How To Rank Higher in Google Maps (2018)
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 are 7 steps to higher rankings in Google Maps:
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.
2. 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.
3. Build Niche Local Business Citations
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.
4. Use Local Business 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Build Authoritative Citations and Backlinks
Build Location Authority with Citation Distribution
With this local SEO client, we saw a couple of keyword phrases slip recently. Even though the drop in rankings was slight, we decided to move forward with our standard citation distribution campaign. This is where we take a client’s NAP (business name, address, phone #, and website URL), otherwise known as their local business citation, and publish it across all of our partner publishers.
Our partner publishers consist of data aggregators such as Acxiom, Neustar / Localeze, InfoGroup, and Factual, and then we have single point partners such as Yelp, Yahoo Business Directory, Waze, Apple Maps, FourSquare, and many others. This network of citation distribution partners combines to create a powerful platform for both citation distribution for location authority, and also backlink distribution for domain authority.
Data Consistency using Google My Business as the base
For example, here’s our (Bipper Media’s) NAP citation from Google My Business, the business name and address part:
And then here’s the business hours, phone number, and website URL part:
To summarize the complete business citation as referenced by our Google My Business listing:
Bipper Media – Website Design & SEO in Athens
855 Gaines School Road, Suite A
Athens, GA 30605-3215
Sunday / Open 24 hours
Monday / Open 24 hours
Tuesday / Open 24 hours
Wednesday / Open 24 hours
Thursday / Open 24 hours
Friday / Open 24 hours
Saturday / Open 24 hours
When we initiate citation distribution across our partner publishers, the most critical step is to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the citation distribution matches our Google My Business data exactly.
One slight variation of the citation can cause your location authority to be degraded as you’ll then be distributing inconsistent or inaccurate data as compared to your verified Google My Business listing.
Niche Directories for local business
Once you begin distributing the exact match citation for your local business, you can amplify expedite the growth of your location authority by distributing to niche business directories and resources. A niche directory or resource would look like this, for example:
You can also find a great collection of niche citation directories at Moz.
But here’s a few to give you an idea of what we are talking about:
Again, you can find a more complete list of niche directories at Moz.
The more citations you get published on authoritative niche directories, those directly related to your business category, the more location authority you’ll build within your category.
You can follow the same strategy to focus on the geographic market where your business is located.
One way you can find niche directories relevant to your metro area, you can simply type a search query into Google like this:
Just replace “athens” with your city name.
Or try some variations of this by replacing “business listings” with the word “directory”.
After just a few minutes you’ll have a list of the most authoritative business directories for you specific city.
Update June 14th, 2019
How to rank #1 in Google local search when located outside the center of a city?
Rank #1 in Google local in surrounding cities
One the biggest challenges in local SEO is how your business can compete in a large city if you are located outside the center of that major metro area? We believe the best solution is strategically published city pages, which we’ll dive into more detail below.
For example, if a law firm wants to compete for the keyword phrase “car accident lawyer Atlanta”, but the law firm is located north in Sandy Springs, how can the law firm compete in the Atlanta market?
In some cases, the answer is you can’t if you don’t have a verifiable address in Atlanta proper. In large metro areas with a lot of competing businesses, you’ll need to have a verified address in your target city. If you operate in a smaller metro area, you can sometimes get away with not having a verified address in your target city. But with large, dense metro areas, this is typically the starting point.
But in large cities, you can easily have a location within the target city but still be well outside the center of that city.
The center of a city, as it relates to local SEO and Google Maps optimization, is what’s called the centroid of the city, or the geographic center , which is the exact longitude and latitude of the city.
How do you find the exact center of a city on Google Maps?
You be wondering how to find the geographic center of a city, as this is a question I used to ask quite frequently. Google Maps actually makes it easy for you to locate the center of the city by identifying where the city name is placed on the page. Wherever you see the city name on Google Maps, that will always be centered directly over the centroid of that city.
According to some, the centroid of the city isn’t as relevant as it used to be in determining the local rankings, or Google Maps search results. I only partially agree with this statement, as one look at any prominent search in a large metro area will typically show the majority of the top 3 (3 pack) search results located at or near the centroid.
However, the other part of me agrees with the statement that the centroid isn’t as relevant because we have clients located far outside the centroid of their market, yet outrank heavy hitting competitors who are located smack dab in the centroid.
