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If your business doesn’t rank well on Google Maps, does it even exist?
It is common knowledge that the 3-pack on Google Maps is the holy grail of local search, and that appearing as one of the hallowed trio is a feat that can be really profitable for your business.
Every time someone searches for ‘XX near me’, or ‘XX in XX-City’, it is more than likely that they will find what they’re looking for within those Google Maps results, and won’t even bother scrolling down to the organic results beneath. (In fact, if you haven’t searched for a business near you using Google Maps in the last month or so, and then chosen one of those top three businesses you found yourself, we’ll eat all our keywords.)
Ranking high on Google Maps can make all the difference to your bottom line. The burning question is: just how do you rank high on Google Maps? We answer this, plus a few other important questions related to Google Maps, below.
What Is Google Maps?
Google Maps is an extensive free web mapping service developed by Google designed to help users find whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. It offers directions, street maps, 360° panoramic street views, satellite imagery, aerial photography, route planning for travelling by car, public transport, foot, bicycle and air, as well as real-time traffic and roadworks conditions.
In short, Google Maps helps make your business easier to find – in the physical sense. But wait, there’s more. (There always is with Google.) Not content with mere physical facts, Google Maps also offers up suggestions to users on which businesses will best satisfy their query, suggestions based on far more than just proximity. This is where SEO comes into play.
Used properly, Google Maps can be a key player in your SEO marketing strategy.
Why Should I Care About Google Maps?
Over three-quarters (77%) of smartphone owners regularly use navigation apps. Of those, Google Maps (67%) is by far and away the most popular, being the preferred navigation app for nearly 6x more people compared to the second-most popular app Waze, which comes in with only 12% of total users. (The Manifest)
What’s more, three out of every four people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store within a day. Twenty-eight percent of those searches then result in a purchase. (Wordstream)
What do these stats combined mean for you and your business? Well, if you want local consumers to find you, and give you their money, you need to be using Google Maps to its full potential and making yourself easy to find.
By ranking well in Google Maps you are bolstering your online presence in local search results. This, in turn, gives your business the Google version of a big yellow thumbs up, thereby boosting your legitimacy and relevancy, which translates to increased trust on the part of the customer. Google Maps has helped the user find you, and helped you bring customers in. Everybody wins.
How Do I Get on Google Maps in the First Place?
You can’t rank (higher) on Google Maps if you aren’t even on Google Maps. So start there.
To create or claim and verify your listing, you’ll need to set up a Google My Business account. Here’s how to find and manage your business on Google (if it’s already there) or add your business to Google:
- Go to Google My Business.
- Enter your business name into the ‘Find and manage your business’ search bar.
- Click on your business listing if it appears among the suggested matches.
- Your business isn’t there? Click on the ‘Add your business to Google’ link.
- Follow the easy step by step instructions to the end.
Now, to rank higher on Google Maps, you’ll need to optimize your brand new, sparkling Google My Business account.
How to Rank (Higher) on Google Maps in 2019
During this entire process, it is important to remember that organic search results and the local 3-pack for Google Maps have similar requirements. What this means is that conventional local SEO techniques should apply. More than that, as with all things SEO, patience is crucial. There is no quick fix. Do the work, continue to monitor, update and improve your listing, and, for the love of Google, avoid scammers guaranteeing Google Maps rankings.
With all that said, there are a number of fairly easy, quick fixes you can make to ensure you have a shot at better rankings in Google Maps and beyond. Here are our top 10 crucial pit stops on the road to great Google Maps results.
1. Verify Your Google My Business
As mentioned above, the first step for any business, local or otherwise, to getting ranked on Google Maps is to create or claim and verify your Google My Business listing. To do this, Google will either mail a postcard with a unique PIN to the physical address listed in your Google My Business profile to confirm verification, or they will call you on the listed business phone number to give you the pin. Make sure you are standing by!
2. Consolidate Your Google Maps Listings
If when searching for your business on Google you find that there are multiple listings on Google, you need to weed them out and remove the duplicates. Google gives you step by step instructions on how to do this. You need to do this to (a) avoid confusion for your customers and (b) Google will discredit businesses with multiple phone numbers or locations listed for one actual business.
3. Complete and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Now we’re getting to the good stuff.
There is a direct correlation between how well your business ranks in Google Maps and how complete and accurate your Google My Business listing is.
