Let’s be blunt here and put it simply… Optimising for Google Maps via the Google Local Business Center will drive you “frickin’ insane”, and from my own personal experience, if you’re looking to set up listings on behalf of multiple brands within a certain time frame – you may as well quit your job now and declare yourself a telemarketer.
So is the end result worth the toil and frustration? The short answer is yes, and the catalyst behind the ever-more important inclusion of Google Maps into your SEO strategy is the shift towards optimising for local search with Google itself placing a stronger emphasis on local search results. But competing for those top spots for target search terms within geo-specific maps listings is turning into a visceral dogfight between local businesses who are still a little bit confused as to what SEO factors actually contribute to the calculation of their maps rankings.
If you’re a business owner (with a basic knowledge of search) trawling cyberspace for a lucid response to Google Maps optimisation, the odds are that you’ll encounter a whole heap of SEO jargon that does nothing but aggrandize a company or its services without giving too much away about the practice itself. Let me be truthful in saying that when I first started applying Google Maps as part of our search strategies, even I found it to be extremely vague… But it’s changed now, and after digging deep around the topic as well as regularly toying around with listing confirmations and errors I feel that my own personal understanding of the Google local business center has grown immeasurably.
Therefore in conjunction with KeyRelevance’s director of optimisation strategies, Chris Silver Smith, and his extremely helpful video explanation at SMX – I bring to you a coherent explanation of how Google local business center calculates your Maps ranking:
- Proximity – Google maps relates the proximity of your businesses address to the city centre or suburb dictated in your listing. The closer you are to the city centre, the better the ranking based on your geo-relativity. Considering this, it is understandable that Google is trying to better the user experience by refining listings based on the actual proximity of a business to a targeted geographic keyword – and it makes sense, but at the same time, this measure of calculation is inherently flawed… Why? What if you’re one business with services targeting many different cities…? Recent developments have indicated that Google has placed less emphasis on this attribute, but it’s still something you should definitely consider when placing your listings.The ways around it? If your business is multi-faceted and offers services in other locations – look at implementing some SEO practices that can assist in improving your online visibility for geo-targeted keywords: create landing pages, optimise your tags and headings.
- Ratings and Reviews – This one is tricky. Google heightens the performance of your maps listings if you have positive ratings and reviews that bear direct relevance to the quality of your services. I guess you could say that Google local business center has a bit of a QA process in place for Maps that ensures that the listing in the number one spot is giving customers a reliable service that will add value to them as a result of their search.Promoting customer reviews of your service online has always been a grueling task, but nevertheless you should encourage feedback amongst your users to boost your local search authority. The message here…? Make your business as genuinely transparent as possible – not only will Google place more value on your listing, but customers will also appreciate the objective sentiment.
Let it be noted that any unethical manipulation of positive reviews will result in your business being severely penalized by Google search – and by no means do we endorse this!
- SEO 101 – The organic search authority of your website does directly attribute to the performance of your business listing. Keeping this in mind, all standard SEO measures should be put in place within your website in order to make your domain as search friendly as possible. If you’re unsure about standard practices, check out the official Google search engine starter guide to get you going.
- Keyword Relevancy – Keywords form the crux of any ranking calculation, so it is only logical that your Google local business listing should include keywords directly relevant to your business niche. If applicable, try to include keywords within the title of the business listing as well as within the business description. For example, if I owned a haggis restaurant in Sydney (god knows why), I’d want to be targeting a competitive keyword within my listing – let’s say “restaurant in Sydney”:
- Include media within your listing – Make sure you enrich your local business listing with as much media content as possible. This includes images and video. Ideally, you will want to include images and video hosted within Google affiliated websites – this means YouTube for video, and Panoramio for image hosting.
There’s a lot more to a business listing than you originally thought, right…? Definitely, but follow the above practices and you have my personal guarantee that you can’t go wrong!
Just a further note on this article… If you’re looking for quantitative research that examines the positive and negative factors that can attribute to the calculation of a Google Maps ranking then the following article on local search ranking factors is definitely worth checking out.