Here’s a great example of a business ranked #1 in Google local search results, yet located far north of the center of the city:
This is a also a great example because the keyword phrase “car accident lawyer milwaukee” is one of the most competitive keyword phrases in the Wisconsin legal market. So even though the cluster of law firms are located in the center of Milwaukee, probably near the court house, our client is located quite a bit north of the center yet still ranks #1 in Google local search.
How to rank #1 in Google local search when located outside the center of the city?
Let’s get back to the original question of how a business can achieve top rankings in Google local search, even though they are located outside of the center of a city?
This is where I partially agree with the statement that the centroid is not as relevant as it used to be in determining rankings in local search.
Today, some of the biggest factors in determining where a business ranks in the local search results, or Google Maps search results, is driven by onsite local SEO factors and more traditional organic SEO factors such as organic SEO techniques on your business website. Also, you can greatly influence your rankings in local search by focusing on external factors which are elements outside of website and your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Factors within your website include elements such as:
- embedding your Google My Business listing from Google Maps
- adding your NAP (business name, address, phone #) to your website wrapped in Schema, and preferably JSON – LD Schema
- adding photos to your website using location relation meta data
- adding outbound links from your website to local business resources using the Google Maps “Nearby” recommended businesses, which typically consists of restaurants, bars, and hotels
- adding outbound links to local and state government websites that are related to your specific industry
- include an instance of your exact business address, the one that matches your GMB listing, in the sidebar of your website so that it’s published across all pages of your websites (i.e. site wide)
Factors within your Google My Business Listing can include:
- using a lot of keyword rich content in the “About Me” description section of your business Google Plus profile
- adding your primary targeted keyword phrase in the Tagline of the Story section, which is basically the description of your G+ profile
- if required, add your business category to the title of your GMB listing title
- properly categorizing your GMB listing by picking the right primary category, and then including all relevant secondary categories (make sure you do not go overboard with this by including irrelevant business categories)
- filling out your GMB listing to 100%
Factors outside of your website and GMB listing:
- building highly authoritative and relevant links back to your website, location pages, and your GMB / Google Maps listing
- distributing NAP citations throughout the web, focusing on major local business data hubs such as Acxiom, Localeze, Neustar, Factual, Infogroup, and Foursquare.
- highly organized and concerted internal linking structures within your website, also known as Silos
These factors combine to give you a highly authoritative strategy for local SEO, and will help you rank your business in the local search results in Google even if you are located far outside the centroid of the city.
Want a free local SEO consultation for your business? Contact us today
Update May 1st, 2018
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update: September 6, 2017
Increase Local Search Traffic With Long Tail Keyword Phrases
Local Long Tail Keyword Phrases
We saw an interesting thing happen with one of our long standing local SEO clients.
Since building a strong foundation of location authority with local pages for this client, they’ve been ranking well for their targeted keyword phrases in both organic and local / Google Maps, so we weren’t so quick to disrupt that momentum by launching an aggressive citation distribution campaign.
But after launching their citation distribution campaign to grow location authority, their total number of keyword phrases driving local search traffic grew exponentially.
Another way we look at it, by building location authority, we tapped into the long tail keyword phrase market for this client, opening them up to hundreds of new relevant keyword phrases bringing visitors to their local business website.
To be exact, as you can see in the image above, in less than 2 months we increased traffic in organic search by +175 local keyword phrases.
Long tail keyword phrases: Total number of local keyword phrases driving search traffic
Previously, the local keyword phrases driving traffic were limited to the core keyword phrases.
However, we found that after engaging in an aggressive citation distribution campaign, the total number of keyword phrases driving traffic expanded dramatically… again, see the graph above for a visual of this growth.
So what happened?
In summary, engaging in a high quality citation distribution campaign by leveraging authoritative publishing partners, will drive increased location authority to both your website and your Google My Business listing (i.e. Google Maps rankings and presence).
This process opens your business up to be found by a wider range of topically related keyword phrases.
Here’s an example…
For this client, the core keyword phrase is dentists in Athens, Ga.
This is what we call the core keyword phrase and represents the most search traffic at the single keyword phrase level.
For someone located in Athens, Ga., the equivalent local near me search would be just as relevant.
However, this is NOT where the greatest volume of relevant search traffic resides in total dental market.
The most local search volume is actually found in what’s called the long tail keyword phrases.
Here’s a great image showing the volume of search traffic found in long tail keyword phrases from HitTail.
As you can see, the greatest volume of search traffic (70%) is found in the long tail keyword phrases.
