” and a blue globe icon indicating the web.

How can you influence what’s presented: While the snippet is created by scanning the textual content on your website in general and the local landing page in particular, you cannot control the actual justification that appears in the local pack. The idea is to create content using a good mixture of generic keywords about your business and specific keywords that make your brand stand out.  Of course, you’d still keep your blinkers on about the localization aspect when coming up with keywords and creating content about your product or service.  

Pro Hack:  Competitor analysis can be a great tool to come up with content.  Check for website mentions of your competitors who appear in the local 3-pack and the local finder, the full list that follows. By targeting these keywords, you not only increase your chances of appearing in the local pack but also considerably boost your local SEO. 


The example you saw above should drive home the point on the significance of reviews. Review justifications are triggered by keywords in your customer reviews that match a search query. Taken verbatim  in part or full, depending on the length, they appear to regularly feature in justifications.  What if there are not-so-pleasant reviews?  Of course they can be included. 

How to identify:  The text is  included within a pair of parentheses with a blue avatar as the icon. Truncated or partial reviews come with ellipsis. 

How much control do you have over what’s presented:  ZilchHowever, you could prompt your happy customers to write reviews in a certain way that serves the purpose. Make them include your target keywords rather than generic ones such as “Great service. I certainly recommend them.” Ask them about how they found you, the problem you solved for them, the way your business impacted their overall experience, and the like during your review acquisition process.  

Think of questions that require your customers to mention your product/service and other target keywords in their answers. Set the tone and control the conversation. 

Pro Hack: Put your review acquisition process on overdrive becauseMore the merrier’ is the name of the game. Firstly, a good number of great reviews about a certain aspect of your business (read keyword) can trump  that one nagging negative review. Next, Google seems to have a penchant for businesses with lots of reviews when ranking them to include them in the local pack. 

Google Business Profile Posts

You won’t get a better microblogging platform to write about your business than GBP posts just because of the way they can pull justifications. And the sheer number of varieties it offers. The best part? There are many schools of thought in the SEO circles that believe that GBP posts can overwrite other justifications. Combine this with the fact that you are in complete control of the text that appears and you’ve got a clear winner. 

That said, creating a good post and more importantly having it approved by Google's automated review system is not a simple task. There is plenty of GBP post-related content along with Google’s own articles to help you. 

How to identify:  Preceded by an icon that has a white exclamation in blue background, the text is almost always the initial  part of your post’s heading truncated to fit the space. It’s not clear as to how many characters it’s limited to. 

How to leverage your GBP Posts for justifications:  The content on your GBP posts is scanned much like your website content to get an overview of your business. However, things get a bit complicated when you consider the different types of posts:

  • Updates
  • Events
  • Offers

Google recently made changes to the availability of your posts. While the events and offers posts are limited to the day of the event and the expiry of the offer respectively, general updates appear for six months. If you don’t post for six months, a link appears that says “View previous posts on Google”. 

Justifications are pulled in the reverse-chronological order of the posts. So, if you have two posts related to the same keyword, the most recent post is the one that will influence the justifications.

It’s important to post regularly about your products and services so Google has something to scan. Think of it as a social media platform and come up with a content calendar.

Pro Hack:  Keep your posts hyper focussed. Stick to one product or service, or an aspect of your business that you want to talk about.  Also, limit your posts to one or two per topic during any given 6-month rolling period. 

Sold Here

Simply put, Sold Here justifications are all about products that you’ve been selling or sold. They are triggered when your prospects look for a certain product that’s in your store.  

How to identify: Preceded by a blue shopping bag icon, the text says “Sold here” followed by the specific product name. 

How to influence this justification: There’s no observable pattern to this type  of justification. The information could be from your website, GBP, or even from third party sources. On the surface, mentions of your products in customer reviews seem to be a good influencing factor.  Answers provided by your customers to push notifications titled “Know this place?” is another factor that influences this type. 

Fill out your GBP profile with accurate information about categories and subcategories. Regularly update the product section. Also, keep an eye out for the way your business profile appears in third party sites such as Yelp and other directory listings. 

Pro Hack:  Use schema markup on your website to clearly define your products. 

In-Stock Justifications

One of the biggest advantages of getting into the local SEO is to tap into the immediate needs of your customers. Just imagine your customer searching for a product that’s  in your store and you show up on the local pack with an ‘in-stock justification. 

How to identify:  It appears along with a blue checkmark icon followed by the specific product name, and sometimes includes when the status was last updated. 

How to influence:  Google, in its quest to provide the users with most relevant information, might be positively biased toward this signal as this is time-critical and the most dynamic among all. Regularly update your in-stock option in GBP. You could also use third-party plug-ins related to inventory management. 

Pro Hack:  By integrating Pointy tool with your Google Business Profile, you could create a real-time inventory of products sold in your store. 

