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Google Maps SEO: Getting Visibility in the Map Pack

Are you trying to rank in the Google Map Pack? Here are our top tips for optimizing your business listing to give your business the visibility it deserves.
Google Maps SEO - featured image

It’s no secret that having your business appear on Google Maps can give you an edge over your competition and bring more customers through the door or on the phone. Google Maps SEO is a powerful set of techniques for businesses seeking to gain visibility in the all-important Google “Map Pack”. 

The local Map Pack is the map listing shown before the “classic” blue-link organic search results, and it’s an impressive and highly-visible place for your business to be seen.

But with so many companies vying for map listings, what can you do to help ensure your business’s Google Maps listing stands out?

In this blog post, we’ll explore what Google Maps SEO and Google Maps Marketing is all about and discuss why some of your competitor’s business listings may appear in the map pack search results but not yours.

We’ll also provide tips on ranking higher in the search results and discuss the benefits of optimizing for Google Maps SEO to increase the volume of leads for your company.

A Note On GMB vs GBP

Google’s nomenclature for your business information or your Google Business Profile (hereinafter referred to as GBP) was until quite recently, and for some time, known as “Google My Business“, or GMB. Google likes to change the names of their services a lot for reasons only they know. Since it’s taking some time for people to start searching for “GBP” instead of “GMB”, I’ll somewhat oddly be using both acronyms interchangeably to better rank for terms that people are searching for. 

With that out of the way, get ready to take notes – it’s time to learn everything there is to know about Google Maps SEO!

What is Google Maps SEO?

Google Maps SEO: Getting Visibility in the Map Pack 1
It wouldn’t be right to have an article about Google Maps SEO without demonstrating that we know what we’re doing!

We’re going to presume, for the purposes of brevity, that you already know you must claim and verify your GBP listing before doing anything else. If you haven’t done so, please follow Google’s guide here.

Google Maps SEO is the process of optimizing your business’s presence on Google Maps to increase visibility in the map search results and drive more customers to your business. By optimizing their Google Business Profile (formerly “Google My Business”) listing, businesses can ensure that their business listing stands out from the competition. 

Google Maps SEO involves making your business visible in the Google Maps Pack for your most important keywords. For example, search for “best bay area digital marketing agency” on Google. You will see Google’s list of digital marketing companies and their office locations on the map.

Google Maps SEO involves optimizing your business’s information in your company’s GBP, such as its name, address, phone number, website URL, and other details. 

And there are many other details, both within the GBP listing and outside of it, like listings in business directories and the quality of your actual website. 

How often have you looked for a local business that provided something you needed at that moment, and you got poor results? Sometimes, the bar is set pretty low.

Doing Google Maps SEO helps ensure visibility for your ideal customer searching on their mobile device. You want to get those phone calls, not your competition. This is critical for business growth. 

Why Do My Competitors Show Up in the Map Pack, But My Business Doesn’t?

The other day I was showing my sister her Google Maps listing (which had over 50 five-star reviews), and she noticed that she had over a dozen more great reviews than a competitor that was higher in the rankings than she was. Even though we’ve had the discussion numerous times, she nonetheless asked, “Well, how can that be?

Because the number of 5-star reviews is only one of dozens and perhaps hundreds of ranking factors.

Unfortunately, if you’re not showing up in the map pack while your competitors are, it can be difficult to understand why and know the steps to take in order to “fix it” since your competitors may appear higher than you in the map pack for a variety of reasons. 

One of the biggest ranking factors is the searcher’s location. If you are searching from home, and your nearest competitor’s office is closer to your location than your office, they will likely be highly ranked, as Google considers a searcher’s physical location a critical ranking factor. 

Fortunately, locational prominence is only one of many ranking signals. You have other opportunities for optimizations to signal your authority in your niche and encourage Google to show your business listing to their searchers. 

Your competitor may have optimized their listing better than yours. This could include having more detailed information about their business, such as hours of operation, contact details, attributes such as “Wheelchair Accessible”, “Woman Owned Business”, photos, as well as accurate location data on Google My Business (GMB). 

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Additional categories that could be considered by a real-estate agency

It can relate to how often a business posts (yes, you can post on GBP) which suggests an active business.

They may also have more customer reviews, which can give them an edge over other business listings with fewer reviews. I’ve seen situations where having even a single review put a CPA at #1 in the map pack for their most treasured keywords because their competitors were asleep at the switch.

Another factor influencing where your business appears in the map pack compared to others is links from other websites. If a competitor has more backlinks from authoritative sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, this can give them an advantage over yours regarding ranking higher in search results pages (SERPs).

In 2023, the best backlinks, as far as Google is concerned, are topically relevant, that is, coming from websites and URLs related to the same topic(s) as yours. 

Backlinks from other local businesses imbue geo-relevance, which is also a ranking factor. 

And while the lowly “directory websites” have taken a hit in the past decade, their (hopefully accurate) listings of your business information are considered “citations”, which are another ranking factor.

Most importantly, your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number (also referred to as “NAP“) should be consistent among these denizens of the internet world. 100% of the time, they won’t be.

My best advice is to use the exact NAP information that the Google Business Profile shows for your business when you search for your business name and go with that as the defacto font of knowledge. 

Finally, if your competitor’s Google Business Profiles are targeting different keywords than you are, this too can affect where each of your businesses appears on SERPs and, therefore, who shows up first in the map pack.

To ensure that your business appears at least alongside its competitors within the map pack, there are several steps you should take. These include optimizing all aspects of GMB, actively (aggressively?) seeking out customer reviews, creating content around relevant topics related to what people might search for, and using targeted keywords throughout web pages so that search engines know exactly what type of services/products your company offers. 

Doing these things will help potential customers discover what makes your business unique and stand out against your competition.

Finally, and this is a truly tough nut to crack, Google may rank your business higher in Google Maps due to CTR, or “click-through rate”, the rate at which your map listing is clicked as compared to your competition. Google takes note of your listing’s CTR, and the more people who click on it, the better as far as Google is concerned.

Thus, not only is a click a search “conversion” for your business, each click also implies a “vote” in favor of your business to Google. 

Understanding why your competitors appear in the map pack but not your business is key to creating an effective Google Maps SEO strategy. Fortunately, there are some tools we use that can help us quickly spot differences.

Next, we’ll look at how to optimize your business listing on Google Maps for maximum visibility.

How to Rank Your Business in the Google Map Pack

Optimizing your listing in the Google Map Pack can increase visibility and drive more customers to your business.

To rank in the map pack, it’s essential that all information about your business is accurate and up-to-date. This includes adding a description of what services you offer or the various attributes that help differentiate your business, uploading photos of products or services, responding to customer reviews, and verifying that all listed information is correct.

Google Maps SEO: Getting Visibility in the Map Pack 3
Comparing the attributes of a business (“My GMB”, even the tools use old nomenclature) with their competition in the map pack.

It’s also important to build backlinks from other websites and create content related to local keywords relevant to your industry. Quality backlinks are key for improving search engine rankings on Google Maps, so make sure they come from authoritative sources such as local news outlets or directories like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Additionally, creating content with local keywords will help boost visibility when potential customers are searching for businesses near them using those terms.

To rank your business in the Google Map Pack, it is essential to optimize your listing with accurate and up-to-date information about your business. This includes adding a description of what services you offer, uploading photos of products or services, responding to customer reviews, and verifying that all listed information is correct.

Building backlinks from other websites to your website, as well as creating content related to local topics relevant to your industry, are important for improving search engine rankings on Google Maps. Generally speaking, quality backlinks are those that come from authoritative websites such as local news outlets or directories like Yelp or TripAdvisor.

Furthermore, optimizing titles and meta descriptions on each page of your website will help ensure that users find exactly what they’re looking for when they click through from the map pack results page.

Doing these simple steps can greatly improve ranking within the map pack and lead more people directly to your business’s doorstep.

What’s not as well known is how much importance Google places on the experience of using your website, which, of course, it can track, especially when you have Google Analytics and Search Console in place.

Is your website mobile-friendly? This is a huge factor for a potential customer searching earnestly for a solution to their problem while in transit. Suffice it to say, the easier your website is for a user on a smartphone, the better Google will like it too. 

With the right SEO strategy, your business can be at the top of Google Maps search results and drive more traffic to your website.

Now let’s look at some tips on how to optimize your Google My Business profile for maximum visibility.

Quick Tips for Optimizing Your Listing for Google Maps SEO

Optimizing your listing can ensure that customers find you easily when they search for businesses in your area using a given search phrase. In many cases, you may have an opportunity to enhance your listing, which signals to Google that you have shown attention to your business’s GBP and that your business is active. Here are the most essential tips to help you get started:

Accurate Information 

Ensure all key information on your Google Business Profile page is accurate and up-to-date, including your NAP, business description, website URL, store hours, etc. Naturally, accurate information will help consumers find you more easily and ensure they have the correct contact details if they need to reach out to you.

Business Categories

Type in a search phrase, look at the top competitors in your niche and see which categories they use. You’ll probably need to drill down a bit to see all of them. 

You can often find additional accurate sub-categories to add to your GBP listing. In some cases, your main category may not be as closely aligned with what Google thinks people are looking for based on the search phrase you entered. In this case, you may want to change your primary category and use your previous primary category as a sub-category. 

Descriptions & Photos

Add a description of what services or products you offer and upload photos of them as well. This will give potential customers a better idea of what they can expect from working with your business. There is debate as to whether or not Google cares about the metadata included in the photos themselves, i.e., whether the photos include geographic data to indicate they were actually taken at the business. 

Customer Reviews

Encourage happy clients to leave reviews after their visit and respond promptly and professionally to all positive and negative feedback. Google does consider keywords in customer reviews as fairly strong ranking signals, as you can clearly see from this “best dentists in walnut creek” example:

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A search using the term “best dentists” reveals that Google shows relevance to businesses that include a phrase closely related to the search phrase “best dentists”.

If your customer includes in their review some of the keywords with which you want to rank, it can help goose your Google Maps SEO.

Respond To Reviews

Again, responding to positive customer reviews shows that their feedback matters to you and encourages other people who may be considering using your services or products to trust in your brand more readily. 

Responding to negative comments professionally? Priceless! Do it, even if it makes you grind your teeth, especially if you are certain the customer is a clown. Your professional, caring responses to bad reviews may do more to convince potential customers to give your business a shot than dozens of 5-star reviews.

Ultimately, having positive customer reviews associated with your listing will help build trust with potential customers, which encourages them to click on your listing (which Google takes note of) and could lead them directly to your door. 

Google Business Posts – “Updates”

As asinine as it may seem, Google does consider keywords and links that appear in your GBP posts or the things they call “Updates”. These are essentially the “blog posts” of your GBP. Survey some of your competitors; in some cases, you may find that they are not posting at all since Google buries this functionality and the results deep in their interface and enjoys moving their UI into inscrutable places.

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A comparison of the posting frequency of competitors in the Google map pack

In any case, it’s a worthwhile activity, and you can post images along with your updates and include events and products here too. 

Questions & Answers

Another opportunity for engagement and love from Google is its question-and-answer functionality. As of this writing, it’s 100% okay for you as the business owner or manager to ask questions about your own business and provide the answers as well.

Essentially, this is just another type of GBP Update but is sectioned off from the other updates and often has greater prominence in a business’s listing. 

The Google Business Site

Believe it or not, Google includes a way for you to add a website within your GBP. The idea was that, for a simple business, this might be the only website the business needed.

However, the user experience of this website is sorely lacking. The site is far from full-featured or controllable by you in terms of design or the types of data that can be shown.

And beware: you definitely do not control this “website”, so don’t expect it will stay the same, be visible in the SERPs or be effective in any way.

However, this “silly site” (as I like to call it) does matter to Google and, thus, deserves a cursory filling out of its various fields. 

I always laugh when I see a pop up as a DR 92 in my Ahrefs backlink report — “Oh wow, what’s — oh yeah, the silly site.”

Build Relevant Backlinks

Building backlinks from other websites to your GBP site helps improve visibility for both organic searches and map listings, so it’s worth investing time in this activity too.

For the Map Pack, the most simple, relevant backlinks to try to get are those from websites of other geographically relevant businesses. For example, if your business is in Walnut Creek, and you get a link from another business also located in Walnut Creek or another very nearby city, it’s geographically relevant. 

Local Keywords & Content Creation

Create content related to local keywords relevant to your industry, such as “moving companies near me”, “best Italian restaurant San Ramon” or “top rated plumber in San Francisco” – this will help increase traffic from people searching specifically for businesses like yours nearby.

Structured Data Markup  

You can use structured data markup on your website and even on external web pages, such as electronic press releases, to make it easier for search engines to understand and process the content on a webpage.

Here are a few examples of useful structured data for a local business:

  • Name, Address & Phone Number of the business.
  • Opening hours: The schedule for when the business is open to the public. Google loves to fire questions at you about your hours. Often, this pestering is a somewhat useful guide, especially around the busy holidays. 
  • Services or products & Pricing: A list of the services or products that the business offers.
  • Social media profiles: This is a list of the business’s social media profiles, such as its Facebook page or Instagram account. This is often known as “sameAs” schema, because you are telling Google “Hey, this social media profile refers to the same business as this website.”

Analytics Monitoring 

Be sure you have Google Analytics and Search Console instantiated for your website, and monitor your analytics regularly for insights into how customers are finding you online. 

Search Console has recently started including a handy little link to something called “Search Console Insights“, which nicely summarizes some key takeaways. By monitoring your analytics, you can adjust strategies based on the clues that Google gives you therein. 

Following these tips will help maximize your chances of appearing in the top results on Google Maps and increase visibility for your business.

Your Business Website

Unintuitively, your ranking in the Google Map Pack is affected by how much (or how little) Google loves your website, and great attention and care should be applied to your main business website. 

Optimizing content with local SEO techniques can help boost visibility even further.  It is said that Google is smart enough to do the “near me” math, but when doing SEO, it never hurts to increase your odds of being ranked by including the exact terms people are typing. 

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One guy even changed the name of his business to “Dentist Near Me” to take advantage of this Google bug…er, feature.

Consider creating city pages or location landing pages dedicated solely to each city/area where you have a physical presence, so potential customers can easily find out more about your specific services. For instance, including geo-targeted keywords like “San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants” or “Restaurants Near Me In San Francisco Bay Area” will encourage Google to give your GBP relevance for those search terms. Even the recent “location spam” update doesn’t seem to have drastically affected this tactic with sufficiently detailed location pages. 

Key Takeaway:  To get started, make sure all information listed on your Google My Business page is accurate and up-to-date, add descriptions and photos of  the services and products you offer, respond to customer reviews, build backlinks from other websites, create content related to local keywords relevant to your industry, use structured data, and use location extensions when running ads. Finally, monitor analytics regularly for insights into how customers are finding you online.

Benefits of Doing Google Maps SEO

The benefits of doing Google Maps SEO are obvious: it helps improve awareness that your business exists.

After all, if someone is not aware that you exist, you are simply not an option to solve their problem.

Providing potential customers with detailed information about what services/products are offered and building trust through positive reviews help lead to clicks on your map listing. Additionally, having a complete profile that includes images (especially outdoor images, so people can see your store front), contact details, hours of operation, and other relevant information will make it easier for users to find the exact information they need quickly and easily.

Accurate location data associated with your business listing also helps ensure that you appear in searches related to specific locations or regions where you offer services or products. This means that if someone is searching for a product or service within a certain area, they’ll be able to see your business at the top of their search results – increasing the likelihood of them visiting your website or storefront instead of going elsewhere.

Doing Google Maps SEO can help boost visibility for businesses looking to attract more customers locally and regionally by appearing higher in local search results when people search for businesses like yours near them.

Regional SEO may happen when an internet searcher is looking for a business in a smaller niche. 

For example, searching for “dentist near me” will produce a plethora of map results very near you, while a search for “wholesale fruits distributor near me” will likely show a wider search as there are less of those types of businesses per square mile.

Thus, the map “zooms out” and the search widens.

Monitoring customer feedback via reviews left on your Google My Business page also provides valuable insights into how your company is perceived by its target audience, which can be used towards further improving marketing efforts, such as running targeted campaigns based on user preferences etc. Ultimately, this will lead to improved customer satisfaction and increased sales conversions over time.

Finally, having good ratings & reviews on the GBP page not only boosts credibility but also adds social proof, which encourages prospects who may have been previously hesitant due to buying from unknown brands online – thus helping increase your overall ROI (Return On Investment).

Google Maps SEO helps businesses gain visibility in local search results and better engage with their customers.

FAQs in Relation to Google Maps SEO

Is Google Maps SEO Just Plain Old “SEO”?

No, Google Maps SEO is the process of working to gain visibility in the Google “Map Pack”, as opposed to the regular SERP (Search Engine Result Pages). Google Maps is an online mapping service provided by Google that allows users to find directions and locations. Its primary purpose is to provide users with information about businesses and other points of interest in their area.

How do I use Google Maps for SEO?

Google Maps is an essential tool for SEO, as it allows businesses to be found more easily by potential customers. It helps optimize local search engine rankings and increases visibility in the area. By creating a Google My Business profile, businesses can add their address, contact information, hours of operation and other relevant details that will help them appear on Google Maps searches. Additionally, optimizing website content with location-specific keywords can further improve visibility on the map results page. Finally, adding reviews from customers or clients can also help boost rankings and attract new business. With these steps taken into account, businesses are sure to see an increase in organic traffic through Google Maps SEO efforts.

How do I get higher rankings on Google Maps?

To get a higher ranking on Google Maps, you need to optimize your Google Business Profile listing. Start by ensuring that all of the information in your listing is accurate and up-to-date. Additionally, use relevant keywords in your title and description, as well as include photos and videos if possible. Finally, encourage customers to leave reviews for your business – this will help boost visibility on Google Maps. With these steps taken care of, you should see an improvement in rankings over time!

Does the usage of Google Maps affect your SEO rankings?

Yes, Google Maps can affect your SEO rankings. By optimizing your business’s presence on Google Maps, you can improve the visibility of your website in local search results. This includes ensuring all relevant information is accurate and up-to-date, such as the business name, address & phone (NAP), other contact details and opening hours. Additionally, reviews from customers will also help to boost your ranking in local searches. Finally, adding photos and videos to your listing on Google Maps will make it more attractive to potential customers which may lead to higher click-through rates for organic search results.

Are you a business looking to optimize your Google Maps SEO? Look no further than Boomcycle Digital Marketing Agency. We provide comprehensive solutions for improving your local visibility, driving more traffic and generating leads from targeted customers through effective optimization strategies tailored specifically to meet your needs. Contact us today and get ready to maximize your online presence with powerful Google maps SEO!

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