In order to tap into the long tail search traffic in the local search market, you need to have a competitive advantage in location authority vs. your competitors in the same market.
In the example above, this would be the dental practice market in Athens, Ga.
For help with local SEO for your business, DIAGNOSE YOUR BUSINESS for free now.
Update December 12, 2015
3 Local SEO Secrets To Top Rankings in Google Maps in 2015
There’s been a lot of changes in 2015 that have impacted the Google Maps search results and the way local businesses get displayed on desktop and mobile search results. I’ll save the details of those changes for a later post. But today, I want to share with you 3 things, or 3 changes in strategy, I’ve implemented in 2015 that have created the greatest positive impacts on our client’s local search results.
1. Understand the top 3 is the new #1
The first realization I had to contend with this year is the fact that Google now only displays the top 3 local search results in Google Maps (or letters A, B, & C). This was a fundamental shift from their previous display strategies of showing the top 7 (the 7 pack) and top 5 (the 5 pack). So now, regardless of whether you are on a mobile device or desktop computer, you will only see the top 3 local search results from Google Maps.
The lesson here is knowing that less than 30% of searchers make the efforts to go to page 2 of any search results, which makes the top 3 in Google Maps the new #1.
2. Metro Area Name in Title
One of the most hotly debated questions in the world of local SEO is can I use my city name in the title of my Google business page?
According to Google’s policy, the answer is no. According to Google support the answer is yes, as long as you do not use more than one modifier in the title. A modifier is a word or phrase that would define the metro area. For example, “Jane’s Dermatologist in Athens” would be fine, but “Jane’s Dermatologist in Athens & Atlanta” would be not. The second instance would be using more than one modifier or city name.
I have an HVAC client in the metro Dallas area that is perhaps giving me insights into the impact of city names in titles. For example, whenever I search his business category “ac repair” along with his city name, I see him ranking letter A, #1 in Google Maps every single time.
However, whenever he searches, he does not see his business anywhere in the local Google Maps search results. He is ranked #1 organically, but his priority is the Google Maps search results. And for this client, I am using his city name (modifier) in the title of his Google business page.
My theory is, perhaps because I’m using his metro area name in the title of his Google business name, he (being located in that city) isn’t seeing his business in the search results. Yet when I search (being located outside of his city), I see him ranked #1 / letter A every single time.
Because of this, I’m considering removing his city name from the business page title to see what happens on his end. I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of that test, as it will be interesting to see if there’s any impact on his local search results after removing the city name modifier.
3. Business Blogging for local SEO success
I’ve saved the best for last! In 2015, we’ve added a business blogging service to our local SEO strategy for clients. And without question, publishing blog posts on my client’s websites has made more of an impact on their local search rankings than any other strategy I’ve seen over the past year.
We have two clients specifically where we’ve started producing blog posts consistently on their websites over the past 6 months. And both clients have shot up from a top 7 rankings, to now ranking #1 / letter in Google Maps. I’ve been working on the local SEO for both of these clients for more than a year now, but within 3 weeks of publishing blog posts, they have both shot up to #1 / letter A. And both of these clients are in hyper competitive business categories in large metro areas.
There is no question that adding our blogging service for local SEO has made a tremendous impact on their rankings in Google Maps search results. And here’s a few of the reasons I believe this is happening:
- Increased traffic: as a result of our consistent blog postings, our client’s organic search traffic to their websites has more than tripled over the past 6 months. This is traffic coming to our client’s websites from Google’s organic search results.
- Social media distribution: each blog article we publish on their sites gets shared across their social media profiles such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. And traffic to their websites via social media has liekwise tripled over the past 6 months.
- Increased crawling & indexing from Google: as a result of publishing new articles on their websites, Google has dramatically increased their frequency of crawling and indexing the new content. This increased frequency of crawling and indexing has allowed their sites to grow in relevance and authority in Google.
These are the three factors that I believe have made the greatest contribution to increasing the authority of our client’s websites. And as a result of the increased authority, they are experiencing higher rankings in Google Maps.
Updated November 22nd, 2015
3 Steps To Higher Rankings in Google Local Maps Search Results (Local SEO)
The local search results in Google are becoming increasingly more valuable for locally oriented businesses. From local retailers to lawyers, dentists, and doctors, to the local carpet cleaner and house painters, being found in the top local search results in Google can mean the difference between your phone ringing with a new customer or client, or not even being found.
