How to Increase Google Maps Rankings
There are a few ways to go about increasing your Google Maps rankings fast in the local search results… the equivalent of local SEO on steroids. Not all of them are the preferred method, as I tend to take a more patient, long term approach with most of our clients. But there are cases where the client needs to get ranked in Google Maps fast, and they are willing to do just about anything to make it happen.
In these more aggressive cases, there are some tried and true practices that can (not always, but most of the time) drive your business into the top Google Maps search results quickly. And then depending on factors such as domain and brand authority, age of your domain, and authority of your citation and backlink portfolio, it’s relatively unknown if your rankings will stick.
Here a few of the ways I help clients get higher rankings in Google Maps:
Step 1: Local SEO for Retailers – Use Subcategories in GMB
** Note: this step is only applicable to departments within multi-location enterprises such as retailers, franchises, universities, or institutions (learn more).
Let’s say you are are grocery chain like Kroger or Walmart. You have your main business category which would be “grocery”.
But within your super stores, you have departments such as the vision center, pharmacy, and gas station.
Each of these departments represent an opportunity for you to compete in the local search market within that specific category.
Going back to the grocery chain example of Kroger or Walmart.
The Walmart Vision Center would be an acceptable Google Maps listing since it is a department within the main business of Walmart.
Walmart would be categorized as a “department store”. However, you have several other business categories that can be leveraged within the scope of a Walmart Super Center.
Here’s a list of business entities and associated GMB categories based on my observation of the Walmart Super Center near me:
- Business name: Walmart 2811 Supercenter
- GMB Category: Department Store
- Business name: Walmart Bakery
- GMB Category: Bakery
- Business name: Walmart Deli
- GMB Category: Deli
- Business name: Walmart Garden Center
- GMB Category: Garden Center
- Business name: Walmart Grocery Pickup
- GMB Category: Grocery Delivery Service
- Business name: Walmart Money Center
- GMB Category: Money Transfer Service
- Business name: Walmart Pharmacy
- GMB Category: Pharmacy
- Business name: Walmart Photo Center
- GMB Category: Photo Shop
- Business name: Walmart Tires & Auto Parts
- GMB Category: Tire Shop
- Business name: Walmart Vision & Glasses
- GMB Category: Optician
The bold point above would be the top level Google Maps listing for this specific Walmart Super Center. And then each point under that represents the sub-categories of GMB listings that can be deployed.
Each of these GMB categories represent a competitive market in their geographic area.
And as you can imagine, this presents a substantial opportunity for local SEO for big box retailers.
Segmenting Google Maps listings for retailers and internal departments can quickly give that brand a competitive advantage in their local markets.
Step 2: Go granular with building local business citations (NAP)
Your first question might be what’s a citation?
A citation is simply a record of your NAP, which is your business name, address, and phone #, and in some instances your website URL as well.
Google uses citations as a way to validate your business location. Think of citations as the equivalent of backlinks in organic SEO strategy.
The more authoritative and relevant the citation sources are to your business, the more punch that will give you in boosting your Google Maps rankings.
I also recommend going granular with your citations.
This means finding websites and directories that are either specific to your metro area or targeted to your specific business category.
For example, if I’m a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, then publishing your law firm’s NAP on sources specific to metro Atlanta and personal injury lawyers would help increase the relevance factor and improve your overall location authority.
And the more location authority you have in your business category, the higher you’ll rank in Google Maps.
Read more: What is location authority?
The more relevant (related) the directory source is for my specific business, the better. And the more authoritative the directory is, the more power I’ll get from the citation.
Step 3: Wrap your NAP in Schema on your website
Finally, you’ll want to include the NAP for your business on your website. But you want to wrap the address in what’s called Schema language.
Schema language is a structural protocol adopted by Google, Yahoo, & Bing with the purpose of making it easier to determine certain datasets within web pages. I like to refer to Schema language as direct data that enhances key data sets within web pages. Direct data is particularly relevant when it comes to local SEO. (ref: What Are Local Citations).
By wrapping your NAP in Schema, you’ll be sending a much higher quality signal to Google and other search engines about the relevance and authority of your business location.
There’s many other steps and techniques that I did not discuss in the article. As I mentioned, I prefer the long term, higher quality approach to getting my clients to letter A in Google Maps and ensuring that stay there indefinitely.
But for those who are looking to get fast rankings in Google Maps and can’t wait for the long term approach… this article is for you!