Remember: Google is always putting the searcher first. The more information you give Google, the more information Google can give searchers, and the more love Google will give you in its rankings.
To rank higher on Google Maps, you need to optimize your Google My Business profile by accurately completing each and every available section. We repeat: accurately complete each and every section in your Google My Business profile. Follow this checklist, with handy tips included for each section where necessary, then go back and double and triple check:
3a. Phone number
Make sure you list a local phone number, including the area code of your location. Google doesn’t love a toll-free (800 and 877) number as they know that these numbers are often spam-central.
3b. Website URL
Make sure you include your website address.
3c. Business hours
- Make sure you keep your hours updated! Google Maps will tell users if your business is open, closed, or opening or closing soon. Users have become used to this and trust us when we tell you: there is very little more frustrating than arriving at a business to find closed doors when Google said the business would be open. That’s on you, not Google, and the savvy searchers of today know this. It is highly unlikely they will return to your business.
- On a similar note, Google My Business will send you emails asking you to update your hours for specific holidays – it’s a simple click and adjust. Use that function.
3d. Optimize your description
The description has a character limit – use it to the max.
- You will need to keep your description succinct however, so be sure to use it wisely: what is the most important thing you want searchers to know about your business? Tell them that.
- And be sure to include local SEO keywords.
3e. Business categories
Complete the category field of your Google My Business profile (and Maps listing) by adding as many relevant categories as you can.
- You don’t have to choose only one, so go ahead and max them out!
- Again, Google makes this easy for you: to add categories, type in keywords to describe your business and Google will spit out a bunch of matching categories for you to choose from.
3f. Business info
Make sure all the sections under the ‘Info’ tab are completed.
- When entering your address into your Google My Business profile, ensure that you use the exact same address information used by the relevant postal service in your area. This includes room, suite, or subdivision information, the accurate postal code, and anything else that makes your business easier to find.
- You can also add service areas where you operate if those are different to your actual location. For example, a plumber in Comox, BC, may operate across Vancouver Island. Make sure Google – and their searchers and your potential customers – know this by completing the Service Area section. This could include the names of nearby towns or cities that you serve, or a geographic radius (in miles or kilometers) from your physical location. To complete this section, click on the Info tab in the left hand column, then scroll down to ‘Add Service Area’ directly beneath your address.
Post updates about your business using the Post tab. Google will use these to rank you higher. They also make it easy for you by giving you hints and tips about what to post: click on the ‘Home’ tab; on the right hand side of the page, you will see a section populated by Google which says ‘Businesses like yours are posting!’ with the associated post attached to give you inspiration. Be inspired. Create a similar post for your own business. Then keep posting.
Add photos to your listing. See below.
Get and respond to reviews. See below.
4. Add Photos to Your Google My Business/Maps Listing
Google – and Google’s users – love photos. A picture paints a thousand words and all that. One of the best, and simplest, ways to stand out on Google Maps is to add photos to your Google My Business listing. Google will reward you for adding high quality photos to your listing.
- Add photos showing the exterior of your business – making it easy to identify from the street.
- Add photos of the interior of your business – making it enticing for customers to step inside.
- Add photos of your employees at work – making your business more personal and giving it a human element, which also makes it more enticing for customers to step inside your world.
Listings without photos tend to rank than those with photos.
5. Get and Respond to Google Reviews
We’ve spoken at length about how reviews can help, or harm your business and your SEO efforts. Simply put: Google reviews add trustworthiness to a business, and Google rewards businesses with good reviews by ranking them higher everywhere – including on Google Maps.
The key with reviews, though, is to make sure you respond to all of them, the good, the bad, the mediocre, and the downright ugly. Responding to reviews ensures that your customers, and Google, know that there is someone on the other side who genuinely cares about them and their experience of your business.
To start gathering reviews, simply follow this advice from Google:
- Sign in to Google My Business.
- If you have multiple locations, open the location you’d like to manage.
- In the menu on the left, click Home.
- In the “Get more reviews” card, you can copy your short URL to share with customers via social media, in an email newsletter etc. But remember: it is technically against Google’s policy to incentivise or actively ask customers to leave a review – Google will punish you for this. Simply share the link and leave it at that.