Statistics show that well over 90% of the calls and clicks go to the businesses that are found in the top 3 local search results. This results in more calls and more click thru traffic to the business. And the more click thru conversions, the more your dominant position can be reinforced in Google.
There’s a couple of core reasons why it’s important for businesses to be found in the top local search results Google, which I’ll discuss below:
Growth in Mobile Phone Searches in Google
The growth in mobile searches has grown exponentially over the past 12 months. In fact, Google now states that more searches are happening on mobile phones than on desktop or laptop computers. This is a fundamental shift in the way consumers and potential clients are using mobile phones.
It’s now a lot easier for someone to simply pull out their mobile phone, open the Google app, and speak their search query. And for searches that have a “local intent”, Google will include the local search results even if you don’t specifically mention a local city.
Here’s a screenshot of the search results I get when I search just the word “dentist” in my Google app:
Notice how all I searched in Google was the word “dentist”. Google sees this particular search as being relevant to a geographic location. As such, Google took my location into consideration and included the local search results as the first organic instance.
Interestingly, I get the exact same search results if I type “dentist in athens” or even “dentist in athens ga” into my Google mobile app. So in essence, Google automatically attributed my city location (Athens, Georgia) into the original search, which was just the word “dentist”.
This “location aware” adjustment in the Google algorithm on mobile phones is becoming more prominent as mobile phone use expands.
Why mobile is important for your business
Knowing that Google is analyzing searches from mobile phones and displaying the local search results when “local intent” is determined, your business can achieve a substantial increase in clicks and calls from the organic search results.
This, of course, assumes that your business is already found in the top local results.
Which brings me to my second reason why it’s important for your business to be found in the local search results in Google…
Google now displays only top 3 local search results
Back in September, Google made an adjustment to what they display in the top local search results. Previously, Google would display the top 7 local search results for searches with “local intent”. But now, Google only shows the top 3 (the 3 pack) in the local search results. And this applies to both mobile and desktop search results.
Here’s a side by side of both the mobile and desktop search results for “Atlanta personal injury lawyer:
In both cases above, when you search for something that has “local intent”, you get only the top 3 local search results. And in this case, ‘personal injury lawyer Atlanta’, you can have hundreds (or thousands) of law firms in Atlanta competing for the local search results in Google. But at the exact moment someone searches for a “personal injury lawyer”, you initially only see the top 3 – and as mentioned, this applies to both mobile and desktop related search results.
Now that we know mobile is critically important for local business traffic, and knowing that only the top 3 local search results will be given on both mobile phones and desktop searches, what can you do to give your business a better shot at this coveted placement in Google?
3 Ways To Get Higher Google Local Search Results
First, it’s important to clarify that there are no magic bullets to getting your business into the top 3 search results in Google local maps. If it were easy, then everyone would do it. And since there are only 3 positions shown on page one in Google, there has to be some sort of auction unfolding behind the scenes to determine the rankings.
Relevance for your local search results
Moz does a great job of summarizing the most relevant factors in determining your rankings in Google. Basically, they survey a wide range of local SEO “experts” asking what they see as the most important factors in determining local rankings. They take all of the responses, and then rank the variables from most to least important.
In summary, here’s the 3 most important factors determining your local search results in Google:
- On-Page Signals (20.3%)
- Link Signals (20%)
- My Business Signals (14.7%)
On page signals relates directly to your website. This may seem counter-intuitive since Google displays your Google business page in the local search results, and not your actual website (or domain). The best comparison to make here is to Google Adwords. When you create an ad in Google Adwords, you have to add what’s called a “landing page” to your ad. Basically, when someone clicks your ad, they are taken to the webpage you associated with that ad.
In the same way, Google looks at the website you’ve associated with your Google business page. And this is why the relevance factors of your website (on-page signals) carries so much weight.
When it comes to your website (on page signals), there are 4 key variables that carry more weight than all others:
- Domain authority of your website
- Quality / authority of inbound links
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone #) present on your website
- Keywords in title
Domain authority: the domain authority of your website is determined mostly by the combination of the age of your domain name, and the inbound links pointing to your domain.
Quality / authority of inbound links: this is pretty self explanatory, as Google places a substantial amount of relevance on the backlink analysis of your website. Meaning, Google looks at the quality and authority of the sources that have linked back to your website.