Definitely let me know how it goes with your business after implementing some of these techniques to increase your Google Maps rankings fast. And as always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Getting Letter A Google Maps rankings is quickly becoming the #1 objective for local and small businesses. And rightly so… according to recent studies on local search behavior, nearly 60% of all searches have local business intent, and 78% of local searches resulted in off line purchases. Another study on mobile search activity shows that last year (2015), more searches were conducted on mobile phones than desktop computers. Because of the high probability of business intent from local searches, and the skyrocketing use of mobile phones for search, businesses are starting to place a high premium on their Google Maps rankings.
In 2015, there was a major overhaul to the way Google displayed search results from Google Maps business listings. Google will only show the top 3 Google Maps business listings on the front page of Google, or letters A, B, or C – this is sometimes referred to as the “3 pack”. Prior to their update in 2015, Google displayed up to 7 Google Maps business listings, or letters A – G, and these were commonly referred to as the “7 pack”.
But when Google Maps cut down their front page rankings from showing the top 7 local businesses to now showing the top 3, this created an immediate premium on the letters A, B, or C rankings. If you’re a local business in the 3 pack, then you enjoy a premium placement on the front page of Google for local searches relevant to your business. If you are ranked letter D (#4) or beyond, then it requires additional clicks from the user to find you.
Read also: 3 Keys To Reaching #1 in Google Local Search Results (this is a LinkedIn article that has received a lot of traffic and attention lately, and helps to add some further context to this article)
Here’s a screenshot of the new 3 pack (letter A, B, & C) Google Maps rankings on both mobile devices and desktop computers:
Notice how, on both desktop and mobile devices, only the top 3 (letters A, B, & C) rankings are showing in Google Maps local search results. In essence, you can think of this new update as the top 3 local search results are the new #1!
Here’s 3 tips to improving your Google Maps Rankings for Local & Small Business
If you haven’t created and verified your Google Maps business page yet, or you have a business listing but are struggling to get top rankings in the local search results, here’s 3 tips for you to help your business rank higher in Google Maps in 2016.
Tip #1: Verify Your Google Business Page
The first step for any local business to getting found in the Google Maps search results is to add and verify your business.
From a desktop computer, visit this link to get started with adding your business to Google Maps.
From a mobile device, click here to get started.
Here’s a quick tutorial on adding or claiming your business in Google Maps.
And here’s a quick tutorial on how to verify your business on Google.
Local SEO Tips To Adding Your Business to Google Maps
Here’s some tips to keep in mind as you add your business to Google Maps:
- Include your business category in your title. For example, if you are a DUI Attorney, then include phrase “DUI Attorney” in the title of your Google business page. Google refers to these elements as modifiers in the title. You must be careful not to overuse / abuse the use of modifiers, which means do not stuff your title with keyword phrases. You can learn more about modifiers here.
- Use your targeted keyword phrase in the description of your Google Maps business listing.
- Make sure your primary category is the most relevant category for your business. Another way to know the best category to select is to look at the currently top ranked businesses in Google Maps. For example, search your targeted keyword phrase in Google (i.e. ‘dui attorney atlanta’ as an example), look at the law firms that are ranked letters A, B, and C, and then identify the category they are using. Here’s a screenshot to help you identify which category top ranked local businesses are using:
You find this by searching your targeted keyword phrase in Google, clicking on the letter A, B, or C listing in the search results, and then clicking on the top ranked business you see. Once you click on the business listing from the left hand side, their information will appear on the right hand side. From there, you’ll be able to identify the primary business category being used (see screenshot above).
Tip #2: Use Schema Language On Your Website
The first question you might have is “what’s an NAP?”
Your business NAP is basically an acronym for your business name, address, and phone number:
- N = Business Name
- A = Business Address
- P = Business Phone number
The NAP of your business also references what’s called citations.
Your next question, then, might be “what are citations?”
Citations are references to your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) that are published on external websites and directories.
The key to NAP’s and citations are that search engines such as Google use citations to determine the accuracy and relevance of your business information.
Which brings me to the discussion on Schema Language.
Schema language is a structural protocol adopted by Google, Yahoo, & Bing with the purpose of making it easier to determine certain datasets within web pages. I like to refer to Schema language as direct data that enhances key data sets within web pages. Direct data is particularly relevant when it comes to local SEO.
Direct data, in the example of local SEO initiatives, would refer to data such as your NAP – your business name, address, and phone number. There are many other Schema or direct data sets that can also be leveraged in your web pages depending on your type of business. For example, if your are a lawyer, your law firm’s website and local SEO strategy can leverage direct data sets specifically for attorneys, which you can view on the Schema website at https://schema.org/Attorney.