6. Optimize Your Website to Rank Higher on Google Maps
When optimizing your Google My Business listing, you added a URL to a page on your website which you wanted customers to land on. It stands to reason then that this landing page – and, indeed, the rest of your website – should also be optimized for local SEO. Google will also use 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. To make sure your website is ranking friendly:
- Make it responsive and consistent across any and all devices and screen sizes. The majority of Maps and local searches are performed on mobile, so if your listing links to a website that is slow, has broken links, or requires pinching and zooming (ACK!), your ranking will suffer.
- Make sure your Title Tag on your landing page (usually your home page) includes your business name, category, and your metro area or location name.
- Make sure your Meta Description again includes your business category and location.
- Make sure the content on your landing page is consistent with the information in your title, description and local keywords.
- NAP / Citation: Finally, be sure to include your business Name, business Address, and Phone number (NAP) on the homepage of your website in order to maximize the ranking power of your Google Maps listing. You can simply include this in the footer of every page on your site and then it’s done. Easy as NAP.
7. Use Local Keywords
Make sure all the important pages of your website, not just the home page or landing page, are optimized for location-based searches. This means placing geographically modified keywords into titles, headers, body, image tags, and URLs.
8. Embed a Google Map on Your Website
Another great way to improve your rankings on Google Maps is to embed a Google Map right into your website. Whether this is in the footer of your site or on a page like the contact page doesn’t matter. And it really couldn’t be easier!
- To embed a Google Map on your website, search for your business name in Google Maps. Click on the “Share” tab in your listing, then select the “Embed a map” tab. Copy and paste the link into the content on the page where you are including the map. Done.
9. Build Citations and Backlinks
The more websites that know who you are and where you are, and are willing to share that information, the better.
A citation is simply a record of your NAP (see above), and in some instances your website URL as well, which is displayed online for searchers to find. By adding your NAP to sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, Infogroup, Better Business Bureau, Yellow Pages, Apple Maps, Facebook, Factual, 411, canpages you are improving your chances of ranking on Google Maps and beyond. Google uses these citations as a way to validate your business location. Note: the more relevant the citation sources are to your business, the better the boost to your Google Maps rankings.
Similarly, by getting backlinks to your site from other relevant, authoritative websites in your industry, you are signalling to Google that you too are considered relevant and authoritative in your industry. Make friends within your industry and share the link love for mutual Google ranking respect.
10. Monitor and Update Your Google My Business Listing
Finally, once you’ve done all the above work, remember that it will amount to nothing if you don’t keep it up to date and relevant. Mark it in your calendar to do a weekly check on all things Google My Business and reap the rewards of your vigilance.
As you can see, Google Maps is far more than just a handy tool to give you directions to your nearest Starbucks. As Rob Marvin of PC Mag puts it, you can really think of Google Maps as more of an SEO “Swiss Army Knife chock-full of hidden navigation, geospatial search, and customization tools.” What use is a Swiss Army Knife left in your pocket? Pull it out. Use it to its full potential. And slash your way to the top of Google Maps rankings.
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If your business doesn’t rank well on Google Maps, does it even exist? It is common knowledge that the 3-pack on Google Maps is the holy grail of local search, and that appearing as one of the hallowed trio is a feat that can be really profitable for your business. The burning question is: just how do you rank high on Google Maps? We answer this, plus a few other important questions related to Google Maps, below.
GENERAL FAQS ABOUT RANKING IN GOOGLE MAPS
How do I rank higher in Google Maps?
Get on Google Maps in the first place by creating a Google My Business profile. Claim and verify your listing. Fully complete and optimize your Google My Business profile. Optimize your website. Add photos to your GMB profile. Get and respond to Google Reviews. Build NAP citations and backlinks. Monitor and update your profile regularly.
How long does it take to rank on Google Maps?
Ranking on Google Maps requires patience. There are no quick fixes. According to multiple sources, ranking on Google Maps courtesy of long-term and ongoing SEO practices can take anywhere from three to six months. Beware scammers promising you immediate results in Google Maps rankings.
What is Google Maps?
Google Maps is an extensive free web mapping service developed by Google and designed to help users find whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. It offers directions, street maps, 360° panoramic street views, satellite imagery, aerial photography, route planning for travelling by car, public transport, foot, bicycle and air, as well as real-time traffic and roadworks conditions.
Does ranking on Google Maps matter?
If you want to do well in local search results ranking in Google Maps is crucial. Google Maps is by far and away the most popular navigation app with 67% of total users, nearly 6x more compared to the second-most popular app Waze (only 12% of total users). Plus, three out of every four people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store within a day.