This brings up the interesting discussion of creating backlinks to your website. A lot of “SEO types” promote the practice of manually building backlinks to your website. However, I take a more contrarian approach to link building. I believe the best way to create the most authoritative backlinks to your website is, in fact, to not focus on manually building any backlinks to your website. You reach more about this idea in my blog post called The Secret To SEO Link Building That Might Surprise You….
My general thesis is that you should focus on creating high quality, well researched content that adds value to your readers. And by doing so, you will naturally attract backlinks to your website. And these naturally attracted backlinks are, in Google’s eyes, the most authoritative of them all.
Google’s Matt Cutts puts it like this: “… the objective is not to make your links appear natural; rather, the objective is that your links ARE natural.”
NAP (Name, Address, Phone #) present on your website: Presenting your NAP, which is your business name, address, and phone number, on your website is critically important. Moreso, ensuring the NAP present on your website is an exact match to the NAP presented on your Google business page, ensures Google sees consistency in your business information.
If you present your business name, address, and phone number as one thing on your website, and then your associated Google business page presents something totally different, this disparate information will create confusion in Google. And this confusion will result in a lower relevance factor and in turn keep you from the top search results, especially in highly competitive markets.
Keywords in Title: Finally, including the targeted keyword phrase and city location in your the title of your website will help to add to the authority of your Google business page, which will help to push you higher in the local search results.
For example, let’s say you are one of those personal injury law firms in Atlanta. By including the keyword phrase “Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer” in the title of your website – the website associated with your Google business page – will add more relevance to both your website and your Google business page. And again, the relevance and authority of your Google business page is what pushes you to the top search results.
I’ve already shared my contrarian view on building backlinks to your website. But when it says “link signals” play a key role in determining your local search results, this means, the sites with the most authoritative backlink portfolios will typically receive the highest rankings in Google search, to include the local search results.
The best way to build an authoritative backlink portfolio to your website is to produce remarkable content. Remarkable content is the kind that produces utility to your website visitors. And utility means, simply, that your content is valuable.
But in order to build high quality backlinks, and send great link signals to Google, your content needs to be so valuable that your visitors are willing to share it. Along with visitors sharing your content, your social followers should likewise see it as so valuable to where they are willing re-share and re-distribute your content. These actions are what generates the authoritative backlink portfolio Google is looking for – all of which means a strong link signal is being sent to Google.
Although link signals are the not everything in determining the ranking of your Google business page in Google local search results, it would be very difficult – if not impossible, relatively speaking – to outrank a competitor that has a substantially authoritative backlink portfolio.
The good news is very few websites, especially locally oriented business websites, have what I would consider to be substantially authoritative backlink portfolios. So when you, as a local business, go the extra mile by producing a steady flow of remarkable content – say, through a blog on your website – then your business can quickly and easily reach the top local search results in Google.
Google My Business Signals
Finally, let’s talk about the one thing that actually shows up in the local search results in Google and Google Maps, and that is your Google business page. Your Google business page, on both desktop and mobile phones, is what Google uses to present businesses in the local search results.
I used this image above, but it’s a valuable representation of how Google displays the local search results through the use of your Google business page.
As you can see on both desktop and mobile phones, the search results that are lettered A thru C are the actually Google business pages for these businesses – in this case, they are the Google business pages for the personal injury law firms in Atlanta.
3 Most Important Factors With Your Google Business page
The best way to show how you can maximize your chances of ranking in the local search results in Google through the optimization of your Google business page, is to simply show you the most important elements of your Google business page you need to focus on, and there are 3:
- Proper Category Selection
- Keyword in Title
Google Business Page Category Selection
The first, most important element to get right with your Google business page, and to help influence Google in ranking you at the top of the local search results, is to properly categorize your business.
Here’s a picture of what this looks like in the admin side of your Google business page:
When selecting the best category for your business, you simply need to go to the category section of your Google business page and start typing what you think is the most applicable category in the field. Google will automatically start populating related categories as you type. The most relevant category is the one that should be used in the “primary” category field.
Beyond the primary category, you’ll then be able to select up to 4 more categories for your Google business page (Google allows a total of 5 categories).
But here’s where you need to slow down and pay attention to the details. Remember, Google ranks pages in the local search results based on relevance and authority. As such, it is not wise to enter loosely related categories just for the sake of filling out the 5 category maximum. If you maximize the 5 categories, but fill them with only semi-related business categories, then you’ll ultimately end up diluting the potency of your category selection in Google business page.
The best practice is to include as many categories as necessary that allows your Google business page to stay hyper-focused on your core business. The more focused your category selection, the more relevant your Google business page will be perceived for searches directly related to that business category.