The point in leveraging Schema language, or direct data sets, is they dramatically enhance the authority of your webpages within your local market. Sticking with the 80/20 rule described above, the majority of local businesses (the 80th percentile or more) have no idea what Schema language means. And to be honest, based on my own conversations, most have never even heard of the term. This means, if your business website leverages Schema language for key direct data sets, you would be in the minority (the 20th percentile) and your website would be exponentially more authoritative in your local market. And since Google considers both your business website and your Google business page in determining local search results, this is a key strategy to understand.
Tip #3: Citation Consistency and Removing Volatility
Finally, I’m going to bring it all together with the discussion around citation consistency and removing volatility. Much like how the stock market drops due to volatility in stock prices, your rankings in Google local search results (and organic search results) can likewise drop due to volatility.
Volatility With NAP Citations
You create volatility with your NAP citations whenever you have many variations or your address represented across the web. Here’s an example.
Bipper Media’s business address is:
855 Gaines School Road
Athens, Georgia 30605
This is what you call an NAP and a citation. The NAP is the business information, and the citation is the result of the NAP being published here in this article.
Let’s say I have 10 different directories that list my business the way you see it above. But then let’s say there are 50 other directories or websites that publish my NAP is varying ways. For example, some of the NAP’s abbreviate the word “Road” is simply use “Rd.”, or some NAP’s might say “Letter A” instead of “Suite A”. These slight variations in the presentation of the NAP creates, on a large scale, a lot of volatility. And this volatility, much like the stock market, can result in suppressed rankings in the local search results.
The best way to remove volatility is to do an analysis of all the sites where you have citations published.
You can do this by what I call reverse engineering your NAP in Google.
Here’s a step by step how to:
- Go to Google
- Do a search for just your business address – for example I would type ‘855 gaines school road, suite A, athens’ (without quotes) into the search bar.
- Start going to down through the search results and identify all of the places where you have a citation.
As you identify each source for your citations, go to those websites to see which ones you can easily update. Some of the sources may require to create a free account and claim your business. While others might require you to contact the website directly in order to request the update. Regardless of the workflow involved, it is well worth your time to go through and start the process of cleaning up your NAP citations.
For every citation that you clean up by making them consistent with your Google business page (yes, your Google business page is the base citation that all others need to match), you will be removing a lot of volatility from your overall citation portfolio.
You may initially be overwhelmed with the extent of citations you see for your business, but understand that each time you update your citation to make it more consistent, you remove volatility from your local search authority. And the more volatility you remove, the more stable your rankings become in the local search results. In low to mid competitive markets, the volatility factor may not play as much of a role due to the lack of volume from competing businesses, but in hyper competitive markets in large metro areas, volatility will mean the difference between rankings in the top 3 local search results or not being seen at all.
For businesses that have a large volume of citations that need cleaning up, there are platforms that can help you in this effort. For example, MOZ Local is a platform that we use to clean up and distribute our client’s citation portfolios. Another option is to use Yext. However, with Yext, the cost can be out of reach for most small or local businesses. Both of these represent an automated solution to what is the ultimate end objective – removing volatility from your local citations in order to rank higher in Google Maps.
Update: May 21st, 2018: Improve Google Maps Rankings
How To Improve Google Maps Rankings
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.
In summary, in order to improve your rankings in the Google Maps search results, you need to be focused on the details of your business information better than all of your competitors. By paying attention to the details better than everyone else, you’ll set your local or small business up for better success in the local search results. This attention to detail starts with your Google business page and focusing on the language you use in your the title of your Google business page listing. From there, you need to fill out your Google business as much as possible, including high quality photos, a great description, and most importantly ensuring your target the correct primary business category.
Once you have your Google business page squared away, the focus then turns to you integrating your NAP into your website through the use of Schema language. Schema language helps Google, and all other major search engines, quickly and easily read your local business name, address, and phone number, and it makes it easier for them to associate your business with specific geo-location elements.
Finally, once your Google business page is optimized and you’ve integrated your NAP into your website with Schema language, now comes the task of removing volatility from your citation portfolio. And again, your citation portfolio is the collection of all NAP citations for your business that’s published across the web. The more volatility you remove from your citation portfolio, the more authority Google will attribute to your Google business page, as your business page is starting point and base citation for all NAP’s.
Got questions about Google Maps Rankings?
If you have questions about local SEO for your business, feel free to post them in the comments below, or contact us today. We’d be more than happy to talk about and review the local SEO strategy for your business.