Seen by Shoppers

One of the latest entries into the list of justifications, Seen by Shoppers is also a bit tricky to understand just because of the same reason.  It’s not clear yet where Google sources the information. However, considering there’s already ‘Sold Here’ and ‘In-Stock’ justifications, it’s worthwhile to explore Google Product Listings and Google Merchant Center.

How to identify:  Preceded by blue and white avatar icon, the text says “Seen by Shoppers” followed by the product name. 


This justification is the services counterpart of “sold here” justifications. So, in addition to the information we have  included above, pay extra attention to nuances of service-based business such as service area, whether a prior appointment is required, if the service is offered onsite, and the like. 

How to identify: Preceded by an icon that contains a blue tick within a circle, the text says ‘Provides’ followed by the service. 

Pro Hack: You never know which niche of your service your prospects are looking for. So try to include as many sub-services as possible in your content - website, GBP, and other business listings. Example, if you are offering carpeting cleaning, include different types of carpets as sub services such as Turkish Rug Cleaning.

On the Menu

Exclusively available to businesses in the food and beverages category, “On the Menu” justification is another version of “Sold Here” or “Provides”.  Again, your content and other optimization steps - on website, GBP, and other business listings, should include specifics of F&B business such as dine-in, take away, specialities, etc. 

How to Identify:  Preceded by an icon depicting an open menu, the text includes “On the Menu” followed by the menu item matching the search query. 

Pro Hack: Take full advantage of the section in GBP available exclusively to those in the F&B business. Use schema markup to highlight the menu section on your website. 

Menu Highlight

Another new entrant to the list, we know only bits and pieces about the Menu Highlight justification. On the surface, it appears to be sourced mainly from “Know This Place?” push notifications sent to customers who have visited your business. From our experience, Google seems to present photos submitted by your customers along with menu item names in the descriptions. Watch this space for more information.

How to identify: Preceded by a brown fork-and-knife icon, the text includes “Menu Highlight” followed by the menu item. 

Local Justifications - Points to Ponder

Optimizing for justifications only supplements your local SEO efforts.  While you will continue to go about your endeavors in local SEO, aiming to create and optimize your digital content on various platforms for justifications gives you a good competitive edge. 

While there’s no direct correlation between implementing the steps above and your rankings in the local organic search,  some of the steps such as website content optimization, using local schema markup, and review acquisition do have a positive impact on local SEO.

Onsite Services and Online Appointments, for some reason, seem to be Google’s favorite justification. Enabling this option in GBP seems to override all other justifications. 

Quasi real-time changes to justifications have been observed whenever changes to GBP content have been made. GBP posts also tend to appear in justifications almost immediately. 

Searching for your business from a different Google account can provide invaluable insights. On Google Maps, you could even look at the questions your customers are likely to answer on Know This Place? notification.. Refine your content based on your findings. Also, check if user generated content represents your business in a fair manner. 

Google pays attention to users’ in-store visit experience too, and not just search experience. Be sure to include as much information about your business such as wheelchair access, wait time if any, and the like which are likely to affect their overall experience of visiting your store. 

Why, you ask? Primarily because, these are the questions that Google primarily focuses on with “Know This Place?” push notifications. When customers answer favorably, you move up in the pecking order.

Food for Thought - Experimenting With Justifications

Just like any other aspect of digital marketing, optimizing your content for local justifications offers constant scope to inspect, improvise, and iterate. While we went through these steps ourselves, we stumbled upon some questions that we thought were worth sharing just to whet your appetite. 

According to MOZ, a leading name in SEO, 53% of local 3-pack results have justifications. So, what happens with the other 47%? Maybe they have enabled Onsite Services and Online Appointments? Maybe there’s some other reason? 

Does Google prefer one type of content over another to come up with justifications? Does it prefer content that can go into Review justifications as opposed to Website mentions? Does it prefer in-stock to sold here?

What’s the impact on click through rates vis-a-vis type of justification? Does one type of justification command a higher CTR than others?

These are intriguing questions that we hope will take you on a journey of discovering a lot more about local justifications. Do share your findings. with us 

The Bottom Line

Remember how my friend gave that irresistible piece of information about the movie that got me to watch it? Am sure you want Google to talk about your business the same way.  By considering all the justifications in this article and the steps you can take to leverage each of them, you are giving Google enough content to talk about you in a favorable manner. 

What’s more, by going through this process, and continuing to get better at it, you are definitely helping your organic SEO too.  Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and so is your digital footprint.  

You need to constantly monitor the ever changing business scenario and how it’s perceived by your local community. You need to keep your eyes on your customer reviews and change your content , and the way you run your business too, based on them.

If you are looking for a helping hand to make all these simpler,  Synup is always there. With our comprehensive range of services that include listings and review management, you can be a local champ!

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