In most cases, for our clients here at Bipper Media we are only using one category in their Google business page. In some cases we’ll include two or three categories. And almost never do we fill out all five categories for our clients. Again, the more categories you include, the more diluted (in most cases) your Google business page becomes. Focusing tightly on your core business category typically produces the best results in your local search result rankings.
Keywords in your Google Business Page Title
There is no question that one of the most effective, and potent, practices in SEO is to include the targeted keyword phrase in the title of your pages. And this is true also with your Google business page. But since we are wanting to rank in the local search results in Google, one of the keywords that make up your optimal title structure would naturally include the name of the city where your business is located.
Here’s a couple of examples of Google business page titles to consider in this structure:
- McRae Family Dentist in Athens
- AAA Air Service McKinney
- Rozek Law Offices – Brain Injury Attorney Milwaukee
- Exclusive Taxi & Car Service Toms River
These are actual Google business page titles we are using for clients here at Bipper Media. And notice how we’ve optimized the titles of their Google business pages by including their business name, business category, and the name of their targeted metro area.
Word of caution: although I am a proponent of including targeted keyword phrases and metro area names in the titles of Google business pages, you have to walk a very thin line with this strategy. If you take this to the extreme, your tendency will be to saturate your title with keyword phrases. Or worse yet, include multiple city names in the title.
Just like with the optimization of titles for pages in your website, if you oversaturate the metadata of any page with keyword phrases (also known as keyword stuffing), then Google will easily see that you are attempting to artificially inflate the relevance of your rankings. And when this happens, you could end up getting penalized by Google’s algorithm and end up hurting your rankings in the local search results. In extreme cases, Google can end up removing your Google business page completely from the search results.
Modifiers in the title of your Google business page
When you include elements such as your city name and business category in the title of your Google business page, these are what’s called modifiers.
There are some that claim Google does not allow metro area name modifiers to be used in the title of Google business pages. However, I’ve been on the phone with Google local support many times over the past year and everytime I ask this question, the response has been a confirmation that you can, in fact, leverage metro area name modifiers in the titles of your Google business page. Another definitive confirmation of this practice is the search results of our clients. We have clients that have been ranking in the #1 Google local search result for years that include a metro area name modifier in their title.
But again, if you take the use of modifiers to the extreme, then Google will pick up on it and you will be jeopardizing your rankings.
Proximity to your physical location
Finally, the proximity of the business location to your targeted metro area plays a key role in your rankings in Google local search results. Meaning, if your goal is to rank letter A / #1 in the local search results for “Atlanta personal injury lawyer”, then your law firm’s physically address should be in the city of Atlanta. The more relevant the proximity of your business is to your targeted city, the better you will rank in the local search results.
An example from one of our local SEO clients is applicable here.
We have an insurance agency client that’s located in the suburb of a major metro area, and one of their greatest desires has been to rank in the local search results for “auto insurance” in the major metro area. But since their physical address, and thus their verified Google business page, is actually located in a different city (again, they are located in a suburb of the major metro area), they’ve never been able to rank locally for that phrase.
If you were to Google “auto insurance” in the city they are physically located in, you would see them in the letter A / #1 local position every time. But since their business address is located somewhere other than the major metro area, they’ve never been able to achieve the rankings they’ve desired.
One of the main reasons for this is, in the major metro area they are wanting to target, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of independent agents that have a physical address in the major metro area. As such, the local search results are too competitive for an outsider (someone outside the major metro area) to even be considered in the local search results.
So the proximity of your physical address to your targeted metro area is critically important. It’s so important, in fact, that I’ve actually had clients rent a small office in their desired metro area just so they can have a verifiable address in that metro area.
If you are facing the same problem with your local business, then I suggest doing the research to see what a small office space would cost in your desired metro area. And if the ROI is there, then it might make sense to rent an office space in your desired metro area in order to be in the running to rank in the local search results for that city.
If the majority of your customers come from your local market, then achieving top rankings in the local search results in Google could have a tremendous impact on the growth of your business. Even more so if you can achieve a top three ranking in the local search results, i.e. ranking in the letter A, B, or C position in the Google maps search results.
Getting your business to rank in the top three local search results is possible, but it will require a concerted local SEO effort on your part. But if you put in the work, and pay attention to every detail spelled out here in this article, then you’ll position your business for the best chances of success in the search results.
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.