I remember when one of our clients said to me, “Bobby, I could care less about the organic search results in Google. If my business is not found in the Google Maps local search results – and if I’m not found in letter A, B, or C – then my phone is not going to ring!” Aside from being under that kind of pressure with a new client, I realized at that moment the relevance and importance of Google local search results, and the power of your Google Maps business listing.
Your Google Maps business listing is the foundation for all of your local SEO success. Without a Google Maps business listing, your business will not be eligible to appear in the local search results in Google, and you’ll be missing out on new opportunities to connect with your customers. Getting found in the Google Maps search results means your business can appear in letter A, B, or C on the front page of Google for locally targeted search phrases. Likewise, if your business is not found, or you are having trouble ranking in Google Maps, that means your competitors are more than likely getting the traffic and calls from new customers.
So if you have a Google Maps business listing, sometimes referred to as a Google business page, then what can you do to quickly differentiate yourself from the competition? How can you drive your business into letters A, B, 0r C and improve your Google Maps rankings? Here are a few proven secrets to help you do just that. These local SEO tips, in an of themselves, will not guarantee success as there are many factors at play when it comes to improve your Google Maps rankings. But they will certainly put your business on the right path to increasing your Google Maps rankings.
#1) Completely fill out your Google Maps business listing.
One of the most common mistakes I see business owners make is they simply do not completely fill out their Google Maps business listing. And why is this? Because most people fill out only the necessary elements such as the Google business page title, URL, address, phone #, etc… and then quickly blow through the description section. When you do this, you are leaving out large sweeping elements of your Google Maps business listing. Some of the more common elements that people ignore are the profile picture, interior and exterior photos, team photos, etc… Did you know you can even upload a virtual tour of your office space? The virtual tour in your Google Maps listing is becoming more popular among professional services such as law firms, dentists, and other medical practice areas.
Most importantly, when you fail to completely fill out your Google Maps business listing, you are in essence leaving money on the table. When Google looks across all of the Google Maps listings for your business category in your city, one of the key rankings factors they use is authority. And one of the best ways to grow influence and authority in your Google Maps listing is by ensuring every detail is completely filled out. It’s also one of the best ways to differentiate you from your competitors. Because again, MOST business owners DO NOT completely fill out their Google Maps business listing. So by you taking the extra time to fill out your Google business page, you’ll quickly elevate your business to the top of the local search results.
#2) Optimize the homepage of your website.
When you create your Google Maps business listing, one of the sections you need to fill out is your website URL. When you add your website URL to your Google business page, you are creating what I call the “landing page” to your Google Maps listing, and it plays an important role in your overall local SEO strategy. The website you associate with your Google Maps listing will directly influence the ranking and authority in the local search results. Google uses your website to make key associations with your Google Maps listing such as keyword targeting, business category relevance, and domain authority – all of which impact your rankings.
Here are the key elements to optimize on the homepage of your website:
- H1 / Title Tag: This is a meta tag in the homepage of your website and it should say your metro area name, business category, and business name. Let’s look at a great example of this strategy in action. If you Google plastic surgery los angeles, you’ll see Wave Plastic Surgeons as the #1 / letter A Google Maps listing. Now, when you click over to their website, you see the H1 / Title Tag of their homepage read as follows: Los Angeles Cosmetic Surgery – Wave Plastic Surgery in LA. Notice as this title tag follows the pattern of metro area name, business category, and business name. And since this is the website that’s been identified as the landing page of the Google Maps listing, Google is pulling in this data and using it as a relevance factor in determining their rankings.
- Description Tag: Moving on from the title tag, the next key element within the metadata of your homepage is your description tag. Again, staying with the example above of the plastic surgeons in Los Angeles who are ranked #1 in Google Maps, here is what the description tag on their homepage reads: Top Asian Plastic surgeon in California with offices in Los Angeles, Irvine, Rowland Heights and Fullerton CA. Contact us today with any questions about general, cosmetic or restorative surgery! Again, notice the reinforcement of the metro area name, business category. The one thing missing here is the reinforcement of their business name. But, who am I to critique… they are currently the letter A ranking in Google Maps :-)
- Onsite Content: To finish out the optimization of the homepage of your website, which is the landing page to your Google Maps listing, you must continue to reinforce the metro area name, business category, and business name throughout the content on your homepage. Using elements such as
tags, bold words, and keyword density are key strategies to reinforcing the homepage of your website for your Google Maps listing.
- NAP / Citation: Finally, you must include / reinforce your business name, business address, and business phone number (NAP) on the homepage of your website in order to maximize the ranking power of your Google Maps listing. This can actually be achieved by including your NAP in the footer of your website, or in the sidebar. It is a common practice to include your business NAP in the footer however, because this typically allows your NAP to be present across all of the pages of your website. Another key strategy in the integration of your business NAP into your website is to use Schema language, which is a protocol that all major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc…) use to determine key data sets, or direct data, from your website such as location and business category.
Much like the landing page strategy with Google Adwords, where Google analyzes the landing page of your ads to determine your overall ad strategy, Google looks to the landing page of your Google Maps listing to determine relevance and authority. The more authority you have built into your website, the more authority is translated over to your Google Maps listing.
#3) Citations and Backlinks
Finally, in order to improve the rankings of your Google Maps listing, your need to find opportunities to build authoritative backlinks to your website and citations that sync with your NAP. The base NAP is always going to be your Google Maps listing, or Google business page. The exact manner in which you present your business name, business address, phone number, etc… in your Google Maps listing needs to be the template to follow in all external citations. The collection of external citations is what I call your “citation portfolio“. Ensuring your external citations match exactly the NAP in your Google Maps listing will help search engines attribute more consistency your business page. NAP consistency removes the volatility of distributed data, which in turn allows your Google Maps listing to build authority. And as I’ve mentioned already, authority always translates into rankings in Google local search results.
Backlinks can sometimes be a sensitive topic. I’m a firm believer in focusing on building your brand and creating a valuable website that naturally attracts backlinks. But, just because I promote a sort of “anti backlink building” mindset, does not mean I’m negating the value of backlinks. Although this is not always the case, there is certainly some precedence given to the volume and authority of backlinks pointing to a website and their associated rankings in the local search results. I’ve looked at enough data to see the clear correlation. But again, the more authoritative backlink building strategy is one where you focus on creating a high quality website, and great content, and then backlinks will find you. If you do venture out into backlink building strategies, you must be careful and realize that as of Google’s Penguin update, their algorithm is much more refined at determining artificial backlink building. And if you catch too much attention, your website and Google Maps listing could get penalized.
There are certainly a lot more strategies you can implement to improve your Google Maps listing and your rankings in Google local search. These are three “low hanging fruit” opportunities that if you do them right, you will more than likely set your Google Maps listing apart from the majority of your competitors. Again, it is rare indeed for a business to go further beyond the surface level of optimizing their Google Maps listing. So by taking the extra steps and paying attention to details, you can quickly give your Google Maps listing, and your business, and edge in